Yanks blow three-run lead to end 3-4 trip

A trip considered pivotal for the Yankees’ playoff chances did not turn out as well as they had hoped. They got off to a good start with a victory in Kansas City over one of the contenders for post-season play but hit snags in Detroit and Toronto where the Yanks lost each series, two games to one.

Sunday’s finale at Rogers Centre was a major disappointment. One day after sustaining a one-hit shutout, the Yankees bounced back against J.A. Happ to take a 3-0 lead behind Brandon McCarthy, who was rolling along through five innings working on a two-hit shutout.

Before McCarthy could get the third out of the sixth, however, he was smacked for two long home runs by Melky Cabrera and Jose Bautista that made it a one-run game. Cabrera’s 16th home run of the season was his fifth this year against his former teammates. Bautista’s 29th homer of the season made it five straight games in which he has gone deep, one shy of the franchise record by Jose Cruz Jr. in 2001. The major league record is eight shared by the Pirates’ Dale Long (1956), the Yankees’ Don Mattingly (1987) and the Mariners’ Ken Griffey Jr. (1993).

Edwin Encarnacion tied the score when he led off the seventh with another bomb of a homer (No. 28), and a shaken McCarthy then walked Dioner Navarro. That turned out to be just as bad as the home runs when pinch runner Steve Tolleson stole second base with two out and scored the go-ahead run on a single by Munenori Kawasaki off Dellin Betances. The play at home was close, but Tolleson sliding head first got his left hand across the plate just before the lunging tag by catcher Francisco Cervelli.

The Yankees had chances after that to get back in the game. They had two runners on with two out in the eighth against Brett Cecil, but Cervelli struck out. In the ninth, Jacoby Ellsbury, hobbled by a sprained left ankle that was heavily taped, came off the bench and pinch-hit a double to shallow right field with one out. Pinch runner Ichiro Suzuki moved to third as Brett Gardner, who flirted with a cycle, grounded out to the right side.

That brought up Derek Jeter in what was likely his final game in Toronto. A Hollywood ending would have had the Captain trying the score at least with a single or perhaps even putting the Yanks ahead with a two-run homer. Instead, he hit a soft liner to Tolleson to end the disappointing trip in which the Yankees were 3-4.

The Yanks wasted several other scoring opportunities. Cervelli tripled with two out in the second before Stephen Drew struck out. Cervelli singled in the Yankees’ second run in the fourth, but he and another runner were stranded when Drew flied out.

Gardner accounted for the other two runs with his 16th home run of the season, the fifth leading off a game, and a triple in the fifth when he continued to the plate on an errant relay by Jose Reyes. Gardner doubled with two out in the seventh but Jeter was out on a pepper shot. Gardner needed a single to complete the cycle, and it might have tied the score in the ninth except he grounded out. He also flied out to left field in the third inning.

While the Yankees had 11 hits, the middle of their lineup was silent as Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran combined to go 0-for-8 with five strikeouts. The Yanks had 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees’ loss dropped them nine games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East, and they stayed 3 1/2 games back in the wild-card race by failing to take advantage of a Detroit loss with Seattle and Kansas City playing later in the day. Even worse, the Yankees could have buried the Blue Jays but instead allowed Toronto to pull to 1 1/2 games behind them in the wild-card hunt.

Labor Day turns out to be a holiday as well for the Yankees, who have Monday off. Then it’s another crucial nine-game stretch at Yankee Stadium with three-game series each against the Red Sox, Royals and Rays. Time is growing short.

With Ellsbury out, Yanks’ attack toothless

In the bottom of the first inning Saturday at Toronto’s Rogers Centre, Michael Pineda gave up a two-run home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch. As former sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say, “You could have turned your set off right there.”

The way the game began is the way it ended, 2-0 for the Blue Jays, who went back above .500 (68-67), and a major downer for the Yankees, who managed merely one hit and one threat over the course of nine innings and need a victory in Sunday’s finale for a winning trip.

Probably not coincidental was that the Yankees’ lineup was minus Jacoby Ellsbury, their hottest hitter. The center fielder sprained his left ankle Friday night while sliding home into an out in the ninth inning. His ankle apparently slammed into a shinguard of catcher Dioner Navarro. Ellsbury played the field in the bottom of the ninth but was too sore to play Saturday. Whether he can return to the lineup Sunday remains to be seen.

