Yanks cannot overcome Pineda’s poor 1st inning

Too bad Monday night’s game did not start until the second inning for Michael Pineda. After a miserable first inning, the righthander settled in and was lights out through the sixth. It was another one of those Jekyll-and-Hyde outings for Pineda, whose record fell to 6-11 in the 8-5 loss to the Royals.

The Yankees are on a trip to Kansas City and Baltimore against two of the clubs they are chasing for the second wild-card slot and have a great opportunity to work themselves up the standings, so Monday night’s loss to KC and its fifth starter, Dillon Gee, was a major disappointment. The Orioles and the Mariners also lost, but the Royals, Tigers and Astros all won, so the Yankees remained 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race.

The Royals jumped on Pineda for three runs in the first, a rally fueled by two stolen bases and three straight two-out singles. Opposing hitters are batting .341 with two outs against Pineda, which has been his Achilles heel all season. His catcher, Gary Sanchez, got the third out of that inning by throwing out Alex Gordon attempting to steal second base.

Pineda then proceeded to retire 15 batters in a row, including seven on strikeouts, before the Royals got another base runner on a leadoff single in the seventh by Kendrys Morales. Salvador Perez followed with a single, which ended Pineda’s night. Tommy Layne got an out, but Blake Parker took the Yankees out of the game by giving up a three-run home run to Alcides Escobar and two more runs on three singles.

The Yankees, who got a run in the fourth on back-to-back, two-out doubles by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro, batted around in the eighth to get back in the game against an erratic Chris Young with only two hits in an inning that featured a catcher’s interference (in another Jacoby Ellsbury at-bat), a hit batter and two walks. Kelvin Herrera quieted the Yanks and went on to a four-out save.

The frustration of the game got to manager Joe Girardi, who has issues with plate umpire Brian O’Nora throughout the game and was ejected in the eighth during an at-bat by Gregorius, who then smoked a two-run double.

The Yankees emphasized the importance of winning this game when rookies Aaron Judge and Tyler Austin were both lifted for pinch hitters, Brett Gardner and Mark Teixeira, respectively, in the eighth-inning rally.

Second verse same as the first

Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez became the first rookie in major league history to win the Player of the Week Award in consecutive weeks Monday as he was named American League Player of the Week again for the period ending Aug. 28.

Sanchez batted .522 with seven runs, three doubles, five home runs and nine RBI over six games and 23 at-bats to claim his second straight weekly honor. He was the first player to win the award in successive weeks since the White Sox’ Albert Belle in 1998 (July 6-12 and July 13-19). Sanchez is the fourth Yankees player to win consecutive awards. The others were Don Mattingly in 1987 (July 6-12 and July 13-19), Dave Winfield in 1983 (Aug. 1-7 and Aug. 8-14) and Graig Nettles in 1974 (April 8-14 and April 15-21). Sanchez has already won the award as often as the only other Yankees catcher honored, Thurman Munson, another two-time winner.

Sanchez finished the period first in extra-base hits (eight), slugging percentage (1.304) and total bases (30); tied for first in home runs; second in batting average, on-base percentage (.607) and RBI; tied for third in runs; tied for fourth in hits and tied for sixth in doubles and walks (five).

Sanchez began his award-winning week last Monday night with a two-homer game against the Mariners at Seattle’s Safeco Field, his second career two-homer game after also hitting two jacks Aug. 16 against the Blue Jays. The Dominican Republic native became the first player in franchise history with two multi-homer games within his first 19 career games.

Saturday against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium, Sanchez hit his third home run in three days and the 11th of his career. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the right-handed-swinging, 23-year-old Triple A call-up became the first Yankees player since Tino Martinez (April 5-15, 2005) to club nine home runs in a 10-game span, dating back to Aug. 16.

In his 23rd career game, Sanchez became the quickest player in major league history to hit his first 11 home runs. Additionally, his 11-homer month extended his Yankees rookie record for home runs in a calendar month. The Brewers’ Ryan Braun was the previous bug-league rookie to launch 11 homers in a calendar month, in July of his 2007 National League Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award-winning season.

