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Yanks take 12-1 lead, then have to sweat it out

The Yankees ended the trip in Boston the way it began in Atlanta with a blowout victory, although matters got a bit dicey in the late innings, which is typical of life at Fenway Park.

Scoring runs was what this trek was all about for the Yankees, which they sorely needed following their prior disappointing homestand. Perhaps the upcoming, 10-game homestand against the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays that begins Friday night will be more successful for the Bombers now that they have loosened up offensively.

A 13-8 victory over the Red Sox in a late-afternoon start made it a 5-1 trip for the Yankees, who outscored opponents by a combined score of 57-24.

It did not take long for David Ortiz to break out of his funk. The day after he took a golden sombrero with four strikeouts Tuesday night, Big Papi broke the spell in the first inning with a double to right field that scored Mookie Betts, who led off with a double off the Green Monster but was still stuck on second base with two out.

Boston’s glee was short-lived, however. The Yankees responded in the second inning with an eight-run outburst that began with a two-run home run by Greg Bird. Yes, that was Bird at first base for the Yankees as manager Joe Girardi came to his senses and kept Alex Rodriguez as the designated hitter instead of using him at first base against a left-handed starting pitcher, in this case rookie Henry Owens.

With the injury to first baseman Mark Teixeira that has sidelined him for two weeks and likely will keep him out another fortnight, Girardi had been contemplating playing Rodriguez a first base on occasion even though he displayed no proclivity at the position when used there earlier this season. The feeling here is that A-Rod should not wander off the DH position at this time of year after spending all season in that role. Moving to a position in the field for a 40-year-old who has hardly used a glove all season did not seem to make much sense.

So Rodriguez stayed at DH with Bird at first base, and did that not work out for the Yankees as they chased Owen in that second inning? Bird’s homer following a one-out walk to Chase Headley was the rookie’s fourth hit in 10 at-bats against lefthanders, so it could mean that platooning him may not be necessary.

And A-Rod struck the blow that knocked out Owen, a two-run single, then trotted home after Carlos Beltran slugged the first pitch from reliever Ryan Cook over the Monster for the Yanks’ third home run of the inning. John Ryan Murphy had followed Bird’s blow with one of his own.

The inning also included yet more hits from red-hot Didi Gregorius (single) and Stephen Drew (double), both left-handed hitters, and another run-scoring hit off a lefty by Chris Young. Drew kept it up with a three-run home run an inning later as did Gregorius with a solo shot in the fifth.

Boston fans who remember his importance as the shortstop on the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series champions may wonder why Yankees fans have been so rough on Drew. Actually, Yanks fans have been awfully patient with Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons.

After starting the trip 0-for-4 with his average falling to .192, Drew vaulted over the Mendoza the past four games with nine hits in 12 at-bats (.750) with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI and is now hitting a robust .211.

Gregorius, another Yankees infielder who took a while to win over the fans, also had a huge trip with 14 hits in 24 at-bats (.583), one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. The shortstop walked three times and scored seven runs and lifted his batting average from .253 to .272.

An emotional spot for the Yanks was the appearance of Andrew Bailey in relief of winning pitcher Mashiro Tanaka (11-6) in the seventh inning. Bailey, the 2009 American League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award with the Athletics, last pitched in the majors two years ago for the Red Sox and came back from two shoulder injuries. The righthander showed some rust in giving up two walks and a single, but just getting back on a big-league hill was a major hurdle for the New Jersey native who now lives in Connecticut.

However, the lack of shutdown work by Bailey and Bryan Mitchell, who gave up two runs in the eighth, forced Girardi to use Dellin Betances in what was once a 12-1 game to get out of a bases-loaded situation with a strikeout of Pablo Sandoval and a force play by Zander Bogaerts.

Caleb Cotham did not make Girardi’s job easier as the skipper was forced to bring in Andew Miller in a non-closing situation after the first two Boston batters in the ninth reached base on doubles. Miller finally put an end to the trip that kept the Yanks within reach of Toronto in the American League East and bolstered their hold on a wild-card berth.

