Results tagged ‘ A-Rod ’

Pineda Keeps Marlins Fishing As Yankees Roll

GAME 65

YANKEES 2, MARLINS 1

Michael Pineda and the Yankees won a critical contest over the Marlins on Wednesday but they owe the whole game to the instituting of replay reviews in Major League Baseball because they benefitted from a reversal of a safe call in the eighth inning. Without it they might have lost.

Pineda flirted with a no-hitter for six innings and Alex Rodriguez moved to within three hits of 3,000 as New York edged Miami in front of a paid crowd of 43,048 at Yankee Stadium.

Pineda (8-3) retired the first 11 batters and 18 of the first 20 batters he faced, having issued walks to Christian Yelich in the fourth and and Justin Bour in the fifth, before Yelich connected on Pineda’s first pitch in the sixth inning for a home run to right-center.

Yelich’s home run, only his fourth of the season, halved the Yankees lead to 2-1.

The Marlins mounted a threat in the eighth against left-hander Justin Wilson when Adeiny Hechavarria drew a one-out walk and Ichiro Suzuki advanced him to third on a single to right.

Manager Joe Girardi replaced Wilson with right-hander Dellin Betances and Dee Gordon hit a one-hopper to first baseman Garrett Jones. Jones threw home to catcher Brian McCann to try to get a sliding Hechavarria and home-plate umpire Dale Scott ruled him safe.

Girardi challenged the call and replays showed that McCann was able to tag Hechavarria on the left thigh just before his foot reached the plate so the call took away the Marlins’ tying run.

Betances pitched around a single and a walk in the ninth inning to earn a rare five-out save, his fourth of the season in four tries.

The Yankees were able to score an early first-inning run off Jose Urena (1-3) when the right-hander hit Chase Headley in they right foot on an 0-2 pitch and Headley later advanced to second on a wild pitch.

The wild pitch proved costly when Rodriguez ripped a lined single up the middle to score Headley.

The Yankees added another run in the fifth despite having a runner thrown at the plate.

Headley laced a one-out single to right-center and one out later Rodriguez followed with his second single of the night and the 2,997th of his career. Urena walked Jones to load the bases and Carlos Beltran singled to center to score Headley from third but center-fielder Marcell Ozuna threw out Rodriguez at home plate to end the inning.

Pineda was charged with one run on one hit and two walks and struck out nine in 6 2/3 innings.

Urena, making only his fifth major-league start, yielded two runs on six hits and four walks with one strikeout in six innings.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 35-30 and they remain one game behind the first-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American league East. The Marlins dropped to 29-38.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Pineda was not as sharp as he was on May 10 when he struck out 16 Baltimore Orioles in seven innings, he was able to keep the Marlins off-balance with his slider, cutter and high-riding four-seam fastball. He struck out at least one batter in every inning except the seventh and he never was really threatened until Yelich connected on a hanging slider in the seventh. Pineda lowered his season ERA to 3.54.
  • Rodriguez’s two hits drove in a run and set up what eventually was the winning run. His 2-for-2 night raised his season average to .274. Rodriguez, 39, is putting together a compelling case to make the American League All-Star team with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
  • Beltran was 2-for-3 with two singles and one RBI on the evening. Beltran, 38, has been a major disappointment this season. He is batting only .249 with four home runs and 24 RBIs. However, Beltran is batting .300 over his past 30 games and he is quietly contributing from a lower position in the batting order.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Wilson, 27, is a vexing pitcher. He has mid-90s gas and yet he can dig some mighty huge holes for himself with walks. His walk in the eighth opened the door for the Marlins and Wilson was just lucky Hechavarria was ruled out on replay. Wilson has now walked 12 batters in 23 1/3 innings. He has to improve his command.
  • The Yankees made this game close by not getting key hits when Urena was struggling. Urena loaded the bases on walks in the fourth inning but did not score because Jones, Didi Gregarious and Mason Williams all grounded out. Without A-Rod and Beltran’s RBI hits the team was 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • McCann was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and that lowered his season average to .260. He entered the game 11-for-31 (.355) with a homer and seven RBIs in his previous eight games. Hopefully it was just a bump in the road because the Yankees need McCann to produce big numbers in the middle of the lineup.