Ellsbury has struggled on the road much of the season but not during this trip through Kansas City, Detroit and Toronto. He is batting .440 with six runs, one triple, four home runs, nine RBI and two stolen bases in 25 at-bats. Over his past 11 games and 44 at-bats, Ellsbury is batting .455 with eight runs, one double, one triple, four homers,11RBI and six stolen bases.

Yet as several players pointed out to reporters in the clubhouse afterwards, the loss of one player should not shut down a whole team. Drew Hutchison, who had lost three of his four stars with a 7.08 ERA this year against the Yankees entering the game, did not allow a base runner until two out in the fourth inning when he hit Carlos Beltran with a pitch. Mark Teixeira doubled to right-center, which turned out to be the Yankees’ only hit. Hutchison loaded the bags when he struck Brian McCann with a pitch, but Martin Prado flied out to center.

And that was that. The Yankees had only two base runners after that, both on walks. It was a tough fate for Pineda, who gave the Yankees another fine outing. The righthander pitched two batters into the seventh inning and gave up seven hits with no walks and three strikeouts. In four starts since missing 86 games because of a right shoulder injury, Pineda is 1-1 with a 2.31 ERA, one walk and 15 strikeouts in 23 1/3 innings.

Surrendering a home run to Bautista is no great crime. The Jays right fielder has 28 of them this year and has homered in each of his past four games. It was also his 23rd career home run against the Yankees. Pineda got in trouble in the seventh after yielding a single to Edwin Encarnacion and a double to Navarro. But Shawn Kelley came to the rescue by striking out Danny Valencia and getting Kevin Pillar on a grounder and Jose Reyes on a fly ball. David Huff also supplied a shutout inning of relief, but the offense was shut out for nine.

This important trip has had its highs and lows, among them the setback in his desire to pitch again this season for Masahiro Tanaka. He pitched a simulated game Thursday in Detroit and was sent back to New York after reporting general arm soreness, which is not unusual in recovery situations such as his. The one positive element is that the soreness was not related to his elbow that was treated for a partial ligament tear. Just the same, odds of his pitching at all for the Yanks this season were greatly reduced.

Yanks bounce back and bounce Buehrle again

Things were looking so bad for a while there Friday night for the Yankees that it appeared they might not win a game started by Mark Buehrle. The lefthander, who has not beaten the Yankees in 10 years, looked as if he might end that streak over the first six innings.

Then came the seventh and then went Buehrle. He was working on a four-hit shutout entering the inning but faced four batters without getting an out and left the game in his usual circumstance against the Yankees — trailing.

The five spot the Yankees put on the board in the seventh meant that Buehrle would fail to get a winning decision in his 16th straight start against them, the second such losing streak only to a 19-start stretch by Slim Harriss.

Brian McCann, who came within inches of winning Thursday’s game at Detroit that became a tough loss for the Yankees, got the seventh inning started for the Yanks with a double off the right field wall. Buehrle then gave up his first walk, to Carlos Beltran.

Brett Gardner might have been expected to bunt the runners over, but manager Joe Girardi had him swinging away, and it paid off. Gardner ripped a double to left that scored McCann, and Beltran followed him home on an errant relay by second baseman Steve Tolleson that gave the Yankees the lead.

Matters just got worse for Buehrle, who gave up an infield single to Ichiro Suzuki and after leaving the game watched his catcher, Dioner Navarro, try to pick Gardner off third base and throw the ball into left field.

Jacoby Ellsbury hit a rocket over the right field wall for his 14th home run and a 5-1 Yankees lead. It came off lefthander Aaron Loup, the first he had ever yielded to a left-handed batter in the major leagues. Ellsbury continued his torrid trip in which he is batting .440 with a 1.000 slugging percentage, one triple, four home runs and nine RBI in 25 at-bats.

The Blue Jays made it 5-3 in the bottom of the seventh, but the Yankees went on to win, 6-3, with Chase Headley adding a bomb of a home run to right-center in the ninth. It was an impressive victory for the Yanks coming off Thursday’s low ebb. They moved 3 1/2 games ahead of the Blue Jays and dropped Toronto back to .500 at 67-67.

Buehrle’s career record against the Yankees fell to 1-13. Only one other pitcher in major-league history was worse against them, Red Ruffing, who was 1-16 during his years with the Red Sox. Ironically, he was traded to the Yankees and became one of the franchise’s great aces and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1967. It was also Buehrle’s eighth straight loss this season. He had a 10-1 record as of June 1 and is now 11-9.

