Results tagged ‘ Kevin Kiermaier ’

Girardi’s hunch to stay with Austin pays big dividend

The Yankees had to wait until two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Thursday night for one of the Baby Bombers to make a major contribution. It turned out to be a big one, an opposite-field home run to right by Tyler Austin that produced a 5-4 victory over the Rays.

Prior to that, the Yankees’ offense was powered by veterans. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both singled in the first inning and scored on a out-single by Didi Gregorius and an errant pickoff attempt by Rays starter Alex Cobb.

Their other two runs were courtesy of two long home runs by Brian McCann, one into the second deck in the fourth inning and one into the suites section between the second and third decks in the second inning. McCann, who was 3-for-4, is enjoying a .455 homestand with three home runs and five RBI in 11 at-bats.

McCann lost his regular catching job to rookie sensation Gary Sanchez and has not made a peep about all the while contributing in his at-bats as a designated hitter. Mac was back behind the plate Thursday night and did his usual solid job, especially in the fifth when rookie Jonathan Holder nearly balked home the tying run. Mac claimed that Holder was merely requesting to go through the signs again in moving his glove, an argument continued by Girardi, who was able to get plate umpire Mike Everitt to confer with the other umps. The group decision upheld McCann’s point of view, and the Yankees caught a huge break.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi had another veteran available in the dugout as a possible pinch hitter for Austin in the ninth after the Rays brought in righthander Erasmo Ramirez with two outs and none on. Mark Teixeira, with 405 career home runs, was on the bench, but Girardi stayed with Austin.

“I like the way he has been swinging the bat lately,” Girardi said of Austin, who has six hits in the past four games, four of them for extra bases. “With that splitter Ramirez has, right-handed hitters sometimes have an advantage over left-handed hitters.”

The switch-hitting Teixeira would have batted left-handed against Ramirez. Girardi played a hunch, and it paid off.

Girardi had a busy night navigating his pitching staff on a night when relievers Adam Warren, Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances were virtually unavailable because of heavy recent use. Despite that, the skipper did not hesitate to lift an ineffective CC Sabathia with two on and none out in the fifth.

Sabathia had given up two home runs to Kevin Kiermaier and one to Steven Souza Jr. Holder was also victimized by Souza in the sixth that made the score 4-4, which is where it stayed until Austin came to bat in the ninth. The score remained that way because of the ensemble relief effort of Chasen Shreve, Blake Parker, Kirby Yates and Tommy Layne.

The Yanks’ fifth straight victory pushed their record to a season-high nine games over .500 at 74-65 as they leaped over another club, the Astros, in the sweepstakes for the second Wild Card slot. The Yankees had already sped by the Mariners and the Royals and now have their sights set on the Orioles (two games behind) and the Tigers (one game behind). Baltimore and Detroit were not scheduled Thursday night.

Neither was Boston, so the Yankees picked up a half-game on the American League East leader and are only four games out of first place in the division.

Rays have shown more life than Yankees

As the non-waiver trade deadline looms, the Yankees are trying to let their front office know what kind of team they are, but a recent push into possible contender status has encountered a detour in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The last-place, going-nowhere Rays have stung the Yankees the past two nights at Tropicana Field to win a series the Bombers considered vital to determine whether they would be buyers or sellers by Monday’s trade deadline.

This series in microcosm was detailed in the seventh inning. Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier caught the Yankees napping and essentially stole a run. His trek around the bases made it appear that the game was more important to Tampa Bay despite it being 20 games under .500.

What seemed to be a one-out single by Kiermaier became a double when he took advantage of a flat-footed Carlos Beltran in right field and an out-of-position shortstop Didi Gregorius around the bag at second. Continuing to hustle, Kiermaier stole third off reliever Anthony Swarzak, who paid scant attention to the runner and not giving catcher Austin Romine a chance to throw Kiermaier out.

Steven Souza Jr. then lined a single to left-center to send in Kiermaier and push the Rays’ lead to 4-2. Tim Beckham made it 6-2 by crushing a ball over the center field wall, Tampa Bay’s third home run of the game and fifth of the series that ends Sunday afternoon.

Nathan Eovaldi, who lost for the first time since July 1, gave up only three hits, but two of them were home runs. Brad Miller, who tripled and doubled Friday night, turned around a 99-mph heater from Eovaldi in the first inning.

After Brett Gardner gave the Yankees the lead in the third with a two-run home run off lefthander Drew Smyly, Eovaldi gave it right back when .169-hitting catcher Curt Casali homered off a hanging slider following a leadoff single by Beckham.

Smyly was just as stingy as Eovaldi. The lefthander gave up four hits over six innings and ended a personal seven-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 12 starts since May 16.

