Pineda foiled by a couple of hanging sliders

With one swing of the bat, the Rays scored more runs in a game against Michael Pineda this year than any other team. That swing was in the fourth inning by Yunel Escobar, who drove a 2-1 slider to left field for a three-run home run.

In his previous nine starts, Pineda had not allowed more than two runs for a 1.80 ERA in 50 innings. The righthander yielded two runs three times, one run five times and no runs once. In one of those one-run outings, the run was unearned.

Pineda, who missed 86 games due to a right shoulder injury, has been brilliant since his return Aug. 13. He took a 1.78 ERA since being reinstated into Thursday night’s game. Pineda was less than brilliant this time but still impressive. His main problem was hanging sliders to Escobar.

The Tampa Bay shortstop also took Pineda deep in the seventh for the first multi-homer game of his career. Pineda pitched to contact all game. He gave up 10 hits and had only two strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings. For the seventh time in 10 starts this season he did not walk a batter and has allowed only four walks in 57 1/3 innings.

Another major problem for Pineda was that opposing starter Alex Cobb flirted with a no-hitter. Cobb, who has always been tough on the Yankees, took his no-no into the eighth inning. Stephen Drew, who reached base in the third inning when Rays center fielder Kevin Kiermaier dropped his fly ball for an error, made the first out of the eighth on a foul pop in front of the Yankees’ dugout.

Chris Young, who has been a nice addition for the Yankees and a far cry from the guy who had been dreadful for the Mets, ruined Cobb’s beauty by smoking a line drive into right-center field for a double. Cobb was removed from the game at that point, and fans at Yankee Stadium showed plenty of class by applauding him as he walked off the field.

Martin Prado, who did not play in five of the previous six games because of a tight left hamstring, batted for Brendan Ryan and abruptly greeted reliever Brad Boxberger with a two-run home run. That avoided a shutout, which Pineda knows all about. Of the eight games in which the Yankees have been shut out this year, three were Pineda starts.

The Yankees’ runs came after Pineda left the game, which means that he has received zero runs of support in eight of his past 14 starts since Aug. 27, 2011 when he was with a Mariners club that was among the poorest offensive teams in major league history.

Largest comeback victory of the year for Yanks

The Yankees enjoyed their most impressive comeback of the season Wednesday night as they overcame a 4-0, first-inning deficit to post an 8-5 victory over the Rays. It was the first time all year that the Yankees won a game in which they trailed by as many as four runs. They are 32-3 this season when scoring at least six runs, including victories wins in each of their past 16 such games since June 27.

Yankees relievers combined for 8 2/3 innings to allow only one run, seven hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Their 28 1/3-inning scoreless streak ended with two out in the ninth on a solo home run by Evan Longoria off Esmil Rogers. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it marked the longest scoreless streak by a Yankees bullpen since July-August 1998 (37 1/3 innings) and had been the longest active streak for relief pitchers on any major-league team. Over the past seven games since Sept. 3, the pen has allowed 14 hits, one earned run, four walks (one intentional) and 29 strikeouts and has a 1.17 ERA over the past 18 games covering 61 1/3 innings.

Preston Claiborne (2 IP, 2H, 1K) earned his third victory of the season. It was his first major-league appearance since June 3 against the Athletics and his first appearance at any level since Aug. 29 for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Lehigh Valley. . .Chris Capuano gave up four earned runs, four hits and two walks with one strikeout in one-third of an inning, the shortest start of his career. His previous briefest start was 1 1/3 innings Aug. 24, 2004 for the Brewers against the Cubs at Wrigley Field. It marked the shortest outing by a Yankees starter since David Phelps May 29, 2013 against the Mets (1/3 innings, five runs, four earned).

