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Yanks lose on another historic day for Jeter

The Yankees hit their first bump in Derek Jeter’s final home stand Saturday with a disappointing, 6-3 loss to Toronto that further destroyed their already very slim hopes for a playoff berth. The Yankees failed to take advantage of another Royals loss and remained 4 ½ games behind for the second wild-card slot with eight games remaining, a steeply uphill climb.

After five solid innings, Chris Capuano came apart in the sixth and lost a 2-1 lead as the Blue Jays filled the bases with none out and struck for three runs on a two-run double by Danny Valencia and a sacrifice fly by John Mayberry Jr. Chase Whitley finished that inning with no further damage but gave up an opposite-field home run to Jose Bautista (No. 34) leading off the seventh.

The Yankees banged out 11 hits, but only two were for extra bases and they stranded 11 runners, five of them in scoring position. Brian McCann and Francisco Cervelli had RBI singles, and Jeter knocked in the third run with a double in the ninth. The Captain scored on McCann’s hit in the third, which pushed him into eighth place on the career runs list with 1,920, one more than former teammate Alex Rodriguez.

Jeter also played in his 2,671st game at shortstop. He already held the record for games at that position, but Saturday’s game meant he had played more games at any single position in major league history. Jeter is having a strong home stand with six hits in 13 at-bats (.462) with two runs, one double, one home run and two RBI.

The Yankees remain a battered bunch physically. Center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury has a mild right hamstring strain that kept him out of Saturday’s game and likely a few more, although he expressed hope that he could return before season’s end. First baseman Mark Teixeira came out of the game for a pinch hitter (Brendan Ryan) in the fifth inning because of soreness in his surgical right wrist.

One player apparently getting healthier is pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who will start Sunday’s series finale and test his right elbow that has been treated for a partial ligament tear and has kept him on the disabled list since July 9.

Gates will open an hour earlier for last 3 night games

The Yankees will open the gates at Yankee Stadium one hour earlier for the final three 7:05 p.m. regular season home games. Gates will open at 4 p.m. to all ticketed fans Monday, Sept. 22; Tuesday, Sept. 23; and Thursday, Sept. 25, against the Orioles.

The early gate openings will give ticketed fans the chance to watch Yankees batting practice during the team’s final home series of the regular season. Gates will open at 11 a.m. for the Orioles-Yankees day game Wednesday, Sept. 24, because the Yanks are not scheduled to take batting practice prior to the game.

Fans who choose to watch BP and infield workouts from a seat other than their own may remain until 45 minutes after the gates open or until the fans with tickets for those seats arrive. At that time, fans will be asked to return to their seats.

Only fans with Yankees Premium tickets may access their respective Yankees Premium areas (i.e., tickets for the Legends Suite, Champions Suite, Field MVP Outdoor Suite Boxes, Delta SKY360° Suite, SAP Suite Level suites or Jim Beam Suite). On certain game days, the Yankees may elect not to take batting practice, infield workouts or both.

So far, so good on Jeter’s last stand

Derek Jeter’s final homestand is off to a promising start for the Yankees, who beat the Blue Jays for the second straight night and capitalized on their usual spanking of Mark Buehrle. The Yanks’ dominance over the workhorse lefthander has covered a decade and shows no sign of letting up.

The Yankees stung Buehrle for five runs and eight hits and two walks in six innings to post their 12th consecutive winning decision against him. Buehrle has not defeated the Yankees since April 10, 2004 with the White Sox. His overall record against the Bombers is 1-14 with a 6.21 ERA in 120 1/3 innings, including 1-8 with a 5.94 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

This has been a see-saw season for Buehrle. Remember, his record was 10-1 in early June. Friday night’s loss dropped his record for the season to 12-10. Four of those losses have been to the Yankees. Hiroki Kuroda continued his strong second half with 6 2/3 sturdy innings and ran his record to 11-9.

Jeter delighted the Stadium crowd of 40,059 with two singles and had fans on their feet with a flyout to the warning track in left field in the seventh inning.

There was a downside to the game, however, as Jacoby Ellsbury was forced out of the game and may be sidelined for an indefinite period because of a strained right hamstring.

The Blue Jays had given Buehrle a 2-0 lead by the time he took the mound, thanks to Edwin Encarnacion’s two-run home run off the left field foul pole in the top of the first inning. The Yanks cut the margin in half in the bottom half on a double by Ellsbury and singles by Jeter and Brian McCann, but a bigger rally was snuffed when Mark Teixeira grounded into a double play.

