Results tagged ‘ Stephen Drew ’

Key contributions from keystone duo

It may be a very long time before the Yankees see a keystone combination with the combined offensive productivity of Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano of the not so long ago. Two games into the 2016 season, however, there has been much to enjoy about the combined efforts of this year’s shortstop-second base combo of Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro.

The pair have done more damage at the bottom of the lineup than those at the top for the Yankees. Castro, who had a two-run double in Tuesday’s Opening Day loss, probably had the most important hit Wednesday night as the Yankees came off the canvas for a 16-6 romp of the Astros. After Michael Pineda nearly gave up all of a 6-1 lead as Houston closed to 6-5 in the top of the second, Castro crushed a three-run home run in the bottom of the inning to put the Yankees back in command.

It was a four-hit, five-RBI night for Castro, who was acquired from the Cubs in an offseason trade for pitcher Adam Warren. After watching Stephen Drew struggle to hit .200 last year, it has been a treat so far to see a Yankees second baseman handle the bat so well. In addition to his three-run bomb, Castro knocked in two more runs with singles in the six-run first inning and the three-run seventh. In only his second season at second base after being moved there from shortstop last year,  Castro has looked comfortable in the field as well.

Gregorius, who settled in nicely as Jeter’s successor in 2015 after a shaky start, has broken out of the gate much better this year. He hit an impressive home run Tuesday and followed that with three singles Wednesday night. From the 8-9 holes, Castro and Gregorius are batting a combined .563 with two doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 16 at-bats. Contrast that with the 1-2-3 hitters for the Yankees, who have combined for one hit in 22 at-bats (.045). 

With Castro’s double and Gregorius’ home run Tuesday, it  marked the first time since at least 1913 that the Yankees’ starting middle infield pairing both had extra-base hits and RBIs on Opening Day. The YES Network reported that Castro and Gregorius, both 26, are the Yankees’ youngest regular starting middle infield pairing since 1977 with second baseman Willie Randolph, 22, and shortstop Bucky Dent, 25, who played together for three-plus seasons.

Gregorius became the third Yankees shortstop to homer on Opening Day. Jeter did it three times, all of which came on the road — April 2, 1996 at Cleveland, April 5, 1999 at Oakland and April 1, 2002 at Baltimore. Dent went deep April 9, 1981 at Yankee Stadium against Texas.

It would be too much to ask Castro and Gregorius to duplicate some of the seasons Jeter and Cano had together, but so far so good.

 

Severino continues to move up rotation ladder

The Yankees continue to hold out hope that they can catch the Blue Jays and win the American League East title, although the calendar keeps betraying them. They lost another day Sunday when their 6-1 victory over the White Sox was trumped by the Jays’ comeback, 5-4 victory at Toronto on Josh Donaldson’s ninth-inning home run.

So the space between the Yankees and the Blue Jays remains four games with seven to play. Yet manager Joe Girardi and his players are not yet ready to discuss the possibility of being in the wild card game, which grows more likely by the day.

It was hard not to think of that Sunday as the Yankees reduced their magic number for qualifying for the postseason for the first time in three years to three with a victory that featured six shutout innings from Luis Severino, who in a very short time has moved up the rotation ladder.

“He knows how to pitch,” catcher Brian McCann said of Severino, who just may enter the conversation once Girardi decided to talk about his wild-card game plans.

With Masahiro Tanaka still nursing an aching hamstring, it calls to question which pitcher would start the wild-card game that if the season ended tomorrow would be played at Yankee Stadium. At this point, the Yankees cannot know for sure who their opponent will be so setting up a starter now would be foolish.

Girardi did not announce his rotation for the final home series, a four-game set against the Red Sox, beyond Ivan Nova in the first game Monday night against Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox will follow with Rick Porcello Tuesday night, Wade Miley Wednesday night and Rich Hill Thursday night while the Yankees have listed TBA (to be announced).

If he is healthy, Tanaka could get the call Tuesday or Wednesday night. Thursday night would seem doubtful if Tanaka is in line to start the wild-card game, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then again, Girardi could choose Michael Pineda to start that game, and after what everyone saw Sunday Severino might have worked himself into the mix.

The rookie righthander scattered five hits over six innings with one walk and two strikeouts in improving his record to 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA. It was the second career scoreless start for Severino (also Aug. 29 at Atlanta). Over his past seven starts (since Aug. 22), he is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Severino is the first pitcher in franchise history to allow two or fewer runs in eight starts within his first 10 career major-league games.

