Who would have thought Joe Torre was such a prophet back in 1996? The Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series to the Braves at Yankee Stadium, but the ever-cool Torre promised Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner he would bring the Series back to the Bronx by winning the three games at Atlanta.
“That is my town,” said Torre, who both played and managed for the Braves and lived in Atlanta for more than a decade. “We’ll win the games there and wrap up the Series in Game 6 here.”
Lord knows what Steinbrenner made of such a boast other than to respond, “You better!”
Thanks to the pitching of David Cone and Andy Pettitte, the hitting of Bernie Williams and Jim Leyritz and the fielding of sore-legged Paul O’Neill, the Yanks did precisely that by sweeping the Bravos in their own yard and capping off the Series with a victory at home over Hall of Fame-bound Greg Maddux in Game 6.
And the Yankees have not stopped winning in Atlanta ever since, including this weekend by completing a three-game sweep with a 20-6 battering of the Braves.
Chase Headley and Stephen Drew each homered and drove in four runs. Drew reached base in all six of his plate appearances with three singles and two walks to go with his 16th dinger that got his season batting average over .200 (.201).
Jacoby Ellsbury started the parade against Braves starter Julio Teheran with a three-run home run in the second inning after two were out. The Yankees made it 7-0 in the third with four more two-out runs on two-run home runs by Headley and Drew.
Nathan Eovaldi, who has benefit from abundant run support all season, was fine through five innings but gave up three straight hits at the start of the sixth. All three runners eventually scored as the Braves cut the deficit to 8-5.
The Yankees pulled away with a vengeance in a 27-minute top of the seventh as they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. A bases-loaded single by Alex Rodriguez pinch hitting got the first two runs in, and the line just kept moving on RBI hits by Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Greg Bird, Headley and Drew.
Three more runners crossed the plate in the eighth, one on a double by Branden Pinder, the first extra-base hit by a Yankees pitcher in six years. The Yankees finished with 21 hits with each spot in the batting order getting at least one hit and one run. At the top of the order Ellsbury and Gardner batted seven times apiece in a nine-inning game.
All those runs helped push Eovaldi’s record to 14-2, the best winning percentage (.875) for a starting pitcher this season. The righthander extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts over which he is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.
McCann had a splendid homecoming to his former stomping grounds in batting .300 with one double, one home run and six RBI in 10 at-bats in the series. He walked five times and scored five runs. Didi Gregorius also had a big series by going 7-for-12 (.533) with a double, a homer and seven RBI.
So after dropping two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium in which they batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs (1.3 per game), the Yankees bashed away at a .365 clip with 19 extra-base hits and 38 runs (12.7 per game) against the Braves.
That is what playing in Atlanta can do for them.
The Yankees’ .857 all-time winning percentage at Turner Field based on a 12-2 record is their highest at any ballpark in club history (minimum two games played). They have an eight-game winning streak dating back to June 24, 2009 at the Ted, which is in its 19th and final season as the home of the Braves, who will move to the suburbs next year. The only longer winning streak by an opponent is a nine-gamer by the Phillies from June 6 to Sept. 18, 2008.
The Yankees have won all five road series at Turner Field (3-0 this year, 3-0 in 2012, 2-1 in 2009, 2-1 in 2000 and 2-0 in 1998). They scored at least six runs in nine of their 14 games at the Ted.
Including postseason play, the Yankees’ all-time record in Atlanta is 17-2 (.895), featuring a perfect 5-0 in World Series play. In addition to those victories Torre promised the Boss in 1996 in the last three games played at old Fulton County Stadium, the Yanks won both World Series games at Turner Field in their four-game sweep in 1999.
After what the Yankees saw of Braves pitching over the weekend, they can be sure there will be no World Series in Atlanta this year.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi was actually asked by a reporter after Saturday night’s game, a 3-1 victory over the Braves, if the game should have continued after a man in the stands at Turner Field fell from the 401 level to the 220 level not far from where some family members of Yankees players were located.
