April 2015

Tough loss for bullpen in lengthy outing

It was shaping up to be another outstanding bullpen game for the Yankees Wednesday and was something of a shame that the 3-2, 13-inning loss to the Rays was hung on a relief pitcher.

The relief corps accounted for 7 1/3 of the innings for the Yankees, and in that time Tampa Bay got one hit. Unfortunately for the Yanks, the hit was a single by James Loney that scored what proved the winning run as the Rays avoided being swept twice by the Yankees in the past two weeks.

Chasen Shreve, who earned his first major-league victory Sunday night against the Mets, had the one tough inning for the Yanks’ pem Wednesday. A one-out walk to Steven Souza Jr. did not seem that ominous at first, especially after Melky Cabrera grounded out while Souza took second base, the first time in seven innings that the Rays put a runner in scoring position.

The Yankees chose to walk intentionally the right-handed Evan Longoria to pitch to the lefty-swinging Loney, against whom they employed an exaggerated shift to the right side. Loney hit a ground ball into the shift, but second baseman Stephen Drew was so deep that his throw could not prevent Souza from crossing the plate. Drew might have had better luck throwing to first base to try for Loney, who is one of the slowest runners in the game.

The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the 13th when Chris Young singled with one out, but Alex Rodriguez finished off a miserable day at the plate by grounding into a game-ending double play. A-Rod was 0-for-6 with four strikeouts.

It was a strike me out to the ballgame afternoon for the Yankees, who were punched out 15 times in the game, all but one of those Ks coming in the first eight innings. Meanwhile, Yankees pitchers ran up 13 strikeouts. That is an enormous amount considering it was a picture-postcard day with perfect visibility.

Michael Pineda pitched 5 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on a triple to Kevin Kiermaier in the fourth. The Yankees’ runs came on solo home runs by Chase Headley in the fifth and Young in the sixth, both off Tampa Bay starter Drew Smyly, who had 10 strikeouts in his six innings.

After Pineda departed, Yankees relievers retired 14 consecutive batters before Chris Martin walked Cabrera with one out in the 11th. Kiermaier also reached on a walk by Schreve in the 12th in an at–bat extended when Headley dropped a foul pop behind third base. But no damage resulted from either walk. The 13th inning was a different tale.

The bullpen remains a major strength for the Yankees. Relievers have a combined ERA of 0.80 ERA since April 22 with 38 strikeouts in 30 innings. Overall, the pen has a 1.75 ERA and has held opposing hitters to a .159 batting average.

The relievers have earned their day off Thursday.

All-Star balloting on-line only launched

With the Yankees off to a strong start, it is now up to fans to show their support in the All-Star balloting that began Wednesday to select the starters for the July 14 game at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati.

Yankees nominees by position are catcher Brian McCann, first baseman Mark Teixeira, second baseman Steohen Drew, third baseman Chase Headley, shortstop Didi Gregorius, designated hitter Alex Rodriguez and outfielders Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran. There is even room for write-ins (think Chris Young).

Paper balloting has become a thing of the past as this year’s polling to determine the starting lineups for the American and National Leagues will be on-line only. Fans may cast votes up to 35 times exclusively at MLB.com and all 30 club sites, including yankees.com — on computers, tablets and smartphones — until 11:59 p.m. Eastern time July 2.

“As we launch our annual tradition of All-Star fan voting, Major League Baseball and the Reds look forward to the upcoming celebration of the Midsummer Classic in a city known for its enduring baseball history,” commissioner Rob Manfred said. “Baseball fans represent the heart of our game, and through All-Star balloting, I am proud to bring the best that our sport has to offer to the great fans and community of Cincinnati this summer.”

The pitchers and reserves for both squads will be selected through a combination of balloting by players and choices made by the All-Star managers, the Giants’ Bruce Bochy for the NL and the Royals’ Ned Yost for the AL.

Fans may also access the ballot by texting VOTE to 89269 (United States) or 101010 (Canada) or VOTA for ballots in Spanish. Message and data rates may apply for up to five messages.