Sanchez was the AL Player of the Week for Aug. 8-15 when he had a slash line of .524/.600/1.190 with four runs, two doubles, four homers, six RBI, four walks and one stolen base in 25 plate appearances.

Teammate Starlin Castro (.370, 6 R, 3 HR, 6 RBI) was also in contention for last week’s award, along with Blue Jays third baseman Josh Donaldson (.391, 9 R, 3 HR, 10 RBI); Orioles pitcher Kevin Gausman (2-0, 0.00 ERA, 13 IP, 11 K), Orioles third baseman Manny Machado (.394, 13 H, 3 HR, 7 RBI); Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia (.600, .643 OBP, 15 H, 2 SB); Red Sox pitcher David Price (2-0, 1.29 ERA, 14 IP, 15 K); Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera (.435, .739 SLG, 10 H, 4 2B) and Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano (.462, 5 R, 12 H, 2 HR).

A former teammate of Sanchez was also honored Monday. Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Jonathan Holder was named International League Pitcher of the Week for Aug. 22-28 after posting two saves and striking out 16-of-20 batters over three scoreless appearances in which the righthander allowed two hits in six innings. In Sunday’s victory over Rochester that clinched a postseason berth for the RailRiders, Holder struck out 12-of-13 batters in four scoreless innings, including 11 K’s in a row. In 12 appearances at Triple-A, Holder is 2-0 with six saves and a 0.89 ERA and 35 strikeouts in 20 1/3 innings.

3-game sweep keeps eluding Yankees

Maybe the Yankees just wore themselves out the previous two games. After combining for 27 runs and 36 hits Friday night and Saturday, the Yanks came out flat against the Orioles Sunday and were shut out in failing once again to sweep a three-game series.

It marked the seventh time this season that the Yankees won the first two games of a series but could not complete the sweep. Overall in three-game series this year, the Yankees have won 14 and lost 16. They have been swept in three-game sets four times but have not yet done so themselves. Oddly, they have two four-game series sweeps and one two-game series sweep.

CC Sabathia put the Yankees in position to get over this hump until the seventh inning when a strange hit set up what proved a decision blow. With a runner on first and two out, Nolan Reimold hit a spinning bloop of a liner that bounced past Starlin Castro, who was also distracted by the runner, Jonathan Schoop, coming into the area.

Sabathia then sealed his own fate in the game with a walk to 9-hole hitter Hyun Soo Kim that loaded the bases. Manager Joe Girardi called on righthander Adam Warren to face righty-swinging Steve Pearce, who lined a 2-2 fastball through the middle for a two-run single that pushed Baltimore’s lead to 3-0. Pearce had broken the scoreless tie the inning before with his 12th home run.

Pearce, who was reacquired by the Orioles Aug. 1 in a trade from the Rays, helped douse a promising Yankees rally in the third inning by throwing out Gary Sanchez at third base for the first out, a cardinal sin. Sanchez, who had two more hits and is batting .405, led off the inning with a single. On a single to right by Mark Teixeira, Sanchez noticed no one was at third base and made a break for it. Third baseman Manny Machado, however, made a quick recovery, took Pearce’s strong, accurate throw and tagged out Sanchez. Didi Gregorius followed with a single, but the rally died when Castro grounded into a force on another nice play by Machado and Brian McCann struck out.

This turned out to be another fruitless game for the Yanks against Orioles righthander Kevin Gausman, who shut them out on seven hits with nine strikeouts in seven innings. Gausman is 1-1 with an ERA of 0.99 in 27 2/3 innings against the Yankees this year but is 5-9 with a 4.41 ERA against everyone else.

The Orioles padded their lead in the eighth when major league home run leader Mark Trumbo, who had struck out twice and grounded into a double play, belted a two-run shot (No. 40) to left off rookie Ben Heller.

Sabathia became the 39th pitcher in American League history to achieve the 3,000 plateau in career innings (3,002). . .It was career victory No. 1,411 for Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who moved past Al Lopez into 26th place on the all-time list. . .Ronald Torreyes had 2-for-3 with a double in extending his hitting streak to seven games during which he is batting .538 with six runs, six doubles, one home run and four RBI in 26 at-bats to boost his season average to .298. . .Sanchez was the AL Player of the Week for the period ending last Sunday and is a candidate again for the period ending this Sunday. The rookie catcher had a slash line of .522/.604/1.250 with seven runs, three doubles, five home runs and nine RBI this past week.

