Bernie thanks fans for the memories

Bernie Williams, a man of few words in his playing career, was downright eloquent in his remarks Sunday night in response to the Yankees’ presenting him with a plaque in his honor in Monument Park and retiring his uniform No. 51.

Williams, whose last season with the Yankees was in 2005, was joined on the field by his mother, Rufina, his brother and his children as well as former Yankees executive Gene Michael, former manager Joe Torre, former coaches Roy White and Willie Randolph and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Williams thanked Michael “for not trading me” when he was a younger player. He thanked White for helping him with his left-handed stance that made him more effective as a switch hitter and Randolph for the advice never to be afraid of success. He also thanked his old teammates for all their support during his 16-season career, all with the Yankees.

Manager Joe Girardi, another former teammate of Williams, presented Bernie’s mom with a bouquet of flowers. Stephen Swindal Jr., grandson of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner, presented Williams a replica of his plaque. Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner present Bernie a milestone, diamond ring embossed with No. 51.

“Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought as a 17-year-old in Puerto Rico that I could be here this day,” Bernie said. “I am overwhelmed. I remember something Joe Torre told me once. ‘God does not give you the ability — he just lets you borrow it.’ I want to thank God for letting me borrow the ability to play for this franchise all those years.”

The years were filled with great memories on teams that won four World Series titles and was on the losing end of two other World Series, of exciting Division Series and League Championship Series games.

“I am frequently asked what my greatest memory as a player was,” he said. “There were so many. I will say this: all those memories you fans were involved in every one of them.”

Sunday night was yet one more.

Here’s a number you’ll never forget, Bernie

In terms of profile and temperament, Bernie Williams and New York would not seem a comfortable fit. The city that never sleeps was the incubator that gave the culture such over-the-top performers from Cagney to Streisand to DeNiro, not to mention such flamboyant out-of-town athletes who conquered the Big Apple’s hard core, from Dempsey to Mantle to Namath.

But Bernie Williams? Bob Sheppard, the late majestic voice of Yankee Stadium, noted that even the syllables of Williams’ name failed to conjure up images of greatness. Except for his Puerto Rican heritage, which he shared with many Bronx residents, Williams did not appear to have much in common with the population of the borough that the Yankees call home which traditionally has revered players who thrive on being the center of attention.

Towards the end of the 2005 season when his tenure with the Yankees was drawing to a close, fans at the Stadium finally stood up and took notice at Williams on a regular basis with standing ovations before and after each of his plate appearances. Bernie Williams was at center stage at last. The outpouring of affection was a belated tribute by Yankees fans for all Williams meant to the franchise in one of the most significant periods of its glorious history.

And the penultimate experience occurs Sunday night when a packed Stadium will shower Williams with an abundance of affection as the Yankees will honor him with a plaque in Monument Park and officially retire his uniform No. 51. No player has worn that number since Williams’ last season 10 years ago, even the two who had worn it with distinction in Seattle, Randy Johnson and Ichiro Suzuki. After coming to the Yankees in trades from the Mariners, Johnson wore No. 41 and Suzuki No. 31.

Bernie Williams'  No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

Bernie Williams’ No. 51 joins Monument Park retirement list.

While other teammates drew greater cheers and headlines over the years, Williams was the calming center of a team that went from spit to shinola in the 1990’s to complete a resounding history of baseball in the Bronx. The quiet, contemplative, switch-hitting center fielder batted cleanup in lineups that produced four World Series championships, including three in a row, over the last five years of the 20th century and the first year of the 21st.

Of all the players who took part in the Yankees’ extraordinary run during that period, Williams was the only one who was there when it all began, when the club started to make strides toward decency in 1992 and improved to such an extent that by the middle of the decade was on the verge of yet another dynastic era.

Yes, that Bernie Williams, whose way with a guitar rivaled that of his handling of bat and glove. Williams’ love of the guitar was so strong that he was just as much in awe of meeting Les Paul and Paul McCartney as he was shaking hands with Whitey Ford and Yogi Berra. Yet it is in the latter’s company that Williams will always hold a special place in Yankees lore.