Chris Capuano finally got his first victory with the Yankees. He gave up a home run to Juan Bautista in the fourth but stayed close with Buehrle into the seventh. Errors by Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner were responsible for one of the two runs Capuano gave up in the seventh.

Lefthander Josh Outman, the reliever the Yankees obtained from the Indians Thursday, made his first appearance and allowed a pinch-hit single to Munenori Kawasaki, but David Robertson got a four-out save to get the Yankees an uplifting victory to start the Labor Day weekend.

All Yanks join Ellsbury in hit parade

No sooner had Jacoby Ellsbury reached first base with a leadoff single in the third inning Wednesday night at Detroit that I said to myself, “Anyone else on this team want to help this guy?”

Ellsbury had accounted for both Yankees runs in Tuesday night’s 5-2 loss with solo home runs and opened Wednesday’s game with a single and a stolen base but was stranded at second base.

I do not claim any penchant for mental telepathy, but I may have transmitted something across to the rest of the Yankees because all they did an entire turn through the batting order that inning was follow Ellsbury’s lead and reach base with hits.

It was a manager’s absolute dream as Joe Girardi watched each player he placed in the lineup knock his way on base. Ellsbury’s speed got him a second steal as he outran a pickoff. Derek Jeter brought him home with a double as the parade began, followed by a single by Martin Prado, a double by Mark Teixeira and singles by Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Chase Headley, Brett Gardner and Francisco Cervelli. Not only did the Yankees get nine hits in a row but also eight straight with runners in scoring position, which in some cases this year has been a series worth of clutch hits.

And that was no tomato can on the mound off of whom the Yankees got nine consecutive hits, two shy of the Rockies’ major league mark against the Cubs in 2010. The Detroit starter was none other than 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price, who entered the game with a 10-5 career record against the Yankees.

Price never did get an out that inning. Tigers manager Brad Ausmus yanked him for another lefthander, Blaine Hardy, who gave up two more runs on sacrifice flies by Ellsbury and Jeter as the Yankees swelled their lead to 8-0.

Remember how excited the Yankees were Monday night when they scored eight runs against the Royals with James Shields starting? Well, this time they scored that many runs in just one inning.

Ellsbury certainly looks comfortable back in the leadoff spot where he batted most often in his years with the Red Sox. Girardi has had to use him in the 3-hole much of this year because of the inconsistency and injuries to Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran.

Usual leadoff man Gardner was out the first two games of the trip because of a right ankle bruise. He was back Wednesday night but dropped to the 8-hole because of his career problems against Price (2-for-20 entering play).

With two hits, two stolen bases and an RBI over his first three plate appearances, Ellsbury definitely was a table setter. Yet for a change he had plenty of support.

As appreciative as Girardi for all this offense was Yanks starter Shane Greene, who did not give up a hit or a run until the fourth inning. The righthander did not pitch as it he had a huge lead but rather as if the score was close, the best approach for a pitcher to take.

Green gave up two runs, five hits and one walk with a hit batter and eight strikeouts in seven innings to remain undefeated in eight starts since July 21 and improve his record to 4-1 with a 3.09 ERA.

The big-inning victory also did the Yanks quite a bit of good in the standings. They picked up a game on the Orioles in the American League East and now trail by six and sliced a game off the deficit for the second wild card spot to 2 1/2 games behind the Mariners and two behind the Tigers.

Girardi dunked; Yanks donate $100G to ALS

The Ice Bucket Challenge that has helped bring awareness to the debilitating disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) reached the Yankees Wednesday as manager Joe Girardi took part and then offered challenges to the four newest members of Monument Park — Joe Torre, Goose Gossage, Tino Martinez and Paul O’Neill. Torre already participated earlier this month alongside commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

In connection with Girardi’s participation, the Yankees pledged $100,000 to the ALS Association (www.alsa.org). The donation is made in recognition of those who bravely live with ALS, those who have died from the condition and those around the world who have taken part in the Ice Bucket Challenge in an effort to raise awareness and funding to find a cure.

Girardi, whose uncle died of the disease in April, told reporters in Detroit after Yanks publicist Jason Zillo dumped over an ice bucket on him, “I think this is a really good thing. It started here, and it’s bringing a lot of attention to ALS. It’s a horrific disease, what it does to people. And it’s not just older, it’s young people that it happens to. Hopefully all these things people are doing to raise money help find a cure.”