The 86th All-Star Game will be broadcast live on FOX. Fans may visit MLB.com during the game to submit their choices for the Ted Williams Most Valuable Player Award presented by Chevrolet.

Tanaka to be disabled for at least a month

The Yankees passed out Masahiro Tanaka bobbleheads to customers Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium. That will be the closest to the real thing that Yankees fans will see of the Japanese righthander for at least a month.

Tanaka has a mild strain of the right forearm that will result in his being placed on the 15-day disabled list. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said that Tanaka would be shut down entirely for seven to 10 days and that the conservative course of action would keep him away from the team for a month.

The pitcher complained of soreness in his right wrist. An MRI revealed tendinitis in the wrist but also the forearm strain. On the positive side was that there was no change in the condition of his right elbow.

Tanaka had been scheduled to start Wednesday’s matinee at the Stadium in the finale of the three-game series against the Rays. Michael Pineda will start on regular rest instead.

Cashman indicated that Chase Whitley, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre to start Wednesday night and pitched well (5 IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 1K, 1WP) would remain in the rotation. Infielder Gregorio Petit, who had been optioned to SWP to make roster space for Whitley, is likely to return.

Just when the Yankees were making some strides, they suffer this blow. Tanaka was 2-1 with a 3.22 ERA and 24 strikeouts in four starts totaling 22 1/3 innings.

Streaks dying at hands of Yankees

Teams that go on extended winning streaks better stay away from the Yankees. They have snapped two opponents’ winning streaks of at least five games on this homestand. 


The Yankees ended the Mets’ 11-game winning streak last Friday night and the Rays’ five-game run Monday night. The Yanks are 9-2 since April 17 after starting the season 3-6. They entered play Tuesday night alone in first place in the American League East for the first time since May 19 last year.


In each of their last eight games, the Yankees faced teams with at least a share of first place in their respective divisions (April 20-23 against the Tigers, April 24-26 against the Mets and Monday night against the Rays) and were 6-2 in that stretch.


According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the longest such stretch for the Yankees since eight straight games from June 9-16, 2011 against the Red Sox (1), the Indians (4) and the Rangers (3) with the Yanks also going 6-2.

Yankees closer Andrew Miller was surprised to find out that he is the first reliever in franchise history to have as many as eight saves in the team’s first 20 games of a season.


“I would have thought Mariano Rivera had a year with 19 by that time,” the lefthander said.


Miller’s late-inning partner, Dellin Betances, has not allowed an earned run in 11 1/3 innings in which he has compiled 17 strikeouts. Opposing batters are hitless with 12 Ks in their past 22 at-bats against him.


Adam Warren’s six-strikeout, no-walk outing Monday night was the Yankees’ major-league leading sixth start with at least 6Ks and 0 BBs. All five of the Yankees’ starters have had at least one start with at least six strikeouts and no walks. Michael Pineda has two.

 

Penn State coach back to Stadium

Penn State head football coach James Franklin, who helped lead the Nittany Lions to a 31-30 overtime victory over the Boston College Eagles in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Tuesday’s 7:05 p.m. Yankees-Rays game at Yankee Stadium.

 

In his first year as head coach at Penn State in 2014, Franklin led the school to their 45thbowl appearance all-time. The Nittany Lions’ victory in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl was their 28th postseason victory, most among all Big Ten institutions and tied for third-most nationally. 

 

“It’s such an awesome opportunity to throw out the first pitch and take in a Yankees game at such an iconic stadium,” Franklin said. “The Yankees’ staff was great to work with and hosted a first-class event in the Pinstripe Bowl. The experience our student-athletes, coaches and staff had at Yankee Stadium in December was second to none. I am looking forward to taking the mound, maybe I will try to get some pitching advice from Masahiro Tanaka or Michael Pineda.”

 

As part of the celebration, a special ticket offer with savings of up to 50% on select seats for Tuesday’s game is now available for all Penn State alumni, fans and supporters. For complete details on the offer, fans should visit  www.yankees.com/psu15

 

In addition, Franklin will also be presented with a custom commissioned piece of art by acclaimed artist Lynn Mara that depicts Sam Ficken’s game-winning kick in the final moments of Penn State’s victory in the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl. A native of Long Island native, Mara is known for her unique works that aim to form a connection between natural environments and the spiritual world.