The mother of Yankees catcher Brian McCann was at the game to watch her son play at Turner Field for the first time in two years and near the area when the man fell approximately 50 feet onto the concrete.
“My mom was right in the mix,” McCann said. “All our families are up there so you’re just praying for the best. It’s so unfortunate.”
By the time the question was posed to Girardi, who was diplomatic in his response, it had become known that the man had died. His fall occurred during the top of the seventh inning at the time Alex Rodriguez was announced as a pinch hitter for Luis Severino, the Yankees’ starting pitcher.
The man was later identified as Greg “Ace’ Murrey, 60, from suburban Alpharetta, Ga., and a Braves season ticket holder. A moment of silence to his memory was observed before Sunday’s game with players from both teams lined up respectfully in front of their dugouts.
With all due respect to the deceased, why should the game have been stopped? It was a terrible tragedy, no doubt, but the man was attended to quickly by medical personnel in the ballpark and hurried off by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.
Unfortunately, people get hurt in the stands pretty much on a daily basis in Major League Baseball what with foul balls zinging into the stands throughout the game. No ballgame would ever get completed if it was stopped every time a fan got hurt.
Obviously, this was far more serious that most injuries, but no one could know for sure at the time whether Murrey would survive the fall, so why criticize the teams for continuing play?
I recall covering a game at the old Yankees Stadium in the early 1990s when suddenly a body zoomed down in front of us in the pressbox from a deck above us. Bill Pennington of the New York Times was sitting next to me and said, “Did you just see what I saw?”
We leaned over the railing and saw a man in his early 20s bouncing on the protective screen that covered the seating area behind the plate. Without that, this guy would have been a goner, just like the man in Atlanta.
Major League Baseball is looking into the possibility of placing more protective screens in ballparks to help protect fans from baseballs hit into the stands. Saturday night’s incident at Atlanta was of a different sort, however. An investigation into Murrey’s fall is ongoing.
Yankees fans should take note of some scheduling updates for next month.
The Sept. 12 game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium has been changed from a 4:05 p.m. start as originally scheduled to 1:05 p.m. It is the third game of a four-game series against Toronto, following 7:05 p.m. starts Thursday and Friday, Sept. 10-11, and preceding the series finale at 1:05 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
In addition, the finale of the second round of the Subway Series Sunday, Sept. 20, at Citi Field has been selected by ESPN for Sunday Night Baseball and will start at 8:05 p.m. The other two games that weekend between the Yankees and the Mets will be at 7:05 p.m. Friday, Sept. 18, and 1:05 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 19.
Here is the latest promo from Yankees on Demand.
1-2 Punch (Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller)
The Brian McCann lovefest in Atlanta continued Saturday night as the Yankees won again, although this time without the fireworks their offense showed Friday night in a 15-4 bashing of the Braves.
The winning score for the Yankees was a much more modest 3-1, but once again McCann and Didi Gregorius supplied some firepower to match the superlative pitching of Luis Severino (2-2), Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller (28th save).
McCann, returning to his hometown and Turner Field where he was an All-Star catcher for the Braves before signing as a free agent with the Yankees last year, got his fifth RBI of the series with a double to right-center in the eighth inning that scored Chris Young, pinch running for Carlos Beltran, who had led off with a walk.
You would have thought McCann was still playing for the Braves the way so many fans in the sellout crowd of 49,243 reacted to his hit. Yankees fans seemed to be in every part of the stands.
That proved an important insurance run for Betances, who worked out of jams in the seventh and eighth innings as the Braves threatened to even the score. Atlanta got on the board in the seventh when Justin Wilson an ill-advised throw to first base by Gregorius for an error on a fielder’s choice.
Betances entered with two out and a runner on first base and got off to a shaky start by walking Cameron Maybin on four pitches. That brought up the dangerous Freddie Freeman, who hit a hard grounder up the middle that Betances gloved with a behind-the-back swipe and threw to first to end the inning.