Video of Girardi’s participation may be found at http://www.yankees.com, on the Yankees’ official Twitter account (@yankees) and on the Yankees’ official Facebook page (facebook.com/yankees).

“The Yankees organization has been inspired by the public’s embrace of the Ice Bucket Challenge as a creative way to support ALS charities,” Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. “We make this donation in the memory of everyone who has been touched by ALS and those who have tried to make a difference in finding a cure.”

The Yankees have had a long-standing relationship with the ALS Association Greater New York Chapter (www.als-ny.org), providing financial contributions and other resources to the organization.

ALS is most closely associated with former Yankees first baseman and captain Lou Gehrig, who passed away from its effects June 2, 1941 at the age of 37. Former Yankees pitcher and fellow Hall of Famer Jim “Catfish” Hunter also died from ALS in 1999 at the age of 53.

Known as “The Iron Horse,” Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games before taking himself out of the Yankees’ lineup prior to the team’s May 2, 1939 game at Detroit where the Yankees are now involved in a series against the Tigers. He never played in a major-league game again.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day, which was held July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium between games of a doubleheader against the old Washington Senators. After receiving kind words from New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, U.S. Postmaster General James A. Farley, Yankees manager Joe McCarthy and former teammate Babe Ruth, Gehrig stepped to the microphone to make his famous speech which began, “For the past two weeks, you’ve been reading about a bad break. Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.”

Two more homers for Ellsbury in loss to Tigers

It would have been awfully hard for Brandon McCarthy to match his previous start for the Yankees, a four-hit, eight-strikeout, complete-game shutout against the Astros in a tidy two hours and seven minutes last week at Yankee Stadium.

But if there was a team McCarthy might have pitched almost as well against, it was the Tigers. The righthander entered Tuesday night’s game at Comerica Park having won his prior three starts against Detroit with an ERA of 0.46 in 19 2/3 innings.

That streak came to an end and the Yankees’ five-game winning streak as well as the Tigers roughed up McCarthy for five runs and nine hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 5-2 Detroit victory that pushed the Tigers three games up on the Yanks in the race for the second American League wild-card playoff spot.

Indications that this might not be McCarthy’s night came as early as the second inning when he loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a hit batter and forced in a run with another walk. He averted further damage by getting Ian Kinsler on a double-play grounder.

J.D. Martinez, who had three hits off McCarthy, doubled with two out in the third for the second Detroit run. McCarthy then settled down and retired seven straight batters into the sixth before giving up three straight hits as the Tigers added two runs that inning. A leadoff double by Rajai Davis and a one-out single by Torii Hunter in the seventh led to another run and McCarthy’s departure.

His 1.90 ERA, the best for a Yankees starter through his first eight starts for the franchise since Jimmy Key’s 1.79 ERA in 1993, took a hike up to 2.47 as his record fell to 5-3 with the Yanks and 8-13 overall. Detroit did not crush the ball against McCarthy, who kept the Tigers in the yard but had a hard time keeping them off base.

The Yankees’ offense was pretty much all Jacoby Ellsbury, which is not all that surprising considering his career success against Tigers righthander Rick Porcello. Ellsbury accounted for both New York runs with a couple of solo home runs. He is now 11-for-17 (.647) with four home runs lifetime against Porcello, who was much better against the rest of the lineup.

Porcello held a Yankees lineup that had scored eight runs the night before at Kansas City to seven singles. His sinker was working big-time as the Yankees made 14 outs on ground balls to go with two strikeouts and no walks. Porcello’s 15th victory tied him with teammate Max Scherzer for the AL lead in that category.

For Ellsbury, it was his second consecutive three-hit game as he continues to be hot. He came off a .409 homestand to begin this trip with six hits in nine at-bats (.667) with three home runs and five RBI.

It is an encouraging sign for Ellsbury, who has hit much better at home this season than on the road. Ellsbury is batting .329 with five home runs and 22 RBI in 222 at-bats at the Stadium this year. The past two nights have boosted his road average to .246 with eight homers and 38 RBI in 268 at-bats.

Yanks have another ‘big game’ against Shields

James Shields’ nickname is “Big Game,” but the Yankees are the ones who often have the big game when they face him. Such was the case again Monday night as the Yankees got off to a positive start to their significant trip that continues to Detroit and Toronto with an 8-1 victory over the American League Central-leading Royals in a makeup game from a June 9 rainout.

