Results tagged ‘ David Robertson ’

Betances, Miller Lead Yankees Revamped Bullpen

With the opening of the New York Yankees spring training camp in Tampa, FL, we will now look at each position on the team to assess their chances in 2015. After a disappointing 2014 season with a roster riddled with significant injuries the Yankees have reshuffled the deck with a lot of fresh faces to join some old ones. Let’s look at them.

BULLPEN

Co-closers: Dellin Betances, 26 (5-0, 1.40 ERA, 1 save, 70 games), Andrew Miller, 29 (5-5, 2.02 ERA, 1 save, 73 games)

Set-up man: David Carpenter, 29 (6-4, 3.54 ERA, 3 saves, 65 games)

Lefty specialist: Justin Wilson, 27 (3-4, 4.20 ERA, 70 games)

The Yankees have had somewhat of a revolving door at the closer position for the past three seasons and 2015 will the fourth consecutive season they will be featuring a new closer or closers.

In 2012, an early-season injury to Mariano Rivera forced the Yankees to use Rafael Soriano as the team’s closer. In 2013, Rivera returned to health to complete a great final chapter to Hall-of-Fame career. And in 2014, David Robertson assumed the closer’s role and all he did was go 4-5 with a 3.08 ERA and convert 39 of his 44 save opportunities.

However, Robertson was unhappy that the Yankees did not look to extend his contract. So he declined their qualifying offer and signed a four-year, $46-million deal with the Chicago White Sox on Dec. 9.

Once again the Yankees will be auditioning another new closer in 2015.

The obvious choice is Betances after his meteoric rise from a spring training curiosity to the devastating setup weapon he became in 2014. The numbers speak for themselves.

He allowed only 46 hits and 24 walks in 90 innings. Batters hit an anemic .149 against him. He fanned 135 batters. The 6-foot-8, 265-pound right-hander dominated hitters from Opening Day to the end of the season.

The question then becomes could he do what he did last season in the ninth inning in 2015?

Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild believe that he can but they are not going to leave that question to chance without a Plan B.

On Dec. 5, the Yankees signed left-hander Andrew Miller to a four-year, $36-million contract with the intention of making him a setup man for what was Robertson at the time. Miller struck out 14.87 batters per nine innings and held opponents to a .153 batting average for the Boston Red Sox and Baltimore Orioles last season.

For now, Girardi says that although the Yankees would prefer to have one set closer when they begin the season, they are not averse to having Betances and Miller work as co-closers.

“I’m sure we’ll have a lot of meetings about that,” Girardi told reporters last Sunday. “We’ll decide what’s best. We want to see how they’re both throwing the baseball at the end of spring training. There will be just a lot of discussion of how we feel our team is built. Could they be interchangeable? Yeah.”

There is no doubt that however they are used both Betances and Miller have great stuff and are nearly impossible to hit consistently. That gives the Yankees two powerful weapons at the back end of the bullpen.

Betances was originally drafted as a starting pitcher out of New York City and his high-octane fastball seemed to have him on a fast track to the Yankees’ starting rotation. But control problems plagued him and got worse as he progressed through the minor-league system

His status as a top prospect diminished until the Yankees decided to try him in the bullpen in 2013. That turned everything around. Betances found a delivery that he could repeat and that devastating fastball and slider combination left batters baffled.

He impressed Girardi in a spring game when he faced Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays with the bases loaded and retired both of them to get out of the jam unscathed. It was inevitable Betances would make the roster as a reliever from that point on.

That led to Betances’ impressive first season with the big club and his reward could be eventually becoming the team’s closer.

Ironically, Miller’s career path was very similar.

Miller was a former No. 1 draft pick of the Detroit Tigers who just could not harness his control as a starter. After a short and unsuccessful stop with the then-Florida Marlins, Miller reached rock bottom when he was 6-3 with a 5.54 ERA in 12 starts with the Boston Red Sox in 2011.

Miller walked 41 batters in just 65 innings.

Then the Red Sox shifted him to the bullpen and he has not looked back. From 2012 through 2014, Miller has developed into what could be considered the most devastating left-handed relievers in all of baseball.

His walks have dropped, his strikeouts have increased and Miller is now in line to perhaps share a closers role  –  a job he also has never had before.

The Yankees are obviously thrilled they have both of these pitchers available for the ninth inning.

A curious thing happened after the 2014 season. For the first time in a very long time, the Yankees basically reshuffled the deck on the rest of the bullpen. David Phelps, Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton and Preston Claiborne are gone.

Phelps was dealt to the Marlins in the trade where the Yankees acquired starting right-hander Nathan Eovaldi and first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones. Kelley was shipped to the San Diego Padres for minor-league right-hander Johnny Barbato. Thornton was waived last August and is now with the Washington Nationals. Claiborne was released and signed with the Marlins.

So behind Miller and Betances will be a whole new cast of characters.

The team’s primary setup man will be Carpenter, who was acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with left-hander Chasen Shreve for left-hander Manny Banuelos, who was once considered the best pitching prospect in the Yankees’ organization.

Carpenter comes to the Yankees highly recommended by Brian McCann, who was his primary catcher in 2013 when Carpenter was 4-1 with a 1.78 ERA and 74 strikeouts in 65 innings over 56 appearances.

Carpenter’s numbers slipped considerably last season but he is very excited to be reunited with his former battery mate.

“B-Mac is the kind of guy that you love going to battle with,” Carpenter told reporters. “He’s a team guy, he busts his butt out there, he’s everything you could ask for in a leader, especially a catcher. To be reunited with him, it’s going to be really, really special.”

The Yankees also made a deal for a second left-hander by trading veteran catcher Francisco Cervelli to the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Wilson, who like Carpenter had a sensational 2013 season.

Wilson, a converted starter, was 6-1 with 2.08 ERA in 58 games with the Pirates in 2013. Last season his numbers slipped a bit but general manager Brian Cashman said Wilson will remind Yankee fans of Boone Logan, who had a very successful stint with the Yankees as their primary left-hander.

Beyond these four, the makeup of the rest of the bullpen will be up for grabs this spring, although Adam Warren eventually will be part of it. It is just unclear when that will be because Warren is slated to pitch as a starter in spring training.