Sanchez (who else?) leads Yankees’ charge

The Yankees finally made it to five games over .500 for the first time this season in pushing their record to 66-61. Four times previously, they came within one game of that mark only to lose the next game. The Yanks made sure that did not happen again Friday night as they let the Orioles know they have them in their sights.

The Yankees also got over the monotony of a scoreboard line of five runs, nine hits and no errors, which is what it was in each of the three games of their prior series at Seattle. The only match this time was no errors because the Yankees cranked out 14 runs and 18 hits.

This will probably come as no big surprise, but Gary Sanchez had another big night for the Yankees. The catcher, who is putting himself in possible contention for the Jackie Robinson American League Rookie of the Year Award, drove in four runs with a home run, a double and a single. The Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up continues to rake at a .403 clip with 10 home runs and 20 RBI in 20 games and 77 at-bats.

This is Willie McCovey stuff.

What do I mean by that? In their second season in San Francisco, the Giants brought up McCovey, the future Hall of Fame first baseman, July 30, 1959. He went 4-for-4 with two triples and two RBI and kept right on hitting to where he batted .354 with nine doubles, five triples, 13 home runs and 38 RBI and was the unanimous National League Rookie of the Year winner despite playing in only 52 games and totaling 192 at-bats. Sanchez is on a similar pace with 35 games remaining in the regular season.

“He seems to center ball he hits,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It has been exciting to watch.”

Sanchez, who has eight home runs in his past nine games, became the third player in major league history to hit 10 homers in his first 22 career games. The others were the Rockies’ Trevor Story this year and the Red Sox’ George Scott in 1966. Sanchez’s 20 RBI in his first 22 big-league games is the third most in club history. Joe DiMaggio had 22 in 1936 and Hideki Matsui 21 in 2003. With 10 homers in 19 games this month, Sanchez set a franchise rookie record for home runs in a single month. They are the most in a month by any Yankees player since Alfonso Soriano hit 13 homers in August 2013.

Of the nine players in the Yankees’ starting lineup, seven had multiple hits in the game. In addition to Sanchez’s trio of knocks, Starlin Castro also had three with Brett Gardner, Jacoby Ellsbury, Mark Teixeira, Chase Headley and Ronald Torreyes chiming in with two apiece. Teixeira and Headley joined Sanchez in the home run column. Tex and Gardner each had three RBI. All nine starters had hits and eight scored.

There was more good news on the mound for the Yankees as Luis Cessa improved his record to 4-0 by winning his second straight start. If not for Manny Machado, who drove in all three Orioles runs off Cessa, the righthander would have been working on a shutout. He gave up only three other hits and a walk with five strikeouts in six innings. After pitching to a 5.30 ERA in 17 relief outings totaling 18 2/3 innings, Cessa is 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA in 12 innings in his first two big-league starts.

The Yankees’ 14-4 victory over Baltimore also sliced a game off the deficit between them and the Orioles for the second wild card slot. The Yanks trail the O’s by only 3 1/2 games.

A case of musical bases for the Yankees

That was quite a second inning for the Yankees Friday night. It is not every game that you see the entire lineup reach base in succession.

Yet that is what happened for the Yankees in expanding their 2-1 lead over the Orioles to 8-1 at the end of the second inning. After Starlin Castro flied out to center to lead off the inning, the next nine batters for the Yankees all reached base with six scoring.

Chase Headley, who was the designated hitter because Brian McCann returned home to Georgia to attend his grandmother’s funeral, started the merry-go-round with a single to right. Aaron Judge walked, and the Yanks got a huge break when Nolan Reimond, who had just entered the game in center field replacing Adam Jones (left hamstring strain), dropped a soft liner by Ronald Torreyes that loaded the bases.