BOMBER BANTER

First baseman Mark Teixeira sat out Wednesday’s game with a stiff neck. Teixeira, 35, said it has been bothering him for about a week but he did tell reporters that he hopes it be able to play on Thursday. Jones played first base in his place and was 0-3 with a walk.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete their four-game home-and-home series with the Marlins on Thursday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.38 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Should Sabathia, 34, win it would be his first victory against the Marlins, the only team he has not defeated in his career. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a 9-4 no-decision loss to the Orioles on Saturday.

The Marlins will counter with right-hander Mat Latos (2-4, 5.44 ERA). Latos gave up only one run and struck 11 in seven innings in a victory over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.

Game-tie will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Tex’s Double, A-Rod’s 661st Spur Yankees Past O’s

GAME 29

YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3

The Pythagorean Theorem. Newton’s Law. Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. You can now add to those “The Joe Girardi Formula,” which is (1) get a lead by the sixth inning (2) go to your terrific bullpen and (3) win the game.

As an equation it would read: L(6th) + B(GAS) = V

That is exactly the formula the Yankees have used all season and it worked again against the Orioles on Thursday at Yankee Stadium.

Alex Rodriguez blasted the 661st home run of his career to pass Willie Mays, Mark Teixeira drove in two runs  –  including a game-winning double in the fifth  –  and New York’s awesome bullpen held Baltimore scoreless over the final 3 1/3 innings for their 18th victory of the season.

The Yankees and Orioles were locked in a bit of a seesaw affair for five innings in a pitching matchup between right-handers Chris Tillman and Nathan Eovaldi.

The Orioles drew first blood when Jimmy Parades tagged an Eovaldi fastball into the bullpen right-center for his fourth home run of the season and an early 1-0 lead with one out in the first inning.

But the Yankees responded the bottom of the frame when Jacoby Ellsbury extended his hitting streak to nine games with a leadoff single and he advanced to third on a single by Brett Gardner.

Rodriguez then launched a high-arcing ball to right that right-fielder Delmon Young grabbed off the top of the wall to rob him of what would have been No. 661. But he settled for a sacrifice fly that scored Ellsbury. Teixeira then followed with a shot off the wall in right that scored Gardner. Teixeira was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a double on a throw from Young.

The Orioles tied it in the third inning on a one-out solo home run off the bat of Caleb Joseph, his third of the season.

The Yankees then took back the lead with two out in the third inning when Rodriguez launched a Tillman fastball just to the left of straightaway center for his seventh home run of the season and the one that now places him alone in fourth place on the all-time home run list behind Barry Bonds, Hank Aaron and Babe Ruth.

Most of the paid crowd of 39,816 were on their feet demanding a curtain call for the 40-year-old designated hitter and Rodriguez obliged with both arms raised in front of the home dugout.

Eovaldi, however, was unable to hold that lead either. Travis Snider led off the fifth with a ringing double down the right-field line and Joseph scored him with an RBI double.

But Eovaldi was able to wriggle out of a jam when Manny Machado sacrificed Joseph to third and he walked Paredes. First, he picked off Paredes and then he retired hot-hitting Adam Jones, who ended up 0-for-4 on the night, on a groundout.

The Yankees then reclaimed the lead for good in the fifth after Gardner doubled to start the inning and, one out later, Teixeira laced an RBI double into right to score Gardner.

Tillman (2-4) was charged four runs on 10 hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The Orioles’ ace entered play with a career ERA of 7.47 at Yankee Stadium, his highest ERA in any ballpark.

Eovaldi (4-0) also left in the sixth with Young on third and J.J. Hardy on first with two out. Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire Snider on a groundout.

Eovaldi was charged with three runs on six hits and three walks with three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings to earn his first career victory at Yankee Stadium.

Wilson pitched a perfect seventh and Dellin Betances hurled a perfect eighth. Andrew Miller pitched around a leadoff four-pitch walk to Steve Pearce by retiring the next three hitters, two of them via the strikeout, to earn his Major-League-leading 12th save of the season in 12 chances.