The Yankees are looking to possibly use Warren as a sixth starter in the first six weeks of the season because several Yankee starters are coming off injuries and the Yankees face a stretch in late April and early May in which they are scheduled to play 30 games in 31 days.

Warren, 27, is coming off a sensational year in the bullpen. He was 3-6 with a 2.97 ERA in 69 games, all in relief. Between Warren’s ability to pitch in almost in any role, including that of a starter, and the fact that he pitches effectively in those roles, it is easy to see why he was one of the few relievers the Yankees opted to keep for 2015.

Warren will be a big help either in the middle or late innings when he finally is shifted back in mid-May.

Right-handers Chase Whitley (25), Esmil Rogers (29) and Bryan Mitchell (23) also will get opportunities to start this spring. All three have started in the past but Whitley is better suited to be a relief pitcher. Rogers has not fully developed as a starter or a reliever but he has been better in the bullpen. Mitchell is a capable starter but the Yankees will evaluate him for both roles this spring.

Mitchell likely will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre so that he could be available as a emergency starter this season. The Yankees really like his ability.

There are several relievers on the 40-man roster who will get a look this spring including Danny Burawa, Jose De Paula, Branden Pinder and Shreve.

Burawa, 26, is a right-hander who was 3-1 with a 4.70 between Double-A Trenton and Scranton last season. De Paula, 27, was signed out of the San Francisco Giants system and the left-hander was 4-3 with a 4.21 ERA at Triple-A Fresno in 2014. Pinder, 26, is a right-hander who was 3-0 with 2.04 ERA in three minor-league stops last season, ending with a stint in Scranton. Shreve, 24, was acquired along with Carpenter in the Banuelos trade and was 5-3 with a 2.67 ERA at stops in Double-A and Triple-A in 2014.

Most of the time non-roster pitchers are invited into camp for a look but they don’t make the team. But the Yankees invited a veteran right-hander reliever to camp who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 2009 and a two-time All-Star with the Oakland Athletics.

He is 30-year-old Andrew Bailey, who saved 75 games in 84 opportunities for the A’s from 2009 through 2011, but has suffered through a series of injuries that have hindered his effectiveness and kept him off the field.

Bailey was released by the Red Sox in July 2013 after posting a 3-1 record with 3.77 ERA in 30 games. Bailey suffered a torn capsule and labrum in his right shoulder and underwent surgery in 2013. The Yankees signed him to a minor-league contract in 2014 knowing he would be unavailable to pitch until 2015.

The Yankees extended him an invitation this spring and Bailey will have an opportunity to test where he is in his rehab. If he is healthy, Bailey could be a valuable addition to the bullpen. Though his closing days are over he could land a spot to pitch in the middle innings. If he is anywhere close to the pitcher he was in Oakland the Yankee bullpen will be even more formidable.

Another intriguing pitcher to watch this spring will be former starting prospect Jose A. Ramirez, 25, who was converted to relief because of recurring oblique injuries.

Ramirez was once a very highly touted prospect as a starter and he did make his major-league debut with the Yankees as a reliever last season. He was 0-2 with a 5.40 ERA in eight appearances in relief.

At Scranton, the Dominican right-hander was 3-0 with a 1.46 ERA in nine appearances after spending an early part of the season on the disabled list with an oblique strain.

The Yankees see their 13th-ranked prospect as a full-time reliever and they hope it does for Ramirez what it did for Betances. Ramirez just maybe could make a leap to the majors this season because of his change-up, which is the best in the organization  –  including those in the majors now.

He also features a plus fastball though he lacks overall command and he is working hard to develop his slider. Because he has struggled to work more than 115 innings the Yankees believe keeping in the bullpen will lessen his injury issues and keep his arm fresh for a full season.

Another young pitcher to watch is 21-year-old right-hander Jacob Lindgren, who pitched Mississippi State to the 2013 College World Series title as a starter and then was shifted to the bullpen by the Yankees last summer.

The Yankees selected him with their first pick of the 2014 draft in the second round and he immediately paid dividends by advancing all the way to Trenton. In his four minor-league stops he combined to go 2-1 with a 2.16 ERA He struck out 48 batters in 25 innings.

Lindgren was able to increase his fastball speed up to 95 mph and his slider (82-84 mph) has enough bite on it to make it a wipeout pitch. It is very possible that Lindgren could make the Yankees’ bullpen in 2015 if he shows that he can throw strikes consistently in the minors.

He is ranked as the team’s No. 9 prospect.

OVERALL POSITION ANALYSIS: EXCELLENT

The bullpen has been the strength of the team for the past two seasons, though the team as a whole has not had much success. Even with the reshuffling of a lot of new faces and new roles in the bullpen, it remains one of the team’s strengths.

Another reason is that Girardi has been a master at selecting the best organization arms and utilizing a bullpen to the team’s advantage. No one gets overworked because Girardi is strict about not using pitchers three days in a row if he can help it.

This season the big test will be if Betances can take the reins as the team’s closer. The odds are that he is capable and he should be successful. If he isn’t Miller is there back him up. Whether they work as setup man and closer or as co-closers, the fact remains they are two very nasty hombres that hitters do not feel comfortable hitting against.

Neither pitcher also has a decided bias pitching against right-handed or left-handed batters. They are equal-opportunity strikeout artists. That will make it awful difficult for teams who are behind come the eighth inning.

Carpenter will likely ease into what was Kelley’s role last season. He will set up for Miller and Betances. Though Carpenter struggled a bit last season, he still is considered a good young pitcher with a very good arm.

Once Warren finishes his role as a starter in the early part of the season he will join Carpenter in a setup role. Though Warren came out of the minors as a starter, he has had great success pitching out of the bullpen and he can pitch multiple innings if needed.

The Yankees also traded Cervelli for a second left-hander in Wilson and he provides a great opportunity for Girardi to match him up against a tough left-handed hitter in the middle innings.

With these five players set in their roles, the other three spots are up for grabs this spring.