Then came a single to left by Brett Gardner for two runs, a single to right by Jacoby Ellsbury for one and a double to right by Gary Sanchez for another. Vance Worley took over for battered starters Yovani Gallardo and gave up a single to right by Mark Teixeira for yet one more run. Didi Gregorius and Castro followed with singles that re-loaded the bases and completed the full turn in the lineup with all getting on base. The rally died when Headley fouled out to third and Judge struck out.

The outburst put Yankees starter Luis Cessa in a comfort zone. He had given up Manny Machado’s 30th home run with two down in the first. Teixeira trumped that with a two-run blast that reached the right-center field bleachers in the bottom of the inning.

30 of final 36 games for Yanks vs. AL East

Friday night at Yankee Stadium the Yankees began a stretch in which they will play American League East opponents 30 times over the final 36 games of the regular season. A trip to Kansas City next week and an inter-league series at the Stadium next month against the Dodgers are the only games the Yanks have left against clubs outside their division.

The Yankees began play Friday night against the Orioles 5 1/2 games out of first place in the AL East and also 5 1/2 games behind for the second wild card slot. The Red Sox and the Blue Jays were tied for first in the division with the Orioles 1 1/2 games behind. The Yanks’ record against divisional opponents is 19-27 (.413).

Yankees manager Joe Girardi talked before the game about his club’s need to keep winning series to gain ground, but that alone will not get the Yankees back into serious contention for a playoff berth. Joe said that if the Yankees continue to win two out of three games they will gain ground because most of their opponents are those they are trying to catch.

Simple math explains, however, that if a team wins two of three games in a series it gains only one game in the standings. With about six weeks left on the schedule, the Yankees are going to need to pick up that pace.

Take the case of the defending World Series champion Royals, whom the Yanks will play next week. KC got back into the wild-card and AL Central races with a nine-game winning streak. That is the sort of stretch the Yankees will need to make foes tremble. The Yanks have not won more than five games in a row this year and have had only two five-game winning streaks all season.

The Orioles have presented a hurdle for the Yankees recently. The clubs have divided 10 games this season, but the Yankees have sustained five-game losing streaks against Baltimore each of the past three seasons (Sept. 8, 2015-May 3, 2016, July 13-Sept. 12, 2014, May 21-June 30, 2013) after having lost no more than four in a row to the O’s from 1998 through 2012. 

The Yanks are 18-26 in the past 44 meetings since June 21, 2014. They are 199-125-2 against Baltimore since the beginning of 1998, their most victories over any opponent in that span (next: 191-134 against the Rays). In 2015, the Yankees were 9-10 against the Orioles (7-3 at the Stadium, 2-7 at Camden Yards. The Yanks won five straight games from June 14-Sept. 7 before losing their final five match-ups beginning Sept. 8.

Between 2015 and 2014 (6-13), the Yankees lost consecutive season series to Baltimore for the first time since dropping three straight from 1980-82. It follows a streak of 16 consecutive non-losing seasons against the Birds from 1998-2013 (14-0-2), which was the longest active such streak for one team over another at the time, according to the Elias Sport Bureau.

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).

Sabathia, Ellsbury show kids how it’s done

With all the attention focused on minor league call-ups who have brought new energy to the Yankees, it was encouraging to see a couple of veterans come up big Tuesday night in the 5-1 victory over the Mariners.

CC. Sabathia bounced back from that weird 12-strikeout, seven-run outing last week against the Blue Jays to subdue an equally robust Seattle lineup. The lefthander gave up one run, which was slightly tainted at that, and three hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings, the fifth time this season he has gone that long.

Jacoby Ellsbury had another strong defensive game in center field and gave Sabathia a 3-1 lead in the fifth inning when he followed a leadoff double by Ronald Torreyes with his sixth home run of the season. Jake’s jack came one pitch after he fouled a ball off his right foot, so he did not have to run that hard around the bases. He did run hard tracking down long fly balls in the seventh and ninth innings.

The Mariners’ only run came in the third. Leonys Martin was credited with a triple on a drive into the right field corner that was somewhat misplayed by rookie Aaron Judge, who had just made an outstanding catch in the same area on a fly ball by Adam Lind. Martin came home on a single through a drawn-in infield by Ketel Marte, which at that point tied the score.

