In a game in which there were 25 strikeouts, it was probably not surprising that the winning rally Thursday did not contain a hit. It was that kind of no-contact game. The Yankees used a couple of walks between a sacrifice bunt, a ground ball to the right side that advanced the runners and a passed ball to beat the team with the best record in the American League.
The Yankees’ 2-1 victory over the AL West-leading Rangers put a nice finish on a 5-4 homestand that could have been a disaster if not for three “walk-off” victories, including each of the final two games.
At the center of the two last-inning victories over Texas was Didi Gregorius in different roles. Wednesday night, he unlocked a 7-7 score with a game-winning, two-run home run. Thursday, he followed a leadoff walk by righthander Tony Barnette (5-3) in the ninth to Chase Headley with a well-placed bunt to sacrifice him to second base. After a walk to Aaron Hicks, Starlin Castro made the second out on a squib to first base.
Now at third base, Headley alertly sped for the plate when a pitch from Barnette to Jacoby Ellsbury was not handled by catcher Robinson Chririnos, a passed ball that got the Yankees back to .500 at 39-39.
If not for the weird occurrence of Monday night when Texas won after a lengthy rain delay, the Yankees might have won the series. Still, a split with the league’s winningest team is nothing to be ashamed of.
Michael Pineda got off to a rough start. He gave up a leadoff home run to Shin-Soo Choo, retired Ian Desmond on a hard liner to right field and yielded a single to Nomar Mazara. Three batters into the game, and Pineda looked as if this could be a long afternoon. Turned out it was, except it was for Rangers’ hitters. They struck out 12 times against Pineda, who was lifted after the sixth with a 92-pitch count, and did not get another hit until Mitch Moreland’s two-out single in the seventh off Dellin Betances.
Yep, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to the late-inning No Runs DMC formula in a tie game. Who tied it? Who else? Gregorius smoked a 3-2 pitch from A.J. Griffin to right in the fifth for his eighth home run. Griffin, who has never lost to the Yankees, was strong again with eight strikeouts but was limited to five innings also because of a relatively high pitch count (88).
The Yankees posed threats in the sixth and seventh against the Rangers’ weary bullpen but could not push across a run. Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman (2-0) pitched a shutout inning apiece, but it took help from a pitcher who could not throw strikes and a catcher who could not glove one to lift the Yankees into the air before their charter plane did.
The Yanks are off to San Diego for an inter-league series against the Padres, then head to Chicago for a three-game set against the White Sox and to Cleveland for four games against the red-hot Indians. The Yankees do not return to Yankee Stadium until after the All-Star break when the schedule gets even dicier.
Just before the Yankees came to bat in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night, Rangers public relations director John Blake, one of the best in the business, passed in front of me in the press box to tell the Texas beat writers that “21 victories would be a club record for one month.”
At the time, it seemed the Rangers were a cinch for that record. Texas had a 7-3 lead and appeared on the verge to run its June mark to 21-6. Not so fast, cowpokes. As it turned out, the Yanks still had plenty left in their holsters.
Did they ever.
Two nights after the most grueling defeat of the season when the Rangers followed a 3 1/2-hour rain delay to score four runs in the ninth and overcome a one-run deficit, the Yankees exploded for six runs to pay Texas back with a 9-7 victory.
Brian McCann, who had homered with the bases empty in the eighth, came up again with two on in the ninth and tied the score with a three-run homer. Yankees fans had barely stopped cheering when Didi Gregorius followed a walk to Starlin Castro with a first-pitch drive to right field for the game-winning blow. His seventh home run of the season was the first walk-off hit of his career.
Both homers came off Rangers closer Sam Dyson, who was summoned after Matt Bush gave up a leadoff single to Rob Refsnyder and walked Jacoby Ellsbury.
Brett Gardner singled to left-center off Dyson, and when center fielder Ian Desmond bobbled the ball Refsnyder came home. Alex Rodriguez hit the ball hard as well, but his liner was gloved by second baseman Rougned Odor. That would be the only out recorded by Dyson, who got the save Monday night but this time suffered his first blown save of the season in 17 tries.