After McCann’s hit made the score 3-1 in the eighth, the Braves put two runners on with singles in the bottom half, but Betances struck out Andrelton Simmons looking at a fastball on the inside corner, to which the shortstop objected demonstratively but was not ejected.
Miller made quick work of the Braves in the ninth by retiring the side in order with two strikeouts.
In a pairing of rookies, Severino got the better of Atlanta’s Matt Wisler, who gave up a run in the first inning on a wild pitch but held the Yankees down until the seventh when back-to-back doubles by Chase Headley and Gregorius gave the Yankees their second run. Gregorius’ two-bagger was their only hit in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position and his ninth RBI in the past three games.
Severino, who seems to get better with every start, pitched six innings and allowed only four hits with five strikeouts. He had some control issues with three walks but held the Braves hitless in three at-bats with runners in scoring position as they stranded six runners in his time on the mound.
The righthander has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his five starts and lowered his season ERA to 2.17. He has become a fixture in the rotation and has displayed composure unexpected of a 21-year-old.
Not all of the news in Atlanta has been positive, however. Mark Teixeira still experiences pain attempting to run and remains on the bench for an indefinite period. He is doubtful for Sunday’s series finale at the Ted and hopeful to return in Boston, the next stop on the trip.
Maybe that day off Thursday was just what the Yankees needed. They burst out of the gate Friday night at Atlanta at the start of a six-game trip that continues to Boston with five runs in the top of the first inning, which is one more run than they scored in all 27 of the innings in the recent three-game series against the Astros.
The Yankees were not content with that five spot. They poured it on again with four runs the next inning and four more in the eighth and two in the ninth off Jonny Gomes, Atlanta’s sixth pitcher and an outfielder by trade, for a 15-4 triumph. Just three days ago, the Yankees were on the other end of a 15-1 score.
It was an ideal homecoming for Georgia native Brian McCann, who walked three times, belted a three-run home run and got a fourth RBI with a sacrifice fly. He was even cheered by the Turner Field crowd when he homered.
As good as McCann was, Didi Gregorius was better. He set a career high with six RBI in a 4-for-5 game. Chase Headley had three RBI with a couple of doubles.
The Yankees were hitless in 14 at-bats in losing two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium, but they got off to a 2-for-2 start in those situations against the Braves and rookie righthander Williams Perez.
Jacoby Ellsbury, who did not play Wednesday while nursing a bruised right hip, was back in the lineup Friday night although he and Brett Gardner failed to reach base in the first inning. Carlos Beltran got the Yankees going with a two-out single that ran his hitting streak to 11 games.
McCann, who received a standing ovation from the crowd, followed with his first walk. McCann grew up in the region and was an All-Star catcher for the Braves before signing with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2014 season.
Perez walked fellow rookie Greg Bird, which loaded the bases for Headley, who ended the Yankees’ hitless stretch in the clutch with a double that bounced over the fence in left-center for two runs.
Gregorius then drove a 1-0 pitch to right field for a three-run home run, the Yankees’ second consecutive hit with runners in scoring position. It was the second home run in three at-bats for Gregorius, who had a two-run shot Wednesday.
Staked to the 5-0 lead, Masahiro Tanaka had a shaky bottom of the first inning and gave back two runs on an RBI single by Freddie Freeman and a sacrifice fly by Nick Swisher. It might have been worse for Tanaka if not for Ellsbury, who made a diving catch on that sore right hip on the center field warning track to rob Christian Bethancourt of a potential extra-base hit that probably would have scored two runs.
The Yankees followed a similar pattern in the second inning by putting up four more runs on the board with the rally again starting after two out. Singles by Gardner and Beltran and another walk to McCann filled the bases and spelled the end for Perez.
Reliever Ross Detwiler was not any better than his predecessor at throwing strikes. The lefthander walked Bird and Headley to force in two runs and gave up a two-run single to Gregorius, who has eight RBI in his past seven at-bats. After an intentional walk to Stephen Drew reloaded the bases, Tanaka tried to help himself as the 10th batter of the inning but struck out.
