Results tagged ‘ Mark Teixeira ’
As it turned out, Mark Teixeira got his wish. When he hit a game-winning grand slam Wednesday night against the Red Sox, Tex said afterward that he hoped it would be the last home run of his career.
Plenty of Yankees fans would have hoped Texeira might launch one more drive into the seats Sunday in his last major-league game. Alas, it was not to be. Teixeira had three plate appearances and grounded out twice and flied out once before he came off the field to a standing ovation from the Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,277 at the start of the seventh inning as Tyler Austin replaced him at first base.
The slugging for the Yankees in Sunday’s season finale was by Brian McCann, who led off the fourth inning with his 20th home run of the season. It was the ninth consecutive season of 20 or more homers for Mac and the 10th of his career, which made him the fourth catcher in big-league history with at least 10 20-homer seasons. The others are Hall of Famers Mike Pizza and Johnny Bench with 11 apiece and Yogi Berra with 10.
With Gary Sanchez also having goes deep 20 times, the Yankees became the third team in history to have two hitters who played at least half their games behind the plate to hit at least 20 home runs in the same season. The Yankees had Elston Howard and Johnny Blanchard with 21 each in 1961. The Milwaukee Braves had Joe Torre, later the Yankees manager, with 27 and Gene Oliver with 21 in 1965.
A catcher had the big game for the wild-card Orioles in their 5-3 victory. Matt Wieters socked a two-run home run off Yankees starter Luis Cessa in the fourth inning and greeted reliever Tommy Layne with another two-run blast in the sixth. It was the seventh career multi-homer game for the switch-hitting Wieters and the first from both sides of the plate.
Teixeira, who holds the major-league record for homering from each side of the plate in a game (15 times), finished the season with a .204 batting average within 15 home runs and 44 RBI. Tex was a .268 career hitter with the same total of hits as games played (1,862) with 409 homers and 1,298 runs batted in.
In a pregame ceremony, Teixeira was on the field with his wife, Leigh, and their children, Jack, Addy and Will, when he was presented with a framed No. 25 jersey commemorating his final game by Yankees managing general partners Hal Steinbrenner and Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and Christina Steinbrenner, Hal’s wife. Tex also received a framed base signed by all of the 2016 Yankees that was presented by CC Sabathia and Brett Gardner, his last remaining teammates from the World Series championship team of 2009. Harlem RBI, the organization for which Teixeira donated $1 million and raised more than $10 million over the years, presented him with a signed thank-you card signed by hundreds of youngsters from Harlem and the Bronx who have benefit from his efforts on their behalf.
The Yankees’ fourth-place finish in the American League East this year was their lowest position since 1992, when they were fourth in the then seven-team AL East.
For the second straight night, the previous game’s hero was on the bench. Mark Teixeira switched places with Tyler Austin Thursday night. Tex was getting rest after his thrilling grand slam with two out in the bottom of the ninth inning Wednesday night to climax a huge comeback for the Yankees, who avoided elimination from the American League wild card chase with a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox, who nevertheless clinched the AL East title.
Teixeira’s walk-off salami off Boston righthander Joe Kelly was the retiring first baseman’s first career regular-season walk-off home run. He hit one in the 11th inning of Game 2 of the AL Division Series in 2009 against the Twins. It was Tex’s 409th career home run. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Teixeira’s 408 homers were the most in major league history by a player who had never hit a regular-season walk-off home run.
It was his fifth career walk-off hit and first since May 24, 2011 against the Blue Jays. It was the ninth walk-off grand slam in Yankees history, the first since Alex Rodriguez in the bottom of the ninth April 7, 2007 against the Orioles’ Chris Ray. Teixeira also became the third Yankees hitter to slug a walk-off salami against the Red Sox. He joined Charlie Keller Aug. 12, 1942 off Mike Ryba and Red Ruffing, the Hall of Fame pitcher, April 14, 1933 off Bob Weiland.
The only other walk-off grand slam this season was by the Athletics’ Khris Davis May 17 against the Rangers. The grand slam was the 12th of Teixeira’s career and his second this year. He also connected with the bases loaded at Yankee Stadium Sept. 9 off the Rays’ Blake Snell. The only active -layer players with more career grand slams are the Phillies’ Ryan Howard (15) and the Angels’ Albert Pujols (13). Teixeira’s 206th home run with the Yankees moved him past Dave Winfield into 13th place on the all-time franchise list.