It was pretty dull going for the Yankees until the ninth. Masahiro Tanaka was roughed up for six earned run and eight hits in six innings and left with the score 6-1 Texas. In what at the time was essentially a mop-up role, Luis Cessa allowed only a solo homer to Adrian Beltre in three innings as the Yanks tried to stay close on a sacrifice fly by Chase Headley in the sixth and Mac’s first homer in the eighth.
Nevertheless, the Yankees were hitless in six at-bats with runners in scoring position before the ninth. They went 2-for-3 in those situations in the final frame to produce one of the most exhilarating victories of the season merely two nights after the most debilitating loss.
Earlier this week, the Yankees announced a landmark, multi-year sponsorship agreement with StubHub that designated it as the team’s official fan-to-fan ticket resale marketplace.
The new product will allow StubHub to be completely integrated into the Yankees’ ticket system, replacing the Yankees Ticket Exchange. The new system will be fully integrated and operational by Thursday, July 7. The first ticket availability will be for the Friday, July 15, game and extend through the remainder of the 2016 schedule.
“We are committed to providing our fans with a first-class ticket experience, and offering the safest, most secure and efficient platform for our fans to sell and purchase tickets,” team president Randy Levine said. “This new product was the result of many productive discussions with StubHub, which will allow them to fully integrate into our ticket system. We are confident this collaboration will best protect our fans in the resale ticket marketplace.”
Said StubHub president Scott Cutler, “The New York Yankees are one of the preeminent brands in professional sports, and we are thrilled to join with them to create a best-in-class fan experience. StubHub’s goal is to ensure that fans have access to games that they love to attend, and I’d like to thank both the Yankees and MLB Advanced Media for their willingness to come to the table and reach a positive solution for all parties.”
The custom sponsorship deal will provide new features and functionality that will greatly enhance the consumer experience, which will lead to increased user efficiency and fan safety and protection. These added features will prevent speculative selling, adhere to the Yankees’ advertising resale price policy, generate verified bar/QR codes, and provide fully integrated mobile capacity, for the safest and most secure way to transmit tickets.
The Yankees introduced a mobile ticket system this year, and the agreement with StubHub will adhere to the existing mobile ticket policy. All tickets delivered will be mobile. Tickets will operate on both iOS and Android devices. Users can post hard stock tickets, but upon being sold all will be converted to mobile format.
To date, more than 250,000 fans have entered Yankee Stadium using mobile tickets (primary and secondary combined), and by the end of this season, the team expects to have welcomed more than 600,000 mobile ticket users. This anticipated number is expected to be the largest among all teams in baseball.
With this new, technology-led sponsorship, the Yankees will join the longstanding StubHub arrangement that is in place with MLB Advanced Media. While other secondary resale platforms will continue to remain an option for fans to buy and resell Yankees tickets, only StubHub will be fully integrated with the Yankees.
As part of the sponsorship agreement with the Yankees, StubHub will receive full marketing and sponsorship benefits, including in-stadium signage, suite access and use of official team marks.
There is some good news for several Yankees minor leaguers.
Four members of the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders were elected to the 29th annual Sonic Automotive Triple A All-Star Game July 13 at Charlotte, N.C. Pitcher Chad Green, catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Ben Gamel and Aaron Judge are the SWB All-Stars, the most of any International League team in balloting by managers, general managers, media and fans online.
Judge, who was named the IL Batter of the Week for June 20-26, leads the league in home runs with 16, including four in his past sis games. He ranks second in the IL in runs (49) and total bases (140), third in extra-base hits (31) and tied for fourth in runs batted in (46). This month, Judge has hit .337 with nine home runs and 21 RBI in 26 games. His on-base plus slugging percentage is 1.156.
