Results tagged ‘ Billy Butler ’

Late-inning bullpen breakdown strikes Yanks again

The situation had reached the level that just scoring a run would be considered a moral victory for the Yankees. At this stage of the season, however, they need more than moral victories. They need out-and-out Ws, yet another late-inning breakdown Sunday on a trip that has turned into a train wreck stretched their losing streak to four games and dumped them 5 1/2 games out of the second American League wild card position.

The Yankees, who had been shut out in their previous three games, ended a 33-inning drought in the seventh Sunday at Toronto when Didi Gregorius belted his 19th home run of the season that tied the score at 1.

Jose Bautista, who had homered off Michael Pineda in the fourth inning, struck again in the eighth, another damaging inning for Dellin Betances in recent appearances. A leadoff walk to Josh Donaldson proved critical, particularly since Betances’ long stride to the plate makes him vulnerable to stolen bases. Last year’s AL Most Valuable Player wasted no time swapping second and then got to third on a risky crossing on a slow ground ball to the left of second base by Edwin Encarnacion.

That brought up Bautista, who lined a single to center that put the Jays ahead once more. Dalton Pompey ran for Bautista, and he stole second base as well with two out by taking advantage of another Betances shortcoming, throwing to bases. Betances stepped off the rubber as Pompey broke for second but instead of running directly at Pompey the reliever made one step toward the runner and tossed the ball behind him, to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who had no chance to keep Pompey from stealing second.

The steal did not result in a run as. Betances struck out Troy Tulowitzki, but that play explained why manager Joe Girardi had to pull Betances from the game when he began the bottom of the ninth with another walk, this time to Melvin Upton Jr., losing him after being ahead 0-2 in the count.

At that point, Betances was protecting the Yankees’ first lead in 36 innings. Blue Jays closer Jose Osuna blew the chance for his 36th save and was done in on three two-strike singles and a sacrifice fly. Osuna was ahead in the count 1-2 to Teixeira, 0-2 to pinch hitter Billy Butler and 1-2 to Mason Williams and gave up hits to all three. Ronald Torreyes put the Yankees ahead with his fly ball to right-center.

So Betances had a chance at a winning decision in the ninth, which has been his inning since Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller were traded, but the 6-foot-7 righthander has been shaky the past nine days with only one save against a blown save and two losses.

The walk to Upton whom Girardi thought Betances had struck out during the at-bat promoted the manager to make a move. Girardi simply could not allow Upton, a speedy runner, an easy path to second base with Betances on the mound. The skipper called on Tyler Clippard, who ended up losing the game for the second day in a row.

After failing to get down a sacrifice bunt on two tries, Kevin Pillar punched a single to right field that sent Upton to third base. More successful at bunting was Ezequiel Carrera, the 9-hole hitter, on a safety squeeze that worked with Upton crossing the plate.

Clippard worsened matters with a shovel pass in an attempt to get Upton that eluded catcher Gary Sanchez that put the trail runners on second and third. It also forced the Yanks to walk Donaldson intentionally to create a double-play situation with Encarnacion, who showed why he is leading the league in RBI with a bouncer to the right side for the game-winning single.

The 4-3 loss was as deflating as the Yankees have had all year, and they have had several just on this trip, which ends Monday night, in which they have lost eight of 10 games and may have removed themselves from serious contention. They are 5 1/2 games behind the Orioles for a playoff berth and also trail the Tigers by four games, the Mariners by three and the Astros by 2 1/2. The Yankees have even put themselves within catching distance of the Royals, who are only a half-game behind them.

Injuries piling up down the stretch for Yankees

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had something of a makeshift lineup for Sunday night’s finale of the four-game series at Fenway Park where they hoped to avoid a sweep. Three of the players in the Yankees’ batting order were not even on the club a week ago.