It is a past as eventful as any in franchise history. Williams’ rankings on the Yankees’ career lists include third in doubles (449), singles (1,545) and intentional walks (97); fourth in at-bats (7,869); fifth in plate appearances (9,053), hits (2,336), bases on balls (1,069), times on base (3,444) and sacrifice flies( 64); sixth in games (2,076), total bases (3,756), extra-base hits (791) and runs (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and runs batted in (1,257). He is one of only 10 players who played 16 or more seasons only with the Yankees. The others are Lou Gehrig, Bill Dickey, Frankie Crosetti, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera and Derek Jeter.

Not bad for an unassuming man who was often the cruel butt of jokes by veteran teammates when he came into the majors in 1991. “Bambi” was the nickname Mel Hall, Steve Sax, Jesse Barfield and others hung on Williams, a suggestion that his non-confrontational demeanor and love for classical guitar music somehow made him unfit for the rigors of professional sports.

As it turned out, Williams not only turned the other cheek but also left the gigglers in the dust. He carved out for himself a career that is superior to all his old tormentors and one that just might make him a serious candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame some day.

Williams batted .297 over those 16 seasons, with a .381 on-base average and .477 slugging percentage. He won a batting title, four Gold Gloves for fielding, a Silver Slugger for hitting and was named to five All-Star teams.

Even more impressive are Williams’ post-season numbers. He ranks second in most major offensive categories – games (121), at-bats (465), runs (83), hits (128), total bases (223), singles (77) and total bases (202). In each case, Williams is second to long-time teammate Derek Jeter. Williams is also the runner-up in post-season home runs (22) to Manny Ramirez and walks (77) to Chipper Jones.

Williams is the only player in post-season history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in one game, and he did it twice, in the 1995 American League Division Series against the Mariners and in the 1996 AL Division Series against the Rangers. Also in ‘96, he was the Most Valuable Player of the AL Championship Series victory over the Orioles.

The World Series victory over the Braves that followed remained a key moment in Williams’ career. Years later, he noted, “The World Series gives you confidence. Whenever a team goes through adversity, every player who has been to the World Series knows that this is the beauty of the game, how great it is. We don’t just play for the money or the records. There’s a reason to be the best. We realized it [in ‘96], not just because we won it, but the way we won it. We were down by two games, and we went down to Atlanta and swept the Braves. That taught us a lot about the game, what it means.”

Williams was distraught in the 1997 post-season when he was 2-for-17 in the ALDS loss to the Indians, a setback that seemed to galvanize the Yankees as they came back to win three straight World Series. They were memorable seasons for Williams, who won his batting title in 1998 with a .339 average to go with 26 home runs and 97 RBI and had an even better year in ‘99, batting .342 with 25 home runs and 115 RBI. His best overall season was in 2000, batting .307 with 30 home runs and 121 RBI.

Not even Yankees scout Fred Ferreira, with the recommendation of Roberto Rivera, who signed Williams to a contract Sept. 13, 1985, his 17th birthday, could have foreseen such a career, particularly in the heady atmosphere of center field at the Stadium that had been patrolled by Earle Combs, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Bobby Murcer and Mickey Rivers.

Bernabe Figueroa Williams was born in San Juan in 1968 and grew up in Vega Alta, P.R., where he played high school ball with future two-time AL MVP Juan Gonzalez. Williams’ parents also instilled in him a love for music, which proved a sustaining force at times when his baseball career became over-challenging.

One of the oddities of Williams’ time with the Yankees was that he was frequently the only player in the batting order who did not have a special song played for him when he came to bat, a practice that became prominent at ballparks in the ‘90s. Williams’ interest in music was so intense that he considered listening to a “theme song” before a plate appearance a distraction.

During Williams’ rise through the minors, the Yankees weren’t quite sure how to use him. Despite being fleet afoot, Williams lacked the larcenous behavior to be an effective base stealer, which made him less than an attractive leadoff hitter despite an excellent on-base percentage. His legs helped him run down any fly ball, but his throwing arm was never particularly strong or accurate

But in the early ‘90s, the Yankees were in no position to be over picky about prospects. When injuries cut into the playing time of outfielders Roberto Kelly and Danny Tartabull, Williams was summoned to the majors and the slow apprenticeship began. Brought along slowly by managers Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter, Williams came into his own in 1993 and took control of center field at Yankee Stadium, the most sacred patch of ground in the majors, for the next 10 years.

His breakthrough year was 1995 when Williams batted .307 with 18 home runs and 82 RBI and followed that by hitting .429 with two home runs and five RBI in 21 at-bats in the grueling, five-game ALDS loss to the Mariners, an exciting series that helped “sell” the new concept of an expanded round of playoffs.

