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Yanks close gap in opener of home(r)stand

The long ball served the Yankees well Friday night as they opened a 10-game homestand with a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay and narrowed the gap between them and the first-place Blue Jays to a half-game (even in the loss column).

The Yanks had only three hits off Rays starter Jake Odorizzi (6-8) in 6 2/3 innings, but they were all home runs. Brian McCann, who has torched Odorizzi over the years, walked twice and scored on homers by Alex Rodriguez in the second inning and Greg Bird in the seventh. McCann also went deep in the fourth, which raised his career batting average against Odorizzi to .647 with three home runs in 17 at-bats.

Four home runs by the Orioles also helped the Yankees because they came in a 10-2 victory at Toronto.

Considering the way the Yankees ended their previous homestand with losses in five of the last seven games, Friday night was a very pleasant sight to see for the 32,530 in attendance at Yankee Stadium. The offense was not as combustible as it had been on the 5-1 trip to Atlanta and Boston (57 runs in six games), but the Yankees made the most of their few hits. Their only other knock was a scratch single by Brett Gardner in the eighth inning off reliever Enny Romero.

Luis Severino had another solid outing for the Yankees in winning his third straight start. The righthander pitched into the seventh inning and literally scattered seven hits as the Rays stranded eight base runners in his time on the mound (and nine for the game). Tampa Bay was 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Meanwhile, the Yankees did not have a single at-bat with runners in scoring position, which is why all those home runs were vital.

The only blip on Severino’s screen was the home run he allowed to Evan Longoria leading off the sixth inning.

“He has really been consistent,” manager Joe Girardi said. “What impressed me was that after the homer he bounced back and got three quick outs.”

Well, not really. Severino got two quick outs before a walk and a hit allowed created another threat, but he closed the inning out with a flourish by striking out Kevin Kiermaier.

Severino lowered his season ERA to 2.04. It is even lower over his past three starts, all victories, at 0.98 with 16 strikeouts in 18 1/3 innings.

Andrew Miller came on in the ninth after Adam Warren gave up a run on a single by Kiermaier and a double by J.P. Arenicibia and earned his 30th save.

Not to diminish the loss of All-Star first baseman Mark Teixeira, the Yankees’ home run leader (31), but Bird has done an able job filling in, a tall order for a rookie. He is batting .258 with four home runs and 13 RBI in 66 at-bats. The Yankees are actually 10-5 in the games Tex has missed. That is not all Bird’s doing, but he has played a large part.

Tex, CC vow to be back this month

Mark Teixeira and CC Sabathia are determined to return to the Yankees before the regular season is completed. Tex joined CC on the 15-day disabled list Friday, retroactive to Aug. 27, which allowed the Yankees to recall pitcher Nick Rumbelow from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Teixeira, who is back on crutches while dealing with a right shinbone bruise, told reporters before the game against the Rays that he plans to return to the club at some point this month. General manager Brian Cashman said, “We are looking at weeks,” when talking of Teixeira’s time away, but the All-Star first baseman vows it will be only two.

“There’s progression now,” Teixeira said. “There’s going to be a build-up, from walking to jogging and running, making sure I can do everything. That’s why I’m back on the crutches, really letting the whole thing calm down and starting from scratch. Hopefully this weekend, I’ll be off the crutches and getting into walking again. There’s no permanent damage. It’s just a really bad bone bruise, worse than we first expected. It’s unfortunate, but hopefully we have two months of the season left, so there’s plenty of time for me to get healthy and come back.”

Sabathia, disabled since Aug. 24 because of inflammation in his right knee, pitched a four-inning simulated game, which impressed manager Joe Girardi, who said the lefthander is a candidate to return to the rotation Wednesday night against the Orioles.

“I felt good,” Sabathia siad. “No pain. I tested it pretty good as I would as if I was in a game, so I’m excited.”

The Yankees’ 13-8 victory over the Red Sox Wednesday at Fenway Park was the 800th of Girardi’s managerial career (722 with the Yankees since 2008, 78 with the Marlins in 2006 when he was the National League Manager of the Year). Girardi is one of 10 active managers with at least 800 victories. The others alphabetically are the Giants’ Bruce Bochy, the Mets’ Terry Collins, the Indians’ Terry Francona, the Pirates’ Clint Hurdle, the Cubs’ Joe Maddon, the Athletics’ Bob Melvin, the Angels’ Mike Scioscia, the Orioles’ Buck Showalter and the Royals’ Ned Yost.

‘Maria’ to toss out 1st pitch Sept. 8

As part of the Yankees’ continued celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, 15-time Emmy Award-winner Sonia Manzano will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to the 7:05 p.m. game between the Yankees and the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 8.

In addition, the club has also published the fourth annual installment of Yankees Magazine en Español, the Spanish-language edition of the club’s official game-day program. For the first time, Yankees Magazine en Español features two distinct covers, spotlighting the first two Puerto Rico–born members of Monument Park, Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams.

Manzano, a first-generation American of Latino descent, was raised in the South Bronx and is best known for her portrayal of Maria on the critically acclaimed children’s program Sesame Street. First offered the part in the early 1970s, she went on to star in the role for 44 years and also win 15 Emmys as a writer for the show. Manzano is also an accomplished Broadway actress, speaker, and author. She had two books published books this year – Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx and Miracle on 133rd Street. An influential role model, she has touched the lives of millions for over four decades.

“For 44 years, Sonia Manzano has portrayed one of the most iconic Latina characters in television history – Maria on Sesame Street,” Yankees executive director of Latino Affairs Manuel Garcia said. “Raised in the South Bronx, her award-winning accomplishments throughout her career have made her a true inspiration to many in our community. We are very excited to have her participate in our annual Hispanic Heritage Month celebration and I know her appearance in Yankee Stadium will trigger many childhood memories for our wonderful fans.”

Yankees Magazine has served as the team’s game-day program since its inception in 1980 and has strived to exceed the expectations normally associated with a team-based periodical. The fourth Spanish-language issue of Yankees Magazine en Español continues the publication’s dedication to serve its loyal readers in new and engaging ways. The magazine can be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com/publications and http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com/publicaciones or by phone at (800) GO-YANKS [800-469-2657].

In an on-field ceremony prior to their game against the White Sox Thursday, Sept. 24, the Yankees will recognize the Carlos Beltran Scholarship Program at Hostos Community College in the Bronx. In conjunction with the Carlos Beltran Foundation, the program granted scholarships, based on merit and financial need, to four deserving Hostos students which has allowed each student to continue to attain their respective educational goals.

Additional on-field ceremonies this month include the Hispanic Committee’s 50th Anniversary, the eighth annual Hispanic Heritage Month Community Achievement Awards, a team from the Rolando Paulino Baseball Little League and five students from the League of Puerto Rican Women who each received scholarships from the Yankees Foundation.

Fans may learn more about these and other events by visiting the team’s official Spanish-language website, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com and clicking on the special Hispanic Heritage Month section. While there, fans may also participate in an online sweepstakes for the opportunity to win tickets to the final regular season home game Thursday, Oct. 1, against the Red Sox. Up-to-date information on all of the team’s Hispanic initiatives can also be found on the following Yankees Spanish-language social media outlets:

Twitter & Instagram: @Yankees_beisbol and @LosYankeesPR
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/yankeesbeisbol

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.

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