With a lefty starting against the Yankees, manager Joe Girardi put Alex Rodriguez in the starting lineup for the first time in eight days and got nothing in return. A-Rod struck out in all four of his plate appearances.

Rodriguez’s batting average is down to .206. His wilting offense is not something just of recent vintage, either. Over the past calendar year since August 2015, A-Rod in 397 at-bats has hit .199 with 13 doubles, 18 home runs, 54 RBI and 123 strikeouts.

On the plus side for the Yanks, Chase Headley had two hits, including his 10th home run, a solo shot in the eighth off Matt Andriese, and Adam Warren retired the three batters he faced in the eighth, which may have been an inning too late to bring him into the game.

Kiermaier continued to torture the Yankees in the eighth with a dazzling, leaping catch high atop the center field fence to rob Romine of a potential extra-base hit right after the Headley homer.

Big Mac & A-Rod HRs put Archer on the skids

The condition is known as the wheels falling off. Fortunately for the Yankees, the condition struck Chris Archer in the sixth inning Sunday that helped them survive a major scare by the Rays.

Archer, who took a 5-0 career record and 1.78 ERA against the Yankees into the game, appeared destined to improve those statistics over the first five innings, four of which he retired the side in order.

As Yankees catcher Brian McCann noted of Archer, “He didn’t pitch out of the stretch a whole lot early in the game.”

The sixth inning was another story, and it was McCann who was pivotal in the Yankees’ turning the game around. Archer began the sixth working on a one-hit shutout with a three-run lead, thanks to a two-run home run by Kevin Kiermaier in the second inning and a two-out, RBI single by Logan Forsythe in the third against Ivan Nova, who ended up the winning pitcher because of the turn of events in the sixth.

It seemed like another mow-down inning in store for Archer when Stephen Drew flied out to left field leading off. Jacoby Ellsbury, who had the Yankees’ only hit to that point (a two-out single in the third that ended a 0-for-17 stretch), hit a ground single to right, but Archer came right back to strike out Brett Gardner.

Curiously, Archer pitched especially carefully to Carlos Beltran for no reason I could detect and walked him on five pitches. At 2-0, Beltran expected to see a fastball, but Archer threw three straight sliders and lost him. Beltran was 0-for-2 in the game and 2-for-14 (.143) against Archer in his career, so why be so careful when a hitter as dangerous as McCann on deck.

McCann’s career numbers against Archer (2-for-16 going into that at-bat) weren’t much better than Beltran’s, but they were about to become so. Archer fell behind 3-1 to McCann, who got the fastball Beltran expected and drove the ball over the right field fence for a three-run homer that knotted the score.

As if the wheels had not fallen off enough for Archer, Alex Rodriguez also took him deep on the next pitch. Once again, the long ball came to the Yankees’ rescue as they went on to a 6-4 victory to keep pace with the Blue Jays, 10-4 winners over the Orioles and clinging to a 1 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

McCann’s 25th home run marked a career high in one season for the catcher, who seems much more comfortable in his second year in pinstripes.

“I know the league a lot better,” said McCann, who spent nine years in the National League with the Braves before signing with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. “Getting to know the pitchers, the ones and twos on each staff and situational lefthanders. When you’re in the same league year after year you don’t have to make that much of an adjustment.

“That’s our formula,” manager Joe Girardi said of the home runs, and he was right on target.

The Yankees, whose overall record is 76-59 (.563), are 65-34 (.657) when they homer. When they hit two home runs, as they did Sunday, or more, they are 41-11 (.788). Of the 13 runs the Yanks scored in the three games at Yankee Stadium against the Rays, nine were the result of home runs.

The Yankees added two runs against a ragged Tampa Bay bullpen, one on a throwing error by Fosythe and one on a single by Didi Gregorius, who had two more hits and has had at least one RBI in eight of his past 10 games. A-Rod contributed to the eighth-inning rally with a single, his 3,053rd career hit that tied him with Hall of Famer Rod Carew for 24th place on the all-time list.

But what most of the 35,299 people in attendance at the Stadium will remember most about Sunday’s game were the home runs in the inning when the wheels fell off for a modern-day Yankee killer.

One of those losses that hurts a bit more

All losses hurts, especially those in a pennant race. Yet some have more of a sting than others. Such a loss occurred to the Yankees Saturday, a 3-2 setback to Tampa Bay that combined with Toronto’s 5-1 victory over Baltimore pushed them back to 1 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East.

The frustration showed in the way Didi Gregorius slammed down his bat after he made the third out of the eighth inning on a vicious line drive caught by Rays second baseman Logan Forsythe that left the bases loaded.