Tanaka did not do much wrong on the mound, however, as he shook off the uneven first inning. After giving up a solo home run to Freeman in the third, Tanaka retired 13 batters in a row before Adrelton Simmons doubled with two out in the seventh, which was the Japanese righthander’s last inning.
Bryan Mitchell pitched the final 1 1/3 innings, his first appearance in 11 days since he was struck in the face with a line drive by the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez and sustained a nasal fracture. But the day off did nothing to improve Mark Teixeira’s condition. The bone bruise near his right shin continues to hamper his running ability and kept him on the bench.
The schedule has been the Yankees’ ally since Aug. 2 when they were through playing any games outside the Eastern time zone and had 59 percent of the remaining games at home. They failed to take advantage of this situation in the 10-game homestand they completed Wednesday with a dreadfully dull 6-2 loss to Houston.
After beginning the homestand with a three-game sweep of the Twins, the Yankees dropped three of four games to the Indians and two of three to the Astros to finish a lackluster 5-5 while falling out of first place in the American League East.
The Cleveland series was particularly hurtful because the Tribe is a last-place team in the AL Central. As for Houston, these are no longer your father’s Astros. They have spent a good part of this season in first place in the AL West with the league’s top pitching staff and a power-laded if strikeout-prone batting order.
The Yankees were able to grab a 1-0 victory in the series opener but then were outscored by the Astros, 21-3, over the next two games with both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova Tuesday night and Michael Pineda Wednesday, failing to get out of the fourth inning.
Making his first start in a month since coming off the 15-day disabled list because of a right forearm strain, Pineda gave up the first of Evan Gattis’ two home runs in the second inning and came apart in the fourth as the Astros used four hits — including a squeeze bunt — a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch (by Chasen Shreve) to pull away with four runs.
“That inning just got away from him,” manager Joe Girardi said.
Gattis, who had a monster series, connected again in the eighth off Adam Warren for his 22nd home run of the year. The Houston designated hitter was 6-for-12 (.500) with three home runs and six RBI in the series.
The Yankees’ offense consisted of a two-run home run by Didi Gregorius in the seventh inning off eventual winning pitcher Collin McHugh to end a drought of 144 homerless at-bats by the Yanks.
“We’re just not hitting right now,” Girardi said. “That is the root of our problems.”
Talk about an understatement. The Yankees batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs in 91 at-bats against the Astros and were hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
“A lot of guys are scuffling at the same time,” Girardi noted.
Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the 3-4 hitters who spearheaded the offense for most of the season, have both hit a wall in August. A-Rod is batting .138 with two home runs and eight RBI in 80 at-bats this month and is down to .255. With the DH not in use in National League parks, Rodriguez will be a bench player in the three-game set at Atlanta that begins Friday night and may benefit from the time off.
Teixeira started only one of the past eight games and got a pinch-hit at-bat Wednesday. He is bothered by a severe bone bruise to his right shin and can barely run. He is a .175 hitter in August with three home runs and six RBI in 57 at-bats as AL Most Valuable Player talk has faded.
Brett Gardner, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday, is hitting .202 with two doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI in 129 at-bats since the All-Star break and has lost 29 points on his season average. Jacoby Ellsbury did not play due to a bruised right hip and is indefinite for Atlanta.
Girardi said he hoped Thursday’s open date would give the club a chance to refresh.
“Guys are working hard but not having a lot of success right now,” he added.
What a weird night. While doing a little scoreboard watching in the first inning of the Yankees-Astros game Tuesday night, I noticed that eight teams around the major leagues had scored in the first inning of games.
I had plenty of time to see this because the top of the first inning at Yankee Stadium took 20 minutes to complete as Houston sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs against Ivan Nova, who threw 40 pitches. So that made it nine teams scoring in the first inning on the same night.
And the Astros did not stop there. They batted around again in the fifth and seventh innings. One night after being shut out with five singles, Houston burst through for a 15-1 drubbing featuring eight extra-base hits, including three home runs.
