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.

Yanks hurt again by three-game series sweep jinx

The inability to pull off a three-game series sweep bit the Yankees again Sunday. After shutting out the Angels Friday night and almost doing so again Saturday night in two victories, the Yankees put up nothing but zeroes offensively Sunday in falling to the Halos, who beat the Yanks for the first time in seven tries this season.

The Yankees swept a four-game series against the Angels June 6-9 at Yankee Stadium and had another four-game sweep May 19-22 at Oakland. Their other series sweep was a two-gamer June 14-15 at Denver. Yet all season the Yankees have not swept a three-game series. Sunday marked the sixth time this season they lost the third and final game of a series after having won the first two.

Conversely, the Yankees have been swept in three-game series four times this year — April 19-21 by the Athletics at the Stadium, April 29-May 1 at Boston, May 30-June 1 at Toronto and July 29-31 at St. Petersburg, Fla. In 24 other three-game series, including this past weekend, the Yankees won two games 12 times and lost two games 12 times.

A key hit here or there Sunday would have ended the three-game series sweep drought for the Yankees, but they were handcuffed by Los Angeles pitchers. Mark Teixeira led off the third inning against Angels starter Jhoulys Chacin with a double off the wall in center field and got to third on a one-out single to center by Aaron Hicks. Brett Gardner hit the ball hard to second base, but that was the start of an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth on singles by Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro and a walk to Brian McCann before Teixeira flied out to center. In the eighth the Yanks had runners on first and second with one out against reliever J.C. Ramirez, who got out of the jam by striking out Gregorius and retiring Castro on a squib in front of the plate. Hicks’ third-inning single was the Yankees’ lone hit in seven at-bats with runners in scoring position, and it did not result in a run.

The offensive failures of the Yankees were a tough blow for rookie Chad Green, who had his second straight impressive start. The righthander gave up a first-inning run and then shut down the Angels through the sixth. Over his past two starts, Green has allowed one earned run, seven hits and one walk with 16 strikeouts in 12 innings (0.75 ERA). He lowered his season ERA over that stretch from 4.94 to 3.66.

Green grew up in Missouri and was a big fan of the Cardinals and Albert Pujols, who won three National League Most Valuable Player Awards in his time with St. Louis. Green watched his boyhood idol have another strong game only this time at the expense of him and the Yankees. Pujols had three hits and scored both L.A. runs, the first against Green.

Pujols singled with two out, advanced to second on a walk to C.J. Cron and scored on a single by Andrelton Simmons. Pujols scored again in the eighth inning against reliever Adam Warren after getting the first of three ground singles by the Angels against the Yankees’ infield shifts.

It would have been a 4-for-4 game for Pujols if not for a sensational catch in the fifth inning by Jacoby Ellsbury, who made like an NBA rebounder and jumped high to grab Pujols’ bid for a home run with his glove over the center field fence. Pujols tied Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time home run list with his 583rd blast Saturday night off Dellin Betances in the bottom of the ninth inning to avoid a second straight shutout loss by the Angels. Pujols did his share Sunday to hand the Yankees their sixth shutout loss of the year.

Mac, Gardy join youth corps to beat Angels again

The Yankees’ youth movement continued to pay early dividends Saturday night in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, although not all the faces who made important contributions were that fresh. Some hearty veterans did their part as well.

The Yanks came within an inning of their second straight shutout against an Angels club lingering in last place in the American League West. The Angels finally got on the board when Albert Pujols hit the first pitch Dellin Betances offered in the bottom of the ninth inning to left field for his 583rd career home run, which tied him with former Cardinals teammate Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time list.

That has been the only run given up in Anaheim by the Yankees, who have a chance not only to sweep this series in the finale Sunday but also the season series. They swept the Halos in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in early June.

Luis Cessa limited the Angels to two hits, both singles, in pitching one batter into the seventh inning in his first major-league start. Obtained with fellow rookie Chad Green, who will start Sunday, from the Tigers in an off-season traded for reliever Justin Wilson, Cessa walked only one batter and struck out five to boost his record to 3-0 and lower his earned run average from 5.30 to 4.01.

The Yankees provided Cessa a 3-0 lead before he took the mound beginning with a solo home run by his catcher, Gary Sanchez, that started a two-out rally against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. Youthful veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro kept the line moving with a single and double, respectively, before the more grizzled vet Brian McCann, who has settled in nicely as the designated hitter, drove both runners home with a single.

