First-inning fade costs Yanks & Eovaldi

The way the first inning was going for the Yankees Tuesday night, no one would have expected them to score only two runs in the game and lose it as well. That is precisely what happened as the Yankees let longtime nemesis Chris Archer off the mat and could not generate more support for Nathan Eovaldi, who was lights-out for six innings.

Eovaldi, who was working on a three-hit shutout, came unglued somewhat in the seventh. A four-pitch walk to Logan Forsythe and a damaging wild pitch set up a game-tying, two-run single by David DeJesus. An inning later, Eovaldi gave up a walk and a single with one out and watched from the bench as both runners scored on a sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria and the second of two wild pitches by reliever Dellin Betances.

It held up for a 3-2 Tampa Bay victory, only the second in eight games against the Yankees this season and the first in five against them at Tropicana Field, which has been damn near empty the past two nights with crowds slightly more than 10,000. And people ask why Joe Maddon checked out of St. Petersburg when he had the chance?

But, really, this game was lost in the first inning when the Yanks took a 2-0 lead. They had Archer on the ropes and let him slide by making the least of five straight at-bats with the bases loaded.

Archer, whose career record against the Yankees is 5-0 with a 2.02 ERA in 49 innings, allowed the first five batters he faced to get on base — Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner on singles (the sixth time this season they both reached base in the first inning) and Alex Rodriguez on a walk.

Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran followed with sharply-struck singles to right, which put the Yankees in station-to-station mode as only one run scored on each hit. Archer took control after that. He struck out Chase Headley, retired Stephen Drew on a fly to medium center field, a distance no longer sufficient to bring home Rodriguez, and set down Garrett Jones with a ground ball to the right side.

Five straight at-bats with the bases loaded and merely two runs to show for it.

The Yankees went after Archer again in the second. Ellsbury and Gardner both singled, but each was thrown out at second trying to steal. Archer retired 15 of the next 16 batters, including the last 10 he faced in a row.

By doing so, Archer kept pace with Eovaldi, who pitched to the minimum number of batters through four innings. He gave up a one-out single to Steven Souza Jr. in the first but picked him off. There would not be another Tampa Bay hit until the fifth when Forsythe and DeJesus each singled. Eovaldi ended the threat with a strikeout of Brandon Guyer on a 98-mph fastball.

Yet it was not Eovaldi’s high-octane stuff that was as effective as his well-placed slider and a darting splitter in this outing, which is an indication that he is learning well under pitching coach Larry Rothschild that there is more to getting outs than trying to break radar-gun readings.

Eovaldi certainly pitched well enough to win, although he hurt himself fatally with that wild pitch. He just did not have the margin for error to make such a mistake. The Yankees’ first-inning fade was responsible for that

Let’s get Yogi the Medal of Freedom

The Yankees along with Major League Baseball made it a truly happy 90th birthday Tuesday for Yogi Berra with the donations of replicas of his 10 World Series championship rings and three American League Most Valuable Player Awards that were stolen last year from his museum in Little Falls, N.J. The Mets also chipped in to present Yogi with his World Series ring from 1969 when he was their first base coach and National League pennant ring in 1973 when he was their manager.

“To be able to get all of these rings and awards back is incredible,” said Larry Berra, the oldest of Yogi’s three sons.

There were smiles galore at the Yogi Berra Museum where the party featured a giant birthday cake and a youth drum orchestra. Yogi, the deliverer of delightful malaprops over the years, did not speak but cut a ribbon in front of the replicas and proclamations declaring Tuesday as Yogi Berra Day in New York and New Jersey presented by respective governors Andrew Cuomo and Chris Christie.

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

The Berra family also announced a petition drive urging Berra be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. “There has been no greater ambassador to baseball than my grandfather,” Lindsey Berra said. “He has been very supportive of the idea.”