Injuries to second baseman Starlin Castro and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury sustained in Saturday’s 6-5 loss to the Red Sox forced Girardi to improvise. Mason Williams, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last week, started in center field. At second base was Donovan Solano, who was called up Sunday morning. At first base was Billy Butler, who was released by the Athletics two weeks and signed by the Yankees last week.

Also out of the lineup was third baseman Chase Headley, who has a stiff lower back. Ronald Torreyes started in his place.

Castro’s injury is the most serious, a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring. He pulled up lame while running out a double in the fifth inning. Such ailment often takes two weeks to recover from, and that is all that is left of the Yankees’ season. His loss comes at a time when he has been hot with 12 hits, including a home run and three doubles, in his past 24 at-bats.

Ellsbury bruised his right knee sliding into the fence in right-center field while tracking a double by Xander Bogaerts that started the two-run rally in which the Red Sox overtook the Yankees and knocked them behind four clubs in pursuit of the second American League Wild Card slot in the playoffs. Luis Severino was charged with his first earned run in 20 innings as a reliever as the Red Sox tied the score. They got the winning run on a wild pitch by Adam Warren.

Castro and Ellsbury underwent MRI exams Sunday at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and were treated by Dr. Christopher Ahmad, the team physician. Both players are expected to rejoin the club in St. Petersburg, Fla., by Tuesday night when the Yanks open a three-game series against the Rays at Tropicana Field.

Struggling Yankees stagger down the standings

Remember all those clubs the Yankees jumped over in the Wild Card standings when they were in that seven-game winning streak? Well, some of them have reversed course and are now looking at the Yankees in their rear-view mirrors.

By losing five of their past six games, including the first two games of this 11-game trip, the Yanks have staggered in the standings. Thursday night, they were two outs from moving to three games out of first place in the American League East and to one game back for the second Wild Card berth. But a five-run ninth inning by the Red Sox, who won again Friday night, has dropped the Yankees six games behind Boston in the AL East standings and 3 1/2 back of Toronto for the second Wild Card slot.

In addition, the Wild Card field is getting crowded again. The Tigers and the Mariners, whom the Yankees had leap-frogged last week, are back ahead of them. Detroit also lost Friday night but remained a game ahead of the Yankees along with Seattle, which took an eight-game winning streak into Friday night’s pairing with Houston, which is only a half-game behind the Yankees. A Seattle victory would push the Mariners over the Tigers and two games up on the Yanks. A Houston victory would put the Astros even with the Yankees and one game behind the Mariners and Tigers. And if the Blue Jays should win at Anaheim, the Yankees would fall to four games behind Toronto and Baltimore, which beat Tampa Bay, for the second Wild Card position.

That is how quickly things can change in a pennant race. Once again, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to empty his bullpen as he used six pitchers against the Red Sox, who showed off their muscle again with 12 hits, half of them for extra bases.

The Yankees got good games from Baby Bombers Gary Sanchez, who belted a two-run double in the fifth inning to get them to 3-2, and Mason Williams, who had two hits and made a dazzling catch in right field in the eighth. Billy Butler forced Red Sox manager John Farrell to bring in his closer, Craig Kimbrel, with a two-run, pinch-hit home run in the ninth, but the Yankees could not get closer.

They needed to do better than gain a split of the four-game series at Fenway Park, but that is now the best the Yankees can hope for.

Butler contributes right away for Yankees

Billy Butler did not waste any time to get into the swing of things in his first game for the Yankees. Less than two hours after arriving in Boston while the Yanks were taking batting practice, Butler hit a sacrifice fly in his first at-bat Thursday night.

Butler, who was released by the Athletics a week ago, was signed by the Yankees, who were in search for a right-handed hitter after rookie Aaron Judge had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a strained right oblique. The Yanks have been vulnerable to left-handed pitching all season.

Butler, a designated hitter and first baseman, had his best years with the Royals and had a hard time of it in Oakland since signing a three-year contract as a free agent after the 2014 season. He recently got into a fight with A’s teammate Danny Valencia, which greased the skids for Butler in Oakland.

