Results tagged ‘ Tyler Austin ’

Yankees overcome Severino’s poor start

For an organization that relies so much these days on analytical statistics, the Yankees seem to be stubborn in the belief that Luis Severino is better suited as a starting pitcher than a reliever when the numbers at this point clearly suggest otherwise.

Severino got another start Saturday as the Yankees chose to shut down Mashiro Tanaka the day before the end of their season. In his prior start last Monday night at Toronto, Severino in my view got into a foolish exchange of purpose pitches with the Blue Jays and was ejected from the game in the second inning.

None of that nonsense occurred this time, but once again in a starting appearance Severino failed to fulfill the promise he displayed a year ago when he was 5-3 with a 2.89 ERA in 11 starts.

Saturday was Severino’s 11th start this season and the sixth time he did not pitch the minimum five innings to qualify for a winning decision, of which this year he has none. The righthander was gone two outs into the fourth after giving up three earned runs, five hits and two walks with five strikeouts.

The stats tell the story on Severtino. In 11 starts this year, he was 0-8 with an 8.49 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 47 2/3 innings. In 11 appearances in relief, he was 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA and 25 K’s in 23 1/3 innings. The Yankees continue to have faith that Severino will emerge as an important figure in the rotation someday, but the numbers lend evidence to the possibility that late-inning work may be a better fit for him.

His teammates got Severino off the hook by coming back from the 3-0 deficit to stall at least momentarily the Orioles’ path to the playoffs with a 7-3 victory. Baltimore’s loss opened the gates somewhat for the Blue Jays, Tigers and Mariners, all of whom were playing later in the evening. The sound man at Seattle’s Safeco Field was so happy he played the Frank Sinatra hit, “New York, New York,” before the Mariners’ game against the Athletics.

The Yankees fought back in small chunks the way teams that fall behind early are supposed to. Tyler Austin singled in the Yanks’ first run, in the fifth, and Chase Headley made it a one-run game with a two-out, RBI double in the sixth. Austin tied the score and chased Orioles starter Wade Miley with another opposite field home run, to right-center, in the seventh. All five of Austin’s home runs have been to the opposite field at Yankee Stadium and have either tied the score or put the Yankees ahead.

Baltimore’s bullpen came apart in the eighth and surrendered four runs. The normally reliable Brad Brach imploded starting with a walk to pinch hitter Jacoby Ellsbury with one out and giving up Headley’s second double on a ground ball over the first base bag and down the right field line.

Austin Romine thrust the Yankees ahead with a two-run single. After a two-out walk to Ronald Torreyes, who was on base three times, Brett Gardner greeted reliever Oliver Drake with a double to left field for two more runs.

Headley showed some heads-up base running on Gardy’s hit. Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy bumped into Headley between second and third. Headley ignored the stop sign put up by third base coach Joe Espada and continued to the plate. Third base umpire Jim Reynolds took note of Hardy’s interference, so there was a good chance he would have called obstruction on the shortstop but Headley made it home safely anyway.

Dellin Betances bounced back from some disappointing outings recently to withstand a leadoff single in the ninth by Michael Bourn to wrap things up by striking out the next three batters. It was a stirring October victory for the Yankees, albeit in a spoiler role.

Teixeira’s walk-off into the sunset

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.

Teixeira pulls cork out of Red Sox’ champagne

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.

Wrong!

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.

Big Papi comes up small this time

It figured that Tuesday night’s game would come down to David Ortiz threatening to break the Yankees’ hearts once again. Big Papi, who is retiring as a player at the end of the season, is making his final appearance at Yankee Stadium this week. The Yankees are planning to honor him Thursday night, which is something the team’s fans would likely not have welcomed if Ortiz had done something a lot more damaging than striking out to end the game.

The Yankees were clinging to a two-run lead in the top of the ninth inning when Ortiz stepped to the plate with runners on first and second and two out against Tyler Clippard. Ortiz went down swinging to conclude a 0-for-5 night. Big Papi stranded six base runners in his at-bats, which is not something the Yankees have seen from him very often.

What the Yankees have seen often, especially this season, has been success against David Price. All the Yanks’ runs in the 6-4 victory came against the lefthander, who has been a punching bag for them this year. In five starts against the Yanks, Price is 1-3 with a 7.89 ERA in 29 2/3 innings. The Yankees hit .373 with a .595 slugging percentage in 126 at-bats against Price this year.

