July 2015

Leads come and go for Sabathia & Yankees

The Yankees simply could not hang on to a lead Thursday night. These see-saw battles often end with the team up last winning, which was the case as the Rangers turned them away, 7-6, with a run in the bottom of the ninth inning. After winning six consecutive series, the Yankees had to settle for a split of the four-game set in Arlington, Texas.

CC Sabathia, pushed into starting with Michael Pineda (strained right forearm flexor muscle) going on the 15-day disabled list, set the tone by failing to cling to leads of 3-0 and 5-4. The lefthander has squandered a dozen leads this season, most in the majors.

The Yankees staked Sabathia to a three-run advantage before he took the mound as they jumped on Rangers starter Yovani Gallardo. Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a triple down the left field line. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Brett Gardner. One out later, Mark Teixeira connected for the first of two home runs in the game. After a single by Brian McCann and a walk to Carlos Beltran, Chase Headley knocked in the third run of the inning with a two-out single.

It did not take long for Sabathia to lose that lead. He gave up leadoff singles to Delino DeShields and Elvis Andrus and allowed the Rangers to tie the score on one swing, by Josh Hamilton off a hanging breaking ball.

Sabathia entered the game having held left-handed batters to a .189 batting average for the season and no home runs in his past 15 starts. Leading off the second inning, another left-handed hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, took Sabathia deep for a 4-3 Texas lead.

The Yankees gave Sabathia another chance in the third when his catcher, Brian McCann, smacked a two-run home run. Texas tied the score an inning later on an inside-the-park home run by Ryan Rua on a drive to center that Ellsbury played poorly. He dived for the sinking liner and had it get past him all the way to the wall as Rua circled the bases.

Sabathia came out of the game after giving up a leadoff single to Rua in the sixth, but Justin Wilson struck out Choo and induced a double-play grounder from Robinson Chirinos. Sabathia had to be hospitalized after the game because of symptoms of dehydration. The temperature in Arlington was 100 degrees for the first pitch.

Teixeira’s second homer, a solo shot in the seventh, put the Yanks in front again. It was career homer No. 389 for Tex, who tied Hall of Famer Johnny Bench on the all-time list.

A leadoff walk to Chirinos and a wild pitch by Wilson in the bottom of the seventh proved costly. Chirinos had to stop at third on a hard-hit single to left by Andrus off Dellin Betances but scored on a fielder’s choice by Prince Fielder.

The Rangers loaded the bags after that but failed to score. The Yankees also filled the bases with two out in the eighth but did not plate a run as Gardner struck out. Hamilton’s fourth RBI on a two-out single off Andrew Miller (0-2) in the bottom of the ninth did in the Yankees.

Miller, on the mound for the first time since last Saturday, did not appear sharp and was hit hard. Ellsbury made a fence-crashing catch to take down a drive by Andrus. Miller caught a break when a sizzling liner by Leonys Martin hit DeShields running from first to second, but nobody got in the way of Hamilton’s line single that was the game winner.

The Yankees maintained their six-game lead in the American League East with the Blue Jays jumping into second place over the Orioles, whose five-game winning streak ended. Fortified by trades that sent shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and pitcher David Price to Toronto, the Jays pose a threat to the Yankees, who have 13 games remaining against the Canadian club this season.

Pineda on DL; could be out one month

The Yankees’ rotation suffered a severe blow Thursday night as Michael Pineda, who had been scheduled to start against the Rangers at Arlington, Texas, was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right forearm flexor muscle. This is an injury similar to the one sustained by closer Andrew Miller, who was sidelined for nearly a month, from June 10 to July 7.

CC Sabathia was to start on regular rest in place of Pineda, who has a 9-7 record with a 3.97 ERA. Manager Joe Girardi pushed back the starters one day in the rotation hoping to give them extra rest. So much for that.

Meanwhile, the availability of starting pitchers in the trade market lessened with the deals that sent Cole Hamels to the Rangers and David Price to the Blue Jays. The Yankees have been reluctant to swap any of their top prospects for pitching help. The non-waiver trade deadline is 4 p.m. Friday.