Teixeira’s salami got James Pazos his first major-league victory. Pazos was the 22nd different pitcher to earn a winning decision for the Yankees this year, which matched the club record set in 2007. Tyler Clippard earned victories for the Yankees in both seasons (1-3 in 2016, 3-1 in 2007). The Yankees can break the record if either Jonathan Holder and LHP Richard Bleier gets a victory over the final four games. The Yanks’ 22 winning pitchers are tied with the Dodgers for the third most in the majors behind the Braves (28) and the Angels (23).
Mariano Rivera returned to the Stadium Thursday night to be part of a tasteful ceremony celebrating David Ortiz, who like Teixeira will call it a career at the end of the Red Sox’ season. Yankees fans showed class by holding back the boos and giving the Red Sox designated hitter a standing ovation before his first at-bat. They cheered even louder when CC Sabathia struck Ortiz out.
A hero one night, on the bench the next. That was the story with Tyler Austin, whose two-run home run in the seventh inning Tuesday night made the difference in the Yankees’ 6-4 victory over the Red Sox. All four of Austin’s homers have been go-ahead blasts to right field at Yankee Stadium.
Yet he was not in the lineup Wednesday night as manager Joe Girardi decided to go with Mark Teixeira at first base because of his familiarity with Boston starter Clay Buchholz. Tex is only a .161 hitter in 31 career at-bats against Buchholz, but two of his hits are home runs. Austin has never faced Buchholz.
The Red Sox righthander was long out of the game when Teixeira rewarded Girardi for his confidence in him. Tex kept the Yankees’ wafer-thin playoff hopes alive with a dramatic grand slam to cap an astounding ninth-inning comeback for a 5-3 victory that put a crimp in Boston’s plans to celebrate its clinching the American League East title.
The Red Sox did that minutes earlier when the Orioles pulled off a dramatic comeback of their own in Toronto with one run in the eighth and two in the ninth to knock off the Blue Jays, 3-2. Going into the bottom of the ninth inning at Yankee Stadium, it appeared as if the Yankees would suffer a double dose of pain by watching the Red Sox celebrate their clinching and being eliminated from the AL wild card race all at the same time. After all, the Yankees had only one hit over the first eight innings and seemed destined to go down without a fight.
Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel came in to finish the Yanks off but could not find the plate. Brett Gardner, the one Yankees hitter the Red Sox could not get out (two hits, two walks) started things off with a single to center. Kimbrel then walked the next three hitters to force in a run. The third walk was to Brian McCann, Kimbrel’s old catcher from their days together in Atlanta.
Boston manager John Farrell had seen enough and summoned Joe Kelly, who did the opposite and threw nothing but strikes. He fanned Starlin Castro on three pitches and retired Didi Gregorius on a foul pop. Kelly got ahead in the count 0-1 to Teixeira, who caught up with a 99-mph fastball on the next pitch and slammed it into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field for his 15th home run of the season and what he told the fans on the field “I hope it will be my last.”
Teixeira, who is retiring at the end of the season, has hit two huge home runs for the Yankees this week. The other was a solo shot in the ninth inning Monday night at Toronto that tied the score and headed the Yanks toward a five-run rally and 7-5 victory. He did not do much against Buchholz, but neither did anyone. Buchholz allowed one hit over six scoreless innings. Yankees starter Bryan Mitchell pitched seven innings of shutout ball and got away with five walks.
The Red Sox struck for three runs in the eighth off Adam Warren, although only one was earned due to an error by Castro. AL Most Valuable Player Award candidate Mookie Betts got the key hit, a two-run double, with the third run scoring on a passed ball by Gary Sanchez with another retiring player, David Ortiz chugging down the line.
In the end, the incredible finish was fashioned by the veteran first baseman who got the starting nod over the guy who was the hero the night before. The Yankees remained four games behind the Orioles with four to play, three against Baltimore after the series finale with Boston Thursday night.
Austin was 3-for-3 Tuesday night, which marked the third time this season that a hitter in the 9-hole had at least three hits in a game. Ronald Torreyes was 4-for-4 Aug. 19 at Anaheim, and Donovan Solano was 3-for-5 Sept. 21 at St. Petersburg, Fla. The Yankees ate tied with the Indians for the most such games this season.
