The winning formula works again

Anyone tired of “No Runs DMC” yet? How could any Yankees fan be? Particularly in close games toward the late innings, the anticipation of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman having an impact on the game whets the appetite of any Yankees fan.

Naturally, this cannot be the formula every game or else the trio of power pitchers could get burned out. But for now, the only burning going on is to the opponents’ bats. The group that radio voice John Sterling calls “Murderer’s Throw” contributed to the Yanks’ third straight victory in this homestand, a 2-1 verdict over the Twins in which Minnesota May have derived satisfaction in at least having someone reach base.

Yankees relievers had retired 31 batters in a row before Joe Mauer’s opposite-field single to left off Chapman with two out in the ninth inning. It was only the third hit for the Twins, their first since the third inning and ended a stretch of 15 consecutive batters retired.

It was fools’ gold for Minnesota, however, as Chapman ended the game with a strikeout of Brian Dozier, who had accounted for the Twins’ run with a home run leading off the second inning against Michael Pineda.

That was the only blemish on the outing by Pineda, who allowed just one other hit and one walk with eight strikeouts in his six innings of work. The Yankees tied the score in the fifth against Twins starter Ervin Santana on back-to-back, two-out singles by Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran.

The Yanks threatened again in the sixth, but a rally was choked off when Starlin Castro grounded into a double play. Though the score was tied, manager Joe Girardi went to his favorite formula as he brought in Betances at the start of the seventh in hopes that the Yankees could push across another run.

That did not occur until the eighth against reliever Ryan Pressly. Alex Rodriguez started the inning with an infield single. A hard single to right by Brian McCann sent pinch runner Aaron Hicks to third base. After Mark Teixeira, back in the lineup after 20 days on the disabled list because of torn cartilage in his right knee, struck out, Castro hit a potential double-play grounder to shortstop Eduardo Escobar, who booted the ball for his second error of the game as the eventual winning run scored.

The inning ended on a disputed double play in which McCann was thrown out at home by left fielder Robbie Grossman after catching a liner by Chase Headley. Video replays seemed to indicate that catcher Kurt Suzuki’s tag was high on McCann’s right leg as his left foot crossed the plate, but plate umpire Alfonso Marquez’s call stood after a Yankees challenge.

So the margin remained slim for Chapman, who from the Twins’ viewpoint was at least hittable compared to Friday night when he blew three hitters away with his high-octane fastball. Gardner needed to get on his horse to run down a drive to left-center by Eduardo Nunez. Grossman also hit the ball in grounding out to shortstop before Mauer’s line single. Dozier was not as fortunate as Chapman used sliders to put him away.

The Yankees, now a game over .500 at 37-36, improved their record to 12-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They had combined for 10 consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past four games before Mauer’s hit. Overall, Yankees relievers have 44 consecutive strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver.

To make roster space for Teixeira, the Yankees placed first baseman Ike Davis on waivers. If he clears, he could be optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as insurance in the event Teixeira’s knee flares up again. Rob Refsnyder’s surprising play at first base and overall versatility made him more valuable to the Yanks than Davis at this time.

‘No Runs DMC’ lives up to its billing

Much has happened to the Yankees this season that was not foreseen. There has been the struggle to get their record above .500, the rash of injuries to first basemen, the long stretches of offensive futility, the inconsistency of the starting pitchers, etc.

Yet there has been one aspect of the 2016 Yankees that has been precisely as advertised — the shutdown work of the three power arms at the back end of the bullpen. A formula of Dellin Betances in the seventh inning, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth has been damn near perfection. The trio was at its best again Friday night in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Twins in front of a Mickey Mantle Bobblehead crowd of 44,808 at Yankee Stadium.

When starter Masahiro Tanaka got the final out of the sixth inning with the Yanks leading, 4-3, there was a strong sense of anticipation in the crowd that this one could be put in the books with the club getting back to par at 36-36.

The inspiration behind the “No Runs DMC” t-shirts on sale at the Stadium were at their most dominant with three more perfect innings, following a similar performance in the Yankees’ prior victory Wednesday. Betances and Miller each pitched a shutout inning with one strikeout. Chapman outdid himself in the ninth for his 14th save by striking out the side with fastballs regularly going into three figures, including a high of 103 miles per hour.