Brian McCann knocked in three runs with a solo homer and a two-run single. Of McCann’s 18 home runs this season, 16 have come at Yankee Stadium. Elias reports that McCann is the second player in franchise history to hit at least 16 of his first 18 home runs for the Yankees in home games, joining Joe Sewell in 1931-33. Elias also noted that McCann is the first major leaguer to hit at least 16 of his first 18 homers with a team at home since the Angels’ Dave Hollins from 1997-98. It was McCann’s third homer of the year on a 0-2 count.

Chris Young played left field and had 3-for-4, including a game-tying home run, his first for the Yankees, in the fourth inning. It was Young’s first home run since July 12 for the Mets against the Marlins at Citi Field. He is just the second player to homer for both the Yankees and Mets in the same season. The other was Dave Kingman, who hit nine home runs for the Mets and four for the Yankees in 1977. Young has four RBI in the past two games. . .Mark Teixeira drove in the go-ahead run in the fifth inning with his 19th career triple.

Derek Jeter (0-for-4) played in his 2,731st career game, surpassing Hall of Fame outfielder Mel Ott for sole possession of eighth place all time among major leaguers who played all of their games with one team. DJ also passed Ott, who played his entire career with the New York Giants, for most games by any New York-based MLB player. Jeter was the designated hitter because Carlos Beltran was scratched from the starting lineup due to right elbow soreness. The Yankees were also without Brett Gardner (strained abdominal muscle) and Martin Prado (left hamstring tightness).

Rally-killing out at the plate sinks Yankees

The worst rule change in baseball went against the Yankees in the fifth inning Monday night and cost them the chance to tie the game against the Rays. At issue was blocking the plate, which Tampa Bay catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly appeared to do as Stephen Drew attempted to score on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Yet after a video review, plate umpire Vic Carapazza upheld his original call. The new rule has become so nebulous it is difficult to interpret. The catcher is now supposed to give a runner trying to score a lane, but he also has to try to catch the ball, which in this case was directly on target.

Major League Baseball issued a memorandum Tuesday clarifying plays in which the ball clearly beats the runner to the plate, which in truth was the case against Drew. Under previous rules, Drew would have no recoil but to collide with Hanigan and try to pry the ball loose.

That is not allowed any more, although Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes a runner in that situation has no alternative. “He had no place to go,” Girardi said of Drew. “I’m not sure whether to instruct my runners to knock the catcher over. I know the sprit of the rule, but maybe we should just go back to normal and suspend a player if someone gets hurt.”

I have seen enough of these plays at the plate this year to equate this rule with that in basketball in the 1970s when the dunk was outlawed in college and high school. Really dumb. Take a fan-pleasing aspect of the game and throw it out.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the slide home on a close call. At least it used to be before the powers that be decided to turn it into a dance routine. Is this ball or ballet? The inning was still alive, but Derek Jeter hit a bullet to second baseman Ben Zobrist, who flipped to second to double-up Chris Young.

The play at the plate obscured the fact that it was a rare bad send by third base coach Rob Thompson. Another rule of thumb is not to make the first out at the plate. Had Thompson held Drew at third base, the Yankees would have a run in and the bases loaded with none out and the middle of the order coming up.

The Yankees were marching back from a 4-0 deficit against Chris Archer, who is always been tough against them (5-0 career mark). The righthander was perfect for three innings before Ellsbury homered leading off the fourth. Archer began the next inning by hitting Chase Headley with a pitch and then proceeded to give up four straight singles, including a two-run knock by Young, the Mets’ free-agent bust, following Drew’s RBI hit. Two guys who have had miserable years accounted for the Yankees’ three runs that inning.

Young was playing left field because regular Brett Gardner is still bothered by an abdominal strain. Could he have aggravated it last week when he had that temper tantrum at the plate that got him booted from the game? Just asking. Also out with continuing hamstring soreness was Martin Prado, which is why Drew was in the starting lineup at second base.

Hiroki Kuroda, who had won his three previous decisions, was not sharp and failed to get through the fourth inning. James Loney hit a second-deck home run off Kuroda in the second inning and drove in one of the two Tampa Bay runs in the third with a single. Kuroda was replaced after yielding an RBI single to Zobrist in the fourth.

