Results tagged ‘ David Robertson ’
With the 16th overall choice in the 2015 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, their highest since 1993, the Yankees selected UCLA pitcher James Kaprielian Monday night and made two more choices in the process’ first day.
In the compensation round, the Yankees picked University of San Diego shortstop Kyle Holder with the 30th overall selection. They used their second-round pick (57th overall) to select Indiana State pitcher Jeff Degano.
Kaprielian, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound righthander, recently concluded his junior season with a 10-4 record and 2.03 ERA in 17 games (16 starts) and 106 2/3 innings. He led the Pac-12 Conference with 114 strikeouts and issued 33 walks for the Bruins, averaging 9.6 strikeouts per nine innings pitched.
In both his sophomore and junior seasons, Kaprielian, 21, was named to the All-Pac-12 Conference first team after leading the conference in strikeouts both years. He was named as a 2015 second-team All-America by Collegiate Baseball. Kaprielian pitched nine of the Bruins’ 10 no-hit innings against Arizona May 15 in the first no-hitter in school history. Kaprielian was also named the USA Baseball Performer of the Year after pitching for the USA Collegiate National Team in 2014.
“Kaprielian is a guy we have scouted for a long time, and we’re really happy we were able to get him,” Yankees vice president of domestic and amateur scouting Damon Oppenheimer said. “He has three quality pitches, throws strikes and generates a lot of swings-and-misses. On top of that, he has great make-up. He compiled a quality track record in a good league and performed well for Team USA.”
A native of Tustin, Calif., Kaprielian was rated by Baseball America as the 19th-best overall prospect in this year’s draft as well as the ninth-best pitcher. He was originally selected by the Mariners in the 40th round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., but chose to attend UCLA.
The selection of Kaprielian marks the second consecutive year that the Yankees have used their first draft pick on a college pitcher after selecting lefthander Jacob Lindgren from Mississippi State in the second round (55th overall) in 2014. Kaprielian joins righthander Jeffrey Pries (22nd overall pick in 1984) as the only UCLA products drafted in the first round by the Yankees in the history of MLB’s First-Year Player Draft, which began in 1965.
As a junior this year, Holder was named the West Coast Conference Player of the Year after batting .348 with 45 runs, 14 doubles, four home runs and 31 RBI in 55 games and 224 at-bats for the Toreros.
The left-handed hitter appeared on the 30-player watch list for the 2015 USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award – given annually to the best amateur player in the country – and is one of 10 semifinalists for the 2015 Brooks Wallace Award, which recognizes the nation’s top collegiate shortstop. In addition to being ranked by Baseball America as the 38th-best player in the 2015 Draft, Holder was also tabbed by the publication as the “Best Defensive Player” among the top-200 collegiate players in the draft.
“Holder is about as elite a defender as we’ve seen come through the college ranks,” Oppenheimer said. “He has a tremendous glove. He also had a productive year offensively and does not swing and miss.”
The Yankees received their compensation-round pick after relief pitcher David Robertson signed with the White Sox in December 2014.
Degano, a 6-foot-4, 200-pound lefthander, earned a place on the Missouri Valley Conference second team in 2015 after posting an 8-3 record and 2.36 ERA across 15 starts and 99 innings for the Sycamores. The Surrey, British Columbia, native recorded 126 strikeouts with only 28 walks. Degano, who represented Canada in the 2005 Little League World Series, tied for fifth in the NCAA with 117 regular-season strikeouts.
“Degano is a lefthander with a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a good breaking ball,” Oppenheimer said. “He throws a lot of strikes and has a quality athletic body.”
The 2015 First-Year Player Draft resumed Tuesday with the Yanks to make their next pick in the third round (92nd overall).
So it turned out what Derek Jeter needed most in his final game at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Rivera. Then again, if Mo had been available to close out Thursday night’s game, it might not have had the dramatic finish it did.
Appropriate is the key word to describe the finish of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Orioles in the Captain’s last appearance in the home pinstripes. All week long Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked what gesture he was contemplating for Jeter’s farewell. The skipper kept saying he would consult with Jeter, who did the one thing he has always done over 20 seasons in the major leagues — play the game until the last out.