The final score is a bit misleading because it was a 1-0 game for five of Severino’s six innings. The Yankees got a run without a hit in the first inning off Erik Johnson thanks to two errors by first baseman Jose Abreu but did not score again until Dustin Ackley led off the sixth with his ninth home run, his third since joining the Yankees. They added a second run that inning on a passed ball by catcher Rob Brantly.

Ackley has also worked himself into the playoff mix for the Yanks. Obtained July 30 in a trade from the Mariners, Ackley was out for a month with a back injury but has batted .300 with seven RBI in 40 at-bats since and could displace Stephen Drew as the Yanks’ regular second baseman.

Drew has been battling an inner-ear infection the past 10 days, an ailment that has caused dizziness and affected his balance. Drew and Brendan Ryan, who played third base Sunday, have been in a platoon at second base much of the second half.

The Yankees were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position before they got two hits in a row in those circumstances in the seventh — a single by Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter that loaded the bases and another single by Jacoby Ellsbury that got a run home. Both Yankees runs in the eighth were courtesy of rookies — Greg Bird with an RBI single and Slade Heathcott with a sacrifice fly.

The Yanks finished 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base, but those two runs in the eighth meant that Girardi did not have to use Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Sunday’s crowd of 38,690 boosted home attendance to 3,036,446 that marked the 17th consecutive season that the Yankees have drawn at least three million fans to the Stadium. The 2015 paid home attendance will reflect only 80 dates because of the single-admission doubleheader Sept. 12 against the Blue Jays.

CC hurt by weak ‘D’

CC Sabathia hoped to an impact on this pennant race. It was felt when he limped off the field Aug. 23 that his 2015 season might be over. Wearing a brace on his arthritic right knee Wednesday night, Sabathia returned with a serviceable if unspectacular and ultimately disappointing performance.

The disappointment part had more to due with the leaky defense of second baseman Stephen Drew, whose two misplays during Sabathia’s 4 2/3 innings resulted in three runs, only one of which was earned but was nevertheless tainted.

“That was really the difference in the game,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of those runs.

The Yankees lost, 5-3, to a Baltimore club that won two of three games at Yankee Stadium, a tough prelude to their upcoming four-game showdown against the Blue Jays that starts Thursday night.

Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons, got a pass from Yankees fans because his fielding has mostly been a positive trait. Wednesday night, however, he turned out to be a thorn in Sabathia’s side.

In the first inning with a runner on first base and none out, Drew bobbled a bouncer by Gerardo Parra that might have been a double play. Drew was able to recover and get an out at first base, but Nolan Reimold was able to take second. One out later, he scored on Chris Davis’ flare single to right field.

Sabathia settled into a nice rhythm over the next two innings while Carlos Beltran thrust him into a 3-1 lead with a solo home run (No. 15) in the first inning and a two-out, two-run single in the third.

The Orioles threatened in the fourth on a leadoff walk to Davis and a single by Jonathan Schoop. Sabathia recovered nicely by striking out Caleb Joseph, retiring Steve Pearce on a fly ball to the warning track in left field and J.J. Hardy on a grounder to third.

The same scenario presented itself in the fifth as Dariel Alvarez walked and Reimold singled to start the inning. Parra bunted the runners into scoring position, and Sabathia got a big strikeout of Manny Machado on a pitch off the plate.

Girardi estimated before the game that he could get 85 pitches from Sabathia, which is precisely the number he got, except that CC’s 85th pitch, a 1-2 fastball, hit Davis and ended the lefthander’s outing before he could qualify for his first victory in eight starts since July 8.

Adam Warren took over with the bases loaded and appeared to have gotten out of the jam by getting Schoop on a grounder to third, but Drew mishandled third baseman Chase Headley’s peg for what would have been an inning-ending forceout for an error that allowed in two runs which tied the score.

Pearce, who was robbed of an extra-base hit in the second inning on a wall-climbing catch by left fielder Dustin Ackley, finally got something out of a long drive when he homered with one out in the eighth. The Orioles added an insurance run in the ninth on an RBI double by Davis, who had a big series (4-for-8, two runs, one double, one home run, four RBI, four walks).

For the second straight game, the Yankees were shut down by the Orioles’ bullpen, who held them hitless for six innings. As strange as it may seem, the work of Sabathia may have been the most encouraging aspect of this game.