Despite playing without two of their most productive hitters, Brett Gardner (bruised right ankle) and Mark Teixeira (tender left hamstring), the Yankees banged out 13 hits with every member of the lineup contributing to the effort that earned them their fifth straight victory. The barrage included home runs by Stephen Drew, Martin Prado and Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ten of the hits were off Shields, who was trailing by only 2-1 going into the seventh inning when the Yanks broke things open with four runs. Prado, who has been red hot lately, started the inning with a home run. In his past nine games, Prado is batting .417 with eight runs, six doubles, three home runs and 10 RBI in 36 at-bats to raise his season batting average 12 points to .272.

Singles by Chase Headley and Ichiro Suzuki were followed one out later with singles by Ellsbury and Derek Jeter and a sacrifice fly by Brian McCann. Ellsbury finished off a three-hit, three-RBI night with a two-run homer in the ninth off lefthander Francisley Bueno.

Shields was charged with six earned runs in his 6 2/3 innings. He also walked three batters and committed a costly error that led to a Yankees run in the third inning that was driven in by Jeter on an infield out. The Captain had two RBI in his final regular-season game at Kauffman Stadium where he was warmly received by the crowd of 31,758.

The loss dropped Shields’ career record against the Yankees to 9-16 with a 4.33 ERA in 195 1/3 innings. The righthander was the first of four formidable pitchers the Yankees were scheduled to face this week, followed by the Tigers’ Rick Porcello, David Price and Justin Verlander.

The offensive outburst was a welcome sight for the Yankees, who have struggled with the bat much of the season. And the way Michael Pineda pitched, not all that much offense was necessary.

In his third start since coming back from a right shoulder injury, Pineda allowed one run (on a third-inning solo homer by Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas) and five hits with no walks and five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings. Pineda is 1-0 with two no-decisions and a 2.08 ERA with one walk and 12 strikeouts in 17 1/3 innings since his return from the disabled list. He has helped fortify a rotation that has been riddled by injuries throughout the season.

David Huff, coming off a victory in relief Sunday, supplied 2 2/3 scoreless innings in support of Pineda, who earned his first winning decision since April 16.

Not to take anything away from this winning streak, but four of the victories came against the going-nowhere Astros and White Sox, but the Royals have proved a legitimate contender for a division title and playoff berth. The Yanks took three of four from Detroit three weeks ago at the Stadium, so there is no reason for them not to feel confident going into Comerica Park.

McCann’s walk-off climaxes homestand

In their previous homestand the Yankees faced American League Cy Young Award winners three games in a row against Detroit. They ended up winning two of those matchups.

Sunday at Yankee Stadium marked the first of another series of confrontations with front-line starting pitchers, and the Yankees held their own in getting the best of White Sox lefthander Chris Sale, who entered the game unbeaten against the Bombers.

In truth, Sale was done in by his defense, but the Yankees took advantage of the door that was opened for them. White Sox left fielder Dayan Viciedo dropped a fly ball by Martin Prado on the warning track with one out for a two-base error that created the opening against Sale, who entered that sixth inning working on a two-hitter with a 3-0 lead.

By inning’s end, the Yankees had pulled in front, 4-3, with all four runs unearned against Sale’s record. He did not help matters, however, by hitting rookie Zelous Wheeler with a pitch with the bases loaded that forced home one of the runs.

The big hit for the Yankees was a two-run single by Ichiro Suzuki, ironically the only left-handed batter in the starting lineup as manager Joe Girardi chose to stack right-handed swingers against Sale. An aching right ankle kept Brett Gardner on the bench. Girardi decided to give a blow as well to Jacoby Ellsbury, who came into the game in the seventh inning for defense.

Sale escaped with a no-decision when Avisail Garcia, who had struck out in all three of his previous at-bats, drove a first-pitch, knuckle curve from David Robertson to right field for a game-tying home run.

It ended a stretch of 22 consecutive converted save opportunities for Robertson, who had a homestand of mixed results. He was the winning pitcher Friday night and got his 34th save Saturday but also was the losing pitcher last Tuesday night against the Astros when he gave up a three-home run to Chris Carter in the ninth inning of a non-save situation.