Ellsbury unlocked the tie two innings later, and the Yankee tacked on runs in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Judge and in the ninth on a double by Didi Gregorius. Torreyes, who had a four-hit game at the start of the West Coast swing last Friday night at Anaheim, got another start at third base and had three hits, including two doubles, and has lifted his season batting average to .278.

Yankees lose home run derby to Mariners

The day he was notified that he was the American League Player of the Week for the games that ended Sunday night Gary Sanchez went out and campaigned for winning the award again this week. The rookie catcher continued the impressive start to his major league career Monday night, although his performance was not sufficient to prevent the Yankees from dropping a 7-5 decision to the Mariners in a game in which all the runs were the result of home runs, an unusual sight in spacious Safeco Field.

Sanchez cranked two home runs, which made him the first player in club history to total eight dingers in his first 19 major-league games. He connected for a solo home run off Seattle starter Cody Martin with two out in the first inning. Then after Kyle Seager put the Mariners ahead, 3-2, with a three-run home run off Michael Pineda in the fourth inning, Sanchez regained the lead for the Yanks with a two-run bomb over the center field wall in the sixth.

Two batters after Sanchez’s two home runs were a couple of solo shots by Starlin Castro, which marked the first time two Yankees teammates homered twice in the same game since Oct. 3, 2012 by Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.

Cano now plays second base for the Mariners and had three hits Monday night. He nearly had a 4-for-4 game, but Jacoby Ellsbury robbed Cano of a potential extra-base hit with a dazzling, running catch in right-center in the eighth inning. The next batter, Nelson Cruz, homered to left off Kirby Yates for the seventh round-tripper of the night. On his 32nd home run of the season, Cruz broke his bat and the Yankees’ backs.

They threatened in the ninth against a shaky Edwin Diaz, who walked Brian McCann on four pitches to start the inning, gave up a one-out single to Chase Headley and then balked the potential tying runs into scoring position before recovering to retire pinch hitter Mark Teixeira on a fly ball and Brett Gardner on a grounder.

The key blow came in the bottom of the sixth when Yankees manager Joe Girardi made a quick hook of Pineda after he walked Seager with two out. Pineda had thrown only 82 pitches to that point, but Girardi called on lefthander Tommy Layne to face lefty-swinging Adam Lind, who popped up for the second out.

Girardi then brought in righthander Anthony Swarzak to face righty-swinging Mike Zunino. This did not turn out as well. The Mariners catcher drove a 3-2 slider into the right field seats that as it turned out put Seattle ahead for good.

The Yankees tried to get Sanchez an at-bat in the ninth, but the rally ended two batters before his next turn. He had another solid night back of the plate as well as Sanchez threw out another base runner to end the seventh inning.

Sanchez earns AL Player of the Week honors

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez may have plenty of awards come his way during a promising career. The first one arrived Monday when he was named American League Player of the Week for Aug. 15-21.

Sanchez had a slash line of .524/.600/1.190 (11-for-21) with four runs, two doubles, four home runs, six RBI, four walks and a stolen bases in 25 plate appearances. During that span, he led the AL in batting, on-base percentage, slugging and on-base plus slugging (OPS) and ranked among the league leaders in total bases (tied for second with 25), hits (tied for third) and home runs (tied for third). Sanchez had multiple hits in four straight games (Aug. 15-19) and extra-base hits in four straight games (Aug. 16-20).

It marked the first time a Yankees player won the award this season. Their previous AL Player of the Week Award winner was Brett Gardner from June 22-28 last year. Sanchez is only the second catcher in Yankees history to win the award. Thurman Munson was a two-time winner for the weeks ending May 4, 1975 and July 25, 1976. Surprisingly, Jorge Posada never won the award. Sanchez is the first Yankees rookie to win since Robinson Cano for the week ending Sept. 19, 2005 and the first catcher since the Angels’ Chris Iannetta for the week ending Sept. 15, 2013.

In 10 games behind the plate this season, Sanchez has thrown out four of six attempted base stealers and picked off one runner.

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