Ellsbury thrust Kuroda and the Yankees into the lead in the third inning by following a leadoff single by Ichiro Suzuki with his 16th home run. Ellsbury got his third RBI of the game in the Yankees’ two-run fourth. Batting with the bases loaded and one out, the center fielder beat the play at first base to avoid being doubled up as a run scored. A second run immediately followed on an errant throw to first base by Jose Reyes.

Ellsbury remained on the bases the rest of the inning but did not come onto the field for the fifth inning. He was to undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam later in the evening.

Kuroda overcame the first-inning homer by Encarnacion and pitched well for the most part into the seventh. The Blue Jays got an unearned run in the fifth. Reyes singled, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by McCann. Jose Bautista notched his 100th RBI of the season on a grounder to third base.

Bautista had another RBI situation in the seventh when he came up with two out and runners on second and third. Kuroda, who gave up a single to Anthony Gose and a double by Reyes with two down, was replaced by lefthander Josh Outman, who got ahead 0-2 in the count against Bautista before walking him to fill the bases.

Esmil Rogers then came in against the dangerous Encarnacion and retired him on a grounder to shortstop. The Yanks’ bullpen came through again in the eighth. Adam Lind led off with a single and was balked to second.

Dioner Navarro put a scare into the crowd with a fly ball to right field that Suzuki caught on the warning track. Lind crossed to third but was stranded as Adam Warren took over and struck out Danny Valencia and Munenori Kawasaki. Warren followed that with a 1-2-3 ninth for his third save.

Meanwhile, the Royals were losing, which meant the Yankees might have cut the deficit in the wild-card standings to four games with nine to play.

CC is Yanks’ Clemente Award nominee for 2014

CC Sabathia was honored before Friday night’s game against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees’ nominee among the 30 finalists for the 2014 Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. The award has been presented since 1971 to a player who represents the game of baseball through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Each major league club nominates one player to be considered for the Clemente Award in an effort to pay tribute to the Hall of Famer’s achievements and character by recognizing current players who understand the value of helping others. Wednesday marked the 13th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to officially recognize officially award nominees and to honor his legacy. The 15-time All-Star right fielder died in a plane crash New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. The award was known as the Commissioner’s Award in 1971 and ’72.

Earning his second nomination for the Clemente Award, Sabathia, a 2011 nominee as well, along with his wife, Amber, established the “PitCCh In” Foundation in 2009. The foundation is committed to the care and needs of inner-city children, while helping to raise self-esteem through sports activities and education. Since 2009, “PitCCh In” has given more than 15,500 youngsters new backpacks filled with back-to-school essentials in Sabathia’s hometown of Vallejo, Calif.

Each December since 2011, Sabathia has hosted an annual party for 52 members of the Madison Square Boys & Girls Columbus Clubhouse at the MLB Fan Cave. This past January, Sabathia hosted a “PitCCh In” Foundation ProCamps event for more than 200 children, held on CC Sabathia Field at Vallejo High School.

Last off-season, Sabathia also hosted low-income Vallejo teens for a day of bowling and a shopping spree at Nike Town; took part in the 25th Tampa Holiday Concert, where he and his wife read to more than 1,000 children; and held at Central Park the third annual CC Challenge fundraising event, an adventurous three-hour scavenger hunt modeled after The Amazing Race. Most recently, CC helped local children ease back into the school year by visiting P.S. 73 in the Bronx Sept. 5, handing out new backpacks, participating in a question-and-answer session and signing autographs.

Fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the national Roberto Clemente Award recipient by visiting ChevyBaseball.com, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 club nominees. Voting ends Sunday, Oct. 6, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2014 World Series where the national winner of the award will be announced.

The winner of the fan vote will receive one vote among those cast by the selection panel of dignitaries, which includes commissioner Bud Selig; MLB chief operating officer Rob Manfred; MLB Goodwill Ambassador Vera Clemente, Roberto’s widow; and representatives from Chevrolet, MLB Network, MLB.com, ESPN, FOX Sports and TBS, among others.

Yankees players who have received the Clemente Award were Ron Guidry in 1984, Don Baylor in 1985 and Derek Jeter in 2009. Others who played for the Yankees but won the award while with other clubs were Phil Niekro with the Braves in 1980, Dave Winfield with the Twins in 1994, Al Leiter with the Mets in 2000 and Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals last year. Leiter’s broadcast partner in the YES Network booth, Ken Singleton, won the award in 1982 with the Orioles.