So here is where you fans come in. You need to click on the following link to take part in the voting for the petition: http://yogiberramuseum.org/vote-for-yogi-for-the-presidential-medal-of-freedom-2/.

The petition reads:

Yogi Berra should be awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. A man of unimpeachable integrity and respect, he befriended the first black and Latino baseball players in Major League Baseball. He is currently an ambassador for Athlete Ally, which promotes LGBT rights in sports. Berra enlisted in the U. S. Navy during World War II and served during the D-Day invasion. He continues to be an avid supporter of our armed forces. Berra greatly values education. While with the Yankees, he created a scholarship at Columbia University that is still active 50 years later. His namesake Museum & Learning Center serves 20,000 students annually with character education programs and teaches the values of respect, sportsmanship and inclusion that Berra has demonstrated throughout his life and career.

The petition requires 100,000 signatures by June 8 to be taken under considered by President Obama. As of 6 p.m. Tuesday, there were around 8,000 signatures. You may recall how proud the late Stan Musial was four years ago when he received the Medal of Freedom. Let us do what we can in making such a special moment happen for Yogi Berra.

yogi-berra

Here is the latest Yankees on Demand spot, The Zen of Yogi, from Yankees Productions.
http://m.mlb.com/nyy/video/topic/70621646/v76346183/?c_id=nyy

And for some laughs, here are the outtakes.
http://m.mlb.com/nyy/video/topic/70621646/v76346383/?c_id=nyy

Yankees have plenty of pop at the Trop

Tropicana Field was where the Yankees began to turn their season around last month with a three-game sweep of the Rays to get back to .500 after a 3-6 start. Good times at the Trop continued for the Yankees Monday night, who made sure they would leave St. Petersburg after Thursday night’s game still in first place in the American League East.

The 11-5 victory pushed the Yankees’ lead over Tampa Bay to four games. It was a satisfying triumph in many ways but probably mostly for CC Sabathia, who ended a 13-month losing streak. The big guy earned his first victory since April 24, 2014 at Boston. CC had been winless in nine starts since with seven losing decisions, although he spent much of that time on the disabled list because of a knee injury.

The Yankees’ offense exploded against Rays righthander Alex Colome, who had allowed only one home run all year until the Yanks connected off him four times. Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran had solo shots, but the big blows were a pair of two-out, three-run home runs by Chase Headley in the fourth inning and Brett Gardner in the sixth. Colome watched his ERA climb from 1.80 to 5.63.

Mark Teixeira, who had a four-hit night, smacked the Yankees’ fifth home run of the game in the ninth off reliever Erasmo Ramirez, a two-run shot that was the only one hit with less than two out.

Sabathia, who has had a recent history of giving up leads, was hard pressed to gag the 9-1 spread his teammates had opened up before the seventh-inning stretch. The Yankees had averaged only 2.27 runs per game in support of Sabathia before Monday night and made up for that big-time.

The winning decision, the 209th of Sabathia’s major league career, tied Vida Blue for 24th place on the all-time list of left-handed pitchers’ victories.

Sabathia got off to a shaky start. He walked the first two batters on nine pitches and gave up a one-out double to Logan Forsythe that scored a run to negate A-Rod’s first inning jack (career No. 662). CC caught a break when Steven Souza, thinking Gardner might catch Forsythe’s drive, tagged up at second base instead of playing it half-way down the line and was unable to score ahead of shortstop Didi Gregorius’ blistering relay to the plate that nailed the runner.

CC settled down after that and retired 11 batters in a row before surrendering his second hit, a one-out single in the fifth by Asdrubal Cabrera, who was erased on a double play. By that time, the Yankees had a 5-1 run lead that grew the next inning on Gardner’s homer.

Sabathia shows signs of tiring in the seventh in allowing solo home runs to Forsythe and Joey Butler and an unearned run, but his teammates kept pouring it on to make sure the run support was sufficient.