Yanks take 12-1 lead, then have to sweat it out

The Yankees ended the trip in Boston the way it began in Atlanta with a blowout victory, although matters got a bit dicey in the late innings, which is typical of life at Fenway Park.

Scoring runs was what this trek was all about for the Yankees, which they sorely needed following their prior disappointing homestand. Perhaps the upcoming, 10-game homestand against the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays that begins Friday night will be more successful for the Bombers now that they have loosened up offensively.

A 13-8 victory over the Red Sox in a late-afternoon start made it a 5-1 trip for the Yankees, who outscored opponents by a combined score of 57-24.

It did not take long for David Ortiz to break out of his funk. The day after he took a golden sombrero with four strikeouts Tuesday night, Big Papi broke the spell in the first inning with a double to right field that scored Mookie Betts, who led off with a double off the Green Monster but was still stuck on second base with two out.

Boston’s glee was short-lived, however. The Yankees responded in the second inning with an eight-run outburst that began with a two-run home run by Greg Bird. Yes, that was Bird at first base for the Yankees as manager Joe Girardi came to his senses and kept Alex Rodriguez as the designated hitter instead of using him at first base against a left-handed starting pitcher, in this case rookie Henry Owens.

With the injury to first baseman Mark Teixeira that has sidelined him for two weeks and likely will keep him out another fortnight, Girardi had been contemplating playing Rodriguez a first base on occasion even though he displayed no proclivity at the position when used there earlier this season. The feeling here is that A-Rod should not wander off the DH position at this time of year after spending all season in that role. Moving to a position in the field for a 40-year-old who has hardly used a glove all season did not seem to make much sense.

So Rodriguez stayed at DH with Bird at first base, and did that not work out for the Yankees as they chased Owen in that second inning? Bird’s homer following a one-out walk to Chase Headley was the rookie’s fourth hit in 10 at-bats against lefthanders, so it could mean that platooning him may not be necessary.

And A-Rod struck the blow that knocked out Owen, a two-run single, then trotted home after Carlos Beltran slugged the first pitch from reliever Ryan Cook over the Monster for the Yanks’ third home run of the inning. John Ryan Murphy had followed Bird’s blow with one of his own.

The inning also included yet more hits from red-hot Didi Gregorius (single) and Stephen Drew (double), both left-handed hitters, and another run-scoring hit off a lefty by Chris Young. Drew kept it up with a three-run home run an inning later as did Gregorius with a solo shot in the fifth.

Boston fans who remember his importance as the shortstop on the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series champions may wonder why Yankees fans have been so rough on Drew. Actually, Yanks fans have been awfully patient with Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons.

After starting the trip 0-for-4 with his average falling to .192, Drew vaulted over the Mendoza the past four games with nine hits in 12 at-bats (.750) with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI and is now hitting a robust .211.

Gregorius, another Yankees infielder who took a while to win over the fans, also had a huge trip with 14 hits in 24 at-bats (.583), one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. The shortstop walked three times and scored seven runs and lifted his batting average from .253 to .272.

An emotional spot for the Yanks was the appearance of Andrew Bailey in relief of winning pitcher Mashiro Tanaka (11-6) in the seventh inning. Bailey, the 2009 American League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award with the Athletics, last pitched in the majors two years ago for the Red Sox and came back from two shoulder injuries. The righthander showed some rust in giving up two walks and a single, but just getting back on a big-league hill was a major hurdle for the New Jersey native who now lives in Connecticut.

However, the lack of shutdown work by Bailey and Bryan Mitchell, who gave up two runs in the eighth, forced Girardi to use Dellin Betances in what was once a 12-1 game to get out of a bases-loaded situation with a strikeout of Pablo Sandoval and a force play by Zander Bogaerts.

Caleb Cotham did not make Girardi’s job easier as the skipper was forced to bring in Andew Miller in a non-closing situation after the first two Boston batters in the ninth reached base on doubles. Miller finally put an end to the trip that kept the Yanks within reach of Toronto in the American League East and bolstered their hold on a wild-card berth.

Breaks go Yankees’ way at Fenway

The Yankees have not had many breaks go their way lately, such as Mark Teixeira’s MRI. One night after squandering a bevy of scoring opportunities in stranding 14 base runners, the Yankees capitalized on a big break offensively and another defensively in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over the Red Sox.