Nova got off to a nice start. Jose Altuve hit the first pitch to right field for a quick out and Jed Lowrie was called out on strikes. Then everything fell apart for Nova, who had struggled to make it through five innings in his previous start.
As what often happens in a rally, it started with a walk, to Carlos Correa. Colby Rasmus hit a liner to center field that froze Jacoby Ellsbury momentarily. He tried to recover and make a shoestring catch, but the ball got past him for a run-scoring triple. Just the night before, a bobblehead promotion depicted Ellsbury making a lunging catch. I do not remember if a ball was in that glove, either.
Nova walked Evan Gattis and gave up a booming double to left-center by Carlos Gomez for another run. Luis Valbuena followed with an opposite-field double off the left field wall to drive in two runs. He scored on a single past first base by Marwin Gonzalez that made it 5-0 Astros.
The third walk of the inning, of catcher Jason Castro, got things stirring in the Yankees’ bullpen as Branden Pinder began warming up. The relievers got caught a big break Monday night because Nathan Eovaldi pitched eight quality innings. Pinder sat down as Altuve, who had begun the inning, ended it as well with a forceout at third base.
This was not the night to fall behind by five runs early because Houston’s starting pitcher was All-Star Dallas Keuchel, who had shut out the Yankees June 25 with a six-hit, 12-strikeout effort at Minute Maid Park. In fact, Keuchel had complete games in both his career starts against the Yanks. He went eight innings Aug. 21 last year in a loss at the Stadium.
Minute Maid Park has been a palace for Keuchel this year. He has an 11-0 record with a 1.35 ERA in 15 99 2/3 innings at home. The road has been bumpier for the lefthander, who entered play Tuesday night with a 3-6 mark and 3.65 ERA in 79 innings away from home.
The Stadium played very much like Minute Maid Park Tuesday night for Keuchel, who did not have to go the distance with so cushy a lead. He allowed merely three hits and no walks with nine strikeouts in seven shutout innings to improve his career record against the Yankees to 2-1 with a 1.13 ERA and 26 strikeouts in 24 innings.
The Yankees’ only run came in the ninth inning against reliever Vincent Velasquez on a single, a hit batter and two groundouts. Mark Teixeira returned to the Yankees’ lineup after missing seven games because of a bruised right shin. He was hitless in two at-bats and had trouble running out a ground ball and came out of the game after the sixth inning.
Nova settled down a bit until the fifth when he gave up a leadoff double to Rasmus and a two-run home run to Gattis. The Astros added two more runs that inning against Nick Rumbelow, one of which was unearned due to an error by second baseman Brendan Ryan, who shaved off his W.B. Mason mustache. The other run was very earned on a home run by Gonzalez.
Chris Capuano walked three batters in a six-run seventh and all scored on a two-run single by Gattis and a three-run home run by Gomez. The dinger was quite satisfying to Gomez, who an inning earlier got into a shouting match with manager Joe Girardi and some players in the Yanks’ dugout over his tossing his bat in anger with his team up by nine runs. Gomez has a history of disturbing opponents for his showboating demeanor.
Not wanting to waste any more pitchers, Girardi gave the ball to Ryan, who had never pitched in the majors before, for the last two innings in which he held the Astros scoreless. It is never a good sign when a team’s most effective pitcher is a utility infielder.
With CC Sabathia going on the disabled list Monday because of inflammation in his right knee that could scratch him for the rest of the season, Yankees manager Joe Girardi called for other starters in the rotation to step up.
Let it be said that Nathan Eovaldi stepped up.
Eovaldi had nothing to show on his record for his eight formidable innings in the 1-0 victory over the Astros Monday night that sent the Yankees back into a first-place tie with the Blue Jays in the American League East.
Birthday boy Brett Gardner (32) scored the only run of the game on a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, who played in his 1,000th AL game. Beltran has also played in 1,269 games in the National League and became the sixth (and only active) player to play at least 1,000 games in each league. The others: Bob Boone, Vladimir Guerrero, Fred McGriff and Hall of Famers Frank Robinson and Dave Winfield.