With the victory, the Yankees are 18-11 and they have opened up a three-game lead over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Orioles fell to 12-14 and they are tied with the Boston Red Sox for last place in the division, 4 1/2 games behind the Yankees.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod had himself a good night by going 2-for-3 including his historic home run and he drove in two runs. Though he is batting only .245, he is second on the team with seven homers and 18 RBIs. Gardner and Ellsbury combined to go 4-for-7 with a walk, a double and three runs scored and they are making it very easy for Rodriguez and Teixeira to drive in runs.
  • Tex is also holding up his end in the cleanup spot. He was 2-for-3 with a double and two RBIs and he now leads the team with 10 homers and 25 RBIs despite batting only .223. Teixeira is on a pace to drive in more than 130 runs this season.
  • Wilson, Betances and Miller combined to retire 10 of the final 11 batters they faced, striking out three and only allowing one ball to reach the outfield. Though Eovaldi was shaky at times, he at least pitched far enough into the contest to allow this very special bullpen to do its work.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Although Carlos Beltran was 0-for-4 in the game, which lowered his season average to .187, I did see some encouraging signs. Beltran hit two balls hard into the deepest part of center-field in the fourth and the fifth innings. Beltran remains without a home run and he has driven in just nine runs. The Yankees keep hoping he gets into a groove but for now we are still waiting.
  • Though A-Rod and Tex got into the swing of things, Brian McCann did not in the fifth spot in the order. He also was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. McCann keeps hitting right into the teeth of the shift and that has dragged his season average down to .227.
  • Eovaldi might remind Yankee fans of Phil Hughes, who also dealt with problems getting outs with two strikes and keeping the ball in the ballpark. There is no denying that Eovaldi’s velocity is impressive. But the command of his pitches is still an issue that he needs improve. With Masahiro Tanaka on the disabled list, the Yankees need Eovaldi to step up.

BOMBER BANTER

Tanaka took a first step in his recovery from tendinitis in right wrist and mild strain in his right forearm by making 50 throws from 60 feet prior to Thursday’s game. The 26-year-old right-hander did not feel any pain and general manager Brian Cashman told reporters that Tanaka remains on a timetable that will allow him to return in a month.  . . .  Despite the fact Jose Pirela had two hits in his season debut at second base on Wednesday, Stephen Drew will remain the starter at second for now. Drew was 1-for-3 with a double and a walk on Thursday but he is still batting .169 with four homers and 10 RBIs in 26 games.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game home weekend series with the Orioles on Friday.

Right-hander Adam Warren (2-1, 4.78 ERA) will start for the Yankees. He got credit for a victory over the Red Sox on Sunday despite yielding four runs on four hits and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. It will be Warren’s first appearance against the O’s as a starter.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (3-1, 2.59 ERA). Gonzalez, 30, shut out the Rays on four hits and a walk with six strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for a victory on Saturday. He defeated the Yankees at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 14.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Fenway Quiet As A-Rod’s 660th Homer Bites Bosox

GAME 23

YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2

If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.

Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.

The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.

The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.

The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.

The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.

The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.

Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.

Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.

Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.

Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.

The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a  3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
  • Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
  • Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.

BOMBER BANTER

All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Score Two Late To Ruin Sabathia’s Gem

GAME 13

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • 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.

ON DECK

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.

 

Tanaka Shuts Up Critics By Silencing Rays’ Bats

GAME 11

YANKEES 9, RAYS 0

“I’ve been there. I know that (Masahiro) Tanaka is probably at 65 percent. He might be better than a young kid rushed up from the minor leagues, but in the end, it’s going to come back to bite them. I think Tanaka is not committed to his pitches. Tanaka is a guy who’s aggressive in the strike zone and attacks the strike zone. He doesn’t look like he’s attacking the strike zone.”

                                                                    –  Supreme pitching expert Pedro Martinez on April 10

Flash forward to Saturday and I think Martinez may want to season his steaming plate of crow liberally with some salsa because he is going to have to eat his words.

Tanaka held the Rays to just two hits in a brilliant seven-inning performance to outduel Jake Odorizzi as New York went on to score seven runs in the seventh inning to thoroughly humiliate Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

So dominant was Tanaka (2-1) that after he allowed a leadoff single to David DeJesus in the first inning, he did not allow another hit until Logan Forsythe led off the sixth inning with a double. In retiring 15 batters in a row, Tanaka struck out six of them and only three balls made it into the outfield.

Oh, by the way, after Forsythe’s double, Tanaka fanned Rene Rivera and DeJesus and retired Steven Souza Jr. on a groundout.

Tanaka walked none and ended up with eight strikeouts on only 85 pitches (60 of them were strikes). It was as if the Japanese right-hander was telling Martinez that he doesn’t know what he is talking about.

By the looks of Tanaka on this evening, he looks as dominant as he ever was in his rookie season last year when he was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA.