The Yanks did add a player Thursday, versatile reserve outfielder Dustin Ackley, who was obtained from the Mariners in exchange for two minor-leaguers, pitcher Jose Ramirez and outfielder Ramon Flores.

Ackley, 27, batted .215 with 22 runs, eight doubles, one triple, six home runs and 19 RBI in 85 games and 186 at-bats this season for the Mariners. In 584 career games over five major-league seasons with Seattle, the left-handed batter has hit .243 with 42 homers and 201 RBI in 2,012 at-bats. A native of Winston-Salem, N.C., who was a University of North Carolina teammate of Yankees pitcher Adam Warren, Ackley has played second base (282 games), left field (207), center field (71), first base (18) and right field (2) in the majors.

Ramirez, 25, made three relief appearances for the Yankees this year and was not involved in a decision with a 15.00 ERA in three innings. The righthander was 0-2 with a 7.62 ERA in 11 career games totaling 13 innings with the Yankees.

Flores, 23, made his big-league debut with the Yankees in 2015 and batted .219 with three runs and a double in 12 games and 32 at-bats. The left-handed batter had three stints with the Yankees (May 30-June 10, June 21-23 and July 3-8). At Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Flores hit .286 with 43 runs, 11 doubles, seven homers and 34 RBI in 73 games and 276 at-bats.

Yanks’ and Tanaka’s winning streaks stopped

The extra day’s rest did not help Masahiro Tanaka Wednesday night as it had in his three prior starts, all winning decisions. The righthander labored his way through six innings in which the Rangers had base runners in each of them. Tanaka worked out of a couple of jams nicely but he could not keep Texas batters from reaching base on a regular basis.

Tanaka fell behind in the count continually in the outing, which robbed him of effective use of his split-finger fastball, a key weapon for him. His slider lacked the usual bite as he allowed nine hits and three walks. He left the game trailing, 4-2, but it might have been worse if the Rangers had done better than going 3-for-12 (.250) with runners in scoring position. They were 3-for-5 at one point before Tanaka held them hitless in the last seven clutch at-bats Texas had against him. The Rangers finished the 5-2 victory by going 4-for-17 (.235) in those situations.

Sloppy base running by the Rangers also kept the game close. Tanaka picked off Delino DeShields at first base after he walked him to start the first inning. Texas catcher Robinson Chirinos doubled with one out in the fourth but made the mistake of trying to cross to third base on a ground ball to the left side and was an easy out on shortstop Didi Gregorius’ alert toss to Chase Headley to stifle that rally.

One night after five runs in the first inning were not enough for the Rangers, who watched the Yankees do the rest of the scoring with 21 runs, five would be sufficient for Texas to end a four-game winning streak by the Bombers. The Yankees scored 11 runs in the second inning Tuesday night but only got two in that same frame Wednesday night. That turned out to be the only inning in which they scored.

Carlos Beltran led off that inning against eventual winning pitcher Colby Lewis (11-4) with his eighth home run of the season, and the Yankees added a run on successive singles by Gregorius, Stephen Drew and Jacoby Ellsbury.

However, Tanaka (7-4) coughed up the lead in the bottom of the inning as the Rangers used four singles and a walk to score three runs. Tanaka put the lead runner on base in five of his six innings. Two of them scored, including Adrian Beltre in the fifth when Josh Hamilton, who had two hits and two RBI, grounded into a double play.

The Yankees bullpen’s stretch of hitless innings ended at 13 when Hamilton singled in a run with two down in the seventh off Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Caleb Cotham. The run, charged to Chasen Shreve, was not earned due to an error by Gregorius, his first since June 21.

It was a winning night all around for the Rangers, who also acquired All-Star pitcher Cole Hamels from the Phillies in an eight-player trade.