Big Mac was also part of the Yankees’ two-run sixth in which he put himself into scoring position with a stolen base, a first since 2012 for the weary-legged catcher by trade. After his single sent Castro, who had also singled, to third base, McCann took off to the surprise of Nolasco and swiped second. And Big Mac was not finished running. He barreled his way home on a single to right field by Aaron Judge, another newcomer from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who has made a positive early impression.

McCann has been used as the DH to give the Yanks a long look at Sanchez behind the plate. He worked smoothly with Cessa and also showed off his strong arm by throwing out Kole Calhoun at first base in the sixth inning when the Angels right fielder drifted too far off the bag.

The fielding gem of the game, however, came from left fielder Brett Gardner, who had a brutal game offensively (0-for-5) but more than made up for it with his circus catch in the seventh to rob C.J. Cron of a home run. Gardner leaped high, reached over the wall and had to contend with two glove-wearing fans to haul in Cron’s drive and somehow kept his balance by leaning his lower back across the top of the fence.

It was a remarkable play on another remarkable night in Anaheim for a Yankees team trying awfully hard to get back into playoff contention.

Four homers support shutout work of Tanaka

The Yankees got their West Coast swing off to a rousing start Friday night with a 7-0 walloping of the Angels. Walloping was exactly what the Yankees did as they bashed four home runs off Angels starter Jered Weaver, who like much of the rest of his team is having a miserable season (8-11, 5.47 ERA).

Jacoby Ellsbury led off the game with a home run, and the Yanks connected three more times in the fifth by Ronald Torreyes, Didi Gregorius and Brian McCann. For Torreyes, it was the first homer of his major-league career. He had quite a night — 4-for-4 with a double, two singles, three runs and two runs batted in. Torreyes was in the lineup at third base because Chase Headley was out with Achilles tendinitis in his left foot.

It was another big night for rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, who had two doubles, a single and a stolen base and is batting .389. He also did a nice job behind the plate handling Masahiro Tanaka, who pitched an absolute gem.

The Japanese righthander scattered five singles over 7 2/3 innings with no walks and nine strikeouts in improving his record to 10-4 with a 3.24 ERA. He left in the eighth with two out and two runners on base. After a walk by Tommy Layne loaded the bases, Adam Warren got a huge out when he caught Mike Trout looking at a third strike.

With Sanchez catching, McCann was the designated hitter and extended his consecutive-game hitting streak on the road to 16 games during which he has batted .338 with six homers and 10 RBI in 65 at-bats.

The Yanks have had the Halos’ number this year in winning all five games between the clubs by a combined score of 36-14 and have out-homered Los Angeles, 13-5.

Yankees hope Angel Stadium is heaven sent

After dropping the final two games of the recent homestand, the Yankees need to take advantage of a sliding Angels club to get back into contention. The Yankees, who open a three-game set at Anaheim Friday night, swept the Angels in a four-game series at Yankee Stadium June 6-9, the Bombers’ first four-game sweep of the Halos since July 21-24, 1994.

The Yankees are 16-5 in the last 21 games between the teams since June 16, 2013 and have won or split their last eight season series against the Angels since 2009 with a 35-24 record in that span. The Yanks are 4-3 in their past seven games at Angel Stadium ut 9-12 in Orange County since 2010. Their 16-30 record at the Big ‘A’ since 2005 is their worst (.348) at any American League yard in that span. The Yankees have lost 12 of 15 series in Anaheim since 2005, including seven straight series losses from July 21, 2005 through July 12, 2009.

Rookie catcher Gary Sanchez, who batted cleanup Wednesday afternoon, was moved into the 3-hole Friday night. Sanchez has three home runs in his past two games and four homers over his past four games. He had multiple hits in all three games against the Blue Jays in which he had 7-for-10 with three runs, three homers, five RBI and two walks. In his past seven games, Sanchez has a slash line of .481/.517/1.037 with seven runs, five homers and eight RBI in 27 at-bats.

Batting cleanup Wednesday for the first time in his career, Sanchez hit a solo home run. At 23 years, 259 days old, he was only the third Yankees player since 1975 to start in the cleanup spot before turning 24, joining Jay Buhner (23 years, 52 days) Oct. 4, 1987 against the Orioles and Don Mattingly (23years, 102 days) July 31, 1984 against the Brewers. The YES Network noted that Sanchez was the youngest Yankees player to homer out of the No. 4 spot in the starting lineup since Bobby Murcer (23 years, 101 days) Aug. 29, 1969.