The self-destructing Twins aided the Yankees with three errors that resulted in Minnesota failing to hold leads of 2-0 and 3-2. A bobble of a grounder by Austin Romine by shortstop Eduardo Escobar started the Yankees’ two-run third that overcame their first deficit against Twins starter Tommy Milone. Consecutive two-out hits by Carlos Beltran (double) and Alex Rodriguez (single) plated the runs that made the score 2-2.

After the Twins went ahead by a run in the fourth, the Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning and filled the bases with none out without a ball leaving the infield on a walk to Chase Headley, a bunt single by Didi Gregorius and an error by Minnesota first baseman Joe Mauer, who failed to globe a sharp grounder by Aaron Hicks. Romine’s fly ball to the warning track in left field tied the score. A two-out single by Rob Refsnyder put the Yankees in front for the first time in the game and for good.

Tanaka (5-2), who was not particularly sharp, held the Twins down for the next two innings to set the table for the most intimidating bullpen in the majors since the Reds’ notorious “Nasty Boys” of the 1990 World Series champion Reds.

Hicks, who came to the Yankees from the Twins in an off-season trade for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy, now in the minors, stung his former teammates with an opposite-field home run to left for an insurance run in the eighth that was as welcome as it was, as it turned out, unnecessary.

The Yankees are 11-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They have combined for eight consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past three games in which all have worked together and have not allowed a ball out of the infield in the past two games. Yankees relievers overall have 40 straight strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver and have retired 23 batters in a row.

Mickey still packs ’em in

After all these years, Mickey Mantle remains a draw at Yankee Stadium. Forty-eight years after he last played for the Yankees and 21 years after his death, the Mick helped fill the seats at the Stadium Friday night.

Two of Mickey’s sons, Danny and David, threw out ceremonial first pitches before the Yankees’ game against the Twins. With all the construction around the Stadium these days, getting to the park on time is quite a chore, particularly on Friday nights. But the stands were filling up pretty well before Masahiro Tanaka unleashed the game’s first pitch.

The attraction was a bobblehead promotion depicting Mickey Mantle wearing a gold crown to symbolize his winning major league baseball’s triple crown for hitting 50 years ago for leading the American League in 1956 in batting average (.353), home runs (52) and runs batted in (130), which earned him the first of his three AL Most Valuable Player Awards.

The bobbleheads were distributed to the first 18,000 people in attendance. No wonder so many arrived so early.

Yankees go homer-happy at the Stadium

Notes from the Yankees’ 9-8 victory over the Rockies Wednesday at Yankee Stadium on Starlin Castro’s home run leading off the bottom of the ninth inning against reliever Jason Motte:

It was the Yankees’ second “walk-off” victory this season. Brett Gardner’s solo home run in the ninth inning April 23 at the Stadium beat the Rays. The Yanks have overcome a four-run deficit in each of their past two victories (also June 18 at Minneapolis). The Twins open a three-game series at the Stadium Friday night. Those are their two largest deficits the Yankees have overcome in victories in 2016. They are 16-9 in their past 25 home games (since April 22) after starting the year 3-6 at Yankee Stadium.

Tye Yankees were 1-3 against Colorado this year. Since 1913, the Yankees have still only twice been swept by an opponent in a season series of at least four games: 0-4 against the Mets in 2013 and 0-12 against the Athletics in 1990.

Castro, who had 3-for-5 with two runs and a run batted in, hit his first career “walk-off” home run on the second pitch of the ninth. It marked his sixth career “walk-off” hit. Wednesday was his fifth game this season with at least three hits.

Chase Headley hit the Yankees’ first grand slam of the season in the second inning. It was his fourth career grand slam, first with the Yankees and first since Sept. 9, 2012 for the Padres against the Diamondbacks. Headley’s fourth home run of the season was his first since May 25 against the Blue Jays.