 

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has seen increased attendance in each of its first five years of existence. In 2014, a record sellout crowd of 49,012 watched Penn State defeat Boston College and establish the bowl’s highest all-time attendance figure.

 

The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 26.The game will mark the second consecutive year that the bowl will feature a team from the Big Ten and ACC. The Big Ten’s partnership with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is the conference’s first ever bowl game tie-in on the East Coast.

 

Tickets for the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be made available in the near future. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to visit www.pinstripe bowl.com, the official website of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and follow the bowl game’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @PinstripeBowl.


 

Fans: Be aware of GWB construction

Fans who cross the George Washington Bridge to attend games at Yankee Stadium should take note  of the following message from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.


Beginning Monday, May 4, 2015, The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will resume a steel deck improvement project on the upper level of the George Washington Bridge that may cause significant overnight delays.


Three of four upper level bridge lanes will be closed during the hours below:


Monday to Thursday from 9 p.m.  to 5 a.m. the following morning.


Friday and Saturday nights from 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. the following morning.


Passenger vehicles should use the lower level to avoid delays but also check electronic signs on the  approach route, which will provide the latest travel times across the upper and lower levels. Motorists may also choose toconsider an alternate route.


The lower level will be fully open to both cash and E-ZPass customers when work is occurring in the eastbound direction to New York..


Trucks are required to use the upper level at all times.


Highway message signs, 511 and traffic reports will advise motorists in advance which direction will be under construction (on any given night).  You can also check the website at http://www.panynj.gov/bridges-tunnels/gwb-upper-deck-steel-rehab.html for the current closure schedule. 

For regional traffic conditions, call 511 or visit www.511NY.org orwww.511NJ.org.

For real-time traffic updates at the GWB and other Port Authority crossings, register for Bridge & Tunnel Alerts athttp://www.BridgeAndTunnelAlerts.com.


Yanks take over 1st all by themselves

Who would have thought when the Yankees and the Rays faced each other for the first time this season that they would both be in first place 10 days later?

The Yankees went into that series in mid-April at Tropicana Field with a 3-6 record and having made 11 errors. The Rays had a 6-4 record, but three days later had fallen a game below .500 due to the Yankees’ sweep.

Fortune has followed the two clubs since then and in the tightly-contested American League East of 2015 have found themselves fighting to stay atop the division in this three-game set at Yankee Stadium.

Tampa Bay came to town riding a five-game winning streak while the Yankees had won three straight series, including this past weekend against the Mets, who have the best overall record in the major leagues.

The Yankees took over sole possession of first place Monday night with a 4-1 victory that ended the Rays’ streak. The Yanks have treated Tampa Bay this season like the expansion team it was in the 1990s and early 2000s by going 4-0 against the Rays thus far.

Adam Warren had a quality start with only one run and five hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings. The glitches were a couple of wild pitches in the sixth inning that helped the Rays tie the score at 1. The run scored on a fielder’s choice with drawn-in second baseman Stephen Drew taking an extra step before throwing to the plate and failing to prevent David DeJesus from crossing.

The Yankees had another strong bullpen effort as four relievers combined for 3 1/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit ball with one walk and four strikeouts. Justin Wilson was credited with his first victory of the season, and Andrew Miller made it 8-for-8 in saves.

Catcher Brian McCann was a big part of the Yankees’ offense. He homered one out into the sixth to put the Yanks ahead again with doubles by Carlos Beltran and Drew pushing the lead to 3-1. In the eighth, McCann led off with an excuse-me swing against the shift for a single and eventually scored when Jacoby Ellsbury was struck by a pitch with the bases loaded.

I do not normally pay much attention to the standings until June in following an old baseball axiom. Yet considering how much the Yankees stumbled coming out of the gate reaching the top of the division says a lot about this team’s resiliency.

Just as important, as manager Joe Girardi pointed out, is how much better the Yankees are playing at home. They were 1-4 during the first homestand but have won three of the past four games at the Stadium.