Joe Torre arrived the next season, and while some of Williams’ eccentricities had the new manager shaking his head on occasion was won over by his almost childlike enthusiasm.

“I don’t think there is anything about Bernie that could surprise me – take that as a plus or a minus,” Torre told MLB.com last year. “That’s just his personality, just him, basically. He’s very different in that he is not your typical baseball player. That’s probably why he was a little more sensitive than other players.”

But with that sensitivity also came with Williams a sense of loyalty. Despite being wooed by the Red Sox and the Diamondbacks when he was eligible for free agency after the 1998 season, Williams contacted Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and the sides worked out a seven-year contract for $87 million that kept Bernie in pinstripes.

Williams had been hopeful he could have played for the Yankees in 2007, but there was no longer a role for him. So the soft-spoken center fielder, now 46, enjoys a satisfying retirement and continues to write music. His 2003 CD, “The Journey Within,” drew praise from the likes of McCartney, Bruce Springsteen and Paul Simon.

“Don’t let your job define who you are,” Williams once said. “Your relationships will define who you are. No matter what you do in life, you are going to be in a position to make an impact on somebody’s life. In my experience with the Yankees, these are a few of the thing that I have learned. You’ve got to have a plan of action, you have to stay focused on the things you can control, and don’t get discouraged or distracted by the things you cannot control.”

Another 3rd-inning disaster against Texas

The Yankees may want to petition commissioner Rob Manfred to see if they can play games against Texas without a third inning.

For the second straight game, the Rangers teed off against Yankees pitching in the third inning Saturday as Texas sent 14 batters to the plate and scored 10 runs. Friday night, the Rangers had 10 batters come up in the third inning and score seven runs. That made it 17 runs in the third inning over two days.

Despite being down 7-0 Friday night, the Yankees made it a game and lost by a 10-9 count with the potential tying run on first base in the ninth. No such comeback was in the making Saturday as Texas held fast for a 15-4 victory.

The runs against the Yanks were the most in a game since April 19 last year at St. Petersburg, Fla., in a 16-1 loss and their most in a home game since Sept. 22, 2011 against the Rays in a 15-8 loss.

What made Saturday’s game strange was that the Yankees had their specialist pitcher in charge of ending losing streaks of four games or more on the mound. The Elias Sport Bureau reported that CC Sabathia had made four previous starts with the Yankees on a losing streak of at least four games (one in 2009, two in 2013 and one this year). His record in those starts: 4-0 with a 1.15 ERA in 31 1/3 innings. Sabathia had pitched at least seven innings in each of those four starts (May 8, 2009 at Baltimore, May 31, 2013 against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, June 16, 2013 at Anaheim and May 16 this year at Kansas City) and combined for four walks and 29 strikeouts.

Saturday was a whole different story, however. CC got off to a strong start with three strikeouts in the first five batters, but he never made it through the third inning, which got off to a ominous start when he walked the 9-hole hitter, .140-batting Jake Smolinski. The next four batters reached on singles with an error in right field Carlos Beltran contributing to the rally. When a two-run single by Elvis Andrus made the score 5-0, Sabathia was taken out of the game.

Esmil Rogers could not put a tourniquet on the inning. He hit the first batter he faced with a pitch and allowed an inherited runner to score on an opposite-field double by Carlos Corporan. A sacrifice fly by Smolinski and a two-run home run by Shinn-Soo Choo put Texas up by 10-0.

It marked their most runs allowed in a single inning since April 18, 2009 at home against the Indians when Cleveland scored 14 runs in the second inning of a 22-4 Yankees loss. It was the first time the Yankees allowed seven runs in one inning in back-to-back games (or in the same game) since June 19 (seven runs in the fourth inning) and 20 (eight runs in the sixth), 2002 at Denver and the first time at home since June 11 (nine runs in the fifth) and 12 (nine runs in the second), 1907 against the Tigers when the team was still known as the Highlanders and played at old Hilltop Park in Manhattan.

Rogers was charged with three runs in the sixth before giving way to Brandon Pindar, who was victimized in the seventh on a two-run home run by Prince Fielder, who hit two home runs Friday night.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were getting nowhere offensively against Rangers starter Nick Martinez, who improved his record to 4-0. The Yankees did not have a hit until the fourth inning when Alex Rodriguez led off with an infield single and advanced to second base on a throwing error by Adam Rosales. A-Rod never got past that base.