Who else was better to win Jeter’s Stadium finale than Jeter? He fought back emotion in the last two innings after the Yankees had grabbed a three-run lead but reverted to the cool demeanor that has defined him to be in place to get the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was achieved with his familiar inside-out swing, a single to right field that delivered pinch runner Antoan Richardson to the plate to end as astonishing an evening as there ever has been at either Yankee Stadium.
David Robertson, who succeeded Rivera as the Yankees’ closer, had a nightmare of a ninth inning by giving up a two-run home run to Adam Jones and a solo shot with two out to Steve Pearce that tied the score and threatened to ruin the night for Jeter. Rivera as well as other old teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Gerald Williams and former manager Joe Torre were in attendance as well as Derek’s parents and his sister and nephew among a crowd of 48,613, the largest this year at the Stadium.
The blown save actually created the possibility that Jeter could be the hero. He had already contributed to the Yankees’ attack with a run-scoring double in the first inning and an RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh when the Yankees went up by a 5-2 score.
Imagine if Girardi had sent Brendan Ryan out to play shortstop in the top of the ninth to let Jeter get a standing ovation leaving the field? What a revolting development that would have been.
Two minor-league call-ups helped frame the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees. Jose Pirela led off with a single past third base. Richardson ran for Pirela and was sacrificed to second by Brett Gardner. I will not use the phrase “those remaining in the crowd” because I doubt anyone left the game before it ended. Up came Jeter to another crescendo of cheers. That was nothing compared to what came next. Jeter’s single was worth the price of every expensive ticket, the hottest one all year in New York.
His current teammates mobbed Jeter on the base path between first while his former comrades looked on approvingly. Hugs and high fives abounded. Jeter walked around the infield waving his cap in acknowledging the fans in every section of the Stadium.
He then walked slowly to the shortstop position, the only one he has ever played on a major-league diamond, and squatted in an almost religious gesture. He said afterward that he will not play shortstop again. He will go to Boston for the Yankees’ final three games of the season and out of respect for Red Sox fans plans to play but as a designated hitter only.
Jeter’s last season was nowhere near his best, but at 40 playing one of the game’s most demanding positions he stayed healthy and made it through 143 of the team’s 159 games. His hit gave the Yankees victory No. 82, guaranteeing them a winning season for the 22nd consecutive year. Jeter never had a losing season in the majors. The Captain also saved his best for last. In his final home stand, Jeter batted .353 with five runs, four doubles, one home run and nine RBI in 34 at-bats.
His Stadium numbers are also impressive. Jeter played in 1,390 regular-season games in the Bronx — 1,004 at the old Stadium and 386 at the current Stadium. He combined to hit .313 with 1,012 runs, 273 doubles, 30 triples, 138 home runs, 666 RBI and 193 stolen bases in 5,514 at-bats.
It is hard to believe that this tremendous career has come to an end. I was able to get a quiet moment with DJ before the game. I am not going to Boston and wanted to say my goodbyes and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play and thank him for his cooperation over the years.
It was also the end of an era. Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera and Bernie Williams are the only players I have covered in a 40-year career as a baseball writer from their first day of spring training to their last game at Yankee Stadium. They are the Core Four Plus One. Jeter’s retirement ends all that. But what an ending!
The Yankees got a taste of their own recent medicine over the weekend in Baltimore where their post-season hopes grew grimmer after losing three of four games to an Orioles team that has its magic number for clinching the American League East title to three. The Yankees’ last gasping hope for a trip to the playoffs lay in the second wild-card slot, and they are five games back with 14 games to play.
The Yankees started the series at Camden Yards trip on a high from consecutive comeback victories over Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium in which they obliterated 4-0 deficits. Chris Young, who made huge contributions to both those victories, was in position to be the hero again Friday in the afternoon game of a day/night doubleheader when he homered with two outs in the 11th inning to break a scoreless tie.
Adam Warren, pitching the bottom of the 11th because closer David Robertson had already pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, couldn’t hold the Orioles down, however, and lost the game on a bases-loaded, two-out double by pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes. The Yankees then got shut out, 5-0, on four hits in the night game, which took away any sense of momentum they had from the Rays series.