With his 20th home run Tuesday night, Gregorius joined double-play partner Castro in the 20-homer club. Castro has 21 homers. The YES Network reports that Gregorius and Castro are only the third shortstop-second base combination aged 26 or younger in major-league history with at least 20 homers each. The other combos were the Astros’ Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve last year and the Mariners’ Alex Rodriguez and David Bell in 1999. Gregorius tied Tom Tresh (1962) and Roy Smalley (1982) for the fourth highest home run total for a shortstop in franchise history, topped only by Derek Jeter’s 24 in 1999, 23 in 2004 and 21 in 2001.
The Yankees’ 82nd victory guaranteed their 24th consecutive winning season, the second longest stretch in franchise history. The Yankees had 39 straight winning seasons from 1926 through 1964.
Mark Teixeira, who will call it a career at the end of the regular season and will be honored by the Yankees on the final homestand, had a retirement gift for the club before it showers him with presents. It came with a solo home run in the top of the ninth inning Monday night, and did the Yankees ever need it.
Tex’s 14th homer of the season and career No. 408 passing Duke Snider on the all-time list tied the score and gave the Yankees a chance to salvage something from a disastrous trip. His grateful teammates responded with a rally that produced four more runs, nearly all of which proved necessary when Dellin Betances had another meltdown in the bottom of the inning. Tommy Layne, who has done a solid job as a situational left-handed reliever, was magnificent in bailing out Betances and nailing down a 7-5 victory.
It was an incredible finish to a trip in which the Yankees lost eight of 11 games and have come painfully close to falling out of contention for a playoff berth. The Yankees are on life support as far as postseason play is concerned. But they sure showed a lot of fight.
With Luis Severino letting himself get baited into a retaliation battle with Blue Jays starter J.A. Happ, the Yankees ended up having to use seven other pitchers to get through the last game of a very bumpy trip. Happ took two pitches to hit Chase Headley in the second, the inning after Toronto third baseman Josh Donaldson had been struck by a pitch from Severino. Plate umpire Todd Tichenor issued a warning after benches had emptied with a lot of shoving but not much else.
Severino was tossed after he hit Justin Smoak to start the Toronto second. That cost the Yankees their starter, who was ejected. Once again, benches emptied into the usual scrum. When the smoke cleared, not only was Severino tossed but also manager Joe Girardi, bench coach Rob Thompson and pitching coach Larry Rothschild. The Yankees were furious that Happ should have been warned after the first close pitch to Headley and thrown out after he hit him. Maybe so, but that does not excuse Severino, who did not do a smart thing by getting ejected from a must-win game for the Yankees in the second inning.
The Blue Jays took a 3-1 lead into the eighth, and thinks looked bleak for the Yankees. Brett Gardner doubled with one out in the eighth and scored on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury to make it a one-run game. With overworked Jose Osuna unavailable, Jays manager John Gibbons gave the save situation to Jason Grilli, who got a quick out but was victimized by Teixeira. Didi Gregorius kept the inning going with a single, and Aaron Hicks thrust the Yanks ahead with a two-run homer. They added two insurance runs that proved needed on a double by Donovan Solano, a walk to Gardner, a single by Ellsbury and a sacrifice fly by Gary Sanchez.
Betances, who had a miserable trip, walked the leadoff batter for his third straight inning and made an error on a bunt, then walked another batter to load the bases with none out. Layne was called on to face Toronto’s dangerous right-handed hitters. He walked in one run and gave up another on a single but made a sensational fielding play to get a key out at the plate and ended the game by getting Troy Tulowitzki on a fly ball.
The victory kept the Yanks’ frail playoff hopes alive. They are still five games out of the second wild card slot with six games remaining, but the last three are against the Orioles, who were not scheduled Monday.
The Yankees will return home Tuesday for their final homestand of the year, which will feature a three-game series against the Red Sox Tuesday through Thursday nights in David Ortiz’s final career regular season appearances at Yankee Stadium and a three-game set against the Orioles Friday night through Sunday.
Fan Appreciation Day will be Sunday, Oct. 2, when the Yankees will also honor first baseman Mark Teixeira in a ceremony prior to their 3:05 p.m. game against Baltimore. In honor of Teixeira’s final regular season game, fans may receive up to 25 percent off the price of tickets for this game when using the promo code TEX25 and a MasterCard at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.ticketmaster.com or at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.
In addition, 25 fans wearing apparel with Teixeira’s inform No. 25 at the game Oct. 2 will be randomly selected to receive special prizes and 25 other fans will have the opportunity to be randomly selected for a lucky seat upgrade. All fans in attendance will also receive a voucher valid for two tickets to select 2017 Yankees regular season home games.