The Yankees, trailing by a run, seemed to have a game-turning rally in place against Tampa Bay righthander Alex Colome, who was hit hard enough throughout the eighth that he got gun shy and loss sight of the plate.

Even the two outs that began the inning were well struck, a hard grounder up the middle by Alex Rodriguez into an over-shift and a smoking liner to first baseman James Loney by Carlos Beltran. Chase Headley worked the count to 3-2 before drilling a single to center. Greg Bird followed with a rope to left for another single.

Colome wanted no part of Brian McCann, pinch hitting for John Ryan Murphy, and walked him on five pitches to fill the bags. Now there was no place to put Gregorius, but Colome fell behind 2-0 before getting a called strike on an automatic take by the Yanks shortstop.

It would have been a good time for Gregorius to make up some of the discrepancy in his home-and-away splits. He had doubled in a run back in the fifth off starter Mike Moore and eventually came around to score the Yankees’ second run on two infield outs. Didi had a good cut at the 2-1 pitch, but the lazar of a liner hit leather.

Manager Joe Girardi was not taken aback by Gregorius’ act of frustration. In fact, the skipper approved it. Showing emotion in that circumstance was understandable and reflected frustration all around by Yankees hitters whose return from a rambunctious trip has been calmed by two games of limited production. The Yanks won Friday night primarily because three of their four hits were home runs. They totaled only five hits Saturday and were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. They had no such at-bats Friday night.

Gregorius was a big part of the Yankees’ 5-1 trip through Atlanta and Boston as he hit .583 with seven runs, one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. That raised his road record this year to .317 with eight doubles, one triple, three home runs and 26 RBI. At Yankee Stadium, the picture has not been so rosy as Gregorius has been a .222 hitter with 10 doubles, five home runs and 19 RBI.

It is not the time for bats to turn cold. In Moore, the Yankees were facing a pitcher who has struggled since returning from Tommy John surgery (8.04 ERA) and a Rays lineup that lost slugger Evan Longoria in the fifth inning with a hand injury from being hit with a pitch. In addition, the Yankees must contend in Sunday’s series finale with righthander Chris Archer, who is 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in eight career starts against them.

Nathan Eovaldi lost for the first time in 14 starts since June 16 and had a nine-game winning streak end. He gave up three runs on a couple of two-out hits — singles by Kevin Kiermaier for one run in the second and by Astrubal Cabrera for two runs in the third. The righthander walked four batters, hit one and struck out seven in losing for the first time this year in 13 starts this year at the Stadium where he is now 5-1.

Well, one streak ended Saturday, so perhaps one can end again Sunday.

Yanks barely over .500 at halfway point

There was a point Monday night when it seemed like Joe Girardi was managing as if this was Game 7 of the World Series instead of a game in late June.

The score was 2-2 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances, the third of six Yankees pitchers in the game, had just walked two batters after two were out. Girardi hopped out of the dugout and made the call to David Robertson. Using his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game was certainly an indication that Girardi wanted to win this game badly.

Robertson and Betances have been the Yankees’ best relievers, but on this night neither got the job done. Robertson gave up a single to Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

You cannot fault Girardi. After losing two of three games to American League East rivals in each of their previous three series, the skipper wanted very much to get a victory at the start of this series, the fifth straight against division foes.

Brian Roberts gave the Yankees that opportunity with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth off Joel Peralta, whose blown save cost Yankee killer Chris Archer a winning decision.

Archer gave the Yankees his usual hard time, although he did blow a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier by giving up two runs in the bottom of the third. Archer asked for trouble by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning. He came around to score on a triple to right by Brett Gardner. The Rays conceded a run by playing the infield back against Derek Jeter, who obliged with one of his four ground balls to second base in the game that scored Gardner.

And there it stood until the eighth when the Rays scratched that run off Betances and Robertson. David Phelps had started for the Yankees and gave up the two long balls but otherwise was solid. Roberts’ homer hung a no-decision on Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA against the Yankees in his career, including 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Whatever lift Roberts’ shot gave the Yankees was short-lived. The Rays scored a run with two out in the 12th to send the Yankees to their third straight loss and put their record at 41-40 at the halfway mark of the season.

“It has been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had our share of issues in the first half, but we’re still in the thick of it.”

Rookie Jose Ramirez walked Brandon Guyer with two out in the 12th. Guyer’s steal of second base was crucial, putting him in position to score on a single to center by Logan Forsythe. Rays reliever Brad Boxberger retired the Yankees in order in both the 11th and the 12th and was the winning pitcher.

Tampa Bay has been hit hardest in the division by injuries but still presented a problem for the Yankees Monday night.