Odorizzi (2-1) entered the game with a 0.61 ERA in 14 2/3 innings over two starts and he pitched that way for the first five innings of the game. He matched Tanaka pitch-by-by-pitch in allowing only three hits and fanning seven in that span.

However, the sixth inning proved to be his undoing when he issued back-to-back one-out walks to Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez. One batter later, Brian McCann, who entered the game 5-for-10 with two homers off Odorizzi and was 2-for-2 against him at that point, spanked a hanging change-up to deep right-field.

The ball caromed off the very top of the yellow home-run line and rolled back into shallow right-field for a two-run triple for McCann, only the fourth triple of his career.

Buoyed by the 2-0 lead, the Yankees opened the seventh with a single by Chase Headley, which promptly chased Odorizzi.

Stephen Drew greeted left-hander C.J. Riefenhauser with a fly ball that fell out of the glove of Souza for a double. Gregorio Petit scored Headley with a sacrifice fly. Jacob Ellsbury singled and Gardner scored Drew with an opposite-field single to make it 4-0.

Right-hander Grant Balfour replaced Riefenhauser and he immediately issued a walk to Rodriguez to load the bases and Mark Teixeira scored Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly.

Balfour then hit McCann with a pitch to reload the bases and Chris Young ripped a 2-2 slider into the left-field bleachers for a grand slam home run, his third homer of the season, which put the game out of reach at 9-0.

Odorizzi was charged with three runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out nine in 6-plus innings.

With the victory the Yankees already clinched the three-game series and improved to 5-6. The Rays dropped to 6-6.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Tanaka’s velocity was there. The command was there. He looked like, well, Tanaka. Perhaps this will finally shut up all the critics and naysayers who have been dogging out the Yankees all season like FOX Sports play-by-play man Joe Buck and everybody who works for the Red Sox Sports Network in Bristol, CT, also known as ESPN. Tanaka got advice not to have Tommy John surgery by FOUR of the best orthopedic experts in the country and he is fine. Now please shut up about him being one pitch away from oblivion. Please!
  • McCann’s dominance over Odorizzi is just amazing. He is now 8-for-13 with two homers, a triple and two doubles. McCann ended up 3-for-4 with two RBIs and a run scored. He came into the game batting .179 and ended up raising his average to .250. I said it many times but the Yankees need production from Teixeira, McCann, Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran. It appears after a slow start they may be getting it.
  • Young was only in the lineup because Beltran was benched with a bad head cold and he ended up with the big blast that put the icing on drubbing of the Rays. In limited play, Young is batting .276 with three home runs and eight RBIs. The 31-year-old veteran was practically run out of Citi Field by the front office of the New York Mets last season but he has resurrected what was a pretty promising career with the Yankees. Young also made a fine running catch in right-field in the fifth inning on a drive off the bat of Desmond Jennings.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

What is there to complain about? I could say that the Yankees failed to score 10 runs or they did not get to Odorizzi soon enough. But the fact is Tanaka pitched like the ace he is and the Yankees got a shutout to win their first season series. They are making the Rays look like the old Devil Rays they used to beat up on for all those years.

BOMBER BANTER

Beltran, 37, likely will sit out the weekend with that bad cold, Girardi said on Saturday. “He’s got that bad congestion, a bad cold that’s kind of been going around our team,” Girardi told reporters. “He sounds really bad. He was bad yesterday and he’s worse today.” Young started for him in right-field and he did a great job of filling in for him.   . . .  As I predicted in Friday’s post, Girardi opted to move the red-hot Rodriguez into the No. 3 spot in the order on Saturday and he ended up with a no-contact evening. A-Rod walked twice and struck out three times. Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with two homers and four RBIs while batting seventh against the Rays on Friday.  . . .  Also as predicted, Girardi decided to sit struggling shortstop Didi Gregorius on Saturday. Girardi shifted Stephen Drew to shortstop and started Petit at second base. Petit, 30, was 0-for-3 with a sac fly RBI. Gregorius, 25, is batting .152 and has been somewhat shaky in the field and on the bases.

ON DECK

The Yankees will look to sweep the shell-shocked Rays on Sunday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (1-0, 5.11 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. He is coming off a victory on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles despite yielding five runs on nine hits with nine strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

Pineda will be opposed by rookie right-hander Matt Andriese (0-0, 3.86 ERA). Andriese, 25, gave up two runs on five hits and one walk in 3 2/3 innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday.