Fans can also take part in the festivities on social media. One lucky fan in attendance at the Stadium Oct. 2 who shares their game experience on Twitter or Instagram will be randomly selected during the game to win the “Ultimate Game Day Experience,” which includes an upgrade in the Legends Suite seating area and a gift bag. One other lucky fan will be randomly selected during the game to win the “Ultimate Game Day Experience” for any 2017 home game of their choice. The package will include 4 Legends tickets, a scoreboard message, and a gift bag.
During the entire homestand, the first 75 fans that check-in daily at the Stadium on Facebook can redeem a seat upgrade by showing their check-in to the staff at the AT&T Fan Zone located on the Main Level behind the plate. For further details on all of these promotions, please visit http://www.yankees.com/fanappreciation and follow the Yankees’ official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @Yankees.
Roger Maris Bobblehead Day will be Saturday, Oct. 1 on the 55th anniversary of his record-setting 61st home run. The first 18,000 people in attendance will receive a bobblehead, courtesy of AT&T. The bobblehead is part of a limited-edition series of collectible player bobbleheads, presented by AT&T — the fourth series in a collection of Yankees bobbleheads. Additionally, Maris’ son Randy will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the game.
For the sixth consecutive year, the Yankees will join with NewYork-Presbyterian — the official hospital of the New York Yankees — Columbia University Medical Center, Weill Cornell Medicine and Ed Randall’s Fans for the Cure (fans4thecure.org) to help save lives from prostate cancer during Prostate Cancer Awareness Month by offering a free screening.
Prior to and during the 7:05 p.m. game against the Red Sox Wednesday, ticketed fans, game day employees and media members 40 years of age and older are encouraged to visit the area near Main Level Section 220, where medical personnel under the direction of Dr. James McKiernan, Urologist-in-Chief, NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, will be standing by to administer quick and simple PSA blood tests to all who request one.
Youth Game ticket specials will run Saturday and Sunday, subject to availability. For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials.
Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at 877-469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at 800-943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Fans with questions may call 212-YANKEES [926-5337] or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For information on parking and public transportation options to Yankee Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.
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.
For the first time in nearly a week, the Yankees gained ground in the American League Wild Card race. After spending four games in Boston giving up leads in getting swept by the Red Sox, the Yankees did the opposite Tuesday night by overcoming a 2-0 deficit and beat the Rays, 5-3, to end a five-game losing streak.
It would have been a tough no-decision if that Tampa Bay lead held up for Yankees starter Michael Pineda, who struck out 11 batters and walked only one in 5 1/3 innings. But the two-out jinx struck him again when he gave up a two-rub triple to Brad Miller in the third. Pineda now has 195 strikeouts, the most for a Yanks righthander since A.J. Burnett had the same total in 2009.
Mark Teixeira got a run back the next inning with his 13th home run, off Rays starter Drew Smyly, the only run the lefthander gave up in six innings. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Rays are like every team in the major leagues these days who cannot wait to take out a starting pitcher in the middle innings. Tampa Bay went with Brad Boxberger in the seventh, and the Yanks clocked him for four runs and four hits.
The big blow came from — who else? — Gary Sanchez. One out after Brett Gardner singled to tie the score, Sanchez crushed a first-pitch changeup for a three-run home run. It came right after Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey came to the mound to discuss the situation with Boxberger. First base was open so surely the message was not to give Sanchez anything near the plate, a message that obviously went unheeded.
It was the 17th home run of the season for the Yankees’ rookie catcher and came in his 44th game. The only other rookie in big-league history to do that was Wally Berger of the Boston Braves in 1930. Sanchez has six home runs in his past 11 games after a 10-game homerless drought. Of his 53 career hits, 28 have been for extra bases (11 doubles, 17 homers), including eight of his past 13 hits (two doubles, six homers).
The winning decision went to Luis Severino (3-8), who kept up his quality pitching in relief with 1 1/3 hitless innings. Tyler Clippard allowed a run in the eighth on a triple by Logan Forsythe and a wild pitch.
Dellin Betances, who had not pitched since Thursday night after sustaining two straight losses, hopped back on the bicycle and fashioned a clean ninth inning for his 12th save.
With the victory, the Yankees picked up a game on the Orioles, who lost at home to the Red Sox, and trail Baltimore by 3 1/2 games for the second Wild Card berth. The Yanks also still trail the Tigers, Astros and Mariners, however.