Breaks go Yankees’ way at Fenway

The Yankees have not had many breaks go their way lately, such as Mark Teixeira’s MRI. One night after squandering a bevy of scoring opportunities in stranding 14 base runners, the Yankees capitalized on a big break offensively and another defensively in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over the Red Sox.

The way Boston starter Rick Porcello pitched it was a wonder the Yankees got on the board at all. There was no doubt about the one earned run charged to Porcello. Brett Gardner got all of a 0-1 pitch to hook it around Fenway Park’s Pesky Pole in right field for his 13th home run, in the eighth inning.

The inning that made the difference for the Yankees was the fifth. After a leadoff single by Alex Rodriguez, Porcello struck out Chase Headley and Greg Bird and seemed to have gotten the third out as well when Didi Gregorius hit a bouncing ball toward first base. What should have been an easy out went under the glove of first baseman Travis Shaw for an error that put runners on second and third.

Stephen Drew, whose bat has come alive the past week, lined a double to left-center that turned a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 Yankees lead. Gardner’s homer apart, Drew’s hit was the hardest allowed by Porcello, who had the Yankees walking back to the dugout for eight innings with 13 strikeouts, 10 of which were on called third strikes.

The two-run double was poetic justice for Drew, who was robbed of a hit in the third by second baseman Brock Holt with a nifty back-handed grab to start an inning-ending double play.

Michael Pineda may not have been as overpowering as Porcello but was just as effective in ending a personal three-game losing streak for his first winning decision since July 10, also at Boston. Only one of the Red Sox’ 18 outs against Pineda was recorded in the outfield as Pineda struck out seven batters and kept the ball in the infield for 10 outs.

Jackie Bradley doubled twice off Pineda. Bradley scored the Red Sox’ only run on a two-out single by Pablo Sandoval in the third. Two innings later, Bradley doubled with two outs, but Pineda kept him from scoring by getting a called third strike by Mookie Betts.

The other major break for the Yankees came in the eighth as the Red Sox threatened against Dellin Betances, who entered the game the previous inning. Singles by Betts and Zander Bogaerts gave the Sox runners on first and second with one out and David Ortiz at the plate.

On a double steal attempt, Yankees catcher Brian McCann threw to third baseman Chase Headley, who put the tag on Betts. Or did he? Third base umpire Vic Carapazza delayed his call to see if Betts’ foot was on the bag while Headley leaned over and kept his glove on Betts’ right ankle.

Red Sox interim manager Torey Lovullo challenged the call based on Betts’ claim that Headley pushed him off the bag, which is an illegal maneuver but one not covered on replays. The replay crew in Chelsea agreed with the call by the umpire, whose decision it was on the field to determine whether Betts was pushed off the bag or not. Carapazza obviously did not think so.

It was a big break for the Yankees because it meant instead of runners on second and third with one out it was runner on second and two out. Betances finished matters by striking out Ortiz. It was not a good night for Big Papi, who was punched out four times. In the ninth, Andrew Miller added three more Ks for his 29th save.

For a while there, it appeared as if the Yankees would get one more break as the Indians rallied in the ninth inning at Toronto to tie the score, but the Blue Jays prevailed in the 10th to maintain their 1 1/2-game lead in the American League East.

Tex still out, but please keep A-Rod off 1B

The news on the condition of Mark Teixeira’s right leg remains bad, even to the point of worse. Tex, who had hoped to return to action during the three-game series at Boston, will find himself on crutches instead.

An MRI of the All-Star first baseman Tuesday in New York showed a deeper bone bruise than originally revealed and more fluid in the area which he damaged Aug. 17 by fouling a ball off it. Tex has made one start and three plate appearances in 13 games since then. The Yankees are 7-6 in those games.