Seven Yankees relievers combined to shut the Rays down on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts for 5 2/3 innings, but the Yankees had only one hit after the fifth and could not prevent a 4-3 loss that further damaged their already perilous situation in the standings.

“It leaves us in a big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically, we have to win every day.”

Pretty tall order.

Hispanic Heritage Month events at Stadium

The Yankees’ continued celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month in September includes the first Latino Baseball Hall of Fame in-stadium photo exhibit, the appearance of Grammy Award-winning artist Arturo Sandoval at a Yankees game and the third edition of Yankees Magazine En Español, the Spanish-language issue of the club’s official game-day program.

Last Saturday, the Yankees and the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame held a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Yankee Stadium celebrating the latter’s first in-stadium photo exhibit. Located on the concourse outside of the New York Yankees Museum presented by Bank of America, the exhibit features images of all of the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame’s past inductees and recognizes the contributions that professional Latino ballplayers have made to the growth of the game. It will be available for viewing through Sunday, Sept. 21, free of charge for all fans attending Yankees home games or for those who purchase a ticket for a Yankee Stadium Tour presented by MasterCard.

“The history of baseball in Latin America is long and illustrious, which is why the creation of the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame makes sense,” Yankees Director of Latino Affairs Manuel Garcia said. “Having an institution such as this is not only important for the recognition of so many superstars, but also for the promotion of our national pastime on the international stage. We are excited to have this photo exhibit in our stadium. I know our fans will enjoy it.”

Thursday, Cuban jazz trumpeter, pianist and composer Arturo Sandoval will perform “God Bless America” during the Yankees’ game against the Rays. The 10-time Grammy Award winner has performed with the likes of Celine Dion, Alicia Keys and Justin Timberlake and contributed composing work on the underscore of the HBO movie based on his life, For Love or Country, starring Andy Garcia.

“Arturo Sandoval, a protégé of Dizzy Gillespie, is not only a legendary musician with 10 Grammy Awards but also a great representative of the American dream,” Garcia said. “From his well known defection from Cuba to his receipt of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013 at the White House, he is a symbol of what the United States is truly about. We are honored to have him perform ‘God Bless America’ September 11 at Yankee Stadium.”

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 third 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 or by phone at (800) GO-YANKS [800-469-2657].

Earlier this month, the Yankees kicked off the Hispanic Heritage Month celebration with an on-field ceremony recognizing the Carlos Beltran Scholarship Program at Hostos Community College. In conjunction with the Carlos Beltran Foundation, the program granted scholarships, based on merit and financial need, to six deserving Hostos students which has allowed each student to continue to attain their respective educational goals.

The Yankees also celebrated the Raiders Baseball team of the Bronx, Dominican Republic Tourism and the eighth-annual Hispanic Heritage Month Community Achievement Awards, which recognizes those who serve Bronx residents in the areas of the arts (Bronx Museum of the Arts), athletics (South Bronx United), business (Mastermind Ltd.) and education (P.S. 73).

Fans can 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.

‘Ghosts’ can’t save Yanks on Derek Jeter Day

There was a moment in the first inning Sunday when those ghosts that Derek Jeter used to talk about in the old Yankee Stadium seemed to have found their way to the north side of 161st Street.

Jeter, on first base after a leadoff single, successfully avoided a tag by second baseman Omar Infante after fielding a ground ball by Martin Prado that might have started a double play. Infante then dropped the ball and in flipping it toward second base in an attempt for a face-saving force play hit Jeter in the back. All hands were safe.

Could the Yankees be on their way on Derek Jeter Day to a much-needed victory against the American League Central-leading Royals? Were the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig and Joe D. and the Mick there to guide them through this special day?

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the answer was no. If there were ghosts out there, they were the wrong ones. The Yankees did not score that inning or the next or any of the innings as Kansas City came away with its second shutout in three days without getting an earned run either time.