Sanchez is tied with Judge for fourth in the IL in slugging with a .490 percentage and is second on the team in homers (8) and RBI (32). Green leads the league with a 1.54 ERA in 14 starts and 81 2/3 innings and has a 17-inning shutout string going. Gamel, the IL Rookie of the Year in 2015, is batting .293 with a team-leading 12 stolen bases.
Double A Trenton catcher Kyle Higashioka was chosen the Eastern League Player of the Week for June 20-26 for batting .467 with a double, four home runs, 12 RBI and a 1.333 slugging percentage in four games and 15 at-bats. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native is batting .301 with 11 doubles, six homers and 33 RBI in 38 games and 133 at-bats this season.
Sanchez and infielder Jorge Mateo were selected to play for the World Team in the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which will be played at 7 p.m., Eastern Times, Sunday, July 10, at Petco Park in San Diego as part of the Major League All-Star Game festivities.
In 48 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Sanchez is hitting .277 with 25 runs, 16 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 31RBI in 195 at-bats. He has also appeared in one game with the Yanks this season and was 0-for-4.
Mateo is batting .270 with 45 runs, eight doubles, eight triples, five homers, 33 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 69 games and 281 at-bats for Class A Tampa. He leads the Florida State League in steals and is tied for the league lead in runs and triples.
The Yankees will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the 1996 World Series championship team with several events in August, including a pregame on-field reunion ceremony Saturday, Aug. 13, and the unveiling of Mariano Rivera’s Monument Park plaque Sunday, August 14.
The celebration will begin Friday, Aug. 12, as the first 15,000 people in attendance for the Yankees’ 7:05 p.m. game against the Rays will receive a 1996 World Series replica trophy presented by Delta Air Lines (see photo).
The following day features the on-field Reunion of the 1996 World Series title team, including Rivera, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Dwight Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, World Series Most Valuable Player John Wetteland and Hall of Famers Wade Boggs and manager Joe Torre.
The weekend will conclude with Rivera’s Monument Park Plaque Dedication Ceremony, which will feature many notable Yankees alumni and special guests on hand to honor baseball’s all-time saves leader.
Fans are requested to be in their seats by noon to enjoy the introductions and subsequent ceremonies prior to the regularly scheduled Saturday and Sunday games that will air exclusively on the YES Network along with the pregame festivities. On both dates, Stadium gates will open to ticket-holding fans at 11 a.m.
The celebration culminates on Sunday, Aug. 28, with 1996 World Series Champions Fan Ring Day presented by Betteridge Jewelers (see photo) for the first 18,000 in attendance aged 14 and younger.
Brian Boehringer, Wade Boggs, Jose Cardenal, Tony Cloninger, David Cone, Mariano Duncan, Cecil Fielder, Andy Fox, Joe Girardi, Dwight Gooden, Charlie Hayes, Matt Howard, Derek Jeter, Pat Kelly, Jimmy Key, Jim Leyritz, Graeme Lloyd, Tino Martinez, Ramiro Mendoza, Gene Monahan, Jeff Nelson, Paul O’Neill, Dave Pavlas, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Tim Raines, Willie Randolph, Mariano Rivera, Darryl Strawberry, Joe Torre, John Wetteland, Bernie Williams.
Anyone tired of “No Runs DMC” yet? How could any Yankees fan be? Particularly in close games toward the late innings, the anticipation of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman having an impact on the game whets the appetite of any Yankees fan.
Naturally, this cannot be the formula every game or else the trio of power pitchers could get burned out. But for now, the only burning going on is to the opponents’ bats. The group that radio voice John Sterling calls “Murderer’s Throw” contributed to the Yanks’ third straight victory in this homestand, a 2-1 verdict over the Twins in which Minnesota May have derived satisfaction in at least having someone reach base.
Yankees relievers had retired 31 batters in a row before Joe Mauer’s opposite-field single to left off Chapman with two out in the ninth inning. It was only the third hit for the Twins, their first since the third inning and ended a stretch of 15 consecutive batters retired.