8 1/3 hitless innings by Yanks’ bullpen a club record

The Elias Sports Bureau, Major League Baseball’s official statistician, reports that the Yankees’ bullpen in Tuesday night’s 21-5 victory over the Rangers set a club record with 8 1/3 hitless innings – 5 1/3 by Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Diego Moreno, who earned his first big-league victory, and 3 by Adam Warren, who was credited with his first save of the season.

The previous mark was seven innings done three times. The prior major-league bullpen with at least 8 1/3 hitless innings was that of the Brooklyn Dodgers Sept. 9, 1953 at Cincinnati. Moreno and Warren combined to retire 25 of the last 26 batters, including the final 19. Coupled with Monday night’s four hitless innings in a 6-2 Yankees victory, their relief corps has pitched at least four hitless innings in consecutive games for the first time in team history.

In his third career game, Moreno worked the longest hitless relief stint in the majors since the Indians’ Jake Westbrook threw seven perfect innings April 10, 2004 at Cleveland against the Tigers. It was the first hitless relief appearance of at least 5 1/3 innings by a Yankees reliever since Bob Shirley went six hitless frames Sept. 21, 1986 at Detroit and just the 10th since 1914.

The Yankees’ 21 runs were the most by a major league team since May 30, 2012, also at Texas, by the Mariners, 21-8. It was the most runs in a game by the Bombers since a 22-9 victory Aug. 25, 2011 at Yankee Stadium against the Athletics and only the 17th game all-time with at least 21 runs in franchise history. The Yanks equaled their most runs all-time against the Rangers of Aug. 23, 1999 in a 21-3 crushing at Texas.

The Yankees had a season-high 19 hits, their most hits since Aug. 13, 2013 at home against the Angels, also 19 hits. It marked the second time this season that seven different Yankees starters had multiple hits. The other time was June 20 at the Stadium against the Tigers, also seven. Six different Yankees starters had at least two RBI, marking the fifth time in the past 60 years that at least that many had multiple RBI and the first time since Aug. 4, 2007 at home against the Royals six.

It was the Yankees’ largest margin of victory since a 21-4 triumph July 22, 2007 against the Rays at the Stadium. The Yanks had 11-for-21 (.524) with runners in scoring position, their most hits in clutch situations since Aug. 3, 2001 against the White Sox at Chicago when they had 11-for-16 (.688).

The 11 runs in the second marked their highest-scoring inning and most hits since scoring a 12-run, 10-hit first July 30, 2011 in the second game of a doubleheader at the Stadium against the Orioles. It was also the highest scoring inning in the majors since Aug. 19, 2013, when the Rangers scored 11 runs in the third inning at home against the Astros. The Yankees began the inning with eight consecutive base runners, including seven hits. Elias reported that it was the first time the Yankees scored as many runs without a home run in an inning since April 11, 1987 at Kansas City (12 runs and 11 hits in the seventh).

The bottom of the lineup had another big night. The Yankees’ 5-through-9 hitters in the starting lineup went 13-for-26 (.500) with 10 runs, four doubles, one triple, one home run, 15 RBI and 3 walks. It was the first time that the Yankees’ last five starters in the batting order each had at least two RBI since Sept. 11, 1949 in the first game of a doubleheader at home against the old Senators. The last major league club to do it was the Giants Aug. 14, 2000 against the Mets at Shea Stadium. The previous time the bottom five spots in the Yankees’ starting lineup had at least 15 RBI in a game was April 18, 2005 against the Rays at the Stadium. In the past three games, the Yankees’ 6-9 hitters are 24-for-54 (.444) with 18 runs, five doubles, two triples, four home runs, 26 RBI and five walks.

Chris Capuano, who started for the Yankees and gave up five runs in two-thirds of an inning, was designated for assignment. The lefthander, 36, had a 0-4 record with a 6.97 ERA in 16 appearances, including four starts.

‘Behind the Seams’ profiles shortstop prospects

The link below is another episode from the Telly Award-winning series Behind the Seams. With cooperation from the Charleston RiverDogs and the Tampa Yankees, Class A affiliates of the Yankees, the crew was granted access into the lives of Yankees prospects Jorge Mateo and Tyler Wade.