There were plenty of positive signs for Yankees hitters. Teixeira raised his batting average from .212 to .239. Headley had four RBI. Beltran’s 2-for-5 game continued his heating-up May in which he is batting .324 with four doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 37 at-bats following an April in which he hit .162 with five doubles, one triple and seven RBI in 68 at-bats.

The 14-hit assault helped the Yankees to a 4-0 mark at the Trop and 6-1 overall against the Rays this season.

Stadium segment on ‘The Voice’ to air Monday night

The Voice television show filmed its “Coming Home” segment of finalist India Carey Thursday, May 7, at Yankee Stadium. It will air at 8 p.m. Monday on NBC.

Prime-time viewership numbers compiled by Nielsen for April 27-May 3, including the week’s ranking and viewership:

1. NCIS, CBS, 14.9 million.

2. NCIS: New Orleans, CBS, 14.6 million.

3. The Big Bang Theory, CBS, 13.9 million.

4. Dancing with the Stars, ABC, 13.2 million.

5. Blue Bloods, CBS, 11.3 million.

6. The Voice (Monday), NBC, 10.5 million.

Pitch count halts Pineda’s record chase

Michael Pineda had a chance to make history Sunday, but the pitch count police did him in. Rather than rant on like an old man about how pitchers are being babied to death these days, let me just say quickly what they can do with pitch counts. Shove ’em.

Here was Pineda using high fastballs, swirling sliders and freeze-frame changeups to embarrass one Baltimore hitter after another before a Mothers Day crowd of 39,059 at Yankee Stadium. Five of his first six outs were by strikeout. Over the fifth and sixth innings, he punched out six hitters in a row. The righthander added two more Ks in the seventh to bring his total to 16.

The fans, naturally, were loving it with their typical hand-clapping reaction to every two-strike pitch, a tradition that began at the Stadium June 17, 1978 when Ron Guidry set the franchise record with 18 strikeouts against the Angels. Pineda had a very good chance at breaking that mark or at least tying it. His pitch count, however, stood at 111. That was enough for manager Joe Girardi, who by the way was the catcher in the only other two games in which a Yankees pitcher struck out 16 batters — David Wells and David Cone, both in 1997.

So out came Pineda, depriving the crowd of an opportunity for an historic moment. Quite a few headed for the exits what with the Yankees comfortably in front at that point by five runs. The drama had exited the game with Pineda.

Girardi said he was unaware wha the club record was and that even if he did it would not have mattered. Considering how early in the season it is and that Pineda has a history of arm miseries in his brief career the call to the bullpen was the choice to make.

“Maybe if he was coming off a serious injury, it might have been a different story,” Girardi said.

A manager cannot worry about records. I get that. The idea is to win the game, which the Yankees did, 6-2, to take the series and boost their lead in the American League East to three games over second-place Tampa Bay where they will open a four-game set Monday night.

Personally, I could not help but be disappointed. When a pitcher is on the way Pineda was Sunday, one cannot help but want to see more, particularly if he is in range of a major achievement. After all, he was within four strikeouts of the all-time mark for a nine-inning game by Roger Clemens (twice) and Kerry Wood.

I was reminded of a game I watched on television one night early in the 2007 season. Jake Peavy, then with the Padres, had 16 Ks through seven innings against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. I was all prepared to watch him go for the record when Bud Black, then in his first year as San Diego’s manager, yanked him. Black, a former pitcher, yet!

Later that year when Peavy was named the National League Cy Young Award, I chatted with him by phone as the representative of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America and asked him about that game.

“I’m with you, man,” Peavy told me. “I argued like crazy to stay in the game, but Skip hit me with that ‘It’s too early in the year’ stuff.”

That game was played April 25. Sunday was May 10. But another big difference is eight years. Major League Baseball is married to the pitch count these days and challenging it only marks you as a dinosaur.