Since 2010, Yankees hitters lead the major leagues with 44 grand slams, 11 more than the team with the next highest total, the Red Sox. The Yankees had been one of three American League teams without a grand slam this season, along with the Twins and the Indians. In 2015, the Yanks hit an AL-best seven grand slams (the Giants led the majors with nine).

Carlos Beltran hit his 19th home run in his 68th game this season, a three-run shot in the seventh. That matches his home run total for all of 2015, in 134 games. Beltran has homered in three of his past five games and six of 13. Each of his seven homers in June has come with runners on base (only three of his first 12HR were with runners on. Since May 19, Beltran has a slash line of .339/.385/.706 with 20 runs, seven doubles, 11 homers and 32 RBI in 29 games and 109 at-bats. His 50 RBI for the season are the most by a Yankees hitter through 71 team games since 2011, when Mark Teixeira had 55 RBI and Curtis Granderson 54.

Brett Gardner, who had 1-for-3 with two walks and scored a run, has reached base safely in nine of his past 13 plate appearances. He drew two walks for the second straight game and has a .432 on-base percentage at home. Gardner got his team-high fourth outfield assist in the first inning when he threw out Charlie Blackmon at the plate.

Didi Gregorius tied the score at 8 with a two-out, RBI single in the seventh. It was his third career game-tying RBI in the seventh inning or later, his first since Sept. 13, 2013 for the Diamondbacks against the Brewers (also a seventh-inning single).

The Yankees scored eight of their nine runs on home runs (grand slam, three-run homer, solo homer). It was their second game this season with multiple homers with multiple runners on (also April 6 against the Astros). Five of the Yankees’ past 17 homers (since May 6) have come with at least two runners on (they had none from April 8 through June 5). The Yanks ended a five-game home run drought at the Stadium.

CC Sabathia allowed six runs (five earned) in 4 1/3 innings, which stopped a string of eight starts in which he had pitched five or more innings. The lefthander had allowed six runs (four earned) in his previous seven starts combined during which he pitched to an ERA of 0.82 over 44 innings. Sabathia turned his right ankle twice during his outing and left the Stadium with it tightly wrapped. X-rays were negative, and he said he expected to make his next start.

Dellin Betances (one inning, two strikeouts), Andrew Miller (one inning, two strikeouts) and Aroldis Chapman (one inning, two strikeouts) combined to retired all nine batters with six strikeouts. After Ryan Raburn’s two-run home run off Anthony Swarzak in the fifth inning, Yankees relievers retired the final 14 Colorado batters of the game. The Yanks are 10-0 when Betances, Miller and Chapman pitch in the same game.

Are Yankees contenders or punching bags?

Before Tuesday night’s game against the Rockies, the opener of a nine-game homestand, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said his team has to play better for it to be considered a contender for a playoff berth. He may have to say the same thing Wednesday.

The only contender the Yankees looked like Tuesday night was Chuck Wepner, the professional bleeding machine, in an 8-4 loss to Colorado, which is now 3-0 against them this year.

In or out of Coors Field, the Rockies can hit. Often derided for their inflated statistics at home, the Rockies peppered 15 hits all over Yankee Stadium. In three games against the Yankees, the Rockies have 43 hits, 18 of them for extra bases, including seven home runs.

One night after hitting five solo home runs at Miami, Colorado led off this game with yet another solo shot, by Charlie Blackmon, on a drive that struck the foul pole next to the third deck. The Rox added two more runs that inning against Ivan Nova.

The final score might have been worse if not for some erratic fielding by the Rockies. Errors led to the Yankees’ first two run. In the fifth inning, Carlos Beltran got thrown out at second base trying to advance on a sacrifice fly by Alex Rodriguez. Beltran also misplayed a ball in right field that became a gift double to Carlos Gonzalez, who ultimately scored on a two-out double by Mark Reynolds.

“Mistakes really hurt us,” Girardi said.

A lot of folks in the Stadium crowd of 34,760 got all over third base coach Joe Espada for holding up Didi Gregorius at third base in the sixth inning when it appeared he had a shot at an inside-the-park home run. That might have been the case if Gregorius had run hard out of the box instead of jogging to first base and not turning on the jets until midway between first and second.

