Beltran thriving in A-Rod’s absence

Alex Rodriguez has been eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list since Thursday, but the Yankees seem in no hurry to activate him. The main reason is that he has not appeared to be 100 percent in running drills, which is crucial for a player disabled due to a strained right hamstring.

Another reason is that the Yankees have been able to use the designated hitter spot previously occupied almost solely by Rodriguez in a manner that is helpful for a club with aging players. Manager Joe Girardi has had the luxury of giving games off the field for catcher Brian McCann, first baseman Mark Teixeira and most notably right fielder Carlos Beltran.

Of the 17 games A-Rod has been out of the lineup, Beltran has served as the DH in 10 of them and sparing his battered legs has produced dividends to the offense. Beltran has been an absolute wrecking crew in Oakland where the Yankees have knocked off the Athletics two nights in a row in ending a four-game Athletics winning streak and putting together a three-game winning streak for the first time this season.

Beltran had three doubles and drove in three runs in Friday night’s 8-3 victory, one night after another three-RBI game with a double and a home run in Thursday night’s 4-1 triumph. In 41 at-bats as the DH in Rodriguez’s absence, Beltran has batted .342 with eight runs, eight doubles, five home runs and 16 RBI. The Yankees are 8-2 in the games Beltran has been the DH and 11-6 overall since A-Rod went on the DL.

Beltran doubled with two out in the first inning off Sonny Gray, who the Yanks would rough up later in the game, but was stranded. Beltran’s second double knocked in two runs in the Yankees’ four-run fourth that also included a two-run triple by Ronald Torreyes and a run-scoring wild pitch, one of three in the game by Gray, who also gave up six hits and four walks in 3 1/3 innings. The Oakland righthander finished third last season in the American League Cy Young Award voting behind winner Dallas Keuchel and runner-up David Price but has struggled big-time this year with a 3-5 record and a 6.19 ERA.

Beltran doubled in the Yankees’ sixth run in the sixth inning off reliever Ryan Dull. The offensive outburst was sufficient support for CC Sabathia, who in his first start since coming off the DL held the A’s to one run, three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts in six innings. Having a five-run lead in the seventh meant Girardi could stay away from Dellin Betances and give Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman the night off as well.

Jacoby Ellsbury continued his hot hitting with two hits, including a two-run triple in the ninth. The center fielder is batting .395 with 10 runs, four doubles, two triples, six walks, five stolen bases and five RBI in 38 at-bats this month.

The winning decision was Sabathia’s 100th victory with the Yankees. With 106 victories for the Indians, Sabathia became the eighth pitcher since 1900 and the second with the Yankees to win at least 100 games with multiple franchises. Mike Mussina (Orioles) was the other Yankees pitcher to pull off the feat. The others were Grover Cleveland Alexander (Phillies and Cardinals), Lefty Grove (A’s and Red Sox), Nolan Ryan (Angels and Astros), Dennis Martinez (Expos and Orioles), Greg Maddux (Cubs and Braves) and Randy Johnson (Mariners and Diamondbacks).

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