Martinez gave up two runs on solo homers by Beltran and Didi Gregorius. Beltran’s third homer of the year extended his hitting streak to 13 games. Gregorius homered for the second straight game. He had a three-run shot Friday night. So after going 205 at-bats without a homer, Gregorius homered twice in four at-bats.

Slade Heathcott, the outfielder called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while Jacoby Ellsbury (strained right knee) is on the disabled list, made his major-league debut Friday night and got his first two hits and first run as a major leaguer. Saturday he got his first big-league RBI with a run-scoring groundout followed an RBI triple by John Ryan Murphy.

The losing ways the Yankees experienced on the recent trip when they lost seven of nine games has followed them home. They have lost five straight games, their longest losing streak of the season, and nine of their past 10 games. Their overall record is barely over .500 at 22-21.

Among the more disturbing aspects of the game was another dismal showing by Sabathia at Yankee Stadium. He has not won in the Bronx since Sept. 20, 2013. Saturday was his sixth straight losing decision at the Stadium with a 9.42 ERA in those starts.

“When you don’t pitch well, you get booed,” he said.

It is never a good sign for a club when its mosst effective pitcher is its backup first baseman. Garrett Jones made his first major-league pitching appearance in the ninth inning and got the final two outs. He also walked one batter and hit one, yet his career ERA is 0.00.

Yankees home for Memorial Day Weekend

The Yankees return home Friday night for the first of six games at Yankee Stadium. The stretch will feature a three-game series against the Rangers Friday night, Saturday afternoon and Sunday night and a three-game set against the Royals Monday afternoon, Tuesday night and Wednesday afternoon.

As part of a pregame ceremony prior to Sunday’s 8:05 p.m. game against the Rangers, the Yankees will honor Bernie Williams by unveiling a Monument Park plaque recognizing his career. Additionally, Williams’ uniform No. 51 will be retired by the organization. Former teammates, coaches and other guests will take part in the festivities with ceremonies scheduled to begin at approximately 7:15 p.m.

Williams played his entire 16-year major-league career with the Yankees (1991-2006). The switch hitter batted .297 in 2,076 games and 7,869 at-bats. A four-time World Series champion (1996, ’98, ’99, 2000), Williams is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), ranks second in playoff runs scored (83), hits (128) and doubles (29) and is third in games played (121).

Over the course of the homestand, ceremonial first pitches will be held Friday (acclaimed authors Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke), Saturday (Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus), and Wednesday (St. John’s University head basketball coach Chris Mullin).

Tuesday, Richard Albero will conclude his 1,150-mile journey from Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to the plate at Yankee Stadium. Albero began his journey March 2 to honor his nephew who passed away in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project. After reaching the plate, Albero will be honored in an on-field ceremony.

Ticket specials will run Saturday (Youth Game), Monday (Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game), Tuesday night (Military Personnel Game) and Wednesday (MasterCard Half-Price, Military Personnel, Senior Citizen and Student 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:

Friday, May 22 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Reusable Tote Bag Night, presented by MLB Network to all in attendance.

Saturday, May 23 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Drawstring Backpack Day, presented by Kumon, to the first 18,000 in attendance, 14 and younger.

Sunday, May 24 – Yankees vs. Rangers, 8:05 p.m.
Bernie Williams Collector Card Night, presented by Yankees-Steiner Collectibles, to all in attendance.

Monday, May 25 – Yankees vs. Royals, 1:05 p.m.
Sunscreen Day, presented by Blue Lizard, to all 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 the Stadium, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

Yanks stay tied for 1st despite 2-7 trip

Yankee Stadium will sure look good to the Yankees after this trip. The trek ended with a thud Wednesday night as the Yanks could not add on to a 2-0, first-inning lead and lost, 3-2, to the Nationals on an unearned run in the seventh inning.

The two-game sweep by Washington made it three losing series on the trip for the Yankees, who dropped three of four to Tampa Bay and two of three to Kansas City. The Yankees were 2-7 on the trip and have lost eight of their past 10 games on the road. It did not seem that long ago that the Yankees had an 11-4 road record. It is now 13-12.