All of Chicago’s runs off Yankees starter Chris Capuano were on home runs. Alexei Ramirez led off the game with a homer. Conor Gillaspie connected for a two-run shot in the sixth, Capuano’s last inning.

More big-name pitchers are to come over the next several days for the Yankees. Monday was originally an open date, but the Yanks must travel to Kansas City to make up a June 9 rainout and face James Shields. After that, it is off to Detroit where the starters for the first two games will be Rick Porcello and David Price.

At least the Yankees will take to the road after a satisfying finish to the homestand. After losing the first two games to the Astros, the Yankees came back to win the next four games. Sunday was looking like a downer after Robertson coughed up the lead, but Brian McCann came off the bench to provide the winning blow in the 7-4, 10-inning victory over the White Sox.

McCann has heard his share of boos at the Stadium this year as he has struggled offensively, but there were thunderous cheers from the crowd of 43,366 when he smoked a 3-2 changeup from righthander Jake Petricka for a walk-off three-run home run.

I am on record of giving McCann some slack. It can be tough for a player to switch leagues, particularly a catcher who not only has to learn new opposing pitchers but also with his own staff behind the plate. Some fans might have figured McCann would hit more homers playing regularly and aiming for the Stadium’s right field porch. But he has 54 RBI, which is tied with Mark Teixeira for second on the club only one behind Ellsbury, the club leader.

Another major contribution came from reliever David Huff, who was the winning pitcher. The lefthander put himself in danger in the top of the 10th when he gave up a two-out single to Carlos Sanchez that put runners on first and second and gave an at-bat to AL Rookie of the Year favorite Jose Abreu.

Pitching coach Larry Rothschild visited the mound to remind Huff that there was one open base so that if he fell behind in the count not to worry about walking Abreu, who looked at two knee-high fastballs for strikes. After taking a pitch out of the strike zone, Abreu kept the bat on his shoulder again only to watch Huff hit the outside corner with another fastball for called strike three. Maybe that pitch alone was deserving of a winning decision.

Jeter does flip-flop on farewell tour

Derek Jeter got to return the favor Sunday at Yankee Stadium to Paul Konerko, who was the White Sox representative when the Captain was honored earlier this year at U.S. Cellular Field.

Derek Jeter got to return the favor Sunday at Yankee Stadium to Paul Konerko, who was the White Sox representative when the Captain was honored earlier this year at U.S. Cellular Field.


Derek Jeter got to participate in this farewell-tour stuff from the other side Sunday at Yankee Stadium.

Jeter has been feted at ballparks across North America in his 20th and final season in the major leagues. Sunday, the Captain took on the role of presenter to another popular veteran who is playing in his last season in the majors, Paul Konerko. In a brief, pregame ceremony, Jeter on behalf of the Yankees organization presented a first base bag to Konerko, who has been a first baseman for the majority of his 18 big-league seasons, the past 16 with the White Sox.

Konerko has played sparingly (69 games) this season as a back-up player for Chicago and wanted to be in the lineup for his last regular-season game at the Stadium, one of his favorite parks, so manager Robin Ventura started him as the designated hitter and batting sixth. Entering the game, Konerko was a .327 career hitter with 24 home runs and 59 RBI in 196 at-bats at the Stadium.

Yankees deep-6 number for Joe Torre

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

At the latest number retired in Monument Park (left to right) Joe Torre’s sisters, Sister Marguerite and Rae; his son, Michael; his daughters Andrea and Lauren; his wife, Ali; Joe; Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina; and Yankees general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.


And then there was one, which is actually two.

Huh?

The discussion is about uniform numbers. The Yankees retired No. 6 for Joe Torre Saturday. It occurred to the popular former manager that the shortstop he brought to the major leagues and nurtured through his early career has another distinction besides being the Yankees’ all-time leader in games played and hits.

Looking into the dugout where Derek Jeter was leaning against the railing from the top step, Torre said to the sellout crowd of 47,594 in the pregame ceremony, “There’s one single digit left out there.”

That would be Jeter’s No. 2, the only single digit not yet retired by the Yankees but definitely will be at some point, perhaps as early as next year following his retirement. Yogi Berra, one of the two No. 8’s retired (fellow catcher Bill Dickey is the other) took part in the ceremony, along with several former players, including two others who have had their uniform numbers retired, Reggie Jackson (44) and Ron Guidry (49).