Among the other winners are Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.

Jeter was right to wait to celebrate

There is no use trying to avoid what is going on with the Yankees these closing days of the season. A playoff berth remains a mathematical possibility but only by the slimmest of margins. Yanks manager Joe Girardi said at the start of the recent trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Fla., that the Yankees needed to win every game, and they proceeded to lost five of seven.

They returned to Yankee Stadium Thursday night to begin their final homestand of the season. Despite the dire circumstances of the Yanks’ position in the standings, the Stadium had a buzz to it in the crowd that was by no means capacity but was nevertheless enthusiastic.

Perhaps the reason could have something to do with the person playing shortstop for the Yankees. This is Derek Jeter’s last hurrah at the Stadium, and that may be enough to keep the folks in the seats keeping the faith.

The Captain did not disappoint the faithful, either. Coming off a dreadful trip during which he had a hitless string stretch to 28 at-bats, Jeter got the crowd cheering in the first inning when he beat out a grounder to deep shortstop for a single. The assembled got to roar their approval five innings later when DJ ripped a 3-1 knuckleball from R.A. Dickey to right field for a home run, the cap’s first dinger in 158 at-bats since Aug. 1 at Boston.

As fiercely as the crowd reacted to the blow, Jeter declined to take a curtain call, which is typical of him. The homer made the score 2-0 Yankees with too much baseball left in the game to celebrate at that point. He did not go into the dumps when he was 0-for-28, so he was not going to do any flips for hitting his first home run in six weeks. Never too high, never too low; that defines the Captain.

Indeed, the game was not over by any means. Dellin Betances preserved the shutout work by Shane Greene by getting the final out of the seventh, but Shawn Kelley gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch with two out in the eighth.

Kelley hung his head as Bautista circled the bases on his 33rd homer of the season as well the pitcher should have. After fouling off a 94-mph fastball back to the screen on 0-1, Bautista made a gesture indicating he just missed a pitch he should have creamed. Kelley threw the same pitch on the next delivery to the same spot, and this time Bautista did not miss it but powered into the left field seats.

After Jeter flied out leading off the home eighth, quite a few fans headed for the exits assuming that he would not bat again. They missed a dramatic finish as the Yankees won, 3-2, on a walk-off error.

Chris Young, who seems to be in the middle of what good things the Yankees have done recently, led off the inning against Aaron Sanchez with a single to center. Antoan Richardson ran for Young and promptly stole second base.

With the count 3-0, Brett Gardner surprised the crowd, not to mention Girardi, by attempting to bunt. He fouled off the pitch and the next one as well as the count went full. Gardy tried one more and dropped a two-strike bunt for a sacrifice to get Richardson to third base. Gardner, bunting on his own, told Girardi in the dugout that Sanchez’s ball was running so much he did not think he could pull him.

The Blue Jays brought the infield in and got what they wanted when Chase Headley hit a ground ball to the right side, but first baseman Aaron Lind let the ball get by him that gave the Yankees another day of hope. They gained a game on the Athletics for the second wild-card spot but still trail by five games with 10 to play.

The ‘right’ thing to do at the time

Sometimes you have to be creative against a knuckleball pitcher. Or sometimes you have to do something to ease the frustration. It may have been a little of both for Yankees third baseman Chase Headley against the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey in the fifth inning of Thursday night’s game at Yankee Stadium.

A switch-hitter, Headley chose to bat right-handed against the right-handed Dickey with two down in the fifth. Batting his customary left-handed against Dickey in the third, Headley flied out to center field.

I remember that Bernie Williams occasionally batted right-handed against the Red Sox’ righty knuckler, Tim Wakefield. Bernie told me it gave him a different perspective because he could see the ball out of Wakefield’s hand better. That, and because as a left-handed batter he had little success against him.

Headley was able to get on base with a walk and eventually scored the first run of the game. Stephen Drew, a left-handed batter, then ripped a double into the right-fielder corner. Jose Bautista made a lazar of a relay to first baseman Adam Lind, who then threw a curveball to the plate that was up the line as Headley reached the plate.

Yankees Magazine celebrates Jeter’s career

Thursday night marked the beginning of Derek Jeter’s last homestand as his appearance at Yankee Stadium has been reduced to eight games — four against the Blue Jays through Sunday and four against the Orioles next week.