The Yankees had 10 hits but were 0-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Colorado batters struck out 13 times, but only once against Nova, whose career record in three starts against the Rockies is 0-2 with an 8.40 ERA.

“He didn’t make the pitches he had to,” Girardi said. “The top four guys in their lineup gave him a hard time.”

Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado and Gonzalez combined for 11 of Colorado’s hits with eight runs and six RBI. Blackmon homered again in the fourth. Arenado ended the solo-homer stretch by the Rockies with a two-run blast off Nick Goody in the sixth.

Nova’s season ERA rose to 5.18. That gives the Yankees three of their five starting pitchers with ERAs above 5.00. Nathan Eovaldi is at 5.02 and Michael Pineda is at 5.82. The staff ERA leader at 2.20 is CC Sabathia, who will get a chance to turn things around Wednesday.

Top media honor for Suzyn Waldman


Suzyn Waldman and her Gracie Award.

Congratulations to my colleague and longtime friend Suzyn Waldman for being honored Tuesday by the Alliance for Women in Media with a Gracie Award.

The Alliance is an organization that recognizes exemplary programming created by women, for women and about women in all facet of media and entertainment. The Gracie Awards, names for the late radio and television comedian Gracie Allen, honors individuals who have made inspirational contributions to the industry.

That would be Waldman, who was the first voice heard on WFAN Radio when it began in 1987 and who has partnered with John Sterling the past 12 seasons on radio broadcasts of Yankees games. Suzyn received her award for sports programming at the Alliance’s annual luncheon at Cipriano’s in midtown Manhattan.

For young people who may be unaware of Gracie Allen, she was the wife and partner of George Burns, who shared a long marriage and career in vaudeville, motion pictures, radio and television. Known for her illogical logic and malaprop sayings (a precursor to our beloved Yogi Berra), Gracie retired from show business in 1958 and died in 1964 of heart disease at the age of 58.

Yanks to honor Orlando dead in homestand opener

The Yankees opened their last homestand before the All-Star break Tuesday night with the first game of a two-game series against the Rockies that concludes Wednesday afternoon, followed by a three-game set against the Twins Friday night, Saturday and Sunday afternoons and then a four-game series against the American League West-leading Rangers Monday through Wednesday nights and Thursday afternoon next week. After the June 30 game, the Yankees will not play at Yankee Stadium again until July 15.

Prior to the Yankees-Rockies game Tuesday night, the victims of the recent mass killing in Orlando, Fla., will be recognized in an on-field ceremony. Preceding a moment of silence, players from both teams will line up on each baseline as managers Joe Girardi of the Yankees and Walt Weiss of the Rockies lay a rainbow wreath at the plate in memoriam.

The Rockies are coming off a 5-3 victory Monday night at Miami in which all eight runs were scored on solo home runs, the highest run total in a major league game in which all the runs came on solo homers. Mark Reynolds, who played for the Yankees in 2013, hit two of the Rockies’ five homers. The others were by Nick Hundley, Trevor Story and Charlie Blackmon. The Marlins got two home runs from Marcell Ozuna and one from Giancarlo Stanton. Each home run was hit with the bases empty.

Mickey Mantle Triple Crown Bobblehead Night will take place Friday, June 24. The first 18,000 in attendance will receive a bobblehead, courtesy of AT&T.

The Mantle bobblehead marks the return of limited-edition collectible player bobbleheads, presented by AT&T. The set of four — Mickey Mantle Triple Crown June 24, Didi Gregorius Aug. 7, Dellin Betances Sept. 10 and Roger Maris Oct. 1 — is the fourth series in a collection of Yankees bobbleheads. The Mantle bobblehead distribution comes 60 years after his 1956 Triple Crown-winning season. The Maris bobblehead falls on the 55th anniversary of his 61st home run in 1961 season to establish a then-major league single-season home run record that stood for 37 years.

The Hard Rock Cafe will present Friday, June 24, the first of Little Steven’s Underground Garage Concert Series, powered by JBL, from 5 to 6 p.m. in the Pepsi Food Court on the third-base side of the Field Level with Wyldlife. Cameras will also display the show on televisions throughout the Stadium. Admission to the pregame concert is included with a valid game ticket for that date. Future acts are currently scheduled to perform throughout the summer. More information on the series can be found at http://www.yankees.com/bands.