Although 0-for-4 Monday night, Mark Teixeira has been a major part of their April turnaround and was named AL Player of the Week for the period ending April 26. Tex hit .333 with six runs, one double, five home runs and 10 RBI in seven games and 33 at-bats.

Hey, Mets; Yanks are in 1st place, too

You have probably read numerous accounts in the media how the Mets are poised to supplant the Yankees as the No. 1 baseball team in New York. The return of Matt Harvey, the 14-4 start, the 10-0 record thus far at Citi Field, all of that has Mets fans ready to declare their team king of the New York hill.

Well, not so fast, Mr. Met.

The Yankees made it clear this past weekend they are not ready to roll over and let the Mets steal their thunder. Sure, Harvey was everything everyone says about him Saturday, but the other two games belonged to the Yankees, who overcame a 2-0, first-inning deficit Sunday night to win the rubber game of the series, which was easily the sloppiest for both squads.

But it was the Mets who really saved their worst for last. Jonathan Niese coughed up the lead with help from teammates who sprung leaks in the field and on the bases. The Mets were guilty of four errors, plus the embarrassment of Eric Campbell forgetting how many outs there were and getting doubled off first base.

Sunday night’s 6-4 victory in front of a sellout crowd of 47,510 at Yankee Stadium was not the most stylish of triumphs by the Yankees, either. Their infield committed two errors, and starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi could not get through the fifth inning to qualify for a winning decision that went instead to reliever Chasen Shreve, the first of his major-league career.

Eovaldi did not walk any batters and struck out six, but he gave up seven hits, many of them monstrously struck. A dazzling catch by Chris Young in center field kept the first inning from completely falling apart for Eovaldi.

Niese, who entered the game with a 1.50 ERA, let the game slip away from him in the first two innings. Alex Rodriguez’s 659th career home run started the Yanks’ comeback in the first inning. They kept it up in the second with four runs on doubles by John Ryan Murphy, Gregorio Petit, Brett Gardner and Rodriguez, a single by Young and a woefully poor throw by left fielder Michael Cuddyer. The four doubles were the most in one inning for the Yankees since the first inning of a 7-4 victory May 21, 2009 against the Orioles by Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira and Melky Cabrera.

Even after the Mets closed to 5-4, the Yankees did not panic and got another run in the sixth on A-Rod’s second RBI on an infield out. The key to getting that run was a Yankees challenge on what was originally ruled a groundout by Gardner. Replays showed first base umpire Adam Hamari missed the call that was reversed. Gardner eventually scored.

The Yankees wasted a leadoff double by Chase Headley in the sixth inning and made nine straight outs after that, but the Mets got nowhere with the Yanks’ bullpen, either. Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller continued their 8th-9th inning tandem. They each allowed one base runner (Betances on a third-strike wild pitch and Miller on a hit batter) but no hits and, more importantly, no runs.

The Mets’ record of 14-5 is still superior to the Yankees’ mark of 11-8, but for the weekend it was 2-1 Yanks. Now they head into a big series against the Rays, whom the Yankees swept a weekend ago at St. Petersburg, Fla. The clubs are tied for first place in the American League East, so the Mets are not the only first-place team in New York.

Extra-base hits aplenty in Subway Series finale

Despite the Mets’ hot start, Curtis Granderson had not hit a home run for them over their first 18 games. All it took was a little dose of Yankee Stadium to get him going.

Granderson hit 61 home runs at the Stadium in his time in the American League. Thanks in large part to the right field porch at the Stadium, Granderson topped the 40-homer mark twice during his tenure with the Yankees. So it was a familiar sight to see him cut on a fastball from Nathan Eovaldi and drive it over the fence in right-center for his first home run of the season and the 29th of his career leading off a game.

It was part of a wicked first inning for Eovaldi, who was in his first Subway Series but was no stranger to the Mets. He made seven starts against them while with the Marlins and was 1-3 with a 4.62 ERA. The Mets scorched some balls, and it took a splendid play in center field by Chris Young to keep the inning from unraveling entirely.