The way Boston starter Rick Porcello pitched it was a wonder the Yankees got on the board at all. There was no doubt about the one earned run charged to Porcello. Brett Gardner got all of a 0-1 pitch to hook it around Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole in right field for his 13th home run, in the eighth inning.

The inning that made the difference for the Yankees was the fifth. After a leadoff single by Alex Rodriguez, Porcello struck out Chase Headley and Greg Bird and seemed to have gotten the third out as well when Didi Gregorius hit a bouncing ball toward first base. What should have been an easy out went under the glove of first baseman Travis Shaw for an error that put runners on second and third.

Stephen Drew, whose bat has come alive the past week, lined a double to left-center that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Yankees lead. Gardner’s homer apart, Drew’s hit was the hardest allowed by Porcello, who had the Yankees walking back to the dugout for eight innings with 13 strikeouts, 10 of which were on called third strikes.

The two-run double was poetic justice for Drew, who was robbed of a hit in the third by second baseman Brock Holt with a nifty back-handed grab to start an inning-ending double play.

Michael Pineda may not have been as overpowering as Porcello but was just as effective in ending a personal three-game losing streak for his first winning decision since July 10, also at Boston. Only one of the Red Sox’ 18 outs against Pineda was recorded in the outfield as Pineda struck out seven batters and kept the ball in the infield for 10 outs.

Jackie Bradley doubled twice off Pineda. Bradley scored the Red Sox’ only run on a two-out single by Pablo Sandoval in the third. Two innings later, Bradley doubled with two outs, but Pineda kept him from scoring by getting a called third strike by Mookie Betts.

The other major break for the Yankees came in the eighth as the Red Sox threatened against Dellin Betances, who entered the game the previous inning. Singles by Betts and Zander Bogaerts gave the Sox runners on first and second with one out and David Ortiz at the plate.

On a double steal attempt, Yankees catcher Brian McCann threw to third baseman Chase Headley, who put the tag on Betts. Or did he? Third base umpire Vic Carapazza delayed his call to see if Betts’ foot was on the bag while Headley leaned over and kept his glove on Betts’ right ankle.

Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo challenged the call based on Betts’ claim that Headley pushed him off the bag, which is an illegal maneuver but one not covered on replays. The replay crew in Chelsea agreed with the call by the umpire, whose decision it was on the field to determine whether Betts was pushed off the bag or not. Carapazza obviously did not think so.

It was a big break for the Yankees because it meant instead of runners on second and third with one out it was runner on second and two out. Betances finished matters by striking out Ortiz. It was not a good night for Big Papi, who was punched out four times. In the ninth, Andrew Miller added three more Ks for his 29th save.

For a while there, it appeared as if the Yankees would get one more break as the Indians rallied in the ninth inning at Toronto to tie the score, but the Blue Jays prevailed in the 10th to maintain their 1 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

More tests for Teixeira’s ailing right leg

Mark Teixeira had hoped to be healthy enough to play in Boston, but while the Yankees were preparing for Monday night’s series opener at Fenway Park their first baseman was headed back to New York for more tests on his right leg.

Teixeira injured the leg Aug. 17 when he hit a foul ball off an area near his right shin. He has started one game and totaled three at-bats since then. Tex has been able to swing a bat — he takes BP regularly — but has difficulty running. When he awoke Monday and was still in pain, Teixeira decided another round of tests was needed.

Rookie Greg Bird has been playing first base in Teixeira’s place and entered Monday night’s game batting .255 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 51 at-bats. Yankees manager Joe Girardi also said using Alex Rodriguez at first base is no longer out of the question, which would not be the case if Teixeira were healthy. Since April 27, Rodriguez has played only two innings in the field (one at third base and one at first). A-Rod has worked out at first base the past three days. He was back in the lineup Monday night as the designated hitter after having made only two pinch-hitting appearances over the weekend in Atlanta with the DH prohibited in National League parks.

CC Sabathia, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of right knee inflammation, has resumed throwing on the sidelines. General manager Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that Sabathia would return to the rotation immediately upon his reinstatement from the DL.

The Yankees’ 20-6 victory over the Braves Sunday marked the second time this season they scored at least 20 runs in a game. The other was a 21-5 victory July 28 at Texas when they had a seven-game lead in the American League East that has since been overtaken by the Blue Jays. The Red Sox are the only other team that has scored 20 or more runs in a game this season — a 22-10 victory August 15 over the Mariners at Fenway Park.