“We lost those two games, 1-0 and 2-0, with none of the runs being earned,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the frustrating point.”

Sunday’s loss was due in part to the Yankees playing well below their captain’s standards. Starting pitcher Shane Greene, who has displayed problems when having to throw to bases, was entirely responsible for the KC run in the second inning when he threw a relay to first base into right field. Girardi argued that Nori Aoki was out of the baseline running to first, but Greene’s throw was so wild that the umpire said there was no chance for a play.

The next inning, right fielder Carlos Beltran dropped a fly ball by Alex Gordon, who came around to score despite stumbling near third base because Beltran’s relay home was so far up the first base line that catcher Brian McCann had no shot at Gordon.

This was not the type of baseball that Jeter has embodied over the years for the Yankees, who cannot afford defensive mistakes when their offense so often struggles. They were limited to four hits, all singles, by four Royals pitchers Sunday and got only three runners as far as second base.

Jeter spoke after the game about the strange situation of being honored as a retiring player and yet still having to play. “You appreciate all the support, the nice things people say, but by the same token you still have to play a game,” Jeter said.

The Yankees are going to have to play the game a lot better if Jeter’s final games are to reach into October.

Jeter still playing despite retirement party

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter. (New York Post photo)

Gerald Williams, Cal Ripken Jr., Dave Winfield, Michael Jordan, Derek Jeter.
(New York Post photo)

Derek Jeter saved the best for last. Another ceremony at Yankee Stadium, this one to commemorate the 20-year career of the shortstop who now holds many of the legendary franchise’s records, was drawing to a close.

Microphone still in hand, Jeter began walking off the field and said into it, “We got a game to play.”

Perfect. Sure, it was nice to have his parents, his grandmother, his sister, his nephew and a slew of old teammates and pals on the field to celebrate his impending retirement. But the actual fact will not occur until the last game of the 2014 season. The Yanks had a game Sunday afternoon against a Royals team they are competing against for a post-season berth, and Jeter was in the lineup.

That is what Jeter has always been about. As his former manager, Joe Torre, said before the game, “Derek was always ready to play every day. A manager knew he could count on him.”

Torre was among those closest to Jeter back at the Stadium for the ceremonies, along with former teammates Paul O’Neill, Tino Martinez, Mariano Rivera, David Cone, Bernie Williams, Gerald Williams, Jorge Posada, Hideki Matsui and Tim Raines; Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson; former trainer Gene Monahan; MLB Network broadcaster and former infielder Harold Reynolds and commissioner-elect Rob Manfred.

The Yankees had a few surprises for DJ by trotting out Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr. and Dave Winfield and hoops legend Michael Jordan. The Steinbrenner family presented several gifts, including a Waterford Crystal tower with Jeter’s No. 2 atop it and a check for $222,222.22 donated to his Turn2 Foundation.

“It’s hard to believe 20 seasons have gone by so quickly,” Jeter said to the sellout crowd. “I want to take a brief moment to thank the Steinbrenner family and Mr. George Steinbrenner for giving me the opportunity to play my entire career with the only organization I wanted to play for.

“I thank my family and friends for all their support through the good times and more importantly through the tough times. All my managers, coaches, trainers and teammates current and former, I have been blessed to play with the best. I would not want to compete without you guys.

“Thank you fans for helping me feel like a kid the past 20 years. I got to be the shortstop of the New York Yankees, and there is only one of those. I have loved what I have done and loved to do it in front of you. From the bottom of my heart thank you very much.”

Not much syrup, all on the mark and to the point. This is the Jeter all of us have watched and heard for two decades. What began Sunday was not just the passing of 20 years but that of an era. The Yankees’ most recent dynastic run of championships started in 1996, Jeter’s rookie season. What is harder to believe is that one of these days he will be in one of those seats for guests at Yankee Stadium events.

Throughout all those World Series triumphs from 1996 through 2009 and up to today Jeter has been the constant thread. Sunday was chosen by the Yankees to celebrate that career, but as Jeter plainly put it that career is not over yet.