Game-time will be 1:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by WPIX.

 

One Bad Inning Dooms CC As Jays Top Yankees

GAME 3

BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 3

The Blue Jays strung together four consecutive hits to open the second inning against CC Sabathia and all four runners later scored as Toronto went on to defeat New York on Thursday in front of a paid crowd of 32,152 at Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia (0-1), who making his first start since May 10 of last season, was touched for an opposite-field single by Edwin Encarnacion, a lined single to center by Josh Donaldson, a ground single by Danny Valencia that ticked off the glove of Sabathia and a lined single to left by Kevin Pillar that scored Encarnacion.

The Blue Jays added runs on consecutive RBI groundouts by Steve Tolleson and Devon Travis and completed the scoring with an RBI single by Jose Reyes.

Meanwhile, rookie left-hander Daniel Norris (1-0) yielded three runs on six hits and two walks while striking out five over 5 2/3 innings for his first major-league victory in only his second career start.

The Blue Jays added an unearned run off Sabathia in the fifth inning when Donaldson reached on a two-out infield single and then Valencia followed with a seeing-eye single that rolled past second baseman Gregorio Petit into right-field. Right-fielder Carlos Beltran’s throw to third base caromed off Donaldson and allowed him to score on the throwing error.

Sabathia was charged with five runs (four earned) on eight hits and no walks while he struck out eight in 5 2/3 innings.

The Yankees scored a run in the fifth on a leadoff double by John Ryan Murphy and a one-out RBI single by Didi Gregorius, however, Gregorius was picked off straying too far off first by Valencia.

Alex Rodriguez blasted his first home run since Sept. 20, 2013 and his first of the season off Norris to lead off the sixth inning and one batter later Mark Teixeira added his first of the season to draw the Yankees to within two runs at 5-3.

But Encarnacion connected for his second home run of the series with two out in the eighth inning off right-hander Esmil Rogers.

Twenty-year-old right-hander Miguel Castro, who was named the closer earlier in the day, pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first career save.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • I am not crazy for saying this but Sabathia actually pitched a lot better than the results showed. If you take away the O.B.I. (One Bad Inning), Sabathia yielded just one unearned run on three hits and no walks. One big surprise was the eight strikeouts. Two of those strikeouts were against Jose Bautista, who ended up 0-for-12 with eight strikeouts in the series. There is something for Sabathia to build upon in this game despite the defeat.
  • The Yankees managed only seven hits, which is nothing new when it comes to their weak offense. However, the backup catcher, Murphy, ended up with two of them and both were lined doubles. Much was made of the spring training battle between Murphy and Austin Romine for the backup job, but manager Joe Girardi obviously made the right choice in the 23-year-old Murphy.
  • It was nice to see A-Rod and Teixeira connect for their first home runs of the season. The Yankees will require both of them to put up a lot of them and drive in a lot of runs if they are to contend at all in the American League East. It would just be nice if the homers weren’t solo shots.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Fielding has been a bit of an issue and it hurt the Yankees badly in the four-run second inning. With Encarnacion on second and Donaldson at first, Valencia hit a ground ball that ticked off Sabathia’s glove for an infield single. If Sabathia had either fielded it cleanly or had let it get by to Gregorius at shortstop it would have been an easy double play and it would have changed the complexion of the game. Sabathia also failed to back up third on Beltran’s throw to nail Donaldson in the sixth and it cost the Yankees a run. When it comes to fielding, Sabathia is just plain lazy and Girardi needs to lay down the law by fining players for mental errors like this.
  • After Rodriguez and Teixeira homered and there were two out in the sixth, Chris Young drew a walk from Norris, which ended Norris’ outing. Murphy then doubled off right-hander Roberto Osuna to put the tying run in scoring position. Girardi sent Stephen Drew up to pinch-hit for Petit. On a 1-2 count, Drew got a good pitch to hit but he fouled it off. On the next pitch he struck out swinging. That at-bat really cost the Yankees dearly.
  • Gregorius drove in his first run of the season with his first hit of the season in the fifth. That is a good thing. However, Gregorius also killed the inning by roaming too far off first on Pillar’s throw home as Murphy scored. Valencia cut off the throw and Travis snuck in behind Gregorius at first to tag him out. In two instances in this series, Gregorius has been thrown out on base-running gaffes. Derek Jeter might have done that twice in his entire career. The young shortstop has a lot to learn.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play host to the evil scourge of the East in the Boston Red Sox on Friday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, 25, will make his debut as a starter with the Yankees. Eovaldi was obtained in the offseason from the Miami Marlins and he had an excellent spring with a 1-1 record and a 1.93 ERA in four starts.