Adam Warren gave up solo home runs to Ian Desmond in the first inning and Tyler Moore in the fourth but was hurt by a misplay in the infield in the seventh and compounded it with two walks.

An error by third baseman Chase Headley, his ninth of the year, began the seventh, and the batter who reached, catcher Wilson Ramos, came around to score on a single by Denard Span off lefthander Justin Wilson, who relieved Warren after pinch hitter Dan Uggla walked to load the bases.

Uggla’s at-bat proved as critical as Headley’s boot. Uggla swung at the first pitch and hit a foul pop down the right field line. Carlos Beltran pursued the ball from right field but pulled up as he moved into foul ground and the ball fell free. Given new life, Uggla drew a walk that continued the rally.

After giving up two runs in the first inning, Nationals righthander Jordan Zimmermann allowed no runs and three hits through the seventh. The Yankees did no damage against relievers Matt Grace or Drew Storen (12th save), either. Washington’s bullpen held the Yankees scoreless with three hits in seven innings in the series.

The Nats even spotted the Yanks their best player when Bryce Harper was bounced from the game in the fourth inning by plate umpire Marvin Hudson for beefing about a strike call.

The victory gave the Nats sole possession of first place in the National League East over the Mets, who lost at home to the Cardinals. Despite the tumbling journey in which they lost Jacoby Ellsbury to the 15-day disabled list and Chase Whitley to Tommy John surgery, the Yankees maintained a portion of first place in the American League East with the Rays, who lost at Atlanta and are even with the Yanks at 22-19.

The Yankees have a much-needed open date before resuming play Friday night at the Stadium against the Rangers to start a Memorial Day weekend series. Yankees fans who want to see how Masahiro Tanaka is doing in his injury rehabilitation can do so by viewing his start for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against Durham. Coverage on the YES Network begins at 6:30 p.m.

Gardner, Beltran combine for that old 1-2

Considering the circumstances, the Yankees could not have asked for a better start of Wednesday night’s game. With Jacoby Ellsbury going on the 15-day disabled list due to a sprained right knee ligament, the top of the Yankees’ batting order required a readjustment.

Taking over Ellsbury’s leadoff spot was Brett Gardner, who is not unfamiliar with the role having filled it often in the past, especially before Ellsbury joined the Yankees last year. Carlos Beltran, who has had a good May following an ugly April, was moved into the 2-hole.

Gardner led off the game against Jordan Zimmermann with a flare single into right field. Batting left-handed against the right-handed Zimmermann, Beltran drove a line drive to right-center for a double that easily scored Gardner. Beltran crossed to third as Mark Teixeira grounded out to first and scored on a fly ball to center field by Brian McCann.

Gardner and Beltran basically did an impression of Ellsbury and Gardner in getting the Yankees’ offense jump-started.

Taking Ellsbury’s place on the 25-man roster was outfielder Slade Heathcott, whose contract was purchased from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Pitcher Chase Whitley, who underwent Tommy John surgery Tuesday, was placed on the 60-day DL to create space on the 40-man roster for Heathcott.

Yankees starter Adam Warren gave back a run in the bottom of the first as Ian Desmond hit a first-inning, solo homer for the second straight game.

Warren and the Yankees caught a huge break in the third when plate umpire Marvin Hudson ejected Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper from the game during his at-bat that inning. Harper took exception to a low pitch that was called a strike and walked out of the batter’s box. Hudson ordered Harper back into the box, which led to heated words between the two.

After Harper was thumbed, Nats manager Matt Williams took up the argument, and he got tossed as well. Of course, his loss was not anywhere as serious to the Nationals as that of Harper, the National League leader in home runs, slugging and on-base plus slugging. The Yankees probably wanted to send Hudson a thank-you note.

Even without Harper, Washington was not hurting for the long ball. Tyler Moore tied the score with two out in the fourth with his third home run of the year and the Nats’ sixth homer in 14 innings of this series.

Miller’s spotless season comes to abrupt halt

Well, you knew it was not going to last forever. Andrew Miller was off to one of the best starts of a season for any relief pitcher — until Tuesday night. Opposing hitters had been a combined 0-for-their-last-31 at-bats with 15 strikeouts against Miller until Ryan Zimmerman drove a 3-1 fastball off the right field foul pole for a two-run home run, his 10th career walk-off homer, that sent the Yankees to an 8-6, 10-inning loss.