The Yankees had relief pitcher Oliver Perez to thank for this one. The lefthander who wore out his welcome with the Mets years ago faced three batters, walked each one (one intentionally) and threw a wild pitch before Beltran sent everyone home with a fly ball to deep center field off righthander Chad Qualls.
The winning decision went to Andrew Miller (2-2), who pitched the ninth inning in continuing the string of zeroes Eovaldi set up.
Although he was stuck with a no-decision, Eovaldi remained undefeated in 12 starts since his last loss June 16 at Miami. The hard-throwing righthander went into triple digits several times in lighting up the radar gun and was at his best in getting out of tight spots.
Eovaldi showed the sort of grit Sabathia has been known for by pitching out of four jams in his scoreless duel with Houston starter Scott Feldman, who also fashioned eight shutout innings.
After a first inning in which Astros hitters watched three fastballs clocked at 101, 100 and 101 from Eovaldi, two one-out singles put him to his first test, which he passed with flying colors by striking out Chris Carter and Hank Conger.
That in itself is not remarkable considering Houston has struck out more than 1,100 times already this season. The Astros have the lowest team batting average (.240) in the AL but the most home runs (169). It is often feast and famine for the Stros, who swing and miss a lot.
Two of the three walks Eovaldi issued came in the fifth, but he ended the threat by getting Marwin Gonzalez on a ground ball to second base. Houston threatened again in the sixth when Carlos Correa led off with a single and Colby Rasmus walked. A sacrifice bunt by Carlos Gomez advanced the runners, but Eovaldi saw to it that they went no farther.
Rookie first baseman Greg Bird fielded a hard grounder by Evan Gattis and caught Rasmus wandering too far off second base to get the second out before Luis Valbuena ended the inning with a flyout to center.
In the eighth, a wild throw to first base by Chase Headley for his 20th error put Correa at second base with one out. Eovaldi set down Rasmus and Gomez on routine fly balls. In the Gomez at-bat, Eovaldi hit 100 on the gun with his 106th and 107th pitches. Remarkable.
Eovaldi has always been a hard thrower, but he has developed into more of a pitcher this year for several reasons, beginning with using his power to work his fastball inside. He has gotten ahead in the count regularly to make use of his split-finger fastball and has been working on a slider, which Girardi felt was the best he has seen all year from him.
Over his past 12 starts, Eovaldi is 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 73 2/3 innings that has dropped his season ERA from 5.12 to 4.00. He is 5-0 with a 3.08 ERA in 12 starts at Yankee Stadium covering 73 innings.
The Yankees had several chances to give Eovaldi a lead. In the second inning, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew singled with none out, but Jacoby Ellsbury grounded into a fielder’s choice, Gardner struck out and Alex Rodriguez flied out.
Drew’s hit brought his batting average to .200 for the first time since his fifth at-bat of the season April 8 when he was 1-for-5. It came in his 227th plate appearance. Alas, Drew was hitless in his next two at-bats to fall back to .199.
Brian McCann, who reached base in all four times up with three singles and a walk, began three innings with singles, including the seventh when he crossed to third on a single off the right field wall by Beltran. Unfortunately, the slow-legged catcher tried to score on a fly ball to center but was thrown out at the plate by Gomez.
McCann’s walk in the ninth was the third given up by Perez and loaded the bags for Beltran, who spared Girardi from having to use Mark Teixeira as a pinch hitter with the huge sacrifice fly.
It was not that long ago that Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke of CC Sabathia’s value during a stretch run because of all the pitchers on the staff, especially in the rotation, he had by far the most experience with dealing with the pressure of that time of the season.
There is a good chance now, however, that Sabathia’s presence as the Yankees head into September will be nothing more than as a consultant or cheerleader. The 6-foot-7 lefthander was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of inflammation in his right knee that cut short his start Sunday to 2 2/3 innings in an eventual loss to the Indians that knocked the Yankees out of first place in the American League East when the Blue Jays bounced back from a 5-1, first-inning deficit to beat the Angels, 12-5.