Saturday’s 4-3 victory behind Shane Greene and four relievers was a brief reprieve, but the fact that the Yankees had no runs and one hit in the eight innings other than their three-run second that included a home run by Brian McCann and a steal of home by Young was emblematic of the offensive struggles that would continue in the series.
Sunday night’s game resembled the day-game loss Friday in that the Yankees took a one-run lead in the last inning and then gave up two runs in the bottom half for another walk-off loss, their eighth of the season. McCann’s second home run of the series and 20th of the season put the Yanks up, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bring in Robertson for the third straight day instead of staying with Dellin Betances, who had pitched a shutout eighth with two strikeouts. That gave him 130 for the season, tying Mariano Rivera’s 1996 franchise mark for K’s by a relief pitcher.
I do not fault Girardi’s judgment here. Robertson is his closer. The manager has been careful with his relievers all year so they would be strong in September where they are needed most. Robertson’s stuff was up all inning. The Orioles quickly tied the score on successive doubles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce. One out later, Kelly Johnson, of all people, drove in the winner with another double. Johnson batted .219 in 77 games and 201 at-bats for the Yankees this year before he was traded to the Red Sox July 31 for Stephen Drew, who is hitting .135 in 104 at-bats for the Yankees. The Orioles acquired Johnson in an Aug. 30 deal with Boston. Playing for his third AL East team this season, Johnson finally ended up in first place.
The crushing loss obscured a very good outing by Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up one run and six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in seven innings. Once again, Yankees pitching was not the main problem despite the two bullpen leaks.
The Yankees batted .172 and slugged .261 as a team in the series in which they totaled six runs in 38 innings. They were 2-for-20 (.100) with runners in scoring position. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-17, Mark Teixeira 1-for-11, Brett Gardner 1-for-10 and Derek Jeter 0-for-11. The Captain’s slump goes beyond this series; he is hitless in his past 24 at-bats as his average has sunk to .250.
To make matters worse, the Sunday Night Baseball date means the Yankees will arrive in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the wee hours of the morning Monday where that night they open a three-game set against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The playoff outlook is equally as bleary.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi could not have made it more clear before Wednesday night’s game. He said the players know the situation they are in, that they need to win games, “and we need to start tonight.”
Coming right up, the Yankees might have said. They did not let a disastrous first inning when they ran into two outs on the same play set the tone for the evening and went on to beat the Red Sox, 5-1.
Hiroki Kuroda earned his third straight victory with seven solid innings while his catcher, Brian McCann, had a four-hit game and drove in three runs. It was McCann who helped the Yanks ignore the sight of Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner being thrown out in a failed double-steal attempt when he connected off Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo for a two-run home run in the second inning.
McCann singled to lead off the fifth when the Yankees made it 3-0 on a sacrifice fly by Jacoby Ellsbury, who sure looks comfortable in that leadoff spot. Ellsbury tripled with one out in the seventh and scored on a single by Gardner. After a fielder’s choice and a walk loaded the bases for McCann, he singled again to pump the Yanks’ lead to 5-1. A second RBI was snuffed out when Carlos Beltran was thrown out at the plate. It’s a pretty good sign for a team that can get three players thrown out on the bases and still win the game.
“Sometimes you get a little too over-aggressive,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t happy with two guys getting thrown out, but that mistake didn’t cost us dearly.”
The Yankees could use some good signs these days. Kuroda provided a big one. He struck out five of the first seven batters and finished with eight punchouts in seven innings. He did not walk a batter, although he did hit one who came around to score in the sixth on a double by Brock Holt, the only one of the four hits off the Japanese righthander that went for extra bases.
“Hiro had a great sinker and split,” Girardi said. “He had fatigue issues in the second half last year, and we have tried to do some things [additional rest] this year to get him to this point.”
Girardi placed his own emphasis on this game by going to his 1-2 punch in the bullpen with Dellin Betances working the eighth with a four-run lead and David Robertson the ninth in a non-save situation.
The Yankees picked up a game on the Athletics and the Tigers in the wild card chase but still trail them by four games, are 3 1/2 behind the Mariners and even with the Indians. The post-season remains very much an uphill climb with several clubs to step over, but for this night anyway the Yankees did not take a step back.