There is an interesting parallel between two 20-year-old shortstops from different backgrounds who have the same dream.

Behind the Seams: The Dream
http://m.mlb.com/nyy/video/topic/70621508/v301630483/?c_id=nyy

HOPE Week t-shirts available for the first time

For the first time a limited quantity of HOPE Week t-shirts will be available for fans to purchase, with 100 percent of the net proceeds on each shirt going directly to the Yankees Foundation. The foundation, which underwrites the HOPE Week initiative, continues to support both current and former HOPE Week honorees.

Those interested in purchasing a HOPE Week t-shirt may do so at either of two team store locations inside Yankee Stadium – behind the plate or adjacent to Gate 6 – for $25 each. A limited supply of the shirts will go on sale Tuesday, Aug. 4, with a full launch of the shirts taking place at the start of HOPE Week Monday, Aug. 17.

The seventh annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) will be held from Aug. 17-21. The initiative is a unique week-long community program that brings to light five remarkable stories intended to inspire individuals into action in their own communities. Since its inception in 2009, the Yankees have recognized more than 30 different 501(c)3 organizations as part of HOPE Week.

Each day over the five-day stretch, the Yankees will reach out to an individual, family or organization worthy of recognition and support, surprising honorees with a day celebrating their accomplishments. Outreach will often take place away from the Stadium, allowing the Yankees to connect personally with individuals in settings that highlight their greatest successes.

The 2015 event will mark the fourth year that all of the organization’s U.S.-based minor league affiliates will hold their own HOPE Weeks, which will allow the initiative to reach five additional cities and touch more than two dozen additional individuals and groups.

HOPE Week is rooted in the fundamental belief that acts of goodwill provide hope and encouragement to more than just the recipient of the gesture. Fans can learn more about the initiative and nominate inspirational individuals for HOPE Week recognition by visiting the official website at hopeweek.com.

Three-touchdown game for Yankees

The Yankees are going so well offensively that they just laugh at 5-0 deficits. Saturday night at Minneapolis, they were down by that score in the third inning and came back to win the game, 8-5, with a four-run ninth.

Tuesday night at Arlington, Texas, the Yankees did not wait that long to come back from the downside of a 5-0 score. In the very next inning after the Rangers put up a five-spot in the first against Chris Capuano, the Yankees bunched together 11 runs in an offensive outburst that oddly did not contain a home run, their main weapon.

The first eight batters for the Yankees in that 10-hit second inning reached base against Martin Perez, who was replaced before he got an out as all eight guys he put on base eventually scored. Four of the Yankees who batted that inning reached base twice.

Brendan Ryan drove in three runs, as many RBI as he had all season previously, with a couple of doubles. Chase Headley singled twice, knocked in two runs and scored two. Didi Gregorius was hit by a pitch, slashed a bases-clearing triple and scored twice. Chris Young doubled and walked and touched the plate twice. The other hits in the inning were singles by John Ryan Murphy, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner and a double by Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees did not clear the fence until the third inning when Young bashed a grand slam. He added a fifth RBI with his second double of the game, in the sixth when the Yanks pushed their run total to 19.

By that point, Capuano’s dreadful first inning was a distant memory. This was in modern parlance a “bullpen game” for the Yankees since manager Joe Girardi decided to push the entire rotation back a day. The skipper had hoped to get at least 60 pitches out of Capuano, but the lefthander could not find the plate and walked five batters in addition to allowing three hits in a 42-pitch effort that required a bullpen call with an out remaining in the first inning.

Diego Moreno, called up earlier in the day from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, was magnificent in a long-relief role. He faced 17 batters and permitted only one base runner — on a walk – with five strikeouts in 5 1/3 hitless innings before Adam Warren took over in the seventh. Warren set down nine batters in a row to continue the bullpen no-hitter. The Rangers did not have a hit after the first inning. The last 19 Texas batters went out in order.