Sabathia sounded confident that he would be able to pitch again this season, but the reality is that he has pitched all season on a damaged knee that has undergone two surgeries and finally gave out after two drainings and a cortisone injection over the past two months.
What this does to Girardi’s plans of using a six-man rotation to give an extra day’s rest to his starters is to scrap them. “We will not need a sixth starter every turn through the rotation,” Girardi said.
The Yankees re-signed lefthander Chris Capuano to a major-league contract after his third designation for assignment over the past four weeks. The lefthander could be used as a spot starter at certain junctures.
Adam Warren, who began the season in the rotation but has done a splendid job in late-innings relief, will remain in the bullpen. So, too, will Bryan Mitchell, who is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Tuesday in his first time back on the mound since Aug. 17 when he sustained a broken nose after being struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez.
Girardi credited Sabathia, who has a 4-9 record and 5.27 ERA, with gutting his way through 24 starts this season with that knee.
“He is a real competitor and was extremely gutsy,” Girardi said. “He took the ball every fifth or sixth day and gave us everything he had. Now the other guys are going to have to step up.”
The stepping up had to begin Monday night with Nathan Eovaldi taking an eight-game winning streak against an Astros club that is leading the AL West by four games and just won three games in a row against the Dodgers, including victories over Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the last two games.
Mark Teixeira, still hobbled by a bruised right shin, took batting practice for the first time since hurting the leg a week ago, and had no problems swinging the bat but is still unable to run at full strength. Teixeira said he could be available as a pinch hitter, but Girardi may wait to use Tex in the field until Friday night when the Yankees open a three-game series at Atlanta.
The set against the Braves and the second Subway Series Sept. 18-20 at Citi Field against the Mets present Girardi the question of whether to use Alex Rodriguez in the field in preparation for the possibility of the Yankees playing in the World Series.
A-Rod has been exclusively a designated hitter most of the year. He started two games at third base and one at first base but has played only two innings in the field (one at third, one at first) since April 27. Girardi said he has no plans to start Rodriguez in inter-league competition but added, “If we have to double switch in the National League ballparks, then all bets are off.”
What the Yankees needed on Andy Pettitte Day Sunday at Yankee Stadium was, well, Andy Pettitte.
Another nostalgic ceremony to retire Pettitte’s No. 46 and install a plaque in Monument Park honoring his pitching career with the Yankees was barely over when CC Sabathia gave up a two-run home run to Indians first baseman Carlos Santana in the first inning in what turned out an ominous day for the big lefthander.
There was no one warming up in the bullpen in the third inning when Sabathia had to come out of the game because of an injury to his surgical right knee. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to rely on a couple of Scranton shuttle guys, Nick Rumbelow and Branden Pinder, to get through the middle innings.
A chant of “Andy Pettitte” from the bleachers sprung up several times from fans with fond memories of his grim determination on the mound over an 18-season major league career, all but three of them with the Yankees, that included an additional 276 1/3 innings of postseason work that produced a 19-11 record and four World Series championships.
“I just don’t remember ever going out there and feeling like I’m going to step on this mound and absolutely dominate this team because I am so good,” Pettitte told the crowd earlier. “I know some of the great players have felt like that. Every game at the big-league level, mentally, I had to be into it every pitch. It seemed like if I let my focus down for one inning, it was going to be a three-run inning. I needed every ounce of focus and energy to be successful.”
The Yankees had coaxed Pettitte out of retirement once before, in 2012. Too bad they could not do it again Sunday.
The only work for Pettitte Sunday was getting through a well-constructed speech in which he thanked his family, former teammates, the Steinbrenner family and even us writers, whom he said treated him fairly over the years.
Joining him on the field for the pregame ceremony were fellow Core Four partners Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter and Saturday’s honoree Jorge Posada as well as other former teammates Bernie Williams, Paul O’Neill, David Cone, Scott Brosius, Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui; former trainer Gene Monahan; former executive Gene Michael; Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and former manager Joe Torre; managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner and vice president Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.