Fans attending any of these games should purchase a copy of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine, a 128-page look at the various aspects of this remarkable 20-year career in the major leagues of a player who now holds some of the most important records in franchise history, including most games and most hits.

The Yankees Magazine staff outdid itself with this issue. Nathan Maciborski starts things off with a review of the Captain’s career, and the YES Network’s Jack Curry ends it with an appreciation of Jeter’s impact throughout the world. In between there are comments from Hall of Famers in all sports and Yankees teammates and executives about Jeter.

Jon Schwartz wrote a fine profile of Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter. There is a special centerfold highlighting the important hits of Jeter’s career, edited by Kristina Dodge. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News contributed a story about Jeter’s memories of Fenway Park, hostile territory where DJ had some of his biggest moments.

Alfred Santasiere III had a sit-down with Jeet and “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, and conducted question-and-answer sessions with two other Hall of Fame shortstops, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith. Also featured is Santasiere’s article from three years ago about Jeter’s return to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Santasiere also did an exclusive interview with Derek’s parents, Charles and Dorothy Jeter, who comment separately about the special incidents in their son’s life and career.

And then there are the pictures — hundreds of them from staff photographers Ariele Goldman Hecht and Matt Ziegler, plus an array of photos from Derek Jeter Day Sept. 7 from contributing photographer Tom DiPace.

There are plenty of memories Yankees fans can take away from Derek Jeter’s career. Many of them are encased in this issue, which will be available at Stadium souvenir shops throughout the homestand.

Appendectomy shelves Prado for rest of season

As if their offense wasn’t in bad enough shape, the Yankees have lost one of their most productive hitters for the rest of the season. Martin Prado underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday morning in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees called up utility infielder Jose Pirela from Triple A Scranton/Wilke-Barre to take Prado’s place on the roster.

Replacing Prado at bat and in the field will be difficult. The native Venezuelan, who will turn 31 next month, has been one of the few bright spots in the Yankees’ tepid lineup since he was acquired in a July 31 trade from the Diamondbacks for minor-league catcher Peter O’Brien. Despite playing with a strained left hamstring most of the past two weeks, Prado batted .316 with seven home runs, 16 RBI and an .877 OPS in 37 games and 133 at-bats with the Yankees. Over his past 24 games, Prado hit .389 with six homers and 14 RBI in 90 at-bats.

In addition, Prado demonstrated tremendous versatility as a starter at second base, third base, left field and right field. He had one of the Yankees’ six hits in Monday night’s 1-0 loss to the Rays at St. Petersburg, the second time the Yanks have been shut out in five games on the trip and the 10th time this season.

It also marked the second straight walk-off loss following Sunday night’s 3-2 defeat at Baltimore. Monday night, Shawn Kelley loaded the bases in the ninth inning on two hits and a walk and lost the game on a two-out single by Ben Zobrist. The evening of futility took 3 hours, 28 minutes, which made it the longest 1-0, nine-inning game in major league history.

The Yankees’ fleeting playoff hopes continued to sputter. In the chase for the second wild-card berth, the Yanks trail the Royals by six games, the Mariners by four, the Blue Jays by one and are tied with the Indians.

Pirela, 24, batted .305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases for SWB.

Playoff hopes dampen after Baltimore weekend

The Yankees got a taste of their own recent medicine over the weekend in Baltimore where their post-season hopes grew grimmer after losing three of four games to an Orioles team that has its magic number for clinching the American League East title to three. The Yankees’ last gasping hope for a trip to the playoffs lay in the second wild-card slot, and they are five games back with 14 games to play.

The Yankees started the series at Camden Yards trip on a high from consecutive comeback victories over Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium in which they obliterated 4-0 deficits. Chris Young, who made huge contributions to both those victories, was in position to be the hero again Friday in the afternoon game of a day/night doubleheader when he homered with two outs in the 11th inning to break a scoreless tie.

Adam Warren, pitching the bottom of the 11th because closer David Robertson had already pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, couldn’t hold the Orioles down, however, and lost the game on a bases-loaded, two-out double by pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes. The Yankees then got shut out, 5-0, on four hits in the night game, which took away any sense of momentum they had from the Rays series.

Saturday’s 4-3 victory behind Shane Greene and four relievers was a brief reprieve, but the fact that the Yankees had no runs and one hit in the eight innings other than their three-run second that included a home run by Brian McCann and a steal of home by Young was emblematic of the offensive struggles that would continue in the series.