There was good news for another Yankees rookie. Through fan voting, Rob Refsnyder was selected as the AL East winner for the 2016 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award presented annually by the Major League Players Association for community involvement.
Refsnyder partnered with Athletes Brand to design a T-shirt that benefits A Kid’s Place, a Tampa-based organization that works to provide stability and care for children removed from their homes due to abuse, neglect or abandonment. His name will appear on the 2016 Players Choice Award ballots for league-wide voting to determine this season’s award winner.
Two former Yankees players were among the other division winners, relief pitcher David Robertson of the White Sox (AL Central) and Mets outfielder Curtis Granderson (National League East). Also voted onto the final ballot were Astros pitcher Lance McCullers (AL West), Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (NL Central) and Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner (NL West).
The Yankees will honor Mark Teixeira in a ceremony prior to their 3:05 p.m. game Sunday, Oct. 2, against the Orioles. Teixeira, 36, will retire as a player at the end of the 2016 season.
He joined the Yankees as a free agent Jan. 6, 2009 when he signed an eight-year contract. In that time, Teixeira has batted .248 with 530 runs, 183 doubles, five triples, 203 home runs, 615 RBI, 472 walks, a .343 on-base percentage and .820 OPS in 948 regular-season games and 3,494 at-bats. The Yankees’ record during Tex’s tenure is 542-406 (.572).
With the Yankees, he earned three Gold Gloves (2009-10, ’12) and a Silver Slugger (2009), and was named to two American League All-Star teams (2009, ’15). As part of the Yankees’ World Series-winning team in 2009, Teixeira finished second in American League Most Valuable Player Award voting. He led the AL with 122 RBI (including a league-leading 31 go-ahead RBI) and tied for the league lead with 39 home runs. He also hit an 11th-inning “walk-off” home run to win Game 2 of the AL Division Series against the Twins.
In franchise history, Teixeira is tied with Roger Maris for 15th place in home runs, trailing only Lou Gehrig (493), Don Mattingly (222) and Jason Giambi (209) among players whose primary position was first base. Along with Maris, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez, Tex was one of four Yankees all-time to hit at least 30 home runs in each of his first three seasons with the club.
Originally drafted by Texas as the fifth overall pick of the 2001 First-Year Player Draft, Teixeira has played 14 seasons in the majors with the Rangers (2003-07), Braves (2007-08), Angels (2008) and Yankees (2009-present) and batted .268 with 1,096 runs, 406 doubles, 18 triples, 406 home runs, 1,291 RBI, 914 walks, a .360 on-base percentage and an .869 OPS in 1,852 games and 6,908 at-bats. He is a three-time All-Star (also 2005), five-time Gold Glove winner (also 2005-06) and three-time Silver Slugger winner (also 2004-05).
Only four switch-hitters in baseball history have more home runs than Teixeira (Mickey Mantle-536, Eddie Murray-504, Chipper Jones-468 and former teammate Carlos Beltran-419) and only four players have more home runs since his debut in 2003 (Albert Pujols-519, David Ortiz-479, Miguel Cabrera-441, Adam Dunn-417).
A Maryland native who now lives on Greenwich, Conn., Teixeira has been actively involved in charitable endeavors throughout his career, including participation on the Board of Directors of Harlem RBI, supporting a scholarship fund at his alma mater, Georgia Tech, and creating a scholarship at his high school, Mt. St. Joseph, in the name of his friend Nick Liberatore, who passed away in a car accident while the two were in school together.
When Didi Gregorius lifted a soft fly ball to left field in his first at-bat Sunday, I said to the person next to me in the press box, “The shortstop could use a day off.”
There is a good chance that manager Joe Girardi felt the same way. Gregorius ended up taking a 0-for-4 with two strikeouts in the Yankees’ 4-2 loss to the Rays to continue a slump that has persisted through September. So it was no surprise that he was not in the starting lineup for Monday night’s opener of the three-game, inter-league series against the Dodgers.
“I think it’s just getting beat up over the course of the year,” Girardi said. “Whether it’s the two balls he took off his arm — the hit by pitches, ribs, off his feet, sometimes you get to a point where you just need to shut a guy down for a day or two.”
September is the beat-up month as players who have slogged through the dog days of August try to lick their wounds. For an everyday shortstop such as Gregorius, who has been perhaps the Yankees’ steadiest player, the bumps and bruises can really pile up.