The Yankees faced a left-handed starter in Eduardo Rodriguez, who had been tough on them in the past but failed to get past the third inning Thursday night. The Yanks struck for two runs in the first on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a double by Gary Sachez, an RBI single by Starlin Castro and the sac fly by Butler.

They added two more runs in the third with Butler getting his second RBI on a single that followed a double by Castro, who rebounded from his costly error Wednesday against the Dodgers with a four-hit, two-RBI game at Fenway Park. A double by Didi Gregorius and a single by Chase Headley made the score 4-0 and chased Rodriguez, who entered the game with a 4-1 record and 1.88 ERA in his career against the Yankees and was 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA against them this year.

The multitude of early-inning runs were a blessing to Masahiro Tanaka, who navigated his way through the Red Sox batting order without his best stuff. For example, he walked two batters in the third inning, which was twice as many as he walked in the entire month of August. The Red Sox loaded the bases with one out that inning, but Tanaka limited the damage to a sacrifice fly by David Ortiz.

The Yankees nullified that run the next inning on a two-out, RBI single by Castro. Tanaka pitched seven innings but did not strike out a single batter. He did get 18 of his 21 outs in the infield, 15 of them on ground balls.

Needed reinforcements on the way for Yankees

Tuesday night was a rough one for the Yankees’ All-Stars.

Dellin Betances, who will be on the American League’s pitching staff for the second consecutive year, gave up a leadoff home run in the 10th inning on a 0-2 breaking ball to Brett Lawrie, who had struck out in his other three at-bats, for what proved the deciding run in the Athletics’ 4-3 victory, their seventh in a row on the road.

Mark Teixeira, who will make his third All-Star appearance July 14 at Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, made six outs on a 0-for-5 night that included grounding into a double play and three strikeouts, the last of which ended the game against Tyler Clippard (16th save) and stranded the potential go-ahead runs on first and second.

Starter Nathan Eovaldi gave up a run in the first inning on a two-out, RBI single by Josh Reddick, but the Yankees grabbed the lead in the bottom half against All-Star pitcher Sonny Gray on consecutive, two-out RBI singles by Brian McCann and Garrett Jones.

The game see-sawed after that. The A’s tied the score in the third on successive single by Marcus Semien, Billy Burns and Stephen Vogt before Eovaldi closed the door by striking out Ben Zobrist and getting Reddick on a double-play grounder. The Yankees regained the lead in the fourth on another two-out RBI hit – a single by Didi Gregorius. In the sixth, the A’s tied it once more on Billy Butler’s home run off Chasen Shreve, who had relieved Eovaldi with one out and struck out Reddick the batter before Butler. The move to remove Eovaldi by manager Joe Girardi was somewhat curious considering the righthander had thrown only 86 pitches. Eovaldi has not given up a home run in his past five starts.

The Yankees failed to capitalize on Semien’s league-leading 27th error that put Stephen Drew on first base to start the seventh. Drew advanced to second on an infield out but was caught off the bag and doubled up on Chase Headley’s liner to second baseman Eric Sogard.

After Butler’s home run, Shreve, Adam Warren, Justin Wilson and Betances set down 10 Oakland batters in a row before Lawrie connected in the ninth. It marked the second straight appearance in which Betances gave up a home run. He allowed a game-tying, two-run shot to the Rays’ Steven Souza last Saturday, but the Yankees rallied to win that game in the bottom of the ninth on a throwing error by reliever Brad Boxberger, yet another victimized All-Star pitcher.

The Yankees tried to get Betances off the hook and pull off another comeback victory in the ninth against Clippard, who walked Brett Gardner with one out and Alex Rodriguez with two out. After falling behind 3-0 in the count to Teixeira, Clippard came back to strike him out on a full-count changeup.