The Yanks build leads of 3-0 and 4-2 on the strength of home runs by Gary Sanchez and Didi Gregorius. Sanchez’s two-run shot in the first inning was his 20th home run of the season, once again tying Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves for the major-league record for the quickest to that total in history just as the rookie catcher had done with his 18th and 19th. Gregorius also reached 20 for the season, extending his career high.

The Red Sox struck back with two runs off starter Luis Cessa in the sixth inning and two more off Tommy Layne in the seventh. That brought Price even before a couple of guys named Austin thrust the Yankees ahead once more.

Austin Romine lined a single to left to lead off the seventh. Tyler Austin followed with an opposite-field homer to right that proved the deciding blow. Yankees pitchers did a good job holding down the middle of Boston’s potent batting order as Ortiz, Mookie Betts and Hanley Ramirez were a combined 0-for-12.

The Yankees picked up a game on the Orioles, who lost in Toronto, but still trail Baltimore for the second American League wild card spot by four games with five remaining, the last three against the Birds at the Stadium. The Yankees’ 81st victory guaranteed them a non-losing record for the 24th consecutive season.

The Blue Jays paid a heavy price for instigating two benches-clearing incidents Monday night at Rogers Centre. J.A. Happ’s hitting Chase Headley in the second inning as retaliation for Luis Severino plunking Josh Donaldson the previous inning resulted in players on both clubs rushing onto the field.

Toronto reliever Joaquin Benoit sustained a torn left calf muscle during the scrum and is out for the remainder of the season, a major blow to the Blue Jays, who hold the firs AL wild card position. In addition, second baseman Devon Travis jammed his surgical left shoulder during the second altercation after Severino plugged Justin Smoak in the bottom of the inning and was not in the Jays lineup Tuesday night.

The Yankees set a club record Monday night when Layne got the save in the 7-5 victory. Layne became the ninth pitcher on the staff to record a save this year. The others are Aroldis Chapman with 20, Dellin Betances with 12, Andrew Miller with nine, Clippard with two and Chad Green, Ivan Nova, Blake Parker and Chasen Shreve with one apiece. Chapman, Miller and Nova have since been traded. The Yanks are the first major league club with nine pitchers earning saves in the same season since the Rays did it in 2009.

Wild night at Dodger, er, Yankee Stadium

The Yankees find fans all over the map as they travel around North America during the season. The boosters are akin to Notre Dame’s famed subway alumni.

I recall a game at Anaheim in the early 1990s when Don Mattingly came off the bench at whacked a pinch-hit, three-run home run in the top of the ninth inning that pushed the Yankees into the lead of a game they eventually won. As Mattingly rounded the bases, the cheers from the Big A’s stands were so loud you would have sworn you were in the Bronx, which is about as far from Orange County, California, as you can get.

Whatever the venue, be it Baltimore’s Camden Yards, certainly Tampa Bay’s Tropicana Field or even Boston’s Fenway Park, pockets of Yankees fans abound in the stands. Well, a collection of boisterous Dodgers fans gave the Yankees at taste of their own medicine Monday night at Yankee Stadium in the opener of a three-game, inter-league series.

A cluster of Dodgers fans filled a sizeable portion of the seats along the third base to left field line. The group went even so far as to mimic the roll call of the Yankees’ bleacher creatures but by calling out the names of the Dodgers instead. When the Dodgers rallied for a run right off the bat in the first inning, it seemed more like Dodger Stadium than Yankee Stadium.

Yankees fans finally responded with loud boos when fans near the left field foul pole unveiled a blue “LA” banner amid a three-run rally by the Dodgers.

There is plenty of history between these clubs. After all, they have been paired in 11 World Series, the most of any two teams. When the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn prior to 1958, they faced the Yanks seven times in the Series and won only once, in 1955. Since they made Southern California home, the Dodgers split four Series against the Yankees, winning in 1963 and ’81 and losing in 1977 and ’78.

Unfortunately, the Yankees did not give their fans much reason to retaliate in the 8-2 loss that caused them to lose ground in the Wild Card race. The Yanks remained two games behind the Orioles and dropped a game behind the Tigers for the second Wild Card berth.