It was fools’ gold for Minnesota, however, as Chapman ended the game with a strikeout of Brian Dozier, who had accounted for the Twins’ run with a home run leading off the second inning against Michael Pineda.
That was the only blemish on the outing by Pineda, who allowed just one other hit and one walk with eight strikeouts in his six innings of work. The Yankees tied the score in the fifth against Twins starter Ervin Santana on back-to-back, two-out singles by Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran.
The Yanks threatened again in the sixth, but a rally was choked off when Starlin Castro grounded into a double play. Though the score was tied, manager Joe Girardi went to his favorite formula as he brought in Betances at the start of the seventh in hopes that the Yankees could push across another run.
That did not occur until the eighth against reliever Ryan Pressly. Alex Rodriguez started the inning with an infield single. A hard single to right by Brian McCann sent pinch runner Aaron Hicks to third base. After Mark Teixeira, back in the lineup after 20 days on the disabled list because of torn cartilage in his right knee, struck out, Castro hit a potential double-play grounder to shortstop Eduardo Escobar, who booted the ball for his second error of the game as the eventual winning run scored.
The inning ended on a disputed double play in which McCann was thrown out at home by left fielder Robbie Grossman after catching a liner by Chase Headley. Video replays seemed to indicate that catcher Kurt Suzuki’s tag was high on McCann’s right leg as his left foot crossed the plate, but plate umpire Alfonso Marquez’s call stood after a Yankees challenge.
So the margin remained slim for Chapman, who from the Twins’ viewpoint was at least hittable compared to Friday night when he blew three hitters away with his high-octane fastball. Gardner needed to get on his horse to run down a drive to left-center by Eduardo Nunez. Grossman also hit the ball in grounding out to shortstop before Mauer’s line single. Dozier was not as fortunate as Chapman used sliders to put him away.
The Yankees, now a game over .500 at 37-36, improved their record to 12-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They had combined for 10 consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past four games before Mauer’s hit. Overall, Yankees relievers have 44 consecutive strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver.
To make roster space for Teixeira, the Yankees placed first baseman Ike Davis on waivers. If he clears, he could be optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as insurance in the event Teixeira’s knee flares up again. Rob Refsnyder’s surprising play at first base and overall versatility made him more valuable to the Yanks than Davis at this time.
Much has happened to the Yankees this season that was not foreseen. There has been the struggle to get their record above .500, the rash of injuries to first basemen, the long stretches of offensive futility, the inconsistency of the starting pitchers, etc.
Yet there has been one aspect of the 2016 Yankees that has been precisely as advertised — the shutdown work of the three power arms at the back end of the bullpen. A formula of Dellin Betances in the seventh inning, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth has been damn near perfection. The trio was at its best again Friday night in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Twins in front of a Mickey Mantle Bobblehead crowd of 44,808 at Yankee Stadium.
When starter Masahiro Tanaka got the final out of the sixth inning with the Yanks leading, 4-3, there was a strong sense of anticipation in the crowd that this one could be put in the books with the club getting back to par at 36-36.
The inspiration behind the “No Runs DMC” t-shirts on sale at the Stadium were at their most dominant with three more perfect innings, following a similar performance in the Yankees’ prior victory Wednesday. Betances and Miller each pitched a shutout inning with one strikeout. Chapman outdid himself in the ninth for his 14th save by striking out the side with fastballs regularly going into three figures, including a high of 103 miles per hour.
The self-destructing Twins aided the Yankees with three errors that resulted in Minnesota failing to hold leads of 2-0 and 3-2. A bobble of a grounder by Austin Romine by shortstop Eduardo Escobar started the Yankees’ two-run third that overcame their first deficit against Twins starter Tommy Milone. Consecutive two-out hits by Carlos Beltran (double) and Alex Rodriguez (single) plated the runs that made the score 2-2.