Reinforcements are on the way for the Yankees. Expected to rejoin them for Wednesday night’s game at Yankee Stadium against the A’s are center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and closer Andrew Miller. Ellsbury will return to the leadoff spot and team again with Gardner in hopes of reviving the 1-2 punch that worked out so well for the Yanks before Ellsbury went on the disabled list May 20. Miller’s return will allow Betances to return to his more familiar set-up role. In nine appearances since Miller went on the DL June 10, Betances was 0-2 with five saves in six tries and a 5.56 ERA. He allowed eight hits, including two homers, and four walks with 17 strikeouts in 11 1/3 innings.

1st-inning fade costs Yanks and CC

It really came down to the first inning. The Yankees had a potential big inning going against Royals righthander James Shields, a pitcher they repeatedly roughed up over the years in his time with the Rays.

A bunt single by Brett Gardner followed by single by Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead before an out was made. After Travis Hafner struck out for the first of three times in the game, Zoilo Almonte singled to right field to load the bases. Third base coach Rob Thompson was smart to hold up Ichiro at third because right fielder David Lough got to the ball quickly.

With two outs, it is a different story for the third base coach. It is hard to get successive, two-out hits. But with one out, the assumption is that someone down the line can keep the rally going. It did not happen as Lyle Overbay struck out and Eduardo Nunez flied out to center.

“You think you’re going to get more than one run in that situation,” manager Joe Girardi said.

That one run was all CC Sabathia had to work with all game. He held the lead through the fifth working on a one-hit shutout. Then the Royals stung him with something the Yankees have sorely lacked recently – extra-base hits. Leadoff home runs by Lough in the sixth and Billy Butler in the seventh and back-to-back, one-out doubles by Alcides Escobar and Eric Hosmer in the eighth turned the game around in Kansas City’s favor, 3-1. Sabathia’s 37th career complete game was a loss, the ninth such result of his career and the first since July 21, 2011 at Tampa Bay.

“It doesn’t matter how many runs you give up; a loss is a loss,” Sabathia said. “It’s frustrating. We’ve lost a lot of guys [to injury], but the guys in here have done a great job to keep us in this thing until the others come back.”

Those extra-base hits for the Royals really stuck out on a night when the Yankees hit nothing but singles again, six of them in all with four coming in the first inning. The Yanks scored one run for the third consecutive game, and 34 of their past 37 hits have been singles.

They had let Shields off the hook, and he got into a groove after that. Double plays came to his aid in the second and third innings before he retired the Yankees in order through the seventh as he registered 14 consecutive outs. Shields improved his career record against the Yankees to 8-15 with a 4.34 ERA and 3-9 with a 4.98 ERA in 14 starts at Yankee Stadium. He had not won in the Bronx since May 20, 2010.

Girardi continued to express support for a group that has been offensively challenged for quite some time.

“I never forget how hard it is to play this game,” he said. “There is no lack of effort. I said from the beginning of the season that we are going to have to win close games. Asking about trading for players is asking me to put down the guys in that room. I will never do that. We have to play the brand of ball we are capable of playing. I feel like these guys can get the job done. I’ll always believe in them.”

Storm forces early exit for Hughes but not Guthrie

Things might have turned out differently for the Yankees Monday night if not for the thunderstorm that hit Yankee Stadium in the fourth inning and forced a 59-minute rain delay. The interruption ended Phil Hughes’ night while Royals starter Jeremy Guthrie continued and went on to end a personal three-game losing streak.

Hughes seemed to be getting into a groove after giving up two runs in the second on a solo home run by Billy Butler and doubles by Mike Moustakas and David Lough. Hughes followed with two scoreless innings, but the rain washed out the rest of his evening.

Upon resumption, Guthrie, who got off to a 5-0 start this season but had lost six of his previous eight decisions, continued to frustrate the Yankees, who did not get a runner past second base until the seventh inning when with two out Lyle Overbay homered as a pinch hitter for new first baseman Travis Ishikawa, who struck out in his two at-bats. Overbay’s jack was the Yankees’ first long ball in six games since Robinson Cano went deep July 2 at Minneapolis.