It was a rough night for the Baby Bombers. Right fielder Aaron Judge and catcher Gary Sanchez made errors that led to runs. Starting pitcher Bryan Mitchell could not get out of the third inning, although four of the six runs against him were not earned, due to the two errors. Tyler Austin wore the golden sombrero with four strikeouts. The most effective Yankees pitcher was lefthander Richard Bleier, who tossed four shutout innings of hitless relief. He walked one batter, hit one and struck out three.

The Yankees’ runs came on two long home runs. Starlin Castro’s 21st dinger of the season landed in the second deck in left field in the second inning. Judge bashed a 432-foot bomb into the left-center field bleachers in the fifth. The Dodgers countered with late-inning home runs by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner, to the absolute delight of the Dodgers Blue crowd than drowned out Yankees Universe at least for one night.

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.

AL East title getting within Yanks’ reach

The way the Yankees are playing perhaps a wild card berth is not all they are playing for while they also break in some youngsters. The American League East title is not out of the question for the Yankees, who find themselves only four games behind the first-place Blue Jays in the loss column after Tuesday night’s come-from-behind and sweat-to-stay-ahead, 7-6 victory.

The Yankees have pushed themselves into the divisional race as well as the wild-card chase while at the same time giving vital playing time to a collection of rookies. Luis Cessa had his fourth straight impressive start (two earned runs in 5 2/3 innings), and Tyler Austin celebrated his 25th birthday with a two-run home run into the right-center field bleachers that gave the Yankees a momentary lead in the seventh inning.

Toronto regained the lead in the eighth on a two-run double by Kevin Pillar off yet another Yankees rookie, Ben Heller, one of eight pitchers employed by manager Joe Girardi in the game. He has stayed true to his belief that the Yankees can be contenders and rebuilders at the same time.

Several veterans came through big-time in the bottom of the eighth after Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez turned a 4-3 lead over to Jason Grilli, who opened the door with a leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury. One out later, Didi Gregorius tripled to tie the score. He scored the go-ahead run on a fly ball by Starlin Castro. Another walk by Grilli, to Brian McCann, who had homered earlier, was pivotal because Chase Headley followed with his 13th home run of the season.

And those runs proved necessary because Dellin Betances in trying to nail down his 10th save simply did not have it. He began the ninth with two walks, uncorked a wild pitch and gave up two infield singles that reduced the Yankees’ lead to one run and prompted Girardi to reach out to another reliever.

Blake Parker picked up his first save for the Yankees but had to share it with Brett Gardner. After Parker struck out Pillar looking for the second out, Justin Smoak threatened to break the game open for the Jays with a drive to deep left where Gardner leaped at the wall, crashed into it but held onto the ball, then checked his glove to make sure it did not fall out.

It was an incredible end to an incredible game in a season that the Yankees hope has an incredible finish. They have not swept a three-game series all season. Wednesday would be the perfect time to pick up their first.

It is getting awfully tight in the AL East

After playing .500 ball (3-3) on their trip to Kansas City and Baltimore, the Yankees got off to a strong start on the next to last homestand of the season. A 5-3 victory over the Blue Jays kept the Yankees 3 1/2 games behind the Orioles for the second wild card playoff berth and also moved them to 5 1/2 games of first place in the American League East.

That is still a lot of ground to make up with 26 games remaining in the regular season, but all but three of them are against teams in their own division, including six against the Blue Jays, whose hold on first place is teetering. The Red Sox, who had a late afternoon game at San Diego, were in position to tie Toronto for the division lead, and the Orioles are only two games back. It is getting tight in the division in the final month.

After doing the near impossible by failing to get a single extra-base hit in three games over the weekend at hitter-friendly Camden Yards, the Yankees broke out of that spell Monday at Yankee Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury ended the 27-inning, 89-at-bat extra-base hitless streak with a two-run home run in the first inning off knuckleballer R.A. Dickey that erased a 1-0 Yankees deficit. That was the first of three hits in the game for Ellsbury, who did not start in Sunday’s series finale at Baltimore.

Rookie first baseman Tyler Austin doubled leading off the third and scored on a one-out single by Ellsbury. Austin got another double with two out in the fourth, and that one sent home two runners and essentially ended the day for Dickey, who got the final out that inning but did not return for the fifth.