The Yanks are one of 18 major league teams since 1900 that have scored at least 20 runs in multiple games in a season and just the second since 2001 (the Phillies did it twice in 2008). The Yankees have done it five times — three times in 1939 and twice apiece in 1931, 1949 and 1999. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the third time since inter-league play began in 1997 that an AL team scored at least 20 runs in an NL ballpark.

The Yankees’ nine-run seventh inning was their third time scoring at least that many in an inning in the past 31 games (nine in the seventh Aug. 4 against the Red Sox, 11 in the second July 28 at Texas).

Stephen Drew, who grew up in Georgia, went 4-for-4 with three runs, one home run, four RBI and two walks Sunday at Atlanta. He became the third Yankees player this season to reach base safely six times in a game. The others were Brett Gardner (three hits, three walks July 28 at Texas) and Jacoby Ellsbury (four hits, one walk, one hit by pitch May 3 at Boston. Drew and Chase Headley (3-for-3, three runs, one double, one home run, four RBI, two walks) were the first pair of Yankees teammates to each get three hits, three runs and four RBI in the same game since Aug. 23, 1999 by Tino Martinez (4-for-6, three runs, four RBI) and Scott Brosius (4-for-6, 4 runs, six RBI). Also in that game, Girardi was 4-for-6 with a career-high seven RBI.

Yankees ‘Marching Through Georgia,’ baseball-style

Who would have thought Joe Torre was such a prophet back in 1996? The Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series to the Braves at Yankee Stadium, but the ever-cool Torre promised Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner he would bring the Series back to the Bronx by winning the three games at Atlanta.

“That is my town,” said Torre, who both played and managed for the Braves and lived in Atlanta for more than a decade. “We’ll win the games there and wrap up the Series in Game 6 here.”

Lord knows what Steinbrenner made of such a boast other than to respond, “You better!”

Thanks to the pitching of David Cone and Andy Pettitte, the hitting of Bernie Williams and Jim Leyritz and the fielding of sore-legged Paul O’Neill, the Yanks did precisely that by sweeping the Bravos in their own yard and capping off the Series with a victory at home over Hall of Fame-bound Greg Maddux in Game 6.

And the Yankees have not stopped winning in Atlanta ever since, including this weekend by completing a three-game sweep with a 20-6 battering of the Braves.

Chase Headley and Stephen Drew each homered and drove in four runs. Drew reached base in all six of his plate appearances with three singles and two walks to go with his 16th dinger that got his season batting average over .200 (.201).

Jacoby Ellsbury started the parade against Braves starter Julio Teheran with a three-run home run in the second inning after two were out. The Yankees made it 7-0 in the third with four more two-out runs on two-run home runs by Headley and Drew.

Nathan Eovaldi, who has benefit from abundant run support all season, was fine through five innings but gave up three straight hits at the start of the sixth. All three runners eventually scored as the Braves cut the deficit to 8-5.

The Yankees pulled away with a vengeance in a 27-minute top of the seventh as they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. A bases-loaded single by Alex Rodriguez pinch hitting got the first two runs in, and the line just kept moving on RBI hits by Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Greg Bird, Headley and Drew.

Three more runners crossed the plate in the eighth, one on a double by Branden Pinder, the first extra-base hit by a Yankees pitcher in six years. The Yankees finished with 21 hits with each spot in the batting order getting at least one hit and one run. At the top of the order Ellsbury and Gardner batted seven times apiece in a nine-inning game.

All those runs helped push Eovaldi’s record to 14-2, the best winning percentage (.875) for a starting pitcher this season. The righthander extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts over which he is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.

McCann had a splendid homecoming to his former stomping grounds in batting .300 with one double, one home run and six RBI in 10 at-bats in the series. He walked five times and scored five runs. Didi Gregorius also had a big series by going 7-for-12 (.533) with a double, a homer and seven RBI.

So after dropping two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium in which they batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs (1.3 per game), the Yankees bashed away at a .365 clip with 19 extra-base hits and 38 runs (12.7 per game) against the Braves.

That is what playing in Atlanta can do for them.

The Yankees’ .857 all-time winning percentage at Turner Field based on a 12-2 record is their highest at any ballpark in club history (minimum two games played). They have an eight-game winning streak dating back to June 24, 2009 at the Ted, which is in its 19th and final season as the home of the Braves, who will move to the suburbs next year. The only longer winning streak by an opponent is a nine-gamer by the Phillies from June 6 to Sept. 18, 2008.