The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Wade Miley, who was acquired from the Arizona Diamondbacks. Miley had no record with a 3.71 ERA in four spring appearances (three starts).

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by WPIX.

 

Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

Young’s Homer Boosts Yankees Past Nationals

GAME 34

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3

Chris Young blasted a two-run homer in the eighth inning off Nationals closer Drew Storen to propel New York to a come-from-behind victory over Washington on Saturday at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.

Young’s third home run of the spring, which all came off the Nationals, followed a one-out single by Didi Gregorius.

Storen (0-1), who has been hampered all spring with blister on his right foot, took the loss.

David Carpenter (2-0) pitched one-third of an inning in the seventh to get credit for the victory. Right-hander Dellin Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth despite making things interesting by yielding a single and a walk in between.

The Yankees concluded their exhibition season with a 17-16-1 record.

FIELD FOCUS

Chris Martin pitched a perfect inning of relief in sixth with two strikeouts. Just the fact he is even pitching on a major-league roster is a miracle in and of itself.

Martin was named a member of manager Joe Girardi’s seven-man bullpen on Friday. But there was a time the 6-foot-8 right-hander was just a regular working stiff at an appliance warehouse.

Down in Arlington, TX, Martin was loading 650-pound refrigerators onto dollies for delivery. The only doubleheaders Martin knew were the shifts he previously worked at the lawn and garden section at Lowe’s warehouse and then evenings at UPS.

Before all this Martin, 27, was drafted as a senior from Arlington High School by the Detroit Tigers in 18th round of the 2004 First-Year Player Draft. Instead of signing Martin opted to attend McLennan Community College in Waco, TX.

That following year, the tall right-hander was chosen in the 21st round by the Colorado Rockies. Again, Martin opted to stay in school.

However, that fall, Martin severely injured his shoulder. On the advice of Dr. Keith Meister, the team physician for the Texas Rangers, Martin tried resting the shoulder. But with the pain too great, Martin underwent surgery in 2007 to repair the labrum and release the shoulder capsule.

When the shoulder healed, Martin tried out with the Fort Worth Cats of the United Baseball League. When the shoulder still didn’t feel right, Martin quit baseball and went to work at Lowe’s and then at night with UPS for the insurance benefits.

Martin later caught up with former Arlington alum Jordan Bostwick, who graduated a year after Martin. Bostwick urged Martin to come to work for him at Texas Appliance in Arlington.

In June 2010, Bostwick broke out a left-handed catcher’s mitt during a lunch break and had Martin play catch with him. Martin’s pitches busted the seams off the mitt and nearly broke Bostwick’s right thumb.

More importantly, Martin informed Bostwick his shoulder felt really good.

Soon Martin signed a contract for $800 a month with the Grand Prairie Airhogs, an independent team operated by former major-league slugger Pete Incaviglia.

The radar readings of Marin’s pitches were hitting 95 miles per hour. Martin went on to a 4-0 record with a 1.95 ERA in 13 games with the Airhogs.

Incaviglia called the Boston Red Sox on behalf of Martin and the Red Sox signed him for $1,100 a month after a tryout arranged at Martin’s expense in Fort Myers, FL. After stops in Class-A Greenville and Salem, Double-A Portland and Triple-A Pawtucket, Martin was dealt to the Rockies in December 2013.

Martin made his major-league debut with the Rockies against the Los Angeles Dodgers on April 26 of last year.

He ended up with an ERA of 6.89 in 16 games with the Rockies before his contract was purchased for $75,000 by the Yankees in January.

Martin was among a large group of non-roster pitchers trying to making the Yankees’ bullpen this spring. At best, he was a long-shot. He ended spring training on Saturday with a 0-1 record and 4.09 ERA in 11 appearances. But the Yankees were enamored more by his 18 strikeouts with only one walk.

So Martin now will have a chance to open the season in the major leagues in 2015. It does not appear he will be making those shifts to load refrigerators in Texas anymore.