Overbay’s 10th home run of the season and third career pinch homer made the score 3-1, so the Yankees were in striking distance, but the Royals scored two runs in the ninth off Preston Claiborne to create more distance. Yet in the bottom of the ninth, the Yankees posed a major threat by loading the bases with none out on a walk to Overbay and singles by Luis Cruz and Chris Stewart.

The opportunity fizzled as hard-throwing Royals closer Greg Holland struck out Eduardo Nunez, Brett Gardner and Zoilo Almonte for his 21st save. Gardner, who was called out on strikes, set a dubious franchise record by striking out in 16 consecutive games. Once more, the Yanks’ offense was pretty much station to station. Only three of their 32 hits in the past four games have been for extra bases.

Hughes’ record fell to 4-8. He has lost six of his past eight decisions since May 15 and is 2-6 with a 4.64 ERA (54.1IP, 28ER) in 10 starts covering 54 1/3 innings over that stretch. Hughes has allowed at least one home run in seven of those starts.

Butler’s homer a stinging reminder to Cano

It would figure that the day the competitors in the All-Star Home Run Derby were announced that the Royals would be in town to remind everyone of the situation last year in which Kansas City’s Billy Butler was not picked for the American League squad by captain Robinson Cano, who was the target of boos from the crowds at Kauffman Stadium both nights.

As if to punctuate the situation, Butler clubbed a home run in his first at-bat off the Yankees’ Phil Hughes in the second inning when the Royals took a 2-0 lead in a game interrupted by thunderstorms.

Say this for Butler. He took the high road and in every interview during All-Star week last year asked Royals fans to lay off Cano. The Yankees second baseman was tabbed for the assignment again this year but did not have the same problem for next week’s game at Citi Field because the Mets will be represented in the Home Run Derby. In fact, third baseman David Wright is captain of the National League team.

Joining Cano will be first baseman Chris Davis of the Orioles and Prince Fielder of the Tigers. There is one more spot open as Cano is waiting to hear back from his final choice. Davis leads the AL in homers with 33. Fielder is a two-time winner of the event, last year and in 2009 at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium. Cano won the competition in 2011 at Chase Field in Phoenix.

Wright’s picks as teammates are outfielders Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Carlos Gonzalez and Michael Cuddyer, both of the Rockies. There are no former winners in the group. Wright came the closest as the runner-up to Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard in 2006 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

The Yankees wasted no time in getting new first baseman Travis Ishikawa, plucked off waivers from the Orioles, into the mix. He was in the lineup batting sixth as he became the 43rd player used this season by the Yankees, who employed 45 all of last season. To make space on the 25-man roster for Ishikawa, the Yankees optioned infielder David Adams to Triple A Scranton.

Cano to captain AL Home Run Derby squad again

Robinson Cano probably won’t run into the same problem next month that he had a year ago in Kansas City when he was the captain of the American League team in the Home Run Derby the night before the All-Star Game. You may remember all the booing Cano endured throughout the competition when he was shut out trying to reach the fences.

But that was not why Cano was the object of scorn for fans at Kauffman Stadium. The Yankees second baseman was targeted because he did not include the Royals’ Billy Butler on the squad. Cano’s selections in addition to himself were Blue Jays right fielder Jose Bautista, Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder and Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo. It was a pretty strong group, but the KC faithful were unforgiving to the point that Cano was still booed last month when the Yankees played at Kauffman Stadium.

“You play for the Yankees, everywhere you go you get booed,” he said.

A similar situation should be avoided this year. Once again, Cano has been named AL captain for the Home Run Derby that will take place July 15, the night before the All-Star Game at Citi Field. The venue this time, however, should keep Cano from getting hammered by fans except, of course, for the usual Bronx cheers reserved for Yankees players from Mets fans. Those who cheer for the Mets cannot get on Cano for his choices, however, because their favorites are in the other league.