Sunday night’s game resembled the day-game loss Friday in that the Yankees took a one-run lead in the last inning and then gave up two runs in the bottom half for another walk-off loss, their eighth of the season. McCann’s second home run of the series and 20th of the season put the Yanks up, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bring in Robertson for the third straight day instead of staying with Dellin Betances, who had pitched a shutout eighth with two strikeouts. That gave him 130 for the season, tying Mariano Rivera’s 1996 franchise mark for K’s by a relief pitcher.

I do not fault Girardi’s judgment here. Robertson is his closer. The manager has been careful with his relievers all year so they would be strong in September where they are needed most. Robertson’s stuff was up all inning. The Orioles quickly tied the score on successive doubles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce. One out later, Kelly Johnson, of all people, drove in the winner with another double. Johnson batted .219 in 77 games and 201 at-bats for the Yankees this year before he was traded to the Red Sox July 31 for Stephen Drew, who is hitting .135 in 104 at-bats for the Yankees. The Orioles acquired Johnson in an Aug. 30 deal with Boston. Playing for his third AL East team this season, Johnson finally ended up in first place.

The crushing loss obscured a very good outing by Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up one run and six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in seven innings. Once again, Yankees pitching was not the main problem despite the two bullpen leaks.

The Yankees batted .172 and slugged .261 as a team in the series in which they totaled six runs in 38 innings. They were 2-for-20 (.100) with runners in scoring position. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-17, Mark Teixeira 1-for-11, Brett Gardner 1-for-10 and Derek Jeter 0-for-11. The Captain’s slump goes beyond this series; he is hitless in his past 24 at-bats as his average has sunk to .250.

To make matters worse, the Sunday Night Baseball date means the Yankees will arrive in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the wee hours of the morning Monday where that night they open a three-game set against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The playoff outlook is equally as bleary.

Young clinches another comeback from 4-0

The Yankees have taken Joe Girardi’s remark after Tuesday night’s loss to the Rays when he said “Basically, we have to win every game” seriously.

For the second straight night, the Yankees obliterated a 4-0 deficit against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium. The big difference Thursday night was that unlike Wednesday night when the Yankees had nine innings to stage their comeback this time they were down to their last five outs.

Hell, they did not have a hit let alone a run one out into the eighth inning. This was as remarkable a comeback as the ones shown on the video screen before the game of Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series in memory of Sept. 11.

The 5-4 victory featured two key hits by a new Yankee who was a flop with the Mets, a big home run by a guy who had not played in five of the past six games because of an aching hamstring and with two players painfully hit by pitches.

Chris Young, who has found a home in the Bronx that he could not find in Queens, was at the center of the Yanks’ magnificent final two innings. He doubled to break up Alex Cobb’s no-hit bid with one down in the eighth and scored on Martin Prado’s pinch-hit home run off reliever Brad Boxberger.

Boxberger soon after became the most unpopular guy in the building when he drilled Derek Jeter in the left elbow with a pitch. An error by first baseman James Loney put the potential tying run on base, but Boxberger recovered to strike out Mark Teixeira.

Rays closer Jake McGee, the hard-throwing lefthander, began the ninth by hitting Chase Headley in the chin with a 1-2 pitch, which was a 96-mph fastball. It was a scary sight there for a while as Headley lay on his back next to the plate with blood splattered below his lower lip as he was attended by the Yankees’ trainers.

Somebody in the crowd started a chant directed at McGee “Pay him back.” Ichiro Suzuki followed with a double, and the crowd that had been muzzled much of the night came alive. McGee struck out pinch hitter Zelous Wheeler, but Young finished off the comeback by cranking a 0-1 fastball to left field for a three-run home run.

Young, who was released last month and picked off the scrapheap by the Yankees, has been nothing short of terrific. He is batting .500 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 at-bats for the Yankees with a slugging percentage of 1.167.

“He has done an awful lot for us,” Girardi said of Young, who had five RBI the past two nights. “Gardy [Brett Gardner] got hurt, and that gave [Young] an opportunity. He has made the most of it.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees’ past two games mark the first time they have come back to win consecutive games in which they were down by four or more runs in each game since July 30 and 31, 2005 against the Angels.

So the Yankees head off to Baltimore for an important series on a high note. Headley did not accompany them. Although he seemed clear-headed and was not missing any teeth, Headley remained in New York and will undergo tests Friday to check about possible jaw damage and a concussion.

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