Whitley and Rogers have a great shot at winning two of those spots because they both are former starters. Whitley is ideal for the long-relief and spot-start role Phelps once had. Rogers has not harnessed his ability yet and time is running out. But he is veteran with a good arm.

The last spot will be decided in spring training with a lot of potential candidates.

One good thing is that a lot of those candidates such as Burawa, Pinder and Shreve are young, Behind them are a pair of up-and-coming prospects like Ramirez and Lindgren.

There is good chance you may see both Ramirez and Lindgren on the 25-man roster this season. The Yankees have developed a lot of great depth here.

END OF SERIES

2015 Yanks Likely Will Extend Playoff Drought

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!

 

Kuroda, Tex Help Yankees End Skid Against Jays

GAME 77

YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 3

There are some managers who will say that their team needs to learn how to win. After four straight losses, Yankees manager Joe Girardi must have given his team a master class in Winning 101 on Wednesday.

Hiroki Kiroda gave the Yankees a solid effort, pitching into the seventh inning, and Mark Teixeira homered and drove in three runs as New York salvaged the final game of a three-game set against Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 34,710 at Rogers Centre.

Kuroda (5-5) yielded three runs on eight hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings to win his first game since May 28 when he defeated the Cardinals in St. Louis.

Initially, it did not look good for Kuroda when Jose Reyes led off the bottom of the first by cranking Kuroda’s first offering into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Blue Jays an early 1-0 lead.

However, Huroda settled in and the Yankees were able to score four runs in the third inning off right-hander Drew Hutchison.

Kelly Johnson opened the frame by drawing a walk and Francisco Cervelli slammed a double into the gap in right-center to score Johnson and tie the game. It was only Cervelli’s second RBI of the season.

Two batters later, Jacoby Ellsbury singled up the middle to score Cervelli and Teixeira then launched a 0-1 change-up into the right-field bleachers to give Kuroda and the Yankees a comfortable 4-1 lead. It was Teixeira’s 14th home run of the season and his second in three games in Toronto.

“The whole dugout was excited about those four runs,” Teixeira told reporters after the game. “It had been a while since we had a lead.”

The Blue Jays, however, did draw closer in the bottom of the fifth.

Munenori Kawasaki drew a one-out walk and with two out Reyes stroked a ground-rule double. Then Melky Cabrera slapped an opposite-field single to left to score two runs to cut the Yankees’ lead to a run.

Hutchison (5-6) left after six innings having given up four runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned six batters.

The Yankees did add a run in the sixth after Blue Jays left-hander Rob Rasmussen walked Brett Gardner, hit Derek Jeter in the foot with a pitch and then issued another free pass to Ellsbury to load the bases.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons summoned right-hander Sergio Santos to pitch to Teixeira and Teixeira was able to loft a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Gardner.

The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there as Shawn Kelley, Matt Thornton, Adam Warren and David Robertson held the Blue Jays scoreless on just two hits with no walks and three strikeouts over the final 2 2/3 innings.

Robertson retired all five batters he faced, including striking out the first three batters he faced, to earn his 18th save in 20 opportunities this season.

The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 40-37 and they are now 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays in third place in the American League East. The Blue Jays dropped to 44-36.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After poor outings from Chase Whitley and David Phelps the past two games, Kuroda was able to keep the Blue Jays contained to allow the Yankee offense to get untracked. Kuroda, 39, has been somewhat of a disappointment after he pitched so well in 2012 and 2013. With his 4.23 ERA, Kuroda could stand to start putting together some good outings and pitch more consistently.
  • Teixiera’s three RBIs give him 39 on the season, which currently leads the team. The Yankees are nearly at the halfway point of the season and it is embarrassing that their team leader only has 39 RBIs. But with Teixiera slowed by a hamstring injury and a sore right wrist and Brian McCann, Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Beltran all underperforming the Yankees will take anything they can get from Teixeira.
  • Ellsbury was 3-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Ellsbury has now put together a stretch of eight games in which he is 11-for-31 (.355). But he only has one extra-base hit (a double) and three RBIs in that span.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Brian Roberts was the only Yankee starter who failed to reach base in the game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Roberts was 7-for-18 (.389) with a home run and two RBIs in his previous five games. Roberts, 36, had his season average fall to .240.
  • Despite the victory the Yankees were just 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position and they left the bases loaded in both the fifth and seventh innings. It is getting to the point where pitchers might just as well just intentionally walk the first three Yankees each inning because the odds the Yankees will score any runs is virtually nil.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a day off on Thursday before opening a three-game home series starting on Friday against the reeling Boston Red Sox.

Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-4, 5.88 ERA) will begin the series for the Yankees. His one victory was on May 7 and he is 0-4 with a 6.12 since then. He gave up four runs on six hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday.

The Red Sox will pitch right-hander Brandon Workman (1-0, 2.88 ERA). Workman surrendered two runs on five hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in six innings in a no decision against the Cleveland Indians on June 15.

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 Force Jays Back To Earth With Sweep

GAME 71

YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 4

When the Yankees came off their recent West Coast road trip to face the first-place Blue Jays at home they were hoping that they could just gain some ground on them. After completing a three-game sweep of them on Thursday the Yankees have to feel extremely blessed.

David Phelps pitched seven very gutty innings and the offense, while it did not send a single ball into the seats, wore down their American League East rivals as New York won its 16th straight game against Toronto at Yankee Stadium in front of a paid crowd of 40,169.

Phelps (3-4) held the booming bats of the Blue Jays in check except for a two-out two-run home run he served up to Melky Cabrera in the third inning that tied the score at 2-2. Those two runs were all Phelps would give up while holding the Jays to six hits while he walked two and struck out seven.

Phelps even helped himself out with a do-or-die fielding play in the fifth inning. With two out and Colby Rasmus on third, Cabrera hit a rocket shot that ricocheted off Phelps and rolled behind the mound. Phelps scrambled back to the ball and fired quickly to Mark Teixeira at first to barely nip Cabrera.

Meanwhile, the Yankees hitters were putting right-hander Drew Hutchinson (5-4) through a draining pitch-count wringer.