The choice of Mets third baseman David Wright as the National League captain takes care of the possibility that the host team will be snubbed at the Home Run Derby. This was a good call by the powers that be in Major League Baseball. Wright is among the most popular players in Mets history and one of the truly good guys in the game. Whatever he decides will win approval from the Mets faithful.

Each captain has the task of selecting three other hitters from his league to compete in the Home Run Derby. Though the event is an individual competition, the leagues are pitted against each other in teams of four. Cano did not clear the fences himself last year, but his AL team clobbered the NL overall, 61-21. The individual winner was Fielder, once of Cano’s picks. Cano won the competition in 2011 at Chase Field in Phoenix. Cano entered play Tuesday night with 15 home runs, tied for fifth in the AL. Wright had eight with only one coming at Citi Field May 27 against the Yankees off Phil Hughes.

Fans may once again participate in the Home Run Derby Fan Poll. You will have the opportunity to select three players in each league. All-Star voting is also still underway. Cano is currently the leader among AL second basemen. Wright ranks second at third base behind the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval. Fans may submit 25 online ballots during the voting period and can earn a one-time bonus of 10 additional online ballots.

To access additional online ballots, you must be logged into your MLB.com account when you submit any online ballot. If you do not have an MLB.com account, visit http://www.mlb.com and register in accordance with the enrollment instructions for a free MLB.com account.

Kuroda has found comfort zone in AL

Hey, remember when the Yankees signed Hiroki Kuroda, which prompted questions about whether he could handle the American League? It was a legitimate concern. I recall years ago Lou Piniella telling me to beware of the records of pitchers on teams from southern California.

“The ball doesn’t carry well in night games in Los Angeles and San Diego,” Sweet Lou said. “A lot of those guys go elsewhere and their good numbers don’t transfer well.”

Kuroda was only so-so in his four seasons with the Dodgers, a 41-46 record despite a 3.45 ERA, so it was fair to wonder how he would do in a league that has an extra hitter in the lineup and in a division – the AL East – that has hitter-friendly venues and some dangerous lineups.

Is anyone questioning Kuroda now? Probably not even Piniella.

The Japanese righthander may have been the Yankees’ most reliable pitcher last year and has been their top starter this season as well. Kuroda improved his 2013 record to 5-2 with a 2.31 ERA Sunday in the Yankees’ 4-2 victory over the Royals. After the Yankees overcame a 1-0, first-inning deficit with a three-run third powered by a two-run home run by Robinson Cano and a solo shot by Vernon Wells in successive at-bats off Kansas City starter Ervin Santana, Kuroda did not allow another run until the eighth, his last inning.

It was not an overpowering outing by Kuroda, who had only one strikeout, but it was no less formidable. Kuroda got 16 outs in the infield and kept the Royals hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position. KC would make it 0-for-4 in the eighth when David Robertson retired Billy Butler on a fly to center stranding a runner on second base.

Kuroda is now 21-13 with a 3.13 ERA during his time with the Yankees. His adjustment to the AL has been extraordinary.

The Yankees’ sweep of the Royals ran their winning streak to five games heading into a makeup doubleheader Monday at Cleveland. It was a far more pleasant experience at Kauffman Stadium this year than last for Mariano Rivera, who was honored by the Royals in a pre-game ceremony featuring Hall of Fame third baseman George Brett. Rivera, who tore up his left knee in KC last May, earned his 15th save in 15 opportunities this season and his 29th in a row against the Royals. Mo was 37-for-39 in save chances against them in his career.

In addition to his ninth home run, Wells had two other hits, both singles, and a stolen base. Wells has had a strong trip, batting .360 with three home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and overall is hitting .295 with 20 RBI. With Curtis Granderson close to returning to active duty with the Yanks, Wells promises to give manager Joe Girardi some headaches trying to figure out how his outfield will look on a daily basis.

Considering all the difficulty Girardi has had dealing with an abundance of Yankees injuries, he probably won’t mind that challenge.