Things were looking so bad for a while there Friday night for the Yankees that it appeared they might not win a game started by Mark Buehrle. The lefthander, who has not beaten the Yankees in 10 years, looked as if he might end that streak over the first six innings.
Then came the seventh and then went Buehrle. He was working on a four-hit shutout entering the inning but faced four batters without getting an out and left the game in his usual circumstance against the Yankees — trailing.
The five spot the Yankees put on the board in the seventh meant that Buehrle would fail to get a winning decision in his 16th straight start against them, the second such losing streak only to a 19-start stretch by Slim Harriss.
Brian McCann, who came within inches of winning Thursday’s game at Detroit that became a tough loss for the Yankees, got the seventh inning started for the Yanks with a double off the right field wall. Buehrle then gave up his first walk, to Carlos Beltran.
Brett Gardner might have been expected to bunt the runners over, but manager Joe Girardi had him swinging away, and it paid off. Gardner ripped a double to left that scored McCann, and Beltran followed him home on an errant relay by second baseman Steve Tolleson that gave the Yankees the lead.
Matters just got worse for Buehrle, who gave up an infield single to Ichiro Suzuki and after leaving the game watched his catcher, Dioner Navarro, try to pick Gardner off third base and throw the ball into left field.
Jacoby Ellsbury hit a rocket over the right field wall for his 14th home run and a 5-1 Yankees lead. It came off lefthander Aaron Loup, the first he had ever yielded to a left-handed batter in the major leagues. Ellsbury continued his torrid trip in which he is batting .440 with a 1.000 slugging percentage, one triple, four home runs and nine RBI in 25 at-bats.
The Blue Jays made it 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh, but the Yankees went on to win, 6-3, with Chase Headley adding a bomb of a home run to right-center in the ninth. It was an impressive victory for the Yanks coming off Thursday’s low ebb. They moved 3 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays and dropped Toronto back to .500 at 67-67.
Buehrle’s career record against the Yankees fell to 1-13. Only one other pitcher in major-league history was worse against them, Red Ruffing, who was 1-16 during his years with the Red Sox. Ironically, he was traded to the Yankees and became one of the franchise’s great aces and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. It was also Buehrle’s eighth straight loss this season. He had a 10-1 record as of June 1 and is now 11-9.
Chris Capuano finally got his first victory with the Yankees. He gave up a home run to Juan Bautista in the fourth but stayed close with Buehrle into the seventh. Errors by Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner were responsible for one of the two runs Capuano gave up in the seventh.
Lefthander Josh Outman, the reliever the Yankees obtained from the Indians Thursday, made his first appearance and allowed a pinch-hit single to Munenori Kawasaki, but David Robertson got a four-out save to get the Yankees an uplifting victory to start the Labor Day weekend.
In their previous homestand the Yankees faced American League Cy Young Award winners three games in a row against Detroit. They ended up winning two of those matchups.
Sunday at Yankee Stadium marked the first of another series of confrontations with front-line starting pitchers, and the Yankees held their own in getting the best of White Sox lefthander Chris Sale, who entered the game unbeaten against the Bombers.
In truth, Sale was done in by his defense, but the Yankees took advantage of the door that was opened for them. White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo dropped a fly ball by Martin Prado on the warning track with one out for a two-base error that created the opening against Sale, who entered that sixth inning working on a two-hitter with a 3-0 lead.
By inning’s end, the Yankees had pulled in front, 4-3, with all four runs unearned against Sale’s record. He did not help matters, however, by hitting rookie Zelous Wheeler with a pitch with the bases loaded that forced home one of the runs.
The big hit for the Yankees was a two-run single by Ichiro Suzuki, ironically the only left-handed batter in the starting lineup as manager Joe Girardi chose to stack right-handed swingers against Sale. An aching right ankle kept Brett Gardner on the bench. Girardi decided to give a blow as well to Jacoby Ellsbury, who came into the game in the seventh inning for defense.
Sale escaped with a no-decision when Avisail Garcia, who had struck out in all three of his previous at-bats, drove a first-pitch, knuckle curve from David Robertson to right field for a game-tying home run.
It ended a stretch of 22 consecutive converted save opportunities for Robertson, who had a homestand of mixed results. He was the winning pitcher Friday night and got his 34th save Saturday but also was the losing pitcher last Tuesday night against the Astros when he gave up a three-home run to Chris Carter in the ninth inning of a non-save situation.