As team captain, Jeter is the first to break from the dugout onto the field at the start of home games. He went into his similar trot Sunday, but when he reached his customary position at shortstop and turned around he noticed that he was the only player on the field.

His fellow starters had stayed back so that their captain could take center stage in front of the fans who have adored him all these years. Jeet then made a come-on gesture with his glove for the guys to get out there with him. Another Jeter trait: he has never believe he could do it alone. Once again, he was saying, ‘We got a game today.’ “

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Derek Jeter banner unveiled in Great Hall at Yankee Stadium

Teixeira, Headley create winning rally with 2 swings

Here I was ready to get on Mark Teixeira for not dropping a bunt to an unoccupied left side as the Red Sox were employing a shift against the first baseman leading off the ninth inning Thursday night with the Yankees down a run. In that situation, it is vital to get a base runner, to start a rally, why not take what the defense allows?

Granted, this is a pet peeve of mine which fans may be tired of hearing. And, of course, now they won’t pay attention to me at all after what happened in what became the latest most important inning this season for the Yankees.

Teixeira swung away throughout his at-bat against Koji Uehara and eventually connected on a 2-2 pitch for a home run to right field that tied the score. Brian McCann, who had homered off Uehara Tuesday night, lined out sharply to left field. Clearly, Uehara was not at his sharpest.

Chase Headley showed that by smoking a 3-2 pitch to right for a walk-off homer producing a 5-4 comeback victory that gave the Yankees a winning series for a change and kept them for falling further behind in the American League wild card chase.

The Yankees had looked pretty limp after they had tied the score with a three-run third. They had only one hit, an infield single, after that into the ninth before Tex and Headley teed off on Uehara, who has given up 10 home runs in 61 1/3 innings this year in which he has not been as lights-out as he was a year ago.

It was Teixeira’s 21st home run of the season but his first in 57 at-bats since Aug. 17. He had that lone hit from the fourth through the eighth and really put a jolt into the crowd with the timely home run.

Headley, who has been a great addition since coming to the Yankees from the Padres in a July trade, failed to get a ball out of the infield before his ninth-inning at-bat in which he battled Uehara tooth and nail.

Credit for this victory also goes to the bullpen. Five relievers took over for Chris Capuano, who gave up two home runs to David Ortiz and one to Brock Holt, and combined to shut down the Red Sox for 4 2/3 innings in which they allowed one hit and one hit batter with four strikeouts.

Winning pitcher Shawn Kelley (3-5) got himself in trouble in the ninth by hitting a batter and bobbling a sacrifice but recovered to get a harmless fly ball and two groundouts that kept the Yankees close enough for the ninth-inning heroics.

Elsewhere, the Mariners were winning big and the Tigers and Indians were in a tight game. A Yankees loss in a game in which the Red Sox were hitless in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position would have been a devastating blow. Instead, they came up with a couple of devastating blows of their own.

Yanks come back from Ortiz blasts

Judging from crowd reaction, there is probably no opposing player Yankees fans enjoy watching make out than David Ortiz. Loud cheers accompany every strikeout or batted ball that settles in a Yankees’ fielder’s glove.

And this has happened with the Red Sox noted designated hitter more times than you might think. Although he entered Thursday night’s game with a .310 average and 42 home runs in his career against the Yankees, Ortiz was a .241 hitter with eight home runs at Yankee Stadium.

Ortiz improved those numbers in his first two at-bats against Chris Capuano with a couple of home runs in staking Boston to a 3-0 lead in the third inning. With two out in the first, Ortiz ripped a lazar of a line drive off a 0-1 fastball that just cleared the wall in right field.

Two innings later with one out and a runner on first, Ortiz jumped on a first-pitch slider that hung and got stung into the right field bleachers. Ortiz’s 46th multi-homer game raised his season total to 32. There were no wild cheers in the stands either time, just a collection of ooohs and aahhs that such demonstrative displays with the bat from an opponent can generate.