They scored single runs off him in the first two innings on sacrifice flies by Jacoby Ellsbury in the first and Kelly Johnson in the second. They then broke the 2-2 tie in the third inning when Ellsbury led off with a single, stole second and advanced to third on a single by Teixeira.

One batter later, Carlos Beltran scored Ellsbury with the Yankees’ third sacrifice fly of the evening. In the meantime, they had forced Hutchison to throw 76 pitches in the first three innings.

The Yankees added a run in the fifth when Ellsbury laced a one-out single and, again, stole second. Then Teixeira drew a walk that ended the night for Hutchison.

Left-hander Aaron Loup was able to retire Brian McCann on an infield liner but Beltran lofted a ground-rule double into the bleachers in left-center to score Ellsbury.

Hutchinson was charged with four runs on six hits and four walks while he struck out three in 4 1/3 innings.

The Yankees added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to extend their lead to 6-2 on a night when two big contributors to their bullpen, Dellin Betances and closer David Robertson, were unavailable.

Brian Roberts and his base-running keyed the sixth inning when he led off the frame with a single and stole second and third base. But manager Joe Girardi deserves some credit for some strategy after Brett Gardner drew a one-out walk.

Girardi elected to send Gardner as Derek Jeter bounced a ball to Jose Reyes at shortstop. Instead of being able to turn a double play, Reyes was forced to retire Jeter at first as Roberts scored and Gardner was standing safely at second.

The Yankees were able to load the bases on right-hander Steve Delabar in the seventh inning when Roberts drew a walk with two outs. Delabar then walked Yangervis Solarte to force in a run.

The Blue Jays did manage to make things interesting in the eighth inning when Jose Bautista drew a one-out walk from right-hander Shawn Kelley and Edwin Encarnacion followed by planting his 21st home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.

However, Kelley retired Dioner Navarro and Matt Thornton got the final out in the eighth and the first out in the ninth before he was touched for a single off the bat of Rasmus.

Adam Warren then came in to get pinch-hitter Munenori Kawasaki and Reyes to complete the sweep and earn his second save of the season.

With the victory, the Yankees are 38-33 and they are 1 1/2 games out of first place in the A.L. East. The struggling Blue Jays fell to 41-33.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Phelps lost four consecutive starts from May 22 through June 7 and he was 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA at that point. But in his past two starts he has defeated the team with the best record in the American League (Oakland) and the best team in the A.L. East (Toronto). In those two starts he has given up two runs on eight hits and two walks and struck out 11 in 13 2/3 innings. He is 2-0 with a 1.32 ERA in those starts, which has lowered his season ERA to 4.11.
  • The Yankees very much need Beltran’s bat and they got it on Thursday. Beltran was 1-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs. It was his first multiple RBI game since he drove in two runs against the Boston Red Sox on April 22 at Fenway Park. Beltran entered the contest 7-for-40 (.175) with a home run and three RBIs since he came off the disabled list on June 5.
  • Ellsbury had another good night in going 2-for-4 with two stolen bases, two runs scored and an RBI. Ellsbury is now hitting .279 with four homers and 31 RBIs. But he also has stolen a team-best 20 bases and has an on-base percentage of .346. Add his skilled fielding in center and you have a very good player and a very smart free-agent signing by the Yankees.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Why complain when starters Masahiro Tanaka, Chase Whitley and Phelps combined to give up just five runs in 19 innings (a 2.37 ERA) in the three games against the hard-hitting Blue Jays. Whitley and Phelps may be considered as blowout patches for a starting rotation that lost Ivan Nova, CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda. But they are more than holding their own for Yankees at a time when they are very much needed. No complaints about this game.

BOMBER BANTER

The game was delayed for some time in the fourth inning when a rare base-runner interference play was called on Encarnacion after he led off with a single. Navarro followed with a routine pop fly to Teixeira just inside the first-base bag. Encarnacion used both of his hands to slide around Teixiera to return to first base while the ball was in the air and he was immediately called for interference by first-base umpire Chris Conroy. After initially calling Navarro out on the pop fly, the umpires conferred and placed Navarro at first base on a fielder’s choice.  . . .  Johnson had to leave the game in the sixth inning when the fingers on his left hand were struck with the ball as he was attempting a bunt. Johnson was removed from the game and replaced by Solarte with a 3-2 count. Solarte struck out but the Yankees later scored Roberts on Jeter’s groundout. Johnson underwent X-rays that did not indicate any broken bones. But Johnson is listed as day-to-day.

ON DECK

The Yankees now hope to continue their momentum against their A.L. East rivals when they begin a weekend three-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (4-5, 3.42 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda lost his start on Saturday, giving up four runs on five hits and three walks against the Oakland Athletics. Kuroda is 1-0 against the Orioles this season after beating them 4-2 on April 7 at Yankee Stadium in his second start of the season.

Right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (2-8, 4.86 ERA) will start for the O’s. The disappointing free agent gave up two runs on three hits and five walks in six innings in a loss to the Blue Jays last Friday. He has not won a game since May 8 and he was the losing pitcher to Kuroda in that game on April 7.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

 

McCann-ical: Yankee Catcher’s 5 RBIs Dumps Jays

GAME 70

YANKEES 7, BLUE JAYS 3

For most of the season, the Yankees have been wondering where their All-Star slugging catcher Brian McCann was because the one they have been watching was hitting ,220 with seven homers and 28 RBIs. Well, cross your fingers and do a sign of the cross, but there was a rare McCann sighting at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday night.

McCann lined a two-run home run to put the Yankees ahead and later added a three-run triple as part of a career-best-tying five RBIs to lead New York past Toronto to bring them to within 2 1/2 games of the first-place Blue Jays in the American League East.

A paid crowd of 41,342 in the Bronx, N.Y., watched the Yankees win their 15th consecutive game over the Blue Jays at home.

Chase Whitley (3-0), buoyed by an early 1-0 lead, held the Blue Jays scoreless until the fourth inning when he was stung by back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Dioner Navarro and Colby Rasmus, who was just activated from the 15-day disabled list prior to the game.

But the Yankees were able to answer in the bottom of the fourth against left-hander Mark Buehrle (10-4), who has now lost his past three starts.