Berra and Dickey are in that group of single-digit retired numbers that also features Billy Martin (1), Babe Ruth (3), Lou Gehrig (4), Joe DiMaggio (5), Mickey Mantle (7) and Roger Maris (9). So DJ now stands alone.

Torre, his wife Ali and other members of the family began the ceremony in Monument Park where he unveiled his number and plaque alongside Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and general partner Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal. They eventually made their way to the center of the field for the ceremony amid former players David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte; former coaches Guidry, Willie Randolph, Jose Cardenal and Lee Mazzilli; longtime managers Tony La Russa (who was inducted into the Hall of Fame this year with Torre) and Jim Leyland; former trainer Gene Monahan and Jackson.

An especially nice touch was Jeter escorting Jean Zimmer from the dugout to the field. Known by her nickname, “Soot,” she is the widow of the late Don Zimmer, Joe’s longtime bench coach. There was also a touching video message from former Yankees pitcher and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, who was unable to travel to the event.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who served for Torre both as a catcher and a bench coach, presented his old boss with a framed version of his Monument Park plaque. Hal Steinbrenner and his wife, Christina, presented a framed version of No. 6. Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal on behalf of the organization gave Torre a diamond ring with No. 6 embossed in the center.

Observing all this from the visitor’s dugout was another of Torre’s former players, White Sox manager Robinb Ventura.

“It feels like the World Series all over again,” Torre told the crowd. “To have a number retired for any team is something special, but when you’re talking about the history and tradition of the New York Yankees, it is a feeling you can’t describe. There wouldn’t have been a Cooperstown without Yankee Stadium. I want to thank Randy Levine, Lonn Trost and Brian Cashman and the woman behind the scenes, Debbie Tymon, who does so much for this organization. Arthur Richman mentioned my name to George, but it was Stick Michael who recommended me for the job.”

And what a job Torre did. The Yankees reached postseason play in all 12 of his managerial seasons and won six pennants and four World Series, including three in a row from 1998-2000.

Torre acknowledged his gratitude to the late owner George Steinbrenner for taking Gene Michael’s advice and hiring him despite a resume that included mediocre results as a manager with the Mets, Braves and Cardinals, the same three clubs for whom he had played during a 16-season career. The kid from Brooklyn who grew up a New York Giants fan clearly fell in love with the pinstripes.

“George gave me the greatest opportunity in my professional life,” Torre said, “I played in the majors for 16 years, but they could never match my 12 years in Yankees pinstripes. I will be forever grateful to the Steinbrenner family for trusting me with this team.

“One thing you never forget or lose feeling for are you people, all of you people, and it continues. I walk around and people thank me. They don’t realize what a good time i had. New York fans make this city a small town. When you get to this ballpark you feel the heartbeat, and it’s something that does not go away.

“It’s a short distance from the old Stadium to here but a long, long way from the field to Monument Park. I was blessed to make that journey on the shoulders of some very special players.”

In his previous managerial stops, Torre had worn No. 9, but he could not get that with the Yankees because it had been retired for Maris. Early in his playing career with the Braves, Torre wore No. 15 (his brother, Frank, had No. 14), but that was also not available with the Yankees since it was retired in honor of the late Thurman Munson.

Actually, Torre is one of four Hall of Famers who have worn No. 6 for the Yankees. Some fans may not know that Mickey Mantle wore No. 6 as a rookie in 1951 before switching to 7 the next year. Tony Lazzeri was the Yankees’ first No. 6, followed by his successor at second base, Joe Gordon.

Perhaps some karma was in the air because the Yankees second baseman Saturday, Martin Prado, was a huge factor in their 5-3 victory over the White Sox that was a fitting accompaniment to the afternoon.

Prado, who won Friday night’s game with a walk-off single in the ninth inning, had a part in four of the Yankees’ runs Saturday. His bunt single in the second helped build a run that subsequently scored on a double play. He drove in two runs in the fourth with the first of his two doubles in the game. He also doubled in the sixth and scored on a fly ball by Stephen Drew. Carlos Beltran drove in the other Yanks’ run in the sixth with his 15th home run.

Perhaps the only thing more appropriate would have been if the Yankees had scored six runs. What is definitely appropriate is that the number was retired for the person who wore it the longest, one more year than the player who had it for 11 seasons, Roy White (1969-79).

Now all that awaits is the day when Jeter, who got a rare day off Saturday, completes the single-digit retirement.

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