Ticket specials will run Tuesday, June 21 (Military Personnel Game), Wednesday, June 22 (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel Game, Senior Citizen, Student and Youth Game), Saturday, June 25 (Youth Game), Sunday, June 26 (Youth Game), Monday, June 27 (Military Personnel Game), Tuesday, June 28 (Military Personnel Game), Wednesday, June 29 (Military Personnel and Student Game) and Thursday, June 30 (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen and Youth Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Saturday, June 25 – Yankees vs. Twins, 1:05 p.m. Commemorative Masahiro Tanaka Baseball Card Day, presented by Topps, to all in attendance.

Sunday, June 26 – Yankees vs. Twins, 1:05 p.m. Brian McCann Figurine Day, presented by NewYork Presbyterian Hospital, to first 18,000 in attendance.

Wednesday, June 29 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m. Cap Night, presented by Pepsi, to first 18,000 in attendance.

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. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

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.

Yanks’ trip smoothing out after ‘rocky’ start

After the disappointment of getting swept in a two-game series at Denver, the Yankees are on the verge of trumping that with a four-game sweep at Minneapolis. They are three-quarters of the way there with very impressive victories over the Twins heading into a Father’s Day finale Sunday with Nathan Eovaldi opposing Minnesota’s Ervin Santana.

Friday night, the Yankees struck early with four first-inning runs on the way to an 8-2 victory behind Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), who was sharp as a tack (one run, seven hits, no walks, five strikeouts) over eight innings. Carlos Beltran, who missed both games against the Rockies, whacked a two-run home run in that first inning to stop a 0-for-12 slump.

Beltran added another two-run homer at a more clutch moment Saturday. The opposite-field blow to left off righthander Kevin Jepsen tied the score with one down in the eighth inning. The Yankees continued their comeback against the Twins’ ragged bullpen with three runs in the ninth, then had to hold their breath somewhat when Aroldis Chapman gave up back-to-back homers to Eduardo Escobar and pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki to survive, 7-6.

Give Suzuki credit. He fouled off four consecutive 102-mph fastballs from Chapman before connecting on yet another 102-mph heater. But most of the credit Saturday went to the Yankees, who had fallen into a 4-0 hole against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco, who had a four-hit shutout working through six innings.

Leading off the seventh, Beltran got one of his rare leg hits these days with a dribbler to the left side on which Eduardo Nunez could not make a bare-handed play. Alex Rodriguez, who had a three-homer game at Target Field in late July last year, followed with a drive to right off a 1-2 fastball for his eighth home run of the season and career No. 695.

The Yankees got two more hits that inning but pushed across no more runs. With one out in the eighth, another infield single, this time by Brett Gardner, preceded a home run, Beltran’s 18th of the season. Gardner had been hitless in his previous 14 at-bats and was 1-for-15 on the trip.

Lefthander Fernando Abad, who was having a fine season out of the bullpen until the Yankees came to town, got the last out of the eighth, which turned out to be the only one he would get in the game. He began the ninth with a walk to Chase Headley. You could always hear the uh-oh coming out of Twins manager Paul Molitor’s mouth in the dugout.

Didi Gregorius, who has broken a 1-1 score with a three-run home run off a first-pitch fastball from Abad Thursday night, dropped down a beauty of a bunt for a single. After a Juan Centeno passed ball advanced the runners, Rob Refsnyder was walked intentionally to load the bases.

Righthander Ryan Pressly came on and struck out pinch hitter Starlin Castro but fell into a full count with Jacoby Ellsbury and had to come in with a fastball which Ellsbury knocked into right-center for a two-run single. A wild pitch by Pressly moved crucial as it turned out. It moved Refsnyder to third from where he scored on a fly ball by Gardner. That run proved vital when Chapman gave up the two homers after he had struck out the first two batters.