Carlos Beltran led of the frame with a single and McCann, after battling Buehrle to a 2-2 count in a nine-pitch at-bat, lined a curveball into the second row of the bleachers in right-field to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the evening.

The home run was McCann’s eighth of the season but his first since May 23 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

Buehrle was also touched for an unearned run in the first inning when Brett Gardner led off with a single, one of his four singles on the night. Derek Jeter then reached when Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie misplayed Jeter’s slow roller into an error.

Two batters later, another one of the Yankees struggling sluggers, Alfonso Soriano, slapped Buehrle’s first pitch up the middle to score Gardner.

Buehrle was charged with three runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in six innings.

Whitley, however, was able to hold on for his third straight victory and the Yankees are now 7-0 in his starts since he was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15. He yielded two runs on five hits and one walk with two strikeouts in five innings.

The Yankees were able to put the game away in the seventh inning against right-hander Chad Jenkins and left-hander Brett Cecil.

Gardner singled and, two outs later, Jacoby Ellsbury and Mark Teixeira hit consecutive singles to load the bases. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons replaced Jenkins with Cecil and pinch-hitter Ichiro Suzuki drew a walk for score Gardner.

McCann then followed with a base-clearing triple into the gap in right-center to become the first Yankees catcher to hit a home run, a triple and drive in five runs in a game since Elston Howard did it in 1962.

The Blue Jays scored a run in the eighth off rookie right-hander Jose Ramirez on a leadoff double by Melky Cabrera and an RBI double off the bat of Jose Bautista. But the bullpen combination of Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and David Robertson pitched four scoreless innings on no hits, one walk and six strikeouts to close out the victory for Whitley.

The Yankees’ season record is now 37-33 and they only trail the Jays by one game in the loss column in the tightly bunched A.L. East. The Blue Jays fell to 41-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • McCann was 2-for-3 with a walk and his five RBIs on Tuesday leave him in a tie with Teixeira for the team lead with 33. McCann, 30, a career .274 hitter, is still hitting only .226 but the Yankees are hoping that he is about to break out of what has been a prolonged power and hitting drought to provide what he did for the Atlanta Braves in his previous eight seasons.
  • Gardner entered the game hitting .325 at Yankee Stadium this season and he added to it with a 4-for-5 night with four singles and two runs scored. In 30 games at home, Gardner is now 41-for-119 (.345) with four home runs and 15 RBIs. In his past nine games, Gardner is 14-for-38 (.386) with two homers and five RBIs.
  • Whitley, who turned 25 on Saturday, got caught up in a heavy pitch count in trying to battle the major league’s best home run hitting team. But he kept the Yankees in the game until the Yankees were able to take the lead in the fourth. Whitley’s walk to Cabrera with one out in the fifth was the first he has issued since May 21 against the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. In 38 2/3 innings, Whitley has walked just four batters. It looks like he is going to be a keeper in the rotation.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There are hints that the Yankees may be ready to bust out of their offensive funk and it could not have come at a better time because the Yankees are in the midst of 15 games against teams in their division. They have now won the first two of those 15 games against the best team in the division. They need to keep it going.

BOMBER BANTER

Left-hander CC Sabathia threw a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday for a second consecutive day and he is expected to throw another bullpen session on Saturday. Sabathia, who was limited to throwing just fastballs on Tuesday, mixed in some sliders on Wednesday and reported no problems with his right knee after the session. Sabathia has been sidelined since May 10 after having a stem-cell injection in his right knee.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Wednesday that he is not considering any shakeup in the starting rotation but he is watching left-hander Vidal Nuno closely. Nuno is 1-3 with a 5.90 ERA this season and he was shelled for eight runs on eight hits in three-plus innings against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. With right-hander Shawn Kelley back in the bullpen after a stint on the DL, Warren could be inserted into the rotation if Girardi needs to make a move.

ON DECK

The Yankees have a chance to sweep the first-place Blue Jays on Thursday and draw to within 1 1/2 games of the lead in the division.

Right-hander David Phelps (2-4, 4.32 ERA) gets the start for the Yankees. Phelps, 27, is coming off what may have been the best start of his career on Saturday when he shut out the A’s on two hits and three walks while fanning four in 6 2/3 innings. That victory broke a string of four straight losses for Phelps.

Right-hander Drew Hutchison (5-4, 3.62 ERA) will pitch for the Blue Jays. Hutchison, 23, shut out the Baltimore Orioles on six hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings for his fifth victory on Friday. He was lit up for six runs on six hits and three walks in 3 1/3 innings by the Yankees in Toronto on April 6.

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

 

Tanaka Earns 11th Win As Yankees Top Blue Jays

GAME 67

YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 1

Whispers around the American League caution teams that to beat Masahiro Tanaka you better get to him early in the count and in the game. The Toronto Blue Jays applied that game plan in Tanaka’s first major-league start and again on Tuesday and it did not work either time.

In Tanaka’s major-league debut, Melky Cabrera led off the game with a home run and the Blue Jays lost the game 7-3. Jose Reyes led off Tuesday’s game by hitting Tanaka’s first delivery into the right-field bleachers and Toronto still lost the game.

Tanaka (11-1) pitched six innings to record his major-league-leading 11th victory as New York cut a game off the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League East with a victory over Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 41,834 at Yankee Stadium.

The 25-year-old right-hander yielded just that one run on five hits and two walks and he fanned 10 to lower his A.L.-leading ERA to 1.99 and post his 14th quality start in as many games pitched.

“What he’s done has been remarkable,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told reporters.

The victory also was Girardi’s 600th in his career as the team’s manager, the sixth skipper to reach that mark.

Tanaka and the Yankees weathered the early 1-0 deficit before taking the lead in the bottom of the third against rookie right-hander Marcus Stroman, who is a native of nearby Medford, N.Y.

Kelly Johnson laced a one-out double to the wall in right-center and Brett Gardner followed by lining a 2-1 slider off the netting of the right-field foul pole for his sixth home run of the season.

Stroman (3-2) was charged with two runs on four hits and three walks while he struck out two in 3 2/3 innings.