After the Twins went ahead by a run in the fourth, the Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning and filled the bases with none out without a ball leaving the infield on a walk to Chase Headley, a bunt single by Didi Gregorius and an error by Minnesota first baseman Joe Mauer, who failed to globe a sharp grounder by Aaron Hicks. Romine’s fly ball to the warning track in left field tied the score. A two-out single by Rob Refsnyder put the Yankees in front for the first time in the game and for good.
Tanaka (5-2), who was not particularly sharp, held the Twins down for the next two innings to set the table for the most intimidating bullpen in the majors since the Reds’ notorious “Nasty Boys” of the 1990 World Series champion Reds.
Hicks, who came to the Yankees from the Twins in an off-season trade for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy, now in the minors, stung his former teammates with an opposite-field home run to left for an insurance run in the eighth that was as welcome as it was, as it turned out, unnecessary.
The Yankees are 11-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They have combined for eight consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past three games in which all have worked together and have not allowed a ball out of the infield in the past two games. Yankees relievers overall have 40 straight strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver and have retired 23 batters in a row.
After all these years, Mickey Mantle remains a draw at Yankee Stadium. Forty-eight years after he last played for the Yankees and 21 years after his death, the Mick helped fill the seats at the Stadium Friday night.
Two of Mickey’s sons, Danny and David, threw out ceremonial first pitches before the Yankees’ game against the Twins. With all the construction around the Stadium these days, getting to the park on time is quite a chore, particularly on Friday nights. But the stands were filling up pretty well before Masahiro Tanaka unleashed the game’s first pitch.
The attraction was a bobblehead promotion depicting Mickey Mantle wearing a gold crown to symbolize his winning major league baseball’s triple crown for hitting 50 years ago for leading the American League in 1956 in batting average (.353), home runs (52) and runs batted in (130), which earned him the first of his three AL Most Valuable Player Awards.
The bobbleheads were distributed to the first 18,000 people in attendance. No wonder so many arrived so early.
Notes from the Yankees’ 9-8 victory over the Rockies Wednesday at Yankee Stadium on Starlin Castro’s home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning against reliever Jason Motte:
It was the Yankees’ second “walk-off” victory this season. Brett Gardner’s solo home run in the ninth inning April 23 at the Stadium beat the Rays. The Yanks have overcome a four-run deficit in each of their past two victories (also June 18 at Minneapolis). The Twins open a three-game series at the Stadium Friday night. Those are their two largest deficits the Yankees have overcome in victories in 2016. They are 16-9 in their past 25 home games (since April 22) after starting the year 3-6 at Yankee Stadium.
Tye Yankees were 1-3 against Colorado this year. Since 1913, the Yankees have still only twice been swept by an opponent in a season series of at least four games: 0-4 against the Mets in 2013 and 0-12 against the Athletics in 1990.
Castro, who had 3-for-5 with two runs and a run batted in, hit his first career “walk-off” home run on the second pitch of the ninth. It marked his sixth career “walk-off” hit. Wednesday was his fifth game this season with at least three hits.
Chase Headley hit the Yankees’ first grand slam of the season in the second inning. It was his fourth career grand slam, first with the Yankees and first since Sept. 9, 2012 for the Padres against the Diamondbacks. Headley’s fourth home run of the season was his first since May 25 against the Blue Jays.
Since 2010, Yankees hitters lead the major leagues with 44 grand slams, 11 more than the team with the next highest total, the Red Sox. The Yankees had been one of three American League teams without a grand slam this season, along with the Twins and the Indians. In 2015, the Yanks hit an AL-best seven grand slams (the Giants led the majors with nine).
Carlos Beltran hit his 19th home run in his 68th game this season, a three-run shot in the seventh. That matches his home run total for all of 2015, in 134 games. Beltran has homered in three of his past five games and six of 13. Each of his seven homers in June has come with runners on base (only three of his first 12HR were with runners on. Since May 19, Beltran has a slash line of .339/.385/.706 with 20 runs, seven doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI in 29 games and 109 at-bats. His 50 RBI for the season are the most by a Yankees hitter through 71 team games since 2011, when Mark Teixeira had 55 RBI and Curtis Granderson 54.
