Rockets’ red glare for Memorial Day victory
It looked as if the Yankees took a cue Monday from the Rangers — after Texas left town. The Rangers scored 30 runs in a three-game sweep of the Yankees that included third-inning rallies of seven runs Friday night and 10 Saturday afternoon. The Yanks put on such a show in the first inning Monday against the Royals, who came to town in first place in the American League Central.
Yankees hitters reacquainted themselves to the cozy right field porch at Yankee Stadium with four home runs in the first two innings off Kansas City righthander Jeremy Guthrie, who was absolutely dreadful to the Yanks’ delight.
The Memorial Day crowd of 36,031 had barely gotten comfortable in their seats when Brett Gardner led off the first inning with a double and Chase Headley drove the next pitch into the right field bleachers. A single by Alex Rodriguez and a walk to Mark Teixeira set the table for Brian McCann, who knocked a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall to make the score 5-0.
And the Yankees were not finished. Far from it. Two outs later, Guthrie hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch and allowed a single to Slade Heathcott. Gardner got his second extra-base hit of the inning and the Yankees’ third home with a three-run blast for 8-0. Another three-run homer, by Stephen Drew, ended Guthrie’s day before the first out of the second inning.
Guthrie faced 16 batters and let 13 of them reach base with 11 of them scoring. Now the Yankees know how the Rangers felt over the weekend.
“We have been through some tough and ugly losses lately, so that early lead was important,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is why baseball is more unpredictable than any other sport. We have been through this from both sides.”
This one was as upside as it gets. Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the eighth and limited the Royals to one run, and the Yankees kept pouring it on toward a 14-1 final. Headley got his third RBI of the game in the fifth inning, and Heathcott added two more runs in the seventh with his first career home run, the fifth of the game for the Yanks, all of which were hit to right field. Heathcott’s dinger came off Greg Holland, one of the toughest relievers in the majors.
“We needed this,” Heathcott said. “We hit a bit of a bumpy patch the last week or so. It was nice that we kept scoring and putting together good at-bats the rest of the game.”
Heathcott, just up this week from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help the Yankees get through the loss to the disabled list of Jacoby Ellsbury, has been the rare scent of fresh air lately. He is batting .455 (5-for-11) with a double, a homer and three RBI and has fared well defensively in center field.
His Yankees teammates did not play any games after his first major-league homer, perhaps cognizant of his hard-scrabble road to the majors following off-field issues of substance abuse. The former top prospect was dropped from the 40-man roster by the Yankees, drew no interest elsewhere, re-signed a minor-league deal with them and was returned to the roster last week.
“Guys were giving me high-fives,” Heathcott said about the reaction in the dugout. “It was great to see the veteran players — McCann, CC [Sabathia] — congratulating me. It was an awesome feeling. I was thinking, ‘Is this real?’ It’s a blessing just for me to be here.”
Heathcott was even able to get the milestone ball from a group of fans in the right field stands.
“It’s something my son [Eddie] will enjoy some day,” he said. “I thanked the fans for bringing me the ball. I gave them some balls and t-shirts. I have thought about this ever since I was six. I was just thrilled. I am thankful to everyone who had a part to helping me get to this point.”
It was also an eventful day for Jacob Lindgren, a lefthander who made his big-league pitching debut with two scoreless innings of relief (no hits, two walks, two strikeouts).
“What noticed when Lindy came into the game was that all the bullpen guys were on the outside bench,” Girardi said. “I liked seeing them pulling for him.”
Every player in the majors recalls vividly similar experiences they had to connect themselves with what Heathcott and Lindgren did Monday.
This was indeed a Memorial Day to remember.