The Yankees have won all five road series at Turner Field (3-0 this year, 3-0 in 2012, 2-1 in 2009, 2-1 in 2000 and 2-0 in 1998). They scored at least six runs in nine of their 14 games at the Ted.

Including postseason play, the Yankees’ all-time record in Atlanta is 17-2 (.895), featuring a perfect 5-0 in World Series play. In addition to those victories Torre promised the Boss in 1996 in the last three games played at old Fulton County Stadium, the Yanks won both World Series games at Turner Field in their four-game sweep in 1999.

After what the Yankees saw of Braves pitching over the weekend, they can be sure there will be no World Series in Atlanta this year.

Eovaldi answers Girardi’s call to step up

With CC Sabathia going on the disabled list Monday because of inflammation in his right knee that could scratch him for the rest of the season, Yankees manager Joe Girardi called for other starters in the rotation to step up.

Let it be said that Nathan Eovaldi stepped up.

Eovaldi had nothing to show on his record for his eight formidable innings in the 1-0 victory over the Astros Monday night that sent the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Blue Jays in the American League East.

Birthday boy Brett Gardner (32) scored the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, who played in his 1,000th AL game. Beltran has also played in 1,269 games in the National League and became the sixth (and only active) player to play at least 1,000 games in each league. The others: Bob Boone, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff and Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield.

The Yankees had relief pitcher Oliver Perez to thank for this one. The lefthander who wore out his welcome with the Mets years ago faced three batters, walked each one (one intentionally) and threw a wild pitch before Beltran sent everyone home with a fly ball to deep center field off righthander Chad Qualls.

The winning decision went to Andrew Miller (2-2), who pitched the ninth inning in continuing the string of zeroes Eovaldi set up.

Although he was stuck with a no-decision, Eovaldi remained undefeated in 12 starts since his last loss June 16 at Miami. The hard-throwing righthander went into triple digits several times in lighting up the radar gun and was at his best in getting out of tight spots.

Eovaldi showed the sort of grit Sabathia has been known for by pitching out of four jams in his scoreless duel with Houston starter Scott Feldman, who also fashioned eight shutout innings.

After a first inning in which Astros hitters watched three fastballs clocked at 101, 100 and 101 from Eovaldi, two one-out singles put him to his first test, which he passed with flying colors by striking out Chris Carter and Hank Conger.

That in itself is not remarkable considering Houston has struck out more than 1,100 times already this season. The Astros have the lowest team batting average (.240) in the AL but the most home runs (169). It is often feast and famine for the Stros, who swing and miss a lot.

Two of the three walks Eovaldi issued came in the fifth, but he ended the threat by getting Marwin Gonzalez on a ground ball to second base. Houston threatened again in the sixth when Carlos Correa led off with a single and Colby Rasmus walked. A sacrifice bunt by Carlos Gomez advanced the runners, but Eovaldi saw to it that they went no farther.

Rookie first baseman Greg Bird fielded a hard grounder by Evan Gattis and caught Rasmus wandering too far off second base to get the second out before Luis Valbuena ended the inning with a flyout to center.

In the eighth, a wild throw to first base by Chase Headley for his 20th error put Correa at second base with one out. Eovaldi set down Rasmus and Gomez on routine fly balls. In the Gomez at-bat, Eovaldi hit 100 on the gun with his 106th and 107th pitches. Remarkable.

Eovaldi has always been a hard thrower, but he has developed into more of a pitcher this year for several reasons, beginning with using his power to work his fastball inside. He has gotten ahead in the count regularly to make use of his split-finger fastball and has been working on a slider, which Girardi felt was the best he has seen all year from him.

Over his past 12 starts, Eovaldi is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 73 2/3 innings that has dropped his season ERA from 5.12 to 4.00. He is 5-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 12 starts at Yankee Stadium covering 73 innings.

The Yankees had several chances to give Eovaldi a lead. In the second inning, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew singled with none out, but Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a fielder’s choice, Gardner struck out and Alex Rodriguez flied out.

Drew’s hit brought his batting average to .200 for the first time since his fifth at-bat of the season April 8 when he was 1-for-5. It came in his 227th plate appearance. Alas, Drew was hitless in his next two at-bats to fall back to .199.