The Yankees pushed across another run against left-hander Aaron Loup when Derek Jeter reached on an infield single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. After Jacoby Ellsbury’s groundout advanced Jeter to third, Loup made a mistake by failing to walk Mark Teixeira on a 3-1 pitch.

Instead, the switch-hitting Teixeira lined Loup’s inside fastball up the middle for a one-out RBI single with the left-hand-hitting Brian McCann on deck.

Meanwhile, Tanaka got even tougher, striking out Cabrera, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion on swinging strikes in succession in the fifth inning.

Rookie Dellin Betances pitched a perfect two innings, striking out three, and David Robertson pitched around a two-out triple by Munenori Kawasaki to notch his 17th save in 19 chances this season.

The victory improves the Yankees’ season record to 36-33 and boosts them into second place in the A.L. East 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Blue Jays. The Jays are now  41-31.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The conventional wisdom prior to the game was that because Tanaka’s loss came against the only team he has faced twice this season, the Chicago Cubs, that the Blue Jays would have success against him in their second meeting. It did not happen. Tanaka was even better. “They mowed us down pretty good tonight,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons told reporters.
  • If you combined the numbers this season for Tanaka, Betances and Robertson they are 15-3 with a 2.09 ERA with 224 strikeouts in 164 innings. I doubt seriously you can name a better starter and two-man bullpen combination in baseball today. They just dominate hitters and they combined on Tuesday to strike out 15 batters against the best home-run hitting team in baseball.
  • Gardner was batting .344 in his past 14 home games and his home run on Tuesday was his fourth at Yankee Stadium. Overall, Gardner is hitting .325 at home this season and he also leads the Yankees in bating with runners in scoring position at .315. Despite mostly batting in the leadoff spot, Gardner is tied with McCann and Yangervis Solarte for third on the team in RBIs with 28.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The Yankees probably could have done better than just six hits against Stroman and the Blue Jays relievers but with Tanaka on the mound it just does not seem to matter. The Yankees face the Blue Jays in five of the next 10 games. So winning the first one is a good start in cutting their lead in the division.

BOMBER BANTER

As expected on Tuesday, the Yankees activated catcher Francisco Cervelli from the 60-day disabled list and John Ryan Murphy was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Cervelli, 28, has been sidelined since April 13 with a torn right hamstring and just completed a 10-game minor-league rehab stint. Murphy, 22, hit .286 with a home run and eight RBIs and drew raves about his play over 24 games. Cervelli, however, was out of options and the Yankees did not want to risk losing him.  . . .  CC Sabathia reported no issues with his right knee of Tuesday after throwing a bullpen session at Yankee Stadium on Monday. Sabathia, 33, has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 11 after requiring a stem-cell injection to his knee when some degenerative breakdown in the cartilage was discovered by Dr. James Andrews. There is still no firm date for Sabathia’s return but it likely will be sometime after the All-Star break.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game midweek series with Blue Jays on Wednesday.

Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.41 ERA) will make his seventh start of the season. Whitley is 2-0 with a 2.45 ERA in past two starts including giving up just two runs on five hits with no walks and six K’s in his major-league best 7 2/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.

Left-hander Mark Buehrle (10-3, 2.28 ERA) will pitch for the Blue Jays. Buehrle is coming off back-to-back losses and yielded four runs on eight hits and one walk in 6 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.

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

 

Jeter Sparks Yanks Past M’s In His Seattle Farewell

GAME 65

YANKEES 6, MARINERS 3

A paid crowd of 40,596 at Safeco Field, the second largest attendance of the season, came on Thursday to see Derek Jeter play his final game in Seattle, where his career began 19 years ago in the nearby Kingdome. He sent them home quite happy.

Jeter collected three hits and drove in two runs to spark the offense and rookie right-hander Chase Whitley won his second consecutive start to boost New York to a 6-3 victory over Seattle to sweep the three-game series.

After Mariners left-hander left-hander Roenis Elias (5-5) left the game with two on and one out in the fourth inning in favor of right-hander Dominic Leone, Jeter slapped his second delivery into right-field to score two runs and give the Yankees a commanding 6-1 lead.

Jeter finished the series 7-for-12 with a double, two walks, two stolen bases, four runs scored and two RBIs.

Meanwhile, Whitley (2-0) held the Mariners to just two runs on just five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in a season-best 7 2/3 innings of work.

The Yankees gave him an early 2-0 lead in the first inning when Jeter touched Elias for a one-out single and Jacoby Ellsbury followed with a lined shot that landed in the bleachers in right-center for his fourth home run of the season. It also extended his hitting streak to 16 games, which is currently the longest active streak in the majors.

Elias got into further trouble in the third inning after Jeter reached on a single and Ellsbury drew a walk. One out later, Alfonso Soriano delivered a two-run double off the wall in left-center to make it 4-1.

Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon elected to remove Elias in the fourth after he walked Brian Roberts, John Ryan Murphy singled to center and Brett Gardner advanced them with a sacrifice bunt.

Jeter then delivered his two-run single off Leone.

Elias was charged with six runs on six hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 3 1/3 innings, the shortest outing of the season for the rookie from Cuba.

The Mariners scored on Whitley with two out in the second inning when Logan Morrison laced his first home run as a Mariner into the first row of the bleachers in right-center.

They added a run in fifth when Brad Miller stroked a one-out double off the wall in center and James Jones bounced a a two-out single up the middle to score Miller to bring the M’s to within reach at 6-2.

However, Whitley was backed up by some spectacular outfield defense and it helped keep the Mariners from drawing any closer.

Robin$on Cano hit the next pitch from Whitley to the wall in center-field but Ellsbury leapt, caught the ball as it was about to reach the seats and he hit the wall hard. But he was able to keep the ball in his glove to end the threat.

Two innings later, Mike Zunino hit another ball into roughly the same spot in center but Gardner, who had replaced Ellsbury in center to start the inning, made another great catch just below the yellow line on the padded wall.

The Mariners added a run in the ninth off right-hander Shawn Kelley, who was making his first appearance since being placed on the 15-day disabled list with a lumbar back strain on May 6.