Still, there is no evidence I see that holding pitchers back protects them from arm problems. There are more pitchers on the disabled list and lining up for Tommy John surgery than every before. In his 18-strikeout game, Guidry threw 138 pitches. He went on to win the American League Cy Young Award that year, pitched for 10 more years and nearly won a second Cy in 1985 but was runner-up to the Royals’ Bret Saberhagen.

Pineda was no more aware of the record than was Girardi and made no argument to stay in the game. He must have used the word “happy” two dozen times after the game to describe how he felt. Think of how often he might have said it if he were allowed to take a shot at the Yankees’ record book.

The way Pineda was pitching it is hard to remember that he was actually behind in the score early on. He hung a 2-2 slider to J.J. Hardy, who drove it to left field for his first home run this season. That was in the second inning when Pineda also struck out the side, which he did again in the fifth. By then, the Yankees had moved in front after a four-run fourth inning against Bud Norris.

Carlos Beltran, who is starting to swing the bat better, got the Yankees even with his first home run of the year coming in his 100th at-bat. A walk to Chase Headley and singles by Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees the lead. Jacoby Ellsbury extended the advantage with a two-run double.

There was no stopping Pineda now. Fortified by more offense later on — a home run by Brian McCann in the fifth and an RBI double by Gregorius in the seventh — Pineda just proceeded to attack Orioles hitters.

“I felt great; everything was working,” Pineda said. “I was happy to do this on Mothers Day because I know my Mom was watching in the Dominican.”

She is not the only person watching. Pineda has become one of the dominant pitchers in the league with a 5-0 record and 2.72 ERA. He has stepped up big-time to help the rotation deal with the loss to injury of Masahiro Tanaka. Pineda was asked if he feels that he is now the Yankees’ ace.

“I’m not focusing on that,” he said. “I just want to keep helping this team win.”

Dellin Betances struck out one batter in the seventh and one in the eighth. It maked only the third time Yankees pitchers had 18 strikeouts in a nine-inning game. In addition to the Guidry game, they did it July 26, 2011 at Seattle.

Pineda tied Cone’s club mark for strikeouts in a game by a righthander, but I sure would have liked to see him try to go for the all-time record.

Yankees survive late push by Orioles

Man, did Carlos Beltran ever need that. The slumping slugger with the .187 batting average entering Friday night’s Yankees-Orioles game came through big-time in the third inning with a bases-loaded double to pad the Bombers’ lead to 5-0.

It was a good hitting situation for Beltran. The Yanks had the bases loaded with two out. When the count went to 3-2, there was a chance for a merry-go-round dash if Beltran could find a gap, which he did with a hard line drive to right-center field. Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner scored easily on the hit. Brian McCann, who is nowhere near their league as a base burner, gave it the old college try in attempting to score from first base but was thrown out at the plate with catcher counterpart Chad Joseph making a nice swipe tag.

Ellsbury, Gardner and McCann had combined to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead in the first inning off Miguel Gonzalez. The jack rabbits at the top of the order got things started again as they seem to do almost every night. Ellsbury beat out an infield single (11-game hitting streak), and Gardner doubled to left.

Alex Rodriguez scored Ellsbury with a fly ball to center. After Mark Teixeira lined out for the second out, Gonzalez fell behind 3-0 in the count and served up a meatball to McCann, who drove it into the right field seats for his third home run of the season. Mac has hit 25 homers since joining the Yankees last year, and 21 of them have come at Yankee Stadium.

Adam Warren was coasting along until the fifth inning when the Orioles made their first move thanks to a pair of walks to start the inning. Both runners subsequently scored on a single by Manny Machado and a fielder’s choice. Justin Wilson came in to get the last out of the inning, which removed Warren from consideration for a winning decision.

That left it up to official scorer Jordan Sprechman to decide which reliever was deserving of the victory if the Yankees maintained the lead, which got dicey in the sixth when Jimmy Paredes drove in two runs with a two-out single off Chris Martin.