The return of extra-base power provided sufficient support for Masahiro Tanaka, who improved his record to 12-4. Although he told reporters after the game that he did not have his best stuff, Tanaka allowed only two runs over 6 1/3 innings. He did give up seven hits and three walks, but the Blue Jays were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position against him and 2-for-9 for the game.

Toronto also ran into some outs. Catcher Gary Sanchez threw out Melvin Upton Jr. trying to steal second base in the fourth. Jose Bautista inexplicably tried to go from first to third on a single to left by Edwin Encarnacion the next inning and was easy prey for Brett Gardner for the third out.

The Yankees sweated through the seventh inning when the Jays loaded the bases on three walks, one by Tanaka and two by rookie Jonathan Holder. Encarnacion’s third hit of the game was a single to right off another rookie, Ben Heller, that scored two runs. Tommy Layne, the Yanks’ fourth pitcher of the inning, prevented further damage by retiring pinch hitter Russell Martin on an infield fly.

Tyler Clippard retired the side in order in the eighth, and Dellin Betances did the same in the ninth for his ninth save in 10 tries since becoming the closer July 31. Betances has allowed only two earned runs in 30 1/3 innings (0.59 ERA) at the Stadium this year.

In 21 appearances since the All-Star break, Betances has given up two earned runs in 22 innings (0.82 ERA) with eight hits allowed, 10 walks and 34 strikeouts. He leads major-league relievers in K’s with 114. Betances led all relievers in strikeouts the previous two seasons with 131 last year and 135 in 2014. This is the first season in Yankees history in which three pitchers had at least nine saves apiece. Andrew Miller, now with the Indians, also had nine, and Aroldis Chapman, now with the Cubs, had 20.

Three walks were unusual for Tanaka, considering that he walked only one batter total in six August starts covering 39 innings. The Japanese righthander is 5-0 with a 2.08 ERA over his past six starts and has won five consecutive decisions for the first time since May 25 through June 17, 2014. Tanaka, who has a career record of 6-3 with a 2.34 ERA against the Blue Jays, is 4-1 with a 2.14 ERA in nine starts totaling 59 innings against AL East clubs this year.

The Yankees have scored exactly five runs in five of their past seven games and nine of 15 since Aug. 20.

Another Tanaka gem gets Girardi 800th Yankees win

Joe Girardi has been insisting since Alex Rodriguez was released nearly two weeks ago that the Yankees “have a shot,” which has been his way of saying his team can contend for a playoff berth. In chalking up his 800th victory as Yankees manager Wednesday at Seattle, Girardi got his club closer to that goal.

It is still a tall order, yet the Yanks’ 5-0 victory over the Mariners that completed a 4-2 trip to the West Coast was encouraging. The Yankees got back to their season-high four games over .500 and won a series over one of the club’s ahead of them in the race for the second wild-card slot.

Another contender, Baltimore, will come to Yankee Stadium for a three-game series starting Friday night to give the Yankees another opportunity to gain ground. All but three of the Yankees’ remaining 36 games are against American League East teams.

All year long, Girardi has fielded questions about how much better Masahiro Tanaka is when he gets extra rest. Well, Tanaka pitched on regular rest Wednesday and could not have been better. The righthander shut out the Mariners on six hits and a walk (his only one in his past 36 innings) with five strikeouts in winning his fourth straight start. Over that period Tanaka has pitched to a 1.63 ERA with 22 hits allowed, one walk and 25 strikeouts in 27 2/3 innings. He also improve his career mark against the Mariners to 5-0 with a 1.95 ERA in 37 innings.

Tanaka’s pairing with Hisashi Iwakuma was a marquee event in Seattle that drew a crowd of 41,546 to Safeco Field and was broadcast to Japan. Tanaka prevailed against his former teammate for the second time this season. The other occasion was a 4-3 Yankees victory April 17 at Yankee Stadium. Tanaka and Iwakuma played together for the Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles from 2007-11.

It marked the 13th game in major league history featuring two Japanese-born starting pitchers and the sixth time that the Yankees have been involved in such a matchup, the most of any team. The Yanks are 5-1 in those games). It is the fifth such game involving Seattle. The Yankees and Mariners were also involved in the very first meeting between Japanese starters May 7, 1999 when Hideki Irabu and the Yankees defeated Mac Suzuki and the Mariners, 10-1, at the Stadium.