All of Chicago’s runs off Yankees starter Chris Capuano were on home runs. Alexei Ramirez led off the game with a homer. Conor Gillaspie connected for a two-run shot in the sixth, Capuano’s last inning.
More big-name pitchers are to come over the next several days for the Yankees. Monday was originally an open date, but the Yanks must travel to Kansas City to make up a June 9 rainout and face James Shields. After that, it is off to Detroit where the starters for the first two games will be Rick Porcello and David Price.
At least the Yankees will take to the road after a satisfying finish to the homestand. After losing the first two games to the Astros, the Yankees came back to win the next four games. Sunday was looking like a downer after Robertson coughed up the lead, but Brian McCann came off the bench to provide the winning blow in the 7-4, 10-inning victory over the White Sox.
McCann has heard his share of boos at the Stadium this year as he has struggled offensively, but there were thunderous cheers from the crowd of 43,366 when he smoked a 3-2 changeup from righthander Jake Petricka for a walk-off three-run home run.
I am on record of giving McCann some slack. It can be tough for a player to switch leagues, particularly a catcher who not only has to learn new opposing pitchers but also with his own staff behind the plate. Some fans might have figured McCann would hit more homers playing regularly and aiming for the Stadium’s right field porch. But he has 54 RBI, which is tied with Mark Teixeira for second on the club only one behind Ellsbury, the club leader.
Another major contribution came from reliever David Huff, who was the winning pitcher. The lefthander put himself in danger in the top of the 10th when he gave up a two-out single to Carlos Sanchez that put runners on first and second and gave an at-bat to AL Rookie of the Year favorite Jose Abreu.
Pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound to remind Huff that there was one open base so that if he fell behind in the count not to worry about walking Abreu, who looked at two knee-high fastballs for strikes. After taking a pitch out of the strike zone, Abreu kept the bat on his shoulder again only to watch Huff hit the outside corner with another fastball for called strike three. Maybe that pitch alone was deserving of a winning decision.
There is no other way to look at it — Monday’s loss was a bad one. Not that any loss is ever good, but some are just worse than others. And the 7-4 setback to an Astros team fighting to stay out of last place in the American League West was as plug ugly as it gets.
Coming off two sound victories at St. Petersburg, Fla., the Yanks were poised for a promising homestand against the Astros and White Sox, two fourth-place clubs playing out the string and trying to avoid finishing at the bottom of their respective divisions. So to lose the first game in such horrible fashion was not the ideal way to get the homestand started.
Houston batters combined to strike out 15 times yet the Astros ended up winning the seesaw contest. The Yankees squandered a 2-0 lead and then came back from a 4-2 deficit to tie the score in the sixth inning. Questionable base running cost them in the eighth, but the real ugliness lay ahead and from a very surprising source.
David Robertson is amid a stretch of 21 consecutive saves, a streak that remains intact despite what happened Monday night when he gave up the three-run home run in the ninth to swing-and-miss specialist Chris Carter that created the final score.
D-Rob got himself in trouble even before Carter stepped to the plate by walking Robbie Grossman and Jose Altuve with one out. Grossman had stolen second base during the Altuve at bat when catcher Brian McCann’s throw struck the runner in the back.
Carter is about as feast or famine a hitter as there is in the major leagues these days. He had struck out in each of his first four at-bats that ran his season total to 133 strikeouts in 386 at-bats. The platinum sombrero — a fifth strikeout — could have been easily anticipated until Robertson fell behind 3-0 in the count, which is probably not a count Carter has seen much this year. As one of the writers sitting near me said, “He probably hasn’t seen many 3-ball counts of any kind.”
The last thing a pitcher wants to do there is throw a get-it-over meatball, not to a hitter of Carter’s power when he makes contact. Oh, man, did he ever make contact on the 90-mph cut fastball that Robertson delivered. The ball landed somewhere half-way up the bleachers in left-center for Carter’s 30th home run, a crushing blow.