Sprechman’s choice correctly was Dellin Betances, who got the last out of the seventh and followed that with a 1-2-3 eighth. His record went to 4-0 after Andrew Miller earned his 13th save with a perfect ninth.

The Yankees maintained their three-game lead in the American League East while the Orioles, last year’s division winners, lost their fourth straight game in New York this week to stay in last place.

Front & back combos work again for Yanks

What has become a winning formula for the Yankees — the 1-2 combination at the front of the batting order and the 1-2 combo at the back end of the bullpen — was in evidence again Thursday night at Yankee Stadium.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner teamed for four hits and three runs, and Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller each pitched a shutout inning. Toss in two RBI apiece by Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira and a decent if unspectacular start from Nathan Eovaldi and you have a 4-3 victory over the Orioles, who are having a rough week in the big city after having lost a two-game set to the Mets.

Ellsbury, who ran his hitting streak to 10 games, and Gardner each singled and scored the Yankees’ two runs in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Rodriguez and a single by Teixeira. A-Rod crushed his 661st career home run in the third off Orioles starter Chris Tillman.

Baltimore kept coming back, however, against Eovaldi. Jimmy Paredes had given the Orioles a 1-0 lead in the first inning with a home run, and after the Yankees went ahead in the bottom half a homer by Caleb Joseph in the third got Baltimore even again. In the fifth, Joseph struck again with an RBI double that once more tied the game. Eovaldi got himself out of further danger with a huge pickoff of Paredes at first base.

Doubles by Gardner and Teixeira in the fifth pushed the Yankees in front for what turned out to be for good. Lefthander Justin Wilson bailed Eovaldi out of a jam in the sixth and followed that with a 1-2-3 seventh.

Now the game was set up for Betances in the eighth and Miller in the ninth. This duo is bringing back memories of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera in similar roles not so long ago. Betances retied the side in order, finishing up with a strikeout of Chris Davis, who took the Golden Sombrero (four Ks).

Miller put the potential tying run on first base with a leadoff walk in the ninth but recovered to get J.J. Hardy on a soft liner to second and pinch hitter Ryan Lavarnway and Joseph on strikes. Miller, who was with the Orioles last year, is now 12-for-12 in saves.

A-Rod gets a mulligan for homer No. 661

You remember the old adage — if at first you don’t succeed try, try again. That applied to Alex Rodriguez Thursday night against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium where in his second at-bat he moved ahead of Willie Mays on the career home run list with No. 661.

That the blow came off Baltimore pitcher Chris Tillman should not be surprising. Rodriguez entered the game 5-for-10 (.500) with three home runs in his career against the righthander. And A-Rod nearly hit his 661st home run off Tillman in the first inning.

After Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner did their customary bit of getting on base with singles, Rodriguez stepped in and hit a drive to deep right field. As fans prepared to cheer what seemed to be a home run, right fielder Delmon Young timed his leap perfectly and caught the ball at the top of the wall. The potential three-run home run instead became a sacrifice fly that tied the score. The Yanks made it 2-1 on a rare single by Mark Teixeira that scored Gardner.

Rodriguez got another chance against Tillman in the third with two out and the score 2-2. This time no outfielder could glove A-Rod’s drive off a 1-1 pitch from Tillman. The ball landed just to the left of Monument Park in left-center field. Teixeira delayed his at-bat so that Rodriguez could make a curtain call to acknowledge the fans’ standing ovation.

W’s continue to elude CC

If nothing else, CC Sabathia gave the Yankees length Wednesday night. Other than that, quite frankly, there was nothing else.

Sabathia pitched one out into the seventh inning, but once again he came up empty, even against longtime Yankees patsy Mark Buerhrle. The Yankees have not given Sabathia much run support this year, and while manager Joe Girardi claims CC could have two or three victories by now that 5.45 ERA says otherwise. It has gotten to the point that the Yankees need to score six runs for CC to win a game. True. It can happen. Look at Buerhle. His record is 4-2 despite a 6.00 ERA.