Gregorius’ season heated up big-time in June, a month in which he batted .337. His season batting average remained in the .290s throughout July when he hit .297 overall. He slipped to .268 in August, but that was also his best power month with six home runs and 18 RBI.
Come September, Didi has fallen into his first extended slump of the year with only three hits in 34 at-bats, a .088 stretch that has dragged his average down from .286 to .273. Gregorius has already achieved career-high totals in home runs (17) and RBI (64), but he has not homered in 84 at-bats since Aug. 18.
It comes at a time that he has been moved around the lineup as Girardi seeks to find players who can be productive in the middle of the lineup with the release of Alex Rodriguez and the reduction in playing time of retiring Mark Teixeira.
Actually, Gregorius has been decent as a cleanup hitter, batting .279 with four doubles, one triple, one home run and seven RBI in 43 at-bats but has hit only .231 in 13 at-bats in the 3-hole. He is most comfortable — and productive — hitting lower in the order. His combined numbers from the 7- and 8-holes indicate that: .301 with 14 doubles, seven homers and 32 RBI in 226 at-bats.
Something old, something new.
It is this combination that has sustained the Yankees in their winning streak that reached seven games Saturday with a 5-1 victory over the Rays. Remember about two weeks ago I wrote that the Yankees needed to do more than just win series, taking two of three games here and two of three there. They need to go on a run the way the Royals worked themselves into contention with a nine-game winning streak.
Well, here it is, Yankees fans. This is the Yanks’ longest winning streak since a seven-gamer May 1-9 of last year. They are a season-best 11 games over .500, have won 13 of their past 14 games, 20 of their past 29 and are 24-13 since the non-waiver trading deadline of Aug. 1.
The Yankees got a strong start from Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 3.04 ERA), who gave up one run and five hits with 10 strikeouts, and a combination of old (Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury) and new (Gary Sanchez and Rob Refsnyder) to remain on the heels of the Orioles and the Tigers in the race for the second Wild Card slot in the playoffs. With Baltimore and Detroit opposing each other Saturday night, the Yanks were guaranteed to be no more than one game behind.
But that is not all. With the Red Sox losing to the Blue Jays, the Yankees are only three games out of first place. Who could have imagined this happening back in that last weekend in July when the Yankees were stuck at .500 (52-52) after getting swept in a three-game series at Tropicana Field.
Sunday the Yankees have a chance to sweep those same Rays, this time in a four-game set. They have swept two others four-game series this year, against the Angels and the Athletics, and have already won their past eight four-game series.
Tanaka gave the Yankees something they have lacked from a starter lately — length. Manager Joe Girardi had used 35 pitchers over the previous six games in the winning streak, an average of nearly six pitchers per game. This is less taxing on the staff at this time of year when rosters have expanded. Girardi used to beef about September games with uneven roster numbers, but you do not hear him complaining now as his team is trying to pull off an epic comeback.
After giving up a home run to Bobby Wilson and hitting a batter in the eighth, Tanaka came out for Adam Warren, who also plunked a batter before getting a huge double-play grounder from Evan Longoria.
Rays starter Chris Archer, who has been tough on the Yankees (5-2 entering play), fell to 8-18 essentially because of the first three hitters in the lineup. Gardner singled leading off the sixth of what was then a scoreless game.
Ellsbury wears out Archer and did so again with his eighth home run of the season. Sanchez followed with another bomb, his 13th. The trio was at it again in the eighth, this time against lefthander Enny Romero. Gardner singled, Ellsbury doubled and Sanchez was able to reach the first pitch of what was supposed to be the start of an intentional walk for a sacrifice fly to the warning track. Didi Gregorius added another sac fly.
Refsnyder was 0-for-3 but made an important defensive play, a lunging catch in right field to keep the game scoreless in the sixth.
The something old-something new formula had worked in Friday night’s marathon with Sanchez hitting his 12th homer and Mark Teixeira crushing his 11th career grand slam.
Tanaka has won each of his past six decisions over a seven-start stretch since Aug. 7. He is 5-0 with a 2.42 ERA with 47 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings seven starts against the Rays, with the Yankees winning each of those starts.
Sanchez is one of five players in major league history with 13 home runs in his first 35 games (also Wally Joyner, Mike Jacobs, Kevin Maas and Wally Berger). Ellsbury is a career .559 hitter against Archer in 34 at-bats. Gardner has multiple hits in each of his past three games with an at-bat (6-for-12). The Yankees are 11-1 when Gardner and Ellsbury each collect at least two hits in the same game.