In the cleanup spot Friday night was Brian McCann as the designated hitter. McCann entered play having hit safely in 15 consecutive road games and batting .350 with five homers and nine RBI in 60 at-bats during the streak, the longest by a Yankees player since the franchise record 44-gamer on the road by Derek Jeter from Aug. 20, 2006 through May 28, 2007.

Rookie right fielder Aaron Judge has a slash line of .389/.450/.778 with three runs, one double, two homers and four RBI in his first five major league games totaling 18 at-bats.

Bullpen breakdown costs Yanks chance to advance

There was a time until last month when the Yankees might have easily put away Tuesday night’s game even after the Blue Jays had cut a 6-0 deficit to 6-4 in the sixth inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi could have turned to his No Runs DMC formula of having Dellin Betances come on in the seventh, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth.

That setup became history when the Yankees traded Chapman to the Cubs and Miller to the Indians to acquire needed prospects to help bolster the farm system and bring promise to the future. The Yankees brought Adam Warren back to the organization from the Cubs in the Chapman deal. Warren had pitched very well since returning to the Yankees until Tuesday night when he experienced a nightmare of an eighth inning that propelled the Blue Jays to a come-from-behind 12-6 victory.

If only it had kept raining back between halves of the fifth inning when a severe thunderstorm halted play for 42 minutes. With the Yankees ahead 5-0 at the time, it would have been an official game had the rain not subsided. The Yankees actually added to their lead when play resumed on a two-out, RBI single by Didi Gregorius, who had also driven in their first run with a home run (No. 16) in the first inning. That pushed the shortstop past Brian McCann for the club lead in homers.

Speaking of the long ball, rookie catcher Gary Sanchez whacked two home runs, a solo shot in the second and a three-run bomb in the fourth.

All that offense looked safe in the hands of Michael Pineda, who pitched five scoreless innings with four hits allowed, no walks and two strikeouts in sinking his season ERA below 5.00 (4.89) for the first time all year. Pineda was victimized by the storm as Girardi had to go to his bullpen which was not up to the task. On a night when they were primed to beat Toronto and with Baltimore also losing, the Yankees lost a major opportunity to gain ground in the American League East standings and wild-card chase.

Anthony Swarzak was stung by home runs to Troy Tulowitzki, who was 4-for-5, and Russell Martin, in the sixth as Toronto closed to 6-4. But it was the eighth inning that was a true disaster.

Warren entered the game having pitched 11 shutout innings since rejoining the Yanks. He was in trouble from the beginning as Josh Donaldson won a 12-pitch duel in drawing a leadoff walk. Edwin Encarnacion then tied the score with his 34th home run, a tracer’s bullet to left field.

One out later, Tulwotzski singled for his fourth hit and Martin cranked his second homer of the game. Chasen Shreve came on and faced five batters, all of whom reached base (two hits, two walks, one hit batter) and all but one scored. Michael Saunders’ double to drive in the eighth run of the 47-minute half inning meant that the entire lineup reached base during the frame, which is not something you see every day.

The Yankees hope they never see it again.

Eovaldi to have Tommy John surgery, out til 2018

The injury that forced Nathan Eovaldi out of his last start in the first inning a week ago at Boston proved very serious. Eovaldi has torn the flexor tendon in his right, pitching arm off the bone and damaged the ulnar collateral ligament in his throwing elbow to the extent that he will require Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career.

What that means for the Yankees is that Eovaldi is not likely to pitch for them again until 2018. The rehabilitation period for flexor tendon surgery is three to six months but coupled with a second Tommy John surgery Eovaldi will be looking at a recovery stint of up to 18 months.

“It’s a huge blow,” Eovaldi said before Tuesday night’s Yankees-Blue Jays game at Yankee Stadium. “It’s my second one, so it’s a big deal. Hopefully everything goes well with the surgery and I work hard to get back.”

Eovaldi’s contract is under the Yankees’ control through 2017 when he is arbitration-eligible.

“It wasn’t a particular pitch or something like that,” Eovaldi said of his most recent injury. “I just felt a little pinch every time I threw a fastball. After the first inning [last week], my velocity was down a little bit, but I didn’t feel like there was anything to really worry about. But then I got the MRI, and when I got the results, I was really surprised to see that I had torn the flexor tendon off the bone and damaged my UCL.”

Eovaldi, who had his first Tommy John surgery nine years ago when he was 17 years old and in high school, had one victory since May 29. He was 6-2 with a 3.71 ERA 10 starts into the season but watched his record drop to 9-8 with a 4.76 ERA.

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