After right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki made another spectacular catch at the wall on Stefen Romero, Dustin Ackley doubled off the tip of Gardner’s glove in center and Morrison scored him with an RBI ground-rule double to right.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi replaced Kelley with David Robertson and Robertson struck out Zunino and Miller swinging to preserve the victory for Whitley and earned his 16th save in 18 chances this season.

The victory gives the Yankees a season record of 34-31 and they are now tied with the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the American League East, 3 1/2 games in back of the slumping first-place Toronto Blue Jays.

The Mariners fell to 34-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Jeter’s 7-for-12 (.583 series against the Mariners has raised his season average from .254 to .271. Jeter, 39, was hitting .275 on May 25 before he went into a tailspin that sank his average to .254. After this series it seems that Jeter is back on track.
  • Ellsbury’s home run was only his fourth of the season but it was his second off Elias. On May 1 at Yankee Stadium, Ellsbury led off the game with a homer off the lefty for his first homer of the season. With his 1-for-3 evening, he is now 24-for-63 (.381) in that span. Of course, Ellsbury’s catch off Cano in the fifth was even more important because it preserved a 6-2 lead.
  • Whitley is now 2-0 in his past two starts. He has given up just four runs on 10 hits and no walks with nine strikeouts in 14 2/3 innings. That is a 2.45 ERA and Walks-To-Innings-Pitched (WHIP) ratio of 0.68, which is exceptional. Even more important is that the Yankees are undefeated in all six of his starts. The converted reliever does not look like he will be going back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when starters CC Sabathia and Michael Pineda come off the disabled list in July.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Great starting pitching, the offense scores six runs and the defense and the bullpen help preserve the victory. That is a recipe for success and the Yankees look to be a roll at a good time. Nothing negative here.

BOMBER BANTER

Ellsbury left the game in the seventh inning with tightness in his right hip. However, the Yankees said the injury is not serious and that they expect Ellsbury to be available to play on Friday. Ellsbury re-injured his hip making his catch at the wall in the bottom of the fifth inning. Ellsbury has been having issues with his right hip for the past week. He was scratched from the lineup from Monday’s game against the Kansas City Royals but the game was postponed by rain. Girardi said no tests are planned for the outfielder.  . . .  Catcher Francisco Cervelli is eligible to be activated from the 60-day disabled list on Friday and it appears that will mean Murphy will be sent back to Scranton soon. Cervelli, 28, has been sidelined since April 13 with a pulled right hamstring. He has played six games on a rehab assignment at Double-A Trenton and likely will be activated sometime next week when the team returns to New York. Murphy, 22, started the game on Thursday and was 2-for-4 to raise his season average to .310 in 58 at-bats covering 22 games.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open a three-game weekend series with the Oakland Athletics at O.co Coliseum beginning on Friday.

Right-hander David Phelps (1-4, 4.88 ERA) will pitch in the opener. Phelps is coming off two terrible outings in which he was shelled for 13 runs on 16 hits and five walks in 11 2/3 innings. He also has lost his past four starts.

Right-hander Sonny Gray (6-2, 2.83 ERA) will oppose Phelps. Gray yielded five runs on four hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings in a loss to the Orioles on Saturday. He has allowed 10 earned runs in his past three starts.

Game-time will be 10:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Ellsbury’s RBI Single Helps Yanks Sink Mariners

GAME 63

YANKEES 3, MARINERS 2

Getting a clutch hit with a runner in scoring position has been about as scarce as sightings of a dinosaur for the Yankees. In fact, those big hits in close games have gone pretty much extinct.

But Jacoby Ellsbury delivered a tie-breaking RBI single to score Derek Jeter from second with one out in the eighth inning as New York edged Seattle on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 28,405 at Safeco Field.

Ellsbury’s game-winner came off left-hander Charlie Furbush, who had just come into the game after Jeter blasted a ground-rule double to deep center off right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma.

Dellin Betances (4-0) was credited with the victory in relief despite yielding a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning by hitting Mike Zunino with a pitch, uncorking a wild pitch to advance Zunino to second and then giving up a two-out RBI single Dustin Ackley.

Mike Warren pitched a scoreless eighth and David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to get credit for his 15th save in 17 opportunities this season.

The Yankees took an early 2-1 lead off Iwakuma in the first inning as Jeter stroked a one-out single and, one out later, Mark Teixeira lined a single of his own. Carlos Beltran followed with an RBI double to score Jeter and Brian McCann bounced an infield single up the middle to score Teixeira,

Iwakuma (4-3) was charged with three runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out five in 7 1/3 innings.

The Mariners managed to halve the Yankees’ lead in the bottom of the first off left-hander Vidal Nuno on a two-out double by Robin$on Cano and an RBI single off the bat off Cole Gillespie.

But Nuno managed to hold the Mariners scoreless into the sixth inning. He yielded just the one run on four hits and one walk with two strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

Nuno got a lot of help from his outfield defense in maintaining the lead.

In the second inning, former Mariner Ichiro Suzuki made a spectacular leaping catch on the warning track on a ball off the bat of Kyle Seager. Then in the fourth, Ellsbury grabbed a blast at the top of the center-field wall off Michael Saunders with a runner on second and third and two out.

The victory was the Yankees’ first of the season against the Mariners after being swept in three games at Yankee Stadium.

The victory also prevented the Yankees from dropping below .500 for the first time since April 11, when they were 5-6.

They are 32-31 and they are tied with the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the American League East. Both teams trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by 5 1/2 games.