The Yankees’ offense had shown some signs of life for a change. Brian McCann slugged his 14th home run in the fourth to put the Yanks up 2-0. Martin Prado, who scored on McCann’s homer, had three hits, including a two-run double in the sixth that knotted the score. In all, the Yankees had nine hits.
One was a leadoff single in the eighth by Jacoby Ellsbury, who ended up at third base with one out after a steal and an errant throw by catcher Jason Castro. The Astros brought the infield in against Carlos Beltran, who hit a hard, one-hopper to shortstop Marwin Gonzalez. Running on contact, Ellsbury was a dead duck at the plate as Gonzalez threw a pea to the plate. Prado singled to put another runner in scoring position at second, but McCann flied out to deep center.
To make matters worse, former Yankees pitcher Chad Qualls, now Houston’s closer, earned his 14th save with a perfect ninth to conclude a perfectly unattractive loss.
So when is a 2-3 trip considered good? When it starts out 0-3.
That was the situation with the Yankees at the end of a somewhat bumpy ride through Baltimore and St. Petersburg. They finished in an upbeat fashion Sunday with a 4-2 victory that included a semblance of a sustained offense and an encouraging outing by Hiroki Kuroda.
The victory also lifted the Yankees back into second place in the American League East, albeit a distant second since they trail the first-place Orioles by seven games. The Yanks are also 3 1/2 games behind in the chase for the second wild-card berth.
Kuroda was working on extra rest, which is something Yankees manager Joe Girardi intends to do as often as he can in the season’s final six weeks to prevent the fade the Japanese righthander sustained in the second half of the 2013 season. He certainly seemed to benefit from the extra time off.
Never before at his best against the Rays (2-4, 6.07 ERA) or at Tropicana Field (1-2, 6.94 ERA), Kuroda was in first-half form with 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs and four hits. Pitching to contact (one walk, one strikeout), Kuroda retired 17 batters in a row from the first through the sixth innings.
Kuroda gave up a run in the first inning, and that run looked quite large when Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson, who has pitched only since last month after undergoing arthroscopic right elbow surgery in January, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and got the first two out then rather easily.
A walk to Stephen Drew was the beginning of a sloppy inning for Hellickson, his last in the game, as the Yankees strung together four hits — a double by Martin Prado, a two-run single by Brett Gardner that gave the Yankees the lead, followed by singles by Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury resulting in another run. The hit by Ellsbury was his only one on the trip in 20 at-bats but came at a good time. Prado also had a superlative game defensively at second base with eight assists and one putout.
Evan Longoria’s RBI single in the seventh off a tiring Kuroda cut the Yanks’ lead to 3-2, but Shawn Kelley stranded a runner at third before turning matters over to Dellin Betances in the eighth and David Robertson (33rd save) in the ninth, which has become a can’t-miss tandem.
Mark Teixeira made it 4-2 in the eighth with his 20th home run of the season and career No. 361, which tied him with Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list. Nice company that.
So the trip’s finish was far better than the start. The Yankees’ offense continues to be a concern. They averaged merely 2.6 runs per game on the trip and have been outscored by 37 runs this season.
But they come home with some momentum and have a chance to make some headway on the upcoming homestand against the also-ran Astros and White Sox.
The Yankees ended a disturbing pattern on this trip in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Rays that stopped a five-game losing streak. In the two games at Baltimore that began the trip, the Yankees scored early but failed to add to their lead while the Orioles came back to take each game.
Friday night was different but not in a good way. The Yankees did not give up the lead because they never had one. In fact, they did not score at all.
Saturday was looking like the same thing for a while. The Yanks jumped ahead 2-0 in the second inning against lefthander Drew Smyly on Martin Prado’s sixth home run of the season. Inning after inning went by without the Yankees extending the lead for Shane Greene, who was brilliant with 10 strikeouts in six-plus innings. The Rays scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to tie the score and hang Greene with a no-decision. He was kicking himself for hitting a batter with a pitch to start the seventh. A pinch runner eventually came around to score the tying run.
Then came the ninth, and things started going the Yankees’ way. Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and continued to second base on an errant throw by second baseman Logan Fosythe.
Derek Jeter attempted to bunt Gardner to third base but could not handle lefthander Jake McGee’s high octane gas as the count went to 2-2. Tampa Bay kept its infield tight with the idea that DJ still might bunt despite having two strikes. Nope. The Captain swung away and lined a 99-mph fastball past a diving Forsythe for a single to right-center that brought Gardner home with what proved the winning run.