The only positive part of the medical report on Teixeira is that there is no fracture of the bone. Nevertheless, he cannot run and needs crutches for the next few days just to walk. This does not bode well for the Yankees as they start September and begin a stretch run trailing the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

Greg Bird, the rookie who has played first base mostly while Tex has been sidelined, has done a decent job overall, although his performance in Monday night’s 4-3 loss was far from his best. He struck out twice with the bases loaded in his 1-for-5 showing, was thrown out at the plate trying to score and bobbled a potential double-play grounder as what proved the deciding run scored.

All this concern about first base has prompted manager Joe Girardi to consider using Alex Rodriguez there, which I think is foolish. To begin with, A-Rod is not a first baseman. He has spent his entire career on the left side of the infield. Rodriguez played a game there earlier in the season and was horrible in the field. He has been a designated hitter most of the season and benefit from not taxing his 40-year-old legs to make an offensive comeback. I would not mess around with that, especially at a time when A-Rod has shown the first signs of advanced age. He batted .153 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 85 at-bats in August and watched his season batting average slide from .282 to .256. Girardi finally took him out of the 3-hole in the batting order Tuesday night.

The Yankees have other options that to me make more sense. Third baseman Chase Headley, a switch hitter, has shown in the past that he can handle first base as well and could be used in a sort of platoon with Bird. Brendan Ryan also has experience at first base, as does Austin Romine, a catcher by trade and who is one of the eighth minor-league players the Yankees promoted as rosters expanded Tuesday. Utility infielder Dustin Ackley is also experienced as a first baseman.

No matter how you look at it, Teixeira’s loss will be difficult for the Yankees to overcome, but they should not compound it with the notion that a 40-year-old DH who 130 games into the season has played only 35 innings in the field (10 at first base) might be part of the solution.

Yankees come up short in bases-loaded spots

Twice in the first four innings Monday night at Fenway Park the Yankees had the bases loaded and none out and they made the least of the situation by getting only one run each time. In the fifth, they filled the bags again, this time with two out, and came away with no runs.

So it seemed fitting somehow that in the ninth inning a bases-loaded scenario would present itself to the Yankees, who once again could not come up with a big hit, in this case one that could have pulled the game out on a night when the Blue Jays suffered a rare loss. A victory would have brought the Yankees even with Toronto in the loss column, but the Red Sox held on to win, 4-3.

Jean Machi, the new Boston closer now that Koji Uehara is done for the season with a wrist injury, had a brutal inning in the ninth with 18 of his 33 pitches out of the strike zone. He walked three batters, one of them forcing home a run, and somehow got called third strikes past Carlos Beltran and Greg Bird.

The Yankees still had a chance with two outs in Didi Gregorius, who was 4-for-4 to that point in the game and 11-for-16 (.688) in his past four game combined. Gregorius had gotten the only hit the Yankees had in a bases-loaded situation with a run-scoring single in the fourth inning. He brought the crowd to its feet with a long drive to right field, but Rusney Castill caught the ball on the warning track.

That was how close the Yankees came to a fourth straight victory that would have nudged them closer to first place in the American League East. Their failure in a wide assortment of scoring opportunities resulted in the Yankees leaving 14 runners on base, including 10 in the first six innings when they continually had eventual winning pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (8-5) on the ropes.

Yankees starter Ivan Nova (5-7) had a good sinker that produced nine groundouts, but when he got the ball paid for it on a two-run home run by Mookie Betts in the third inning and a solo shot by David Ortiz in the fourth.

The Red Sox scored what proved the winning run in the seventh when rookie first baseman Greg Bird bobbled slightly a potential double play ball and had to settle for one out as Jackie Bradley Jr. scored from third base.

The Yankees also had help from the Red Sox, who made two errors in the first inning that helped create the Yankees’ first base-loaded episode. A single by Alex Rodriguez filled the bags for Beltran, who got a run home with a sacrifice fly, but that was it as Brian McCann flied out to shallow right and Chase Headley struck out looking.

A leadoff walk by McCann in the fourth followed by Headley and Bird singles promised another big inning for the Yankees, but after Gregorius’ single to center plated McCann, Brendan Ryan hit a comebacker to Eduardo Rodriguez, who got an out at the plate, and Jacoby Ellsbury flied out into a double play as Bradley threw out Bird at home trying to score.