The Mariners are now 34-30.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury’s RBI single also extended his hitting streak to 14 games dating back to May 26. During that span, Ellsbury is 21-for-56 (.375) with a home run and nine RBIs. That has raised his season average from .258 to .286.
  • Jeter was 2-for-3 with a walk and two runs scored after entering the evening on a 3-for-26 (.115) skid. His troubles at the plate were part of the reason the Yankees were averaging just 2.5 runs over the past 10 games and the team was 3-7 in the stretch.
  • Give Nuno a lot of credit on a excellent start. Nuno has pitched exceptional on the road and terrible at Yankee Stadium this season. In his four road starts, he is 1-0 with a 1.87 ERA. In his six home starts, he is 0-2 with a 6.07 ERA.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite his excellent defensive play in right, Suzuki took a rare 0-for-4 collar in the game. It is the first time Suzuki has not gotten a hit in a game in which he has started since May 28. His season average slipped from .320 to .308. Though it was a bad night at the plate, Suzuki is one of the few Yankees who has hit consistently.
  • Betances had a rare bad outing. His problems started when he drilled Zunino with a breaking pitch. The wild pitch also came off a poorly thrown breaking ball. Ackley then singled just over the outstretched glove of Brian Roberts on a hanging breaking ball. Without his dominant slider Betances is hittable. But he still is 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA and batters are hitting only .147 off him.

BOMBER BANTER

The Mariners honored Jeter before the game with a pre-game ceremony in which he was given a chair from the old Kingdome, a base, a watch with a personal inscription from Cano and a $5,000 donation for Jeter’s charitable Turn 2 Foundation.  . . .  Right-hander Shawn Kelley is expected to be activated on Wednesday and rejoin the bullpen. Kelley, 31, has not pitched since May 6 after suffering a strained lumbar spine.  He is 1-2 with a 3.52 ERA in 16 games this season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Mariners on Wednesday.

Rookie sensation Masahiro Tanaka (9-1, 2.02 ERA) will start for the Yankees trying to extend his six-game winning streak. Tanaka beat the Oakland Athletics on Thursday by holding them to one run on five hits and a walk with four K’s in six innings.

Veteran right-hander Chris Young (5-3, 3.42 ERA) will pitch for the Mariners. Young lost to the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday, yielding three runs on seven hits and five walks in five innings. But Young is 6-0 with a 2.84 ERA in nine career starts at Safeco Field.

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

 

Whitley Chases What Matters: First Victory In KC

GAME 60

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

In his major-league debut on May 15 against the New York Mets, Chase Whitley drew high praise from former Atlanta Braves right-hander John Smoltz, who was providing color commentary of the game for the MLB Network. After the way the rookie pitched against the Royals on Friday, now Yankee fans can see what Smoltz noticed.

Whitley pitched seven solid innings in his longest start of his career and he went on to earn his first major-league victory behind the hitting of Brian McCann as New York edged Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 23,418 at Kauffman Stadium.

Whitley (1-0) yielded two runs on five hits, did not walk a batter and struck out three in his first outing to last more than five innings. Whitley threw 51 strikes out of 87 pitches for a 59 percent strike ratio, keeping the Royals off balance with his fastball, slider and change-up.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to break a 1-1 tie in the third inning, keyed by a one-out, bases-loaded, three-run double off the bat of McCann.

Jacoby Ellsbury opened the inning with a single up the middle off veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2-6). Brett Gardner then looped an opposite-field single into left and  –  one out later  – Guthrie brushed the right shoulder of Mark Teixeira with a pitch to load the bases.

McCann then stroked an outside fastball into the left-field corner to clear the bases and hand Whitley and the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

Guthrie was charged with four runs on six hits and one walk while he fanned two in seven innings of work. He has now winless in his past 11 starts dating back to April 9.

Dellin Betances tossed a scoreless eighth and David Robertson threw a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 16 chances this season.

The Yankees took an 1-0 lead in the second inning when Teixeira led off by lining a single to right off Guthrie. Yangervis Solarte drew a one-out walk and Brian Roberts provided a two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira.

However, the Royals were able to tie it up in the bottom of the second when Alex Gordon laced a one-out double into the right-field corner and Salvador Perez followed with an RBI single to left.

The Royals did close to within two runs in the fifth when Gordon led off the frame with a single and stole second. One out later, Lorenzo Cain bounced a ball into left-center that he was able to hustle into a double.

However, Whitley ended the threat by retiring Mike Moustakas on a groundout and Alcides Escobar on a flyout.

The 24-year-old was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 15 as the Yankees lost starters CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Michael Pineda to injury in quick succession. The converted reliever did not get a decision in his previous four starts despite the fact he is sporting an excellent 2.42 ERA.

With the victory the Yankees have won two in a row and they improved their season record to 31-29. They also were able to pass the Baltimore Orioles to claim second place in the American League East six games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Royals, who have now lost 21 of the past 31 games to the Yankees at Kauffman Stadium, fell to 29-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Whitley may end up being more than just a fill-in starter until Sabathia and Pineda are expected to return in July. His first five starts  –  and particularly this one  –  prove that Whitley deserves to stay in the rotation as long he continues to pitch this well. David Phelps is 1-3 with a 4.19 ERA in six starts and Vidal Nuno is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in nine starts as replacements. Whitley has simply been more impressive as a starter than they have, period.
  • McCann has been a major disappointment at the plate this season after entering the season as a career .275 hitter with 20 or more homers in the past six seasons. But his big three-run double showed he is willing to hit the ball where it is pitched to beat the extreme shifts teams play on him. Since May 27, McCann is quietly resurrecting his hitting. He is 14-for-33 (.424) in that span to raise his season average to .231.
  • Roberts entered the game in a 1-for-14 (.071) funk that dates back to May 31. But his two-out RBI single gave the Yankees an early 1-0 lead. The Yankees have been really disappointed with the production they have gotten from the free agents (Ellsbury, McCann, Roberts, Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson) they signed this past winter. They all need to really start picking it up soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

After the team went through a horrendous four-game losing streak while the Blue Jays were red hot, they finally seem to have some life back in them. So after getting a huge victory out a pitcher they had not planned to use at all this season things may be finally falling into place. It’s about time, too.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Royals on Saturday.

Phelps (1-3, 4.11 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The right-hander is coming off his worst start of the season on Monday against the Seattle Mariners. He was tagged for six runs on six hits and three walks in six-plus innings.

The Royals will start left-hander Danny Duffy (3-5, 3.05 ERA). The converted reliever will be making his seventh start and he is 2-4 with a 3.27 ERA in those starts. He shut out the St. Louis Cardinals on one hit and one walk while striking out five in six innings on Monday.

Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Tanaka Notches 9th Win As Yankees End Skid

GAME 59

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

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