Moreno will have quite a memory from his first major-league victory. And Warren, who entered the game with a 14-run lead, was credited for a save because he pitched three innings.

The 21-5 victory featured just about everything for the Yankees. Gardner, who homered off position player Adam Rosales in the ninth, scored five runs. Young drove in five runs and scored four. Gregorius had four hits and three RBI. Ryan and Gardner also had three RBI apiece. Ellsbury twice reached base on catcher’s interference — by two different catchers. The Yanks had 11-for-21 (.524) with runners in scoring position.

Last shall be first with Yanks’ lineup lately

It has been a bottoms-up situation for the Yankees’ batting order in recent games. Monday night, the six-through-nine hitters in the Yankees’ starting lineup were a combined 7-for-14 (.500) with four runs, one doubles, one triple, one home run, four RBI and two walks in the 6-2 victory over the Rangers at Arlington, Texas.

Sunday, the 6-9 hitters drove in all seven runs in the Yankees’ 7-2 victory over the Twins at Minneapolis. Over the past two games, 6-9 in the order are batting a combined .393 (11-for-28) with eight runs, one double, one triple, three homers, 11 RBI and two walks. For the season, the seven-through-nine hitters (not counting pitchers in inter-league competition) rank fifth in the American League with a .649 OPS (on-base plus slugging averages) and have the second most home runs (28).

Third baseman Chase Headley has been as hot as the weather this month. In 17 games in July, Headley is batting .369 (24-for-65) with 11 runs, six doubles, one home run, and 11 RBI in 65 at-bats. He has reached base safely in 15 of the 17 games, has a .400 on-base percentage and raised his batting average 22 points to .268. . . Shortstop Didi Gregorius has also been hot. Derek Jeter’s successor homered and drove in a career-high four runs Monday in his second three-hit game over the past five in which he is 8-for-15 (.533) with three runs, one homer and six RBI to raise his season batting average from .234 to .248. The home run ended a homer-less stretch of 103 at-bats.

Yankees closer Andrew Miller has converted all 23 of his save opportunities this year, which is the longest streak of consecutive saves to begin a stint with the Yankees since saves became an official statistic in 1969 and tied for third longest for any team, equaling those of Huston Street with the Padres in 2012 and LaTroy Hawkins with the Twins over the 2000 and ’01 seasons. The longest is 44 straight saves by Brad Lidge with the Phillies over the 2008 and ’09 seasons. Second is Guillermo “Willie” Hernandez with 32 for the Tigers in 1984, the year he won both the AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards.

Alex Rodriguez, who turned 40 Monday, hit his sixth career home run on his birthday to set a major league record. He had shared the previous mark of five with Todd Helton, Chipper Jones, Derrek Lee and Al Simmons. A-Rod also became only the fourth player to homer in his teens and his 40s. The others were Ty Cobb (who played from 1905-28) Rusty Staub (1963-85) and Gary Sheffield (1988-2009). Since 1914, Rodriguez is the ninth right-handed batter (10th occasion) to hit at least 24 home runs in his age-39 season or older, and the first since Frank Thomas in 2007 (26 at age 39). The only player to hit as many as 30 homers at 39 or older was Hank Aaron, who hit 40 in 1973 when he was 39. Nine of A-Rod’s past 14 hits have been home runs, including each of his past four hits.

Big Unit enjoyed time in Big Apple

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — Randy Johnson’s two seasons with the Yankees may not have been the finest hours of his remarkable career, but he has fond memories from his time in the Bronx.

Johnson was 34-19 with a 4.37 ERA combined for the Yankees in 2005 and ’06 but was roughed up in two American League Division Series starts (0-1, 6.92 ERA). To his credit, he did pitch with a shoulder ailment much of his second Yankees season when he had a 5.00 ERA.

“I still remember getting a phone call from George Steinbrenner welcoming me to play for the New York Yankees,” Johnson said in his induction speech Sunday at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y. “I also enjoyed playing for Joe Torre.”