After Juan Lagares, who had four hits Saturday, smoked a hard grounder off first baseman Mark Teixeira’s glove for a single, Lucas Duda hit a drive directly over Young’s head in dead center field. With the same turn-and-burn approach teammate Jacoby Ellsbury employed the day before, Young put on the jets and caught up with the ball for a back-handed catch in front of the warning track. Lagares was practically at the shortstop position and had to bust it hard to get back to first  base.

Third baseman Chase Headley was next to come to Eovaldi’s aid with a diving stop of hard grounder by Michael Cuddyer. But there was nothing Teixeira could do to stop an absolute smoking shot by Daniel Murphy that became a an RBI double.

Eovaldi’s defense helped keep hiom close, and the Yankees’ offense fought back with a vengeance to take the lead away from Mets lefthander Jonathan Niese. It started in the first inning when Alex Rodriguez drove a 2-2 hanger to right field for his fifth home run of the season and career No. 659.

The second inning was when the Yankees jumped all over Niese and also took advantage of a throwing error by Cuddyer in left field to form a  four-run rally. Doubles by John Ryan Murphy, Gregorio Petit and Brett Gardner thrust the Yankees into the lead. Young got another run home with an opposite-field single against the shift. On a double to left by Rodriguez, Cuddyer made an awful relay to the infield that allowed Young to score before A-Rod was tagged out trying to advance to third base.

Eovaldi seemed to settle down and retired six batters in a row — four by strikeouts — before the Mets fought back to make the score 5-4 with two outs in the third on a single by Duda and doubles by Cuddyer and Daniel Murphy. With balls searing all over the yard in the early going, this had all the looks of a barnburner.

Girardi to give rotation additional rest this week

Yankees manager Joe Girardi mentioned earliet this season that the Yankees would rest the starting pitchers by going to a six-man rotation. The first such situation will occur in the upcoming three-game series witj the Rays at Yankee Stadium starting Monday night.

Girardi said before Sunday night’s finale of the Subway Series with the Mets on ESPN that the Yankees plan to call up Chase Whitley from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre to start the second game of the series Tuesday night. Masahiro Tanaka, who was originally scheduled to start Tuesday night, will start Wednesday afternoon’s game instead. The rest of the roration will get an additional day off because Thursday is an open date. Michael Pineda, the original scheduled starter for Wednesday, will now start Friday night in Boston on six days’ rest.

Whitley has made three starts for SWP and has a 2-0 record with a 2.12 ERA. The righthander, who had been a contender during spring training for the fifth starter’s role that was won by Adam Warren, allowed four runs and 13 hits with six walks and 13 strikeouts in 17 innings without allowing a home run.

Girardi made a change in Sunday’s lineup in sitting down center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, whose right hip tightened in Saturday’s 8-2 loss to the Mets. Ellsbury made a spectacular, lunging catch to rob Eric Campbell of an extra-base hit in the fourth, one inning after he grounded into a run-scoring double play in which he hustled hard to try to avoid getting doubled up. Girardi replaced Ellsbury with Chris Young in the eighth inning. With the Yankees six runs down, Girardi did not want to tax Ellsbury any further.

Young started in center field Sunday night and was in the 2-hole as Brett Gardner took Ellsbury’s usual spot at leadoff. Once again, Didi Gregorius was out of the starting lineup against a left-handed starter, in this case the Mets’ Jonathan Niese. The shortstop has a history of problems against lefties. This year, Gregorius, batting just .212 overall,  is 2-for-12 (.167) against lefthanders and hitting .225 against righthanders. For his career, Gregorius is a .260 hitter against righties and a .183 hitter against lefties. Stephen Drew shifted to shortstop with Grtegorio Petit playing second base.

As part of an initiative between Major League Baseball and ESPN to bring atention to Little League teams around the country, a team from Police Officer Michael Buczek Little League in the Washington Heights section of Manhatttan made an appearance on the set of ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball broadcast. The youngsters were also invited down to the field at the Stadium to watch  the Yankees and the Mets take batting practice before the finale of Round 1 of the 2015 Subway Series. Following batting practice, the Little League team also had the opportunity to interview Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia. The group was provided with tickets to the game,  goodie bags and food vouchers.