So it was a shaky 13th save for Chapman that preserved the winning decision for Andrew Miller (4-0), who had shut down Minnesota with two strikeouts in the eighth. Anthony Swarzak also played a big part in the game with a 1 2/3 hitless innings of two-strikeout relief.

The Yankees’ late rallies took Michael Pineda off the hook. The righthander had another of his weird games where he was overpowering (nine strikeouts) but unable to pick up key third outs of innings. Three of the Twins’ four runs off Pineda in 5 1/3 innings were scored after two were out on an RBI single by Escobar in the second and a two-run homer by Korean slugger Byung Ho Park in the fourth. An error by Pineda in the sixth led to a run on a sacrifice fly by Park.

With 55 hits, including a dozen Saturday, the Yankees are averaging 11 hits per game on the trip. Beltran and Gregorius had three hits apiece Saturday. Beltran has homered in six of his past 13 games, eight of 19 and 13 of 36. Gregorius has had a huge trip with 10-for-20 (.500), two homers, six runs and nine RBI. The bunt single off Abad increased Didi’s batting average against left-handed pitching to .383 in 60 at-bats. He is hitting .287 overall.

Headley, who could not get off the Interstate for the first two months, has his average up to .260 while batting .471 in 17 at-bats on the trip and .417 in his seven-game hitting streak. Now if only the Yankees could get Brian McCann re-started. The catcher took an 0-for-4 collar Saturday, is hitless in his past 12 at-bats and in a 4-for-32 (.125) rut that has shrunken his season average to .207.

Didi no longer an easy out against lefties

Opposing managers should be thinking twice about now about bringing in left-handed relievers to face Didi Gregorius. The book on the shortstop a year ago when he joined the Yankees was that he struggled against left-handed pitching. Gregorius has reversed that this season and because of that the Yankees were able to end their four-game losing streak Thursday night with a 4-1 victory over the Twins.

Twins manager Paul Molitor, who has already suffered plenty with his 20-46 club, made the old-book move in the seventh inning by replacing starter Kyle Gibson with lefthander Fernando Abad to face Gregorius with runners on second and third and one out in a 1-1 game.

One pitch later, Molitor came to regret his move. Gregorius got all of the first-pitch fastball for a three-run home run in the middle of the right field stands. The timing could not have been better since manager Joe Girardi could go with Formula A out of the bullpen, using Dellin Betances in the seventh (no runs, one hit, one strikeout), Andrew Miller in the eighth (no runs, no hits, two strikeouts) and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth (no runs, no hits, one strikeout, 12th save). The Yankees are 9-0 when all three of those relievers appear in the same game.

Gregorius is batting .368 in 57 at-bats against left-handed pitching, the highest average of any left-handed hitter in the major leagues, but until Thursday night he had not hit for much power. Only three of his 21 hits off lefties were for extra bases, all doubles. His sixth home run of the year was his first off a southpaw.

The timing of Gregorius’ homer was also beneficial to CC Sabathia, who was able to get the winning decision that improved his record to 5-4 with a 2.20 ERA. It did not come easy for Sabathia, who pitched with runners on base in four of his six innings. The Twins stranded nine runners with only two hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position against him.

One of those hits was a two-out, RBI single by former teammate Eduardo Nunez that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Sabathia had worked out of jams in the first and second innings and did so again in the fifth even after he lost a double play on a reverse of an umpiring call.

Meanwhile, Gibson, who entered the game with a 10.72 career ERA against the Yankees, pitched to the minimum number of batters through five innings. The Yankees had two hits, but the runners were erased. Alex Rodriguez erased himself by getting thrown out at second trying to stretch, and Chase Headley was out on the front end of a double play the Twins turned against Ike Davis.

Gibson started coming apart in the sixth, but the Yankees did not take full advantage of it. They loaded the bases with none out on a single by Gregorius, a double by Headley and a four-pitch walk to Davis. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center, but only one run scored. Brett Gardner then popped out to second, and Carlos Beltran, back in the lineup after a sore left knee kept him out of the two-game series at Denver, grounded into a double play.

