Yanks grading F’s against the A’s in Oakland

The schizophrenic nature of the Yankees’ season has surfaced again on the West Coast. After sweeping a three-game series against the Royals, the team with the best record in the American League, the Yankees lost the first two games of the four-game set to the Athletics, the team with the worst record in the league. On top of that, Oakland entered the series with a 1-10 record when opponents start a left-handed pitcher, and the A’s won Thursday night against CC Sabathia and Friday night against Chris Capuano, both lefties.

Except for the hitting of Brian McCann and Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees have had another offensive breakdown. The loss of Jacoby Ellsbury (strained right knee) is part of it, although Slade Heathcott, who was recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help fill the void, was playing well (.353, 1 HR, 3 RBI). Now Heathcott is out with a strained right quadriceps that landed him on the 15-day disabled list Saturday. The Yankees recalled outfielder Ramos Flores from SWP to take the place of Heathcott, who is expected to be out for a month.

McCann has homered in four straight games, the longest streak by a catcher in the major leagues this season. Mac is one of two Yankees to homer in four straight games while playing catcher since 1957. The other was Mike Stanley (four homers in four games July 20-25, 1993). The only Yankees catcher since at least 1914 with a longer streak is Hall of Famer Bill Dickey, who hit six home runs in five games June 20-25, 1937.

During his seven-game hitting streak, McCann is 9-for-23 (.391) with six runs, 1 double, four homers, 11 RBI and six walks. He has reached base safely in 15 of his past 29 plate appearances for a .517 on-base percentage. The Elias Sports Bureau reports that McCann is the first Yankees catcher with an RBI in seven consecutive games, all as catcher, since Hall of Famer Yogi Berra had an eight-game streak Sept. 11-23, 1956. McCann’s streak is the longest RBI streak by any Yankees player since Alfonso Soriano’s seven-gamer Sept. 1-7, 2013. Mac is tied with the Padres’ Derek Norris for second among MLB catchers with 32 RBI in 2015. The leader is Oakland’s Stephen Vogt with 35. Vogt played first base Friday night and drove in two runs with a double in the A’s four-run third inning against Capuano.

Also streaking is Rodriguez, with an eight-game stretch in which he has hit .414 with seven runs, one double, one home run, five RBI and three walks in 29 at-bats as his batting average has climbed from .246 to .277. A-Rod has hit safely in 13 consecutive starts and is batting .346 in his past 15 games and 52 at-bats overall since May 13.

Rodriguez’s sacrifice fly Thursday gave him 1,996 career RBI to tie Barry Bonds for second place on baseball’s all-time list, according to Elias, the official statistician of MLB. Statistics found on MLB.com and baseball-reference.com are not official stats. The RBI became an official statistic in 1920. Rodriguez passed Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig (1,993) for the all-time AL RBI record with a three-run homer Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. A-Rod has scored 1,947 career runs, two shy of tying Hall of Famer Stan Musial for eighth place on the all-time list.

Despite the two losses in Oakland, the Yankees remained in first place in the AL East by one game over the Rays and Orioles, who are playing each other this weekend. The Yankees will also get some reinforcements when Masahiro Tanaka returns to the rotation. He is scheduled to start Wednesday in Seattle in the last game of the trip.

The rotation could use a shot in the, well, arm. Yankees starters are a combined 18-19 with a 4.29 ERA, which ranks 20th of 30 major-league clubs. The Yankees are the only club with a winning record (25-24) whose starting unit has a losing mark. Opposing hitters are batting .275 against Yankees starting pitchers.

Pineda rediscovers his elusive slider

One could certainly say that Michael Pineda cleaned up his act Wednesday. In his prior start, the righthander had a disastrous seven-run inning against the Rangers that included a couple of errors, including one by himself. Very sloppy indeed.

There was none of that in Wednesday’s outing as he pitched the Yankees to a 4-2 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the Royals, who have a much more tortuous lineup than that of Texas.

Pineda’s work was part of a complete turnaround by the Yankees in the homestand. As bad as they looked in losing three games to the Rangers, that is how good the Yankees looked in winning three games from the Royals and regaining sole possession of first place in the American League East and reminding Kansas City how much more comfortable it is in the AL Central.

“Baseball is a strange game,” Yanks manager Joe Girardi said in a major understatement. “Over the long haul things balance out, but over a short span things don’t always balance out. Everything begins for me with starting pitching.”

That is where Pineda comes in, following quality starts from Adam Warren Tuesday night and Nathan Eovaldi Monday. Pineda gave up a first-inning home run to Mike Moustakas on a changeup and then slammed the door two outs into the seventh inning before he was victimized by the pitch-count police.

“I wanted to keep pitching, but I don’t have control of that,” Pineda said. “I asked how many pitches I had, and [Girardi] told me 106. So I guess that was it. A starting pitcher goes out every five days so on your day you want to pitch as long as you can, but that is not up to me. We have a good bullpen, so I know they can do the job.”

Girardi is known to be cautious with pitchers, particularly someone like Pineda, who has had two major surgeries.