“We experienced some amazing wins, some heartbreaking losses,” Pettitte added. “Through it all, this place has become home to me and my family.”
Sabathia was supposed to be Pettitte’s successor as the senior voice on the pitching staff, but he has been slowed down by a knee that has been operated on twice and which was drained twice over the past two months. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he felt discomfort while warming up but did not say anything until he was interrogated by his manager on the mound.
“It has been a watch for us all year long as we knew it would be,” Girardi said. “For him to say something on the mound it had to be pretty sore.”
Sabathia, who was to undergo an MRI exam late Sunday, has not been himself most of the season. He is 4-9 with a 5.27 ERA, and his record could be worse if the Yankees had not come back from trailing in games to get him off the hook eight times, including Sunday when they tied the score in the seventh inning on a two-run double by Carlos Beltran.
A comeback victory was not forthcoming, however, as Francisco Lindor finished off his second straight three-hit game with a solo home run off Dellin Betances in the eighth inning that held up for a 4-3 victory for the Indians, who were 5-2 against the Yankees this year.
It was almost as painful a game for the Stadium crowd of 46,945 to watch as it was for Sabathia. This was an absolute walkathon with Yankees pitchers combining for 10 walks (four by Sabathia) and the Indians for six. Despite all those free base runners the Yankees allowed, the score stayed close because the Tribe was 1-for-10 (.100) with runners in scoring position and left 11 on base, which would have been more if the Yanks had not turned four double plays.
Sabathia’s injury, which general manager Brian Cashman said would likely put him on the 15-day disabled list, botches plans the Yankees had of going to a six-man rotation with the return from the DL of Michael Pineda, who is scheduled to start Wednesday at the Stadium against the Astros.
The idea was to give an additional day of rest to all the starters, but that will have to go on hold for now. The Yankees could return Adam Warren to the rotation, but as well as he has pitched in relief they are reluctant to do that. The more likely choice for a sixth starter would be Bryan Mitchell, who was on the seven-day concussion list after being struck in the face by a batted ball Aug. 17. Cashman said Mitchell may pitch a simulated game this week.
All these pitching woes and the possibility the Yankees could drop out of first place put a damper on the special day for Pettitte, who might have been a big help had he been able to don a unifiorm.
Andy Pettitte’s Monument Park plaque
ANDREW EUGENE PETTITTE
NEW YORK YANKEES 1995-2003, 2007-2010, 2012-2013
A FIVE-TIME WORLD CHAMPION AND THREE-TIME ALL-STAR, PETTITTE WAS A MODEL OF CONSISTENCY IN THE YANKEES ROTATION FOR 15 SEASONS, GOING 219-127 (.633) AND TYING THE FRANCHISE RECORD OF 438 STARTS.
KNOWN FOR HAVING ONE OF BASEBALL’S BEST PICKOFF MOVES, PETTITTE WILL BE MOST REMEMBERED FOR HIS EXTENSIVE OCTOBER RÉSUMÉ, AS HE WENT 18-10 WITH A 3.76 ERA IN 40 POSTSEASON STARTS WITH THE CLUB. IN 2009, HE BECAME THE FIRST PITCHER TO START AND WIN
THE CLINCHING GAME IN EACH OF THREE SERIES IN A SINGLE POSTSEASON.
THE LEFTHANDER RETIRED WITH THE THIRD HIGHEST WIN TOTAL IN FRANCHISE HISTORY, AND HE IS THE CLUB’S ALL-TIME STRIKEOUT LEADER, WITH 2,020. TWICE A 20-GAME WINNER, PETTITTE FINISHED HIS CAREER AS THE FIRST PLAYER TO PITCH MORE THAN 15 SEASONS IN THE MAJORS WITHOUT EVER HAVING A LOSING RECORD.
DEDICATED BY THE NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 23, 2015