The former Yankees manager, who was elected to the Hall in 2014, was among 49 former Hall of Famers seated on the platform for the ceremony honoring Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio.

Johnson took note of another returning Hall of Famer, Reggie Jackson, when he said, “Look behind me and you can see the best who ever played this game. I had the honor of playing against many of these gentlemen. Some I watched on TV. But it would have have really been fun to face you, Reggie.”

I had a brief chat with Johnson over the weekend, and he told me that he had no regrets about his Yankees experience.

“I actually enjoyed it,” Johnson said. “I remember being able to sit in the dugout and talk pitching with Whitey Ford. How can you not love that?”

No sooner had the words come out of Johnson’s mouth, but Whitey and his wife, Joan, walked out onto the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel. That ended our conversation. The “Big Unit” went right over to the “Chairman of the Board” and spent the rest of the afternoon with him.

Craig Biggio, who grew up on Long Island and played college ball at Seton Hall, had kind words for Yogi Berra in his speech. Yogi was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the majors in 1988 to begin a 20-season career, all in Houston, his adopted home town.

“Yogi was the smartest baseball man I ever knew,” Biggio said. “I know he is known for his Yogisms, but he had a solid knowledge of the game. When I was at Seton Hall, he and [then owner] John McMullen came to scout me. How many owners bring a Hall of Famer to watch some college kid play?”

Unfortunately, Yogi was unable to attend the ceremony.

I ran into Phil Niekro at the Saturday night reception in the Hall of Fame gallery, and he told me a story I had never heard before. On the last day of the 1985 season for the Yankees, Niekkro won his 300th game with a complete-game shutout of the Blue Jays in Toronto. The famed knuckleballer actually threw just one knuckler the whole game — the last pitch — and had the Jays off balance with an array of fastballs and changeups.

“We get back to Yankee Stadium after the flight from Toronto,” Niekro said, “and there in the players’ parking lot is a brand new, white Chrysler LeBaron convertible with a license plate reading ‘300WINS.’ I said to my teammates on the bus, ‘Hey, is there anyone else on this team that has 300 wins?’ It turned out to be a gift from George Steinbrenner. I was shocked. It was a good car, too. The problem was that I could not keep the license plate. It was stolen twice, once in Cleveland the year I played there and once in Atlanta when I went back to the Braves. But I loved that car.”

No. 7 proved lucky for Hall of Fame inductee

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — One of the many distinctions Mickey Mantle had in his legendary career was that for 45 years he was the only player who wore No. 7 to have his number retired. That changed this year when the Astros retired No. 7 in honor of Craig Biggio, who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame Sunday alongside Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.

I chatted with Biggio, a native New Yorker from Smithtown, Long Island, who has made Houston his home, on the veranda of the Otesaga Hotel here about that situation. I asked him if he wore the number because of Mantle.

“No,” he said. “Actually, I sort of got the number by accident.”

Biggio recalled that in his second spring-training camp he asked for a number lower than the 67 he wore the previous year as a late-season callup.

“I had worn No. 44 when I played baseball and football in high school and hoped to get that number again,” Biggio said. “But the equipment manager said I was too thin to wear a double number. So I asked him if I could have ‘4.’ The problem was that another infielder had that number — Steve Lombardozzi, who was senior to me and had played on a World Series championship team [1987 Twins]. So they gave me No. 7, the only single digit that was available at the time.

“The irony is that Lombardozzi was cut just before we broke camp, and I made the team. I could have taken ‘4,’ but since I made the team wearing ‘7’ in camp, I figured I better keep it.”

Biggio would have made Mickey proud. He was an All-Star at three positions (catcher, second base, center field) and banged out 3,060 hits, of which 668 were doubles, the fifth highest total in history and the most by a right-handed batter. The only players in front of him are left-handed hitting Tris Speaker (792), Stan Musial (725) and Ty Cobb (724) and switch hitter Pete Rose (746). The active leader among right-handed batters is Angels first baseman Albert Pujols with 574. Yankees designated hitter Alex Rodriguez has 532.