“Michael has never pitched more than 170 innings in a season,” Girardi noted. “He’s on a pace for 220, 230 innings this year. It’s a long season.”

The key for Pineda was a return of his slider, which was missing entirely from his prior outing. He worked on some mechanical adjustments in his between-starts bullpen sessions. The results were positive. He allowed five hits other than the Moustakas homer and only one walk with eight strikeouts. While Masahiro Tanaka was having a rough injury-rehabilitation start for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Pawtucket (3 innings, 4 hits, 3 earned runs, 2 walks, 4 strikeouts), Pineda was pitching like a staff ace in improving his record to 6-2 with a 3.36 ERA.

Brian McCann got the Yankees even with a solo home run in the second off the other Chris Young, and Alex Rodriguez made it 4-1 the next inning with a three-run shot that raised his career RBI total to 1,995 to break Lou Gehrig’s AL career record. The long ball resurfaced for the Yankees in the series. They totaled six home runs in their six-game losing streak. They homered eight times in the three games against KC.

Pineda worked out of tight spots in the fourth and fifth innings and stranded two runners on base each time. He was particularly impressive in the fifth after Carlos Beltran misplayed a liner by Paulo Orlando into a double and Alcides Escobar singled. Pineda bore down and struck out Moustakas on a slider (no changeup this time) and Lorenzo Cain on an even nastier one.

An errant throw by shortstop Didi Gregorius led to an unearned run off Dellin Betances in the eighth (his stretch of unearned runs this season has reached 26 innings over 23 games), and Andrew Miller handled the ninth for his 14th save.

But as Girardi pointed out, it starts with the starter, and Pineda was every bit the good one.

Homestand taking a positive ‘shift’

As if a no-hitter is not difficult enough for a pitcher to accomplish, now they have to deal with all this over-shifting going on in the infield. I was thinking about that Tuesday night as Adam Warren was dealing in the early innings against the Royals.

Notions of a no-no entered my head as Warren set down the first 10 Kansas City batters in order with only one ball reaching the outfield. With left-handed hitting Mike Moustakas up in the fourth inning, I watched the Yankees go into one of those shifts with shortstop Didi Gregorius moving to the right side of second base and second baseman Stephen Drew paroling shallow right field.

Moustakas withstood the temptation of dumping a bunt to the left side and fouling up the defensive strategy altogether. Instead he swung away and hit a hard grounder between Gregorius and Drew for the Royals’ first hit. Watching the video replay, I felt it would have been a routine 4-3 out against a conventional infield setup. These shifts often give up as much as they take away.

Warren did not become unglued in losing the no-hitter; anything but. The righthander set down six more batters in a row before giving up the only run he allowed in his 6 1/3-inning stint on right fielder Paulo Orlando’s first career home run, with one out in the sixth.

That made the score 5-1 as the Yankees provided Warren with a comfort zone. Mark Teixeira drove in four of the runs with a two-run home run in the first inning off lefthander Jason Vargas and a two-run double in the fifth off righthander Joe Blanton. Tex scored the fifth run on a sacrifice fly by Chase Headley.

It was a positive sign for Teixeira, who had been 1-for-13 on the homestand. He is still an extra-base machine. Of Tex’s 36 hits, 23 (64 percent) have been for extra bases (9 doubles, 14 homers). Batting in front of Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez provided RBI chances by reaching base three times with two singles and walk. A-Rod scored twice on Teixeira hits.

After experiencing an embarrassing three-sweep at the hands of the Rangers to begin the homestand, the Yankees have a chance to salvage it Wednesday afternoon by completing a sweep of the more dangerous Royals.

Funny how that six-game losing streak seems like ancient history.

Wounded Warriors walkathon completed

A group of Yankees players with manager Joe Girardi stood to the right of the plate at Yankee Stadium 10 minutes before the start of Tuesday night’s Yankees-Royals game to greet former U.S. Navy officer and educational professional Richard Albero, who concluded his 1,150-mile walk from George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla., to the Stadium.

Albero began his journey March 2 to honor his nephew who passed away in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and to raise money for the Wounded Warrior Project.

The final leg of Albero’s trek brought him to “The Bat” by the site of the original Stadium, where he was joined by six Wounded Warriors from the United States Army — Sgt. First Class Shafeek Karamat, Capt. J.C. Brave, Sgt. First Class Jacob Weltsch, Capt. Gregory Backer, Sgt. Rafael Rodriguez and Specialist Anthony Gonzalez.

The group walked through Heritage Park, across East 161st Street and up Jerome Avenue toward Gate 2 of the current Stadium. Alberto and the Wounded Warriors entered the Stadium through the left-center field wall and made their way around the left field warning track all the way to the plate.

Yankees pitcher Adam Warren watches Richard Albero throw ceremonial first-pitch strike

Yankees pitcher Adam Warren watches Richard Albero throw ceremonial first-pitch strike

Albero had enough energy left to throw a strike to catcher John Ryan Murphy as the ceremonial first pitch of the game.