Pitching for the first time in nine days, David Robertson notched his 32nd save to preserve the victory for Dellin Betances (5-0), who pitched a perfect eighth inning. Shawn Kelley also pitched a shutout seventh as the bullpen had its first strong performance on the trip.
The loss dropped the Rays back under .500 (61-62) after they had gotten to the level level with Friday night’s 5-0 victory, quite a feat for a team that was once 18 games under .500. The last major-league team to go from 18-under to .500 in the same season was the Marlins in 2006 when they were managed by current Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.
He picked a perfect game to put Carlos Beltran back in right field for the first time since May 11 because the way Greene pitched nobody hit the ball to Beltran, who did not have a fielding chance until he caught a drive by Evan Longoria for the first out of the eighth inning.
Beltran’s return to the outfield permits Girardi to go back to his preference of using the designated hitter spot as a way to give players a half-game off. Saturday’s hero, Jeter, was the DH in this one.
Girardi decided against using Brian McCann, who came off the 7-day concussion list, and had Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. McCann had a lackluster workout Friday, so Girardi chose to wait at least one more day before getting his regular catcher back in the mix.
The much-needed victory also guaranteed the Yankees will leave St. Petersburg after Sunday’s game no deeper than third place in the American League East. After the shutout loss Friday night, it created a situation where the Rays could have jumped over the Yankees in the standings this weekend, a prognosis that fell apart with Saturday’s comeback victory.
When the Yankees-Tigers series began, all the talk was about Detroit’s rotation. The Tigers had lined up against the Yankees three former American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander and a 13-game winner in Rick Porcello.
Guess what? None of them notched a victory.
Talk centered on the Yankees’ staff after it limited one of the AL’s top offensive clubs to merely six runs over 39 innings in winning three of the four games. The only game Detroit won, a 4-3, 12-inning matchup, did not provide a victory for their starting pitcher, Price, who was out of the game in the ninth.
Yankees starters, meanwhile, were 2-0 with an ERA of 0.99 as the rotation gave up only three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Not that the Tigers’ crew was bad. The Detroit starters combined for a 2.42 ERA, which any manager will take over a four-game set, but it was just not a match for the Yankees.
Thursday’s 1-0 victory behind rookie Shane Greene and in front of a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,013 was a nice finishing touch. Greene pitched one batter into the ninth and scattered five hits and three walks with five strikeouts to improve his record to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. He as yanked in the fifth inning of his prior start at Boston but this time came close to his first complete game in the majors. Maybe next time.
“We won” is the best thing Greene took from the game. He is a man of few words and at times seems overwhelmed by his surroundings in the majors — except when he is on the mound. The righthander utilized an effective sinker-slider mix with an occasional four-seam fastball that was never more valuable than in the sixth when it produced a pivotal double play against Victor Martinez, the second half of the Tigers’ 1-2 punch behind two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who was rested until the ninth inning Thursday when he batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth against David Robertson (31st save) with a chance to do damage and ruin Greene’s effort.
Cabrera batted with runners on first and second with none out. He hit a hard grounder past Robertson, but it was gobbled up in front of second base by Brendan Ryan, who stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first base for another crucial double play. Fans gasped when Don Kelly lofted a fly ball in shallow center before Stephen Drew, starting at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter, put it away for a satisfying final out. Also bailing out Robertson in the Kelly at-bat was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who made two terrific stops of balls in the dirt to keep the potential tying run at third.
Drew was also responsible for the game’s only run with an opposite-field double to left in the fourth off Porcello. The new mix of players up from the minors and the result of trades has given the Yankees a burst of freshness.
“It has changed the complexion of the team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten better defensively, and pitchers are giving us more innings.”
Greene’s work allowed over-loaded Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances a needed day off. The Yankees had been sputtering at home this year but have turned that around since the All-Star break with 10 victories in 14 games.
“We have talked about needing to play better at home,” Girardi said. “We are doing all the little things. These are the best four starts in a row that we have had all season. Their pitchers were the guys being talked about, but our pitchers did a great job.”