Miller’s 31 strikeouts were the most by a pitcher prior to allowing his first run of the season in Yankees history. He was one of eight pitchers in major league history (and the only Yankees reliever) to record at least 13 saves in the club’s first 30 games of a season.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Miller is the first pitcher to convert each of his first 13 save opportunities with the club. Even Mariano Rivera did not do that. The streak is still intact because Miller was not in a save situation Tuesday night. He entered the game in the 10th with the score 6-6.

Miller has multiple strikeouts in 10 of his 18 appearances and is averaging 14.95 Ks per nine innings. He has held opposing hitters to a .067 batting average, but that fourth hit in 60 at-bats proved a killer.

After Dellin Betances kept his streak of not allowing an earned run to 20 games with a shutout eighth and ninth, Miller came on in the 10th and got off to a good start by striking out Ian Desmond. After a walk to Yunel Escobar, Miller got a big strikeout of Bryce Harper before falling behind 3-1 in the count to Zimmerman, whose home run dropped the Yankees into a first-place tie with the Rays in the American League East and pushed the Nationals into a first-place tie with the Mets in the National League East.

For a while there it appeared as if the offensive anemia that has plagued the Yankees on the current trip would continue. In the first three innings at Nationals Park, the Yankees went three-up, three-down, all on ground balls against Gio Gonzalez.

Come the fourth inning, however, the Yankees batted around and turned a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead. As efficient as Gonzalez was in the first three innings, he fell out of synch in the fourth. A leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury proved ominous. He advanced to second on a ground ball and scored on a single by Chris Young. Another walk and three straight two-out hits — a double by Chase Headley and singles by Jose Pirela and Stephen Drew — and the Yankees took control.

They padded the lead to 6-2 with two out in the fifth, Gonzalez’s last inning, on a two-run home run by Mark Teixeira. For the second straight start, Nathan Eovaldi could not maintain an early lead. Eovaldi, who had given up solo home runs in the first inning to Desmond and Harper, could not get through the fifth as the Nats cut the deficit to one run on a double by pinch hitter Clint Robinson and singles by Denard Span, Desmond and Escobar.

Lefthander Justin Wilson bailed out Eovaldi by getting Harper, one of the hottest hitters in the game, to ground into a double play. The high note was short-lived as David Carpenter gave up a game-tying home run the next inning to Wilson Ramos, who also extended his hitting streak to 19 games.

After that, the Yankees could muster nothing against the Nationals’ bullpen. Five Washington relievers combined to hold the Yankees scoreless over the final five innings with two hits and one walk allowed and five strikeouts.

Another big loss for the Yankees was that of Ellsbury, who is likely to be placed on the 15-day disabled list Wednesday because of a right knee injury that drove him from the game in the fourth inning.

Ellsbury forced to leave game with knee injury

Hold your breath, Yankees fans.

Jacoby Ellsbury, who has been the Yankees’ most dependable hitter this season, had to come out of Tuesday night’s inter-league game at Washington, D.C. Word from the clubhouse was that the Yanks’ center fielder had an injury to his right knee.

Ellsbury led off the fourth inning with a walk, but during the at-bat he reacted in pain after swinging at a pitch and walked gingerly before returning to the batter’s box. After Ellsbury advanced to second base on an infield out, manager Joe Girardi and assistant trainer Mark Littlefield ran out of the dugout to talk to the player. Ellsbury remained in the game and scored on a one-out single by Chris Young for the first run of a four-run rally that gave the Yanks the lead momentarily.

But when the Yankees took the field in the bottom of the fourth, Carlos Beltran was inserted in Ellsbury’s spot in the batting order and playing right field with Young moving to center.

Ellsbury leads the Yankees in batting with a .324 average and stolen bases with 14 in 19 attempts. In 23 games since April 22, Ellsbury is hitting .367 in 90 at-bats with 18 runs, three doubles, one home run, six RBI, 11 walks, 3 hit by pitches and 11 steals

New Era Pinstripe Bowl golf outing for charity

The New York Yankees Foundation will hold the fifth annual New York Yankees/New Era Pinstripe Bowl Charity Golf Tournament, brought to you by Herrick Feinstein LLP, Tuesday at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe Township, N.J.

Net proceeds from the event will benefit the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Pediatric Cancer Center, the Boomer Esiason Foundation Fighting Cystic Fibrosis and Tic Toc Stop, a Tourette’s syndrome charity. In just four years, more than 500 individuals have participated in the tournament and in excess of $250,000 has been raised for charity.