Instead he will be living out a dream that looked to be over just a short time ago.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the fact starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up three runs on three hits in the first inning, he settled in nicely afterwards. Eovaldi, 25, held the Nats to just one hit over the next four frames. In five innings, Eovaldi struck out six while walking three. He ended his spring with a 1-1 record with a 1.93 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 18 2/3 innings.
  • Stephen Drew ruined right-hander Doug Fister’s six-inning outing by lashing a two-out, two-run home run in the fifth inning to draw the Yankees to within a run of the Nationals at 3-2. It was Drew’s third homer of the spring and he ended up batting .259 with three homers and nine RBIs. On March 12, Drew was hitting .077. From then on he was 16-for-34 (.471).
  • Betances earned a save by striking out the side in the ninth. But he also yielded a one-out single to Reed Johnson and a one-out walk to Pedro Severino. Betances topped out at 95 mph on the radar gun, which is still a bit off the 97 mph he was throwing at last season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The offense is still pretty inconsistent. The Yankees did not get their first hit until the fourth inning and they managed just six hits overall. Fortunately, home runs by Drew and Young bailed them out. The Yankees got great pitching from Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Eovaldi and Adam Warren this spring. It would a shame not to give those guys the support they deserve.
  • Alex Rodriguez started at designated hitter and batted seventh in the game. But A-Rod probably would like to forget about it because Fister fanned him twice and reliever Craig Stammen did it once  –  all three strikeouts came on sharp curveballs.
  • Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner set the table exactly as Girardi would have liked in the fourth when Ellsbury reached after being hit by a pitch from Fister. Gardner followed with a sharp single to left. But Carlos Beltran grounded into a force play and Mark Teixiera rapped into a 4-6-3 double play. The RBI guys are paid to produce and Beltran and Teixeira must do it consistently if the Yankees are to contend at all.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees elected to retain John Ryan Murphy as their backup catcher to Brian McCann as they designated for assignment Austin Romine on Saturday. Murphy came off the bench in seventh inning to catch and was 0-for-1 to end the spring with a .238 average. Romine was 6-for-35 (.171) with 10 strikeouts. Romine was out of options so now any team may claim him. If he is not claimed he would remain with the Yankees and be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  In other roster moves, the Yankees added backup infielder Gregorio Petit to the 25-man roster and they placed infielder Brendan Ryan (calf strain), left-hander Chris Capuano (quad strain) and right-hander Ivan Nova (Tommy John surgery) on the 15-day disabled list. Infielder Jose Pirela was placed on the 7-day concussion DL.

ON DECK

The Yankees will rest on Sunday and prepare to open the season on Monday at Yankee Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Tanaka, 26, will start for the Yankees after ending up 1-2 with a 3.07 ERA in four spring starts. It is the first time since 2008 that a pitcher other than CC Sabathia has started the season for the Yankees.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 24, was 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA in four spring outings. He surprisingly won the starting assignment over former Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Pineda Reins In Phillies Before Rain Halts Play

GAME 26

YANKEES 10, PHILLIES 0 (CALLED IN SIXTH – RAIN)

Michael Pineda tossed five scoreless innings and the Yankees erupted for seven runs in the fifth inning as New York blanked Philadelphia in a rain-shortened contest on Friday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.

Pineda (2-0) looked impressive in limiting the Phils to five hits, he walked none and fanned five batters. The five shutout innings lowered Pineda’s spring ERA to 1.32.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, jumped on left-hander Jake Diekman (0-1) for seven runs on six hits and a walk in just one-third of inning to put the game away in the fifth. The key blows in the inning were a two-run single by Stephen Drew, who was 3-for-3 in the game, and a two-run double off the bat of Chris Young.

The Yankees added three more runs in the sixth inning off right-hander Hector Neris and all three runs came on a bases-loaded double by Tyler Austin.

The game was played delayed 35 minutes by rain and finally was called with one out in the top of the sixth.

The victory improved the Yankees’ Grapefruit League mark to 14-11.

FIELD FOCUS

When it came time for the Yankees to settle upon a second baseman after Brian Roberts failed to produce last season, the Yankees decided against looking for the pedigree and instead went to the rescue shelter.

They traded infielder Kelly Johnson to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a shortstop, Drew. You read that right. The Yankees traded for a shortstop to play second base.

Drew had been a shortstop his entire professional career, which started in 2005. He became the starting shortstop for the Arizona Diamondbacks at the end of the 2006 season and he stayed in that role through 2012.