The next inning, the Yankees had the bags full after two out on Beltran’s 500th career double and walks to McCann and Headley before Bird struck out.

These frustrating rallies made it an exceedingly long (3 hours, 44 minutes) and disappointing night for the Yankees. After the game, it was announced which minor-league players will be called up as rosters expand Tuesday: pitchers Andrew Bailey, Caleb Cotham and James Pazos; infielders Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder; infielder-outfielder Dustin Ackley; outfielder Rico Noel and catcher Austin Romine.

More tests for Teixeira’s ailing right leg

Mark Teixeira had hoped to be healthy enough to play in Boston, but while the Yankees were preparing for Monday night’s series opener at Fenway Park their first baseman was headed back to New York for more tests on his right leg.

Teixeira injured the leg Aug. 17 when he hit a foul ball off an area near his right shin. He has started one game and totaled three at-bats since then. Tex has been able to swing a bat — he takes BP regularly — but has difficulty running. When he awoke Monday and was still in pain, Teixeira decided another round of tests was needed.

Rookie Greg Bird has been playing first base in Teixeira’s place and entered Monday night’s game batting .255 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 51 at-bats. Yankees manager Joe Girardi also said using Alex Rodriguez at first base is no longer out of the question, which would not be the case if Teixeira were healthy. Since April 27, Rodriguez has played only two innings in the field (one at third base and one at first). A-Rod has worked out at first base the past three days. He was back in the lineup Monday night as the designated hitter after having made only two pinch-hitting appearances over the weekend in Atlanta with the DH prohibited in National League parks.

CC Sabathia, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of right knee inflammation, has resumed throwing on the sidelines. General manager Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that Sabathia would return to the rotation immediately upon his reinstatement from the DL.

The Yankees’ 20-6 victory over the Braves Sunday marked the second time this season they scored at least 20 runs in a game. The other was a 21-5 victory July 28 at Texas when they had a seven-game lead in the American League East that has since been overtaken by the Blue Jays. The Red Sox are the only other team that has scored 20 or more runs in a game this season — a 22-10 victory August 15 over the Mariners at Fenway Park.

The Yanks are one of 18 major league teams since 1900 that have scored at least 20 runs in multiple games in a season and just the second since 2001 (the Phillies did it twice in 2008). The Yankees have done it five times — three times in 1939 and twice apiece in 1931, 1949 and 1999. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the third time since inter-league play began in 1997 that an AL team scored at least 20 runs in an NL ballpark.

The Yankees’ nine-run seventh inning was their third time scoring at least that many in an inning in the past 31 games (nine in the seventh Aug. 4 against the Red Sox, 11 in the second July 28 at Texas).

Stephen Drew, who grew up in Georgia, went 4-for-4 with three runs, one home run, four RBI and two walks Sunday at Atlanta. He became the third Yankees player this season to reach base safely six times in a game. The others were Brett Gardner (three hits, three walks July 28 at Texas) and Jacoby Ellsbury (four hits, one walk, one hit by pitch May 3 at Boston. Drew and Chase Headley (3-for-3, three runs, one double, one home run, four RBI, two walks) were the first pair of Yankees teammates to each get three hits, three runs and four RBI in the same game since Aug. 23, 1999 by Tino Martinez (4-for-6, three runs, four RBI) and Scott Brosius (4-for-6, 4 runs, six RBI). Also in that game, Girardi was 4-for-6 with a career-high seven RBI.

Yankees ‘Marching Through Georgia,’ baseball-style

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.

Fan’s fall to his death shakes up players

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.

Yanks-Jays game Sept. 12 now a 1:05 p.m. start

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.
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1-2 Punch (Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller)
http://m.mlb.com/nyy/video/topic/11061776/v390461083/?c_id=nyy

McCann & Yanks continue to burn Atlanta

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.

McCann discovers you can go home again

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.

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