Registration and lunch will begin at 11 a.m., followed by a 12:30 p.m. shotgun start for the scramble-format tournament. A cocktail reception, dinner and an awards presentation will take place at 5:30 p.m. For more information, fans may call (718) 508-3984.

This year’s tournament includes various well-known guests, including Yankees alumni and former and current players from New York-area professional sports teams. The “Benigno and Roberts Show” on WFAN-AM 660/-FM 101.9 will also be broadcast live from the event from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Scheduled to attend are former Yankees players Johnny Damon, Cecil Fielder and Lee Mazzilli and chief operating officer Lonn Trost; current Giants players Zak DeOssie, Eric Herman, Mark Herzlich, Henry Hynoski, Ryan Nassib and Weston Richburg; former Giants players Stephen Baker and Lee Rouson; current Islanders player Matt Martin; former Syracuse football player Don McPherson; Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood; Princeton head basketball coach Mitch Henderson; Notre Dame football announcer Don Criqui and WFAN’s Boomer & Carton Show co-hosts Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton.

Forsgate Country Club has been voted as one of New Jersey’s best golf courses by various golf publications in recent years. It offers 36 of the most challenging holes in all of the state on two distinctly different championship courses. The legendary Banks Course renowned for its deep bunkers and lush greens and the scenic Palmer Course renowned for its challenging water hazards.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has seen increased attendance in each of its first five years of existence. In 2014, a record sellout crowd of 49,012 saw Penn State defeat Boston College and establish the bowl’s highest all-time attendance figure.

The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 26, at a to-be-determined kickoff time. The game will mark the second consecutive year that the bowl will feature a team from the Big Ten and the Atlantic Coast Conferences. Each respective conference has established multi-year agreements with the Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to have a representative school play in the game.

Tickets for the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be made available in the near future. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.pinstripebowl.com, the official Web site of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and follow the bowl game’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @PinstripeBowl.

Offense hits rock bottom in 1st shutout

Too bad the Yankees could not have saved some of those dozen runs they scored Saturday night for Sunday’s finale of the three-game series at Kansas City. The 12-1 victory Saturday night has been the odd offensive explosion on the trip for the Yankees, who have not scored more than two runs in any other game, and they did not score at all Sunday as they sustained their first shutout of the season.

Decked out in throwback Kansas City Monarchs uniforms in honor of the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, which is located in that city, the Royals dominated the day in which fans were encouraged to wear their Sunday best to Kauffman Stadium. Many folks in the crowd of 31,251 complied. And the Royals certainly dressed down the Yankees.

Players from both squads wore “28” patches to signify the number the late Hall of Famer, Ernie Banks, wore during his time with the Monarchs in the early 1950s before he integrated the Cubs as the first African-American player with that franchise in 1953. Banks, who wore No. 14 for the Cubs, popularized the phrase, “Let’s play two!” The Yankees, however, were in no mood for two games like the one they played Sunday.

Chris Capuano came off the disabled list and made his first start of the season after recovering from a spring-training quad injury. The lefthander did fine over the first three innings save for a home run by Royals catcher Salvador Perez. Everything fell apart for Capuano in the fourth. The four batters he faced reached base (two walks, two singles), and three of them subsequently scored.

The 4-0 lead that went to a 6-0 final seemed plenty secure in the right arm of Edinson Volquez, who won for the first time in five starts since April 20. He held the Yankees to three hits and no walks (he hit one batter) with five strikeouts in seven innings. Wade Davis and Jason Frasor provided a scoreless inning of relief apiece for the American League Central leaders.

Mark Teixeira, the player who was hit with a pitch in the fourth inning, stayed in the game until the seventh, has a bruise on his right large toe and is day-to-day. Tex leads the clubs in home runs (11) and RBI (28) and with his average up to .248 the Yankees do not want him out of the lineup for long.

The Yanks remained in first place in the AL East, but by merely one game over the Rays, 11-3 winners over the Twins. Tampa Bay took three of four games from the Yanks in the first stop of this trip which continues with a two-game, inter-league series in Washington, D.C., Tuesday and Wednesday nights against the Nationals, who trail the Mets by one game in the National League East.

The Yankees have an open date Monday, their first day off since April 30, and they could definitely use it.

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