Drew’s best season was in 2008 when he batted a career-high .291 with 21 homers and drove in 67 runs for the D-backs. Much like his older brother J.D., Drew came out of the minors tagged as a future star. After all, he was the team’s first selection and the 15th overall in the 2004 draft.

Though Drew had some fine seasons with the bat and he was a pretty steady fielder, stardom somehow eluded him and the D-backs traded him to the Oakland Athletics in 2012 in his free-agent year.

But he ended up signing a free-agent contract with the Red Sox in 2013 and he had a throwback season at the plate. He batted .253 with 13 homers and 67 RBIs and he ended up collecting a championship ring in the process.

But Drew’s fortunes went from penthouse to outhouse quickly when Drew refused the Red Sox’ qualifying offer and then ended up sitting out all of the winter, spring training and the early portion of the 2014 season without a place to play.

Drew finally relented and signed with the Red Sox at a huge discount. But without any spring training, Drew was basically thrown into the fray cold and it showed. He batted .176 with four home runs and 11 RBIs until the Red Sox made the deal with the Yankees for Drew.

The 32-year-old Georgia native did not fare much better with the Yankees, batting .150 with three homers and 15 RBIs in 46 games, most of them (34) at an unfamiliar second base.

Rather than cut Drew loose and look for another second baseman, the Yankees signed him this winter to a one-year, $5 million deal. But the onus on Drew is to produce with the bat quickly or be replaced by up-and-coming second base prospects Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, who have both hit extremely well this spring.

Manager Joe Girardi ended the speculation early and stated that Drew was the team’s starting second baseman. But Drew has foundered at the plate and he was hitting just .167 going into Friday’s contest.

Drew has been changing his mechanics with new hitting coach Jeff Pentland. It may be starting to pay off.

Drew had a double and two singles, scored a run and drove in two. The good day at the plate raised his spring average to .231. It is not much yet, but it is a start.

The 2015 season will begin soon and there will be no player more scrutinized than Drew. He is no stranger to pressure and expectations. But this challenge may be the biggest he has to overcome in a long time.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda, 26, has simply been the most impressive starter the Yankees have this spring. That includes Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda has been absolutely unhittable this spring and he is showing the same great control. One scout said that Pineda has been the best starter he has seen in Florida this spring. Look for a big season from the right-hander if he can stay healthy.
  • Young, 31, has been real hot lately with the bat. In his past four games Young is 4-for-13 (.308) with two doubles, two homers and five RBIs. Young provides the team with solid right-handed power and a reliable outfielder who can play all three positions. He is going to be very helpful coming off the bench this season.
  • Alex Rodriguez was 1-for-2 in the game and now is batting .303 on the spring. The 39-year-old infielder has proven that he has not been overmatched at the plate. Though he might not be the A-Rod of 2007 when he was the American League Most Valuable Player, he has proven that he can be a productive contributor for the Yankees. They will need his right-hand power in 2015.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

When your pitcher shuts out the opposition and your offense scores 10 runs there can be nothing to nitpick about. This was an impressive victory.

BOMBER BANTER

As expected, Girardi named Tanaka as the team’s Opening Day starter on Friday. Tanaka, 26, will be followed by Pineda, CC Sabathia and Nathan Eovaldi. The team’s fifth starter will be named later this weekend and it is expected to be right-hander Adam Warren. It will be the first time in six seasons that Sabathia has not drawn the opening assignment.  . . .  The Yankees said on Friday that Rodriguez will play first base for five innings in Sunday’s exhibition game against the Houston Astros in Kissimmee, FL. Girardi envisions Rodriguez as a potential third option at first behind Mark Teixeira and Garett Jones. “I’m excited,” Rodriguez told reporters. “I told Joe to really keep a close eye on me. He said he will.”

ON DECK

The Yankees will return to George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL on Saturday to host the Baltimore Orioles.

There was a switch in plans and Sabathia will start in a minor-league game instead of giving the Orioles a peak at him. In his place, non-roster right-hander Scott Baker will draw the start. Baker, 33, is 0-0 with a 4.32 ERA in three games this spring.

Baker will be opposed by right-hander Bud Norris, who is 0-3 with a 9.26 ERA in four spring starts.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

A-Rod Homers Again As Warren Tames Tigers

GAME 19

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

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