Tanaka’s catcher, rookie Gary Sanchez, continued his torrid hitting with a solo home run in the first inning that staked his pitcher to a 1-0 lead. Sachez also doubled and drew two intentional walks to complete a trip in which he batted .455 with three doubles, four home runs and five RBI in 22 at-bats.

There were contributions up and down the lineup as every Yankees player reached base. Tyler Austin ended a 0-for-13 slump with an RBI single that scored Aaron Judge, who had been hit by a pitch but ended up with a brutal game (three strikeouts, one ground into double play). Brett Gardner celebrated his 33rd birthday by driving in a run and scoring two. Ronald Torreyes singled, his ninth hit in 16 at-bats (.563) with four doubles, one homer and three RBI on the trip. Mark Teixeira drove in a run with a single and Starlin Castro with a sacrifice fly. Dellin Betances bailed Tyler Clippard out of a jam in the eighth and notched his sixth save.

All of that helped Girardi become the sixth manager in Yankees history to reach the 800-victory mark. He joined Joe McCarthy (1,460), Joe Torre (1,173), Casey Stengel (1,149), Miller Huggins (1,067) and Ralph Houk (944).

Rookie pair take the baton from A-Rod

On the first day of Yankees baseball without Alex Rodriguez, the franchise turned back the clock to honor its World Series title club of 20 years ago and then offered a glimpse into the future with a starting lineup containing some new names.

And those names, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge, made history right away. They became the first teammates to hit home runs in their first major league plate appearances in the same game. On top of that, they did so in successive at-bats.

Austin was still getting high-fived in the dugout after his drive into the lower right field stands when Judge smoked a thunderous clout that hit off the facade above the batter’s eye in dead center field well above Monument Park.


Tyler Austin (left) congratulated  for first major-league home run by teammate Aaron Judge, who followed suit minutes later (USA Today photo). 

“You can’t draw it up better than that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We were even able to get both balls back. Austin’s bounced back onto the field, and Aaron’s went into the net. That was special.”

Each newcomer had a 2-for-4 game and displayed electric potential. Less than 24 hours after Yankees fans bid farewell to A-Rod, a new era was emerging before an enthusiastic crowd of 41,682 at Yankee Stadium. The paperwork of granting Rodriguez his unconditional release cleared a roster spot for Austin, who went to work immediately at first base for a resting Mark Teixeira.

After left fielder Brett Gardner, who has hit by a pitch Friday night, notified Girardi that he would not be a player Saturday, the Yankees got word to Judge, who was in upstate Rochester with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, around midnight. He made the lengthy drive down the Dewey Thruway, hit the city at around 6 a.m. and reported for duty four hours later.

It did not take either rookie long to get into the mix. Each touched the ball in the first inning, which I always think is important for a player making his big-league debut. It gets him in the game from the outset. Austin took a throw at first base from shortstop Didi Gregorius, and Judge made a nice play tracking a fly ball to right field by Evan Longoria.

Look, Friday night was a nice sentimental sendoff to a once great player, but after watching Rodriguez swing behind fastballs for the better part of a .200 season and hit even below that over the past seven calendar months, change was refreshing. Former Scranton teammates Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the field as well. The Yankees are definitely showing off a new look.

Some veterans did their part in the 8-4 victory over the Rays. Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Gregorius, in the unfamiliar role as cleanup hitter, also went deep as the Yankees matched their season high for homers in a game with five. The amazing part of that is that none in the quintet is over the age of 26.

The outburst helped Masahiro Tanaka offset two home runs by Tampa Bay first baseman Phil Miller, which accounted for all the Rays’ runs. Tanaka was pretty effective against everybody else in a no-walk, eight-strikeout effort over seven innings.

Before the game, a reunion of the 1996 World Series champions brought some of that era’s favorites onto the field for a pregame ceremony in which players emerged from the gate between the visitors’ bullpen and Monument Park and walked to their former positions — Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Jimmy Key, Cecil Fielder, David Cone, John Wetteland, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Girardi, among others. Arriving on carts were coaches Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and Jose Cardenal in one and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre with manager Joe Torre in another. There was also a tribute to the late Don Zimmer on the center field screen.

This was the unit that rebounded from the playoff loss to Seattle the year before to begin a dynastic run that led to in six American League pennants and four World Series titles over eight seasons. As Yankees fans witnessed Saturday, it has to start somewhere.