The Yankees kept putting runners on base in the seventh. Rodriguez led off with an infield single, and Brian McCann walked. Starlin Castro sacrificed the runners up a base each before Molitor made the fatal move for a lefty reliever to face Gregorius, one Yankees hitter who is enjoying this trip (.545 with two home runs and seven RBI in 11 at-bats).

Sabathia kept his hot streak in place. Over his past seven starts, he is 4-2 with a 0.82 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 44 innings. In seven starts on the road this season, CC is 4-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 42 innings. In his past 14 starts against the Twins, Sabathia is 10-1 with a 2.66 ERA.

Then again, Target Field has been a friendly venue for the Yankees. They are 17-5 in the Minneapolis yard that opened in 2010.

Rarified air does not help Yankees

The two-game trip to Denver was supposed to be a soft spot in the Yankees’ schedule. Yeah, right. Despite facing starting pitchers with earned run averages as high as the altitude in Colorado, the Yankees lost both games. Rockies starters Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis were clearly more effective than the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova.

The Yanks put up a good fight Tuesday night. After falling behind by nine runs through seven innings, the Yankees exploded with a seven-run eighth against the underbelly of the Colorado bullpen, but their own relief corps got roughed up as well in a 13-10 loss, a typical Coors Field score. The Rockies kept it up Wednesday with a 13-hit assault to win, 6-3.

The holes in the batting order did not help. With no designated hitter in a National League park, Alex Rodriguez was reduced to one at-bat as a pinch hitter Tuesday night. With no Carlos Beltran, out with a sore left knee that was drained, or Mark Teixeira, on the 15-day disabled list due to a right knee cartilage tear, the Yankees’ lineup Wednesday featured as its cleanup hitter Chase Headley, who has hit all of three home runs.

All seven of the Yankees’ hits Wednesday were singles. They have just seven extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one home run) over their past five games after totaling 21 extra-bases hits (12 doubles, nine homers) in the four-game sweep of the Angels last week.

Coors Field is a place where struggling hitters can improve their statistics, which the Yankees certainly did Tuesday night but less so Wednesday. But for those who thought the Rockies would be easy pickings, it should be pointed out that both clubs entered play Wednesday with the same record — 31-33 — and Colorado is now one game better.

Manager Joe Girardi was justified in getting annoyed with media reports about the 11-game, home-and-home swing this week and next against the Rockies and Twins being a chance for the Yankees to gain ground against sub-par competition. Minnesota may have the worst record in the American League, but that does not mean the Twins intend to roll over and play dead the next four days in Minneapolis or next weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Girardi is correct when he says if the Yankees do not play well it does not matter who the opponent is. And after the recent five-game winning streak at home, the Yankees have now lost four games in a row. In three of those games, starting pitchers allowed five or more runs. Considering the shape of the Yankees’ batting order these days, that is too much to overcome on a regular basis.

Anyone who thought the Rockies were pushover knows nothing about the first five hitters in that lineup. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story combined to go 22-for-43 (.512) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs and 14 RBI with an .860 slugging percentage in the series. Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning Tuesday night off Andrew Miller was the first extra-base hit the lefthander has allowed to a left-handed batter all season. The Rockies also scored a run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning Wednesday.

The key to beating Colorado is to bash their pitchers. The Yanks did score 13 runs in two games, but their pitchers could not contain the Rockies, who scored in nine of the 16 innings they batted in the series.

Nova had a string of 24 scoreless innings in inter-league play end when he gave up a run in the third inning. The Yankees took the lead in the fourth on four singles and a throwing error by Rockies catchers Tony Wolters, but Nova was touched for four runs in the fourth that featured a walk and a stolen base by Blackmon, a run-scoring single by LeMahieu, a two-run home run by Arenado, a double by Story, and a two-out, RBI single by Mark Reynolds. Nova had a six-game winning streak in inter-play stopped and is now 8-2 against NL competition.

One bright spot about going to Minneapolis is that the Yankees will be back in the AL with Rodriguez available as the DH. Perhaps Beltran’s knee will allow him to return to the lineup as well. CC Sabathia, who has been the Yankees’ most consistent starting pitcher, draws the first assignment of the series Thursday night at Target Field.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 27 other followers