Brett Gardner, who had 1-for-3 with two walks and scored a run, has reached base safely in nine of his past 13 plate appearances. He drew two walks for the second straight game and has a .432 on-base percentage at home. Gardner got his team-high fourth outfield assist in the first inning when he threw out Charlie Blackmon at the plate.
Didi Gregorius tied the score at 8 with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh. It was his third career game-tying RBI in the seventh inning or later, his first since Sept. 13, 2013 for the Diamondbacks against the Brewers (also a seventh-inning single).
The Yankees scored eight of their nine runs on home runs (grand slam, three-run homer, solo homer). It was their second game this season with multiple homers with multiple runners on (also April 6 against the Astros). Five of the Yankees’ past 17 homers (since May 6) have come with at least two runners on (they had none from April 8 through June 5). The Yanks ended a five-game home run drought at the Stadium.
CC Sabathia allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings, which stopped a string of eight starts in which he had pitched five or more innings. The lefthander had allowed six runs (four earned) in his previous seven starts combined during which he pitched to an ERA of 0.82 over 44 innings. Sabathia turned his right ankle twice during his outing and left the Stadium with it tightly wrapped. X-rays were negative, and he said he expected to make his next start.
Dellin Betances (one inning, two strikeouts), Andrew Miller (one inning, two strikeouts) and Aroldis Chapman (one inning, two strikeouts) combined to retired all nine batters with six strikeouts. After Ryan Raburn’s two-run home run off Anthony Swarzak in the fifth inning, Yankees relievers retired the final 14 Colorado batters of the game. The Yanks are 10-0 when Betances, Miller and Chapman pitch in the same game.
Before Tuesday night’s game against the Rockies, the opener of a nine-game homestand, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said his team has to play better for it to be considered a contender for a playoff berth. He may have to say the same thing Wednesday.
The only contender the Yankees looked like Tuesday night was Chuck Wepner, the professional bleeding machine, in an 8-4 loss to Colorado, which is now 3-0 against them this year.
In or out of Coors Field, the Rockies can hit. Often derided for their inflated statistics at home, the Rockies peppered 15 hits all over Yankee Stadium. In three games against the Yankees, the Rockies have 43 hits, 18 of them for extra bases, including seven home runs.
One night after hitting five solo home runs at Miami, Colorado led off this game with yet another solo shot, by Charlie Blackmon, on a drive that struck the foul pole next to the third deck. The Rox added two more runs that inning against Ivan Nova.
The final score might have been worse if not for some erratic fielding by the Rockies. Errors led to the Yankees’ first two run. In the fifth inning, Carlos Beltran got thrown out at second base trying to advance on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez. Beltran also misplayed a ball in right field that became a gift double to Carlos Gonzalez, who ultimately scored on a two-out double by Mark Reynolds.
“Mistakes really hurt us,” Girardi said.
A lot of folks in the Stadium crowd of 34,760 got all over third base coach Joe Espada for holding up Didi Gregorius at third base in the sixth inning when it appeared he had a shot at an inside-the-park home run. That might have been the case if Gregorius had run hard out of the box instead of jogging to first base and not turning on the jets until midway between first and second.
The Yankees had 10 hits but were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Colorado batters struck out 13 times, but only once against Nova, whose career record in three starts against the Rockies is 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA.
“He didn’t make the pitches he had to,” Girardi said. “The top four guys in their lineup gave him a hard time.”
Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado and Gonzalez combined for 11 of Colorado’s hits with eight runs and six RBI. Blackmon homered again in the fourth. Arenado ended the solo-homer stretch by the Rockies with a two-run blast off Nick Goody in the sixth.
Nova’s season ERA rose to 5.18. That gives the Yankees three of their five starting pitchers with ERAs above 5.00. Nathan Eovaldi is at 5.02 and Michael Pineda is at 5.82. The staff ERA leader at 2.20 is CC Sabathia, who will get a chance to turn things around Wednesday.