Brian McCann, who reached base in all four times up with three singles and a walk, began three innings with singles, including the seventh when he crossed to third on a single off the right field wall by Beltran. Unfortunately, the slow-legged catcher tried to score on a fly ball to center but was thrown out at the plate by Gomez.

McCann’s walk in the ninth was the third given up by Perez and loaded the bags for Beltran, who spared Girardi from having to use Mark Teixeira as a pinch hitter with the huge sacrifice fly.

HOPE Week: Chris Singleton’s message

The Yankees began their seventh annual HOPE Week (Helping Others Persevere & Excel) Monday with the story of Chris Singleton, a baseball player at Charleston Southern University, Chris was a normal student and college athlete when tragedy changed his life.

His mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45 – a minister at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., and speech pathologist and girls track coach at Goose Creek High School – was among nine parishioners who lost their lives in a premeditated hate crime at the church this past June.

Following a memorial at his former high school the day after the shooting, Chris said about the perpetrator, “We already forgive him for what he has done. There’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

Chris Singleton and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Chris Singleton and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Chris’ positivity has galvanized a community. Despite losing the only parent who took an active role in his life, he continues to radiate wisdom beyond his 19 years. More than a month after the tragedy, he posted on Twitter July 22, “The good outweighs the bad even on your worst days.”

Chris, along with his sister Camryn, 15, brother Caleb, 12, and his college baseball coach and mentor, Stuart Lake, of Charleston Southern University, were surprised Monday morning on the set of NBC’s The Today Show at Rockefeller Center by Yankees pitcher Dellin Betances, outfielder Brett Gardner and designated hitter Alex Rodriguez.

Singleton was later joined at One World Observatory for a private tour and lunch with pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Justin Wilson, outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Chris Young, infielder Stephen Drew and former second baseman and coach Willie Randolph before going to Yankee Stadium where he took part in batting practice with the team and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Yanks end slide before showdown with Blue Jays

The charter flight from Cleveland to Toronto Thursday night got a whole lot cheerier for the Yankees, thanks to an 8-6 victory over the Indians that ended a five-game losing streak and provided a renewed sense of confidence heading into a three-game series against the Blue Jays, who have won 11 games in a row and sit in first place in the American League East by a half-game.

For the first time in more than a week, the Yankees got a big night from their 1-2 hitters, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, and the offense supplied ample support for their pitching. Nathan Eovaldi extended his personal winning streak to seven games with 5 1/3 serviceable innings, and Andrew Miller rebounded from his first blown save of the season two nights ago to notch save No. 25.

Ellsbury ended a 0-for-19 slump by going 2-for-4 with a walk and a run scored. Gardner reached base four times in five plate appearances with three singles and a walk, drove in three runs and scored one. At the bottom of the order Stephen Drew was on base four times (home run, double, safe on an error, walk), scored four runs and knocked in two.

Brian McCann, who accounted for the Yankees’ only run in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Indians, was back with his power stroke in the first inning Thursday night with another home run, a three-run jack this time, that gave the Bombers a rare early lead in games over the past week.

McCann connected with two out off Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer to score Ellsbury and Gardner, who made it seem like old times by reaching base together on a single and a walk, respectively.

McCann became the fifth catcher in the modern era (since 1900) to hit at least 20 home runs in nine-or-more seasons (2006, ‘08-’14). He joins a group that also features Mike Piazza (11 times: 1993-2002, ‘06), Johnny Bench (11 times: 1969-75, ‘77-’80), Yogi Berra (10 times: 1949-58) and Gary Carter (1977-80, ‘82, ‘84-’87). McCann also joined Piazza and Berra as the only catchers to hit 20 or more homers in at least eight consecutive seasons.

Twice the Yankees opened up four-run leads over the Indians only to have the Tribe scratch back within striking distance. They even got a run off Miller in the ninth before he settled matters.

Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.36 ERA in 58 2/3 innings and held opposing hitters to a .254 batting average during his winning streak. It was also his sixth straight victory on the road with a 3.57 ERA in 30 innings. Against AL Central clubs this year, Eovaldi is 6-0 with a 3.00 ERA in 39 innings.

It was a rough major-league debut for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre callup Greg Bird, who spelled Mark Teixeira at first base and was hitless in five at-bats with two strikeouts. But he had some good cuts and played well enough in the field to enjoy that flight to Canada with the rest of his new teammates.