And that explains why the cheers are so loud at the Stadium when he makes an out.

When it came to loud cheering, Derek Jeter earned that in the bottom of the third with a booming drive to the warning track in center field for a two-run double off Red Sox righthander Brandon Workman that cut the margin to 3-2.

It was the 540th two-base hit of Jeter’s career, which tied him with Hall of Famers Dave Winfield and Joe Medwick for 32nd place on the all-time list. More cheers were to come when Jeter raced home to tie the score on a two-out, ground single to right-center by Carlos Beltran.

Yankees fans finally got to shout at Ortiz in the fifth. One out after he gave up a tie-breaking homer to another left-handed hitter, Brock Holt, Capuano was spared another encounter with Ortiz and was replaced by lefthander Rich Hill, who used a tantalizing, 75-mph curve to strike him out to the absolute delight of Yankees fans.

Yankees heed manager’s message

Yankees manager Joe Girardi could not have made it more clear before Wednesday night’s game. He said the players know the situation they are in, that they need to win games, “and we need to start tonight.”

Coming right up, the Yankees might have said. They did not let a disastrous first inning when they ran into two outs on the same play set the tone for the evening and went on to beat the Red Sox, 5-1.

Hiroki Kuroda earned his third straight victory with seven solid innings while his catcher, Brian McCann, had a four-hit game and drove in three runs. It was McCann who helped the Yanks ignore the sight of Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner being thrown out in a failed double-steal attempt when he connected off Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo for a two-run home run in the second inning.

McCann singled to lead off the fifth when the Yankees made it 3-0 on a sacrifice fly by Jacoby Ellsbury, who sure looks comfortable in that leadoff spot. Ellsbury tripled with one out in the seventh and scored on a single by Gardner. After a fielder’s choice and a walk loaded the bases for McCann, he singled again to pump the Yanks’ lead to 5-1. A second RBI was snuffed out when Carlos Beltran was thrown out at the plate. It’s a pretty good sign for a team that can get three players thrown out on the bases and still win the game.

“Sometimes you get a little too over-aggressive,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t happy with two guys getting thrown out, but that mistake didn’t cost us dearly.”

The Yankees could use some good signs these days. Kuroda provided a big one. He struck out five of the first seven batters and finished with eight punchouts in seven innings. He did not walk a batter, although he did hit one who came around to score in the sixth on a double by Brock Holt, the only one of the four hits off the Japanese righthander that went for extra bases.

“Hiro had a great sinker and split,” Girardi said. “He had fatigue issues in the second half last year, and we have tried to do some things [additional rest] this year to get him to this point.”

Girardi placed his own emphasis on this game by going to his 1-2 punch in the bullpen with Dellin Betances working the eighth with a four-run lead and David Robertson the ninth in a non-save situation.

The Yankees picked up a game on the Athletics and the Tigers in the wild card chase but still trail them by four games, are 3 1/2 behind the Mariners and even with the Indians. The post-season remains very much an uphill climb with several clubs to step over, but for this night anyway the Yankees did not take a step back.

More adventures on the basepaths

The Yankees’ adventurous base running continued Wednesday night. This episode was even worse than Tuesday night when the Yankees at least scored at some point in the inning.

A promising start to Wednesday night’s game came to a sudden end when Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, who each had singled with one out, combined on a caught-stealing double play. The throw from catcher Christian Vazquez was to second trying for Gardner, the trail runner who stopped before reaching second in the old high-school play mold. Jeter inched off third as Gardner got in a rundown that involved four throws. But when Gardner was finally tagged out, Jeter had gone too far off third to make his way back and was tagged out as well.

The Yankees need to be aggressive to generate an offense, but careless base running does not help. The Yankees took a 2-0 lead against Red Sox righthander Anthony Ranaudo in a more conventional manner in the second inning when Brian McCann crushed a 0-2 fastball for a two-run home run.

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