Aided by a number of support drivers by his side, Albero completed his trip in 86 days. He has already raised around $27,000. The Yankees nearly doubled that with a donation of $25,000. Presenting Albero with the check in the pre-game ceremony were Yankees managing partner and president of the New York Yankees Foundation Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal and senior vice president of marketing and Yankees Foundation board member Deborah Tymon.

To make a donation, please visit richardsyankeeswalk.org.

Discount day for St. John’s folks Wednesday

Chris Mullin, the former St. John’s All-America basketball player and new head coach, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the Yankees-Royals game at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

As part of the celebration, a special ticket offer with savings of up to 50 percent on select seats for the May 27 game is available for all St. John’s alumni, fans and supporters. For complete details on the offer, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/stjohns. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

Mullin, a Brooklyn native, is the all-time leading scorer in St. John’s history with 2,440 points, having starred at the university from 1981-85. His teams reached four straight NCAA tournaments and a Final Four in his senior season.

After a 16-year NBA career with the Golden State Warriors (1985-97, 2000-01) and the Indiana Pacers (1997-2000), Mullin was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2011. A two-time Olympic gold medalist (1984, ’92), he was a member of the famous U.S. “Dream Team,” which won the gold medal at the 1992 Summer Games in Barcelona.

Rockets’ red glare for Memorial Day victory

It looked as if the Yankees took a cue Monday from the Rangers — after Texas left town. The Rangers scored 30 runs in a three-game sweep of the Yankees that included third-inning rallies of seven runs Friday night and 10 Saturday afternoon. The Yanks put on such a show in the first inning Monday against the Royals, who came to town in first place in the American League Central.

Yankees hitters reacquainted themselves to the cozy right field porch at Yankee Stadium with four home runs in the first two innings off Kansas City righthander Jeremy Guthrie, who was absolutely dreadful to the Yanks’ delight.

The Memorial Day crowd of 36,031 had barely gotten comfortable in their seats when Brett Gardner led off the first inning with a double and Chase Headley drove the next pitch into the right field bleachers. A single by Alex Rodriguez and a walk to Mark Teixeira set the table for Brian McCann, who knocked a 1-2 pitch over the right field wall to make the score 5-0.

And the Yankees were not finished. Far from it. Two outs later, Guthrie hit Didi Gregorius with a pitch and allowed a single to Slade Heathcott. Gardner got his second extra-base hit of the inning and the Yankees’ third home with a three-run blast for 8-0. Another three-run homer, by Stephen Drew, ended Guthrie’s day before the first out of the second inning.

Guthrie faced 16 batters and let 13 of them reach base with 11 of them scoring. Now the Yankees know how the Rangers felt over the weekend.

“We have been through some tough and ugly losses lately, so that early lead was important,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That is why baseball is more unpredictable than any other sport. We have been through this from both sides.”

This one was as upside as it gets. Nathan Eovaldi pitched into the eighth and limited the Royals to one run, and the Yankees kept pouring it on toward a 14-1 final. Headley got his third RBI of the game in the fifth inning, and Heathcott added two more runs in the seventh with his first career home run, the fifth of the game for the Yanks, all of which were hit to right field. Heathcott’s dinger came off Greg Holland, one of the toughest relievers in the majors.

“We needed this,” Heathcott said. “We hit a bit of a bumpy patch the last week or so. It was nice that we kept scoring and putting together good at-bats the rest of the game.”

Heathcott, just up this week from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to help the Yankees get through the loss to the disabled list of Jacoby Ellsbury, has been the rare scent of fresh air lately. He is batting .455 (5-for-11) with a double, a homer and three RBI and has fared well defensively in center field.

His Yankees teammates did not play any games after his first major-league homer, perhaps cognizant of his hard-scrabble road to the majors following off-field issues of substance abuse. The former top prospect was dropped from the 40-man roster by the Yankees, drew no interest elsewhere, re-signed a minor-league deal with them and was returned to the roster last week.

“Guys were giving me high-fives,” Heathcott said about the reaction in the dugout. “It was great to see the veteran players — McCann, CC [Sabathia] — congratulating me. It was an awesome feeling. I was thinking, ‘Is this real?’ It’s a blessing just for me to be here.”

Heathcott was even able to get the milestone ball from a group of fans in the right field stands.

“It’s something my son [Eddie] will enjoy some day,” he said. “I thanked the fans for bringing me the ball. I gave them some balls and t-shirts. I have thought about this ever since I was six. I was just thrilled. I am thankful to everyone who had a part to helping me get to this point.”

It was also an eventful day for Jacob Lindgren, a lefthander who made his big-league pitching debut with two scoreless innings of relief (no hits, two walks, two strikeouts).

“What noticed when Lindy came into the game was that all the bullpen guys were on the outside bench,” Girardi said. “I liked seeing them pulling for him.”

Every player in the majors recalls vividly similar experiences they had to connect themselves with what Heathcott and Lindgren did Monday.

This was indeed a Memorial Day to remember.

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.

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