Toronto leads the league in runs scored, and the Blue Jays had their hitting cleats on again with 12 knocks in a 5-1 victory that ended several streaks. The big one from the Jays’ point of view was the 12-game losing streak Buehrle had going against the Yankees over the past 11 seasons. The lefthander allowed one run over five innings and is now 2-12 in his career against them.

The big one from the Yankees’ point of view was that of five straight winning series by dropping two of three in Toronto. It was still a good trip overall at 4-2 but somewhat dissatisfying because the Yankees were 3-0 at one point leaving Boston. They kept their hold on first place for the 14th straight day since April 23.

Another streak stopped was the lossless stretch by the rotation as Sabathia became the first Yankees starter to suffer a losing decision since he was beaten by the Mets April 25 10 games ago. The rotation had been 4-0 with a 2.25 ERA in the past seven starts since Masahiro Tanaka went on the disabled list.

Sabathia’s record now stands at 0-5 as he has gone winless for 13 months. The lefthander took the mound with a 1-0 lead, but he gave it up in the second inning by hanging a breaking ball to 9-hole hitter Ezequiel Carrera, who grounded a two-run single to right field.

A balk by Sabathia in the fourth inning led directly to another run on a single by Chris Colabello, the Triple A Buffalo call-up who had four hits Wednesday night and was 6-for-8 in the series.

Russell Martin, a one-time batterymate of Sabathia, had an even more productive series against his former team. He homered in the seventh inning in his second straight 3-for-4 game. Martin also had the game-winning hit as a pinch hitter Monday night. He was 7-for-9 in the series with two doubles, two home runs and three RBI. Martin, who also scored three runs and stole a base, entered the series batting .227 and finished it hitting .286.

The only positive streak that continued for the Yankees was that of Jacoby Ellsbury (1-for-4), who has hit in nine straight games. Infielder Jose Pirela, who sustained a concussion in spring training, was activated and doubled and singled his first two times up. Pirela took the place of fellow infielder Gregorio Petit, who was placed on the DL because of a bruised right hand, a result of being hit by a pitch Tuesday night.

Buckeyes grid coach to toss 1st pitch Friday

Ohio State head football coach Urban Meyer, who directed the Buckeyes to a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the 2015 College Football Playoff National Championship, will throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. Yankees-Orioles game at Yankee Stadium.

In three seasons as head coach at Ohio State, Meyer has a 38-3 record. He is the only head coach in college football history to have won a national championship as part of two different conferences – the Big Ten and the SEC. Along with Nick Saban, Meyer is also only one of two Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coaches to have won national titles at two different schools (also in 2006 and ‘08 while at Florida).

As part of the celebration, a special ticket offer with savings of up to 50 percent on select seats for Friday’s game is now available for all Ohio State alumni, fans and supporters. For complete details on the offer, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/osu15. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

In a pregame ceremony prior to Friday’s game, Meyer will be presented with an autographed base signed by all of the members of the current Yankees active roster. Making the presentation to Meyer will be Yankees general partner/vice chairperson Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

The Yankees and New Era Pinstripe Bowl began their eight-year affiliation with the Big Ten in 2014, between the two legendary brands features the Big Ten’s commitment to play in the annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl through 2021.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has had increased attendance in each of its first five years of existence. In 2014, a record sellout crowd of 49,012 watched Penn State defeat Boston College and establish the bowl’s highest all-time attendance figure.

The 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 26, at a to-be-determined kickoff time. The game will mark the second consecutive year that the bowl will feature a team from the Big Ten and the ACC. The Big Ten’s partnership with the New Era Pinstripe Bowl is the conference’s first ever bowl game tie-in on the East Coast.

Tickets for the 2015 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be made available in the near future. For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to visit http://www.pinstripebowl.com, the official Web site of the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, and follow the bowl game’s official Twitter and Instagram accounts – @PinstripeBowl.

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