Yanks salvage finale of 3-4 trip

Years ago when the Angels scheduled 4 p.m. games at home, they liked to start Nolan Ryan. As if trying to hit the strikeout king’s blazing fastball was not hard enough, try doing it when it is twilight time.

The situation bode well for the Yankees Wednesday with the 4 p.m. start at Anaheim because their starting pitcher was Nathan Eovaldi, who grew up in the same home town as Ryan (Alvin, Texas) and throws nearly as hard. In fact, Eovaldi dialed up one of his fastballs in the game all the way to 100 mph.

Yet it was the not the strikeout fest that might have been expected from Eovaldi, who got the winning decision in the Yankees’ 3-1 victory, not because he was overpowering but rather because he had an effective breaking ball and kept Angels hitters off-balance for most of his 5 1/3 innings. The Yankees won three games on the seven-game trip, and Eovaldi (8-2) was the winning pitcher in two of them.

The Yankees had scored only one run in each of their previous three games and had the same total for the first five innings Wednesday before Garrett Jones drove a 0-2 fastball from Matt Shoemaker to right field for his fifth home run. The Yanks filled the bases in the eighth but came away with only one run on a single by Didi Gregorius, but that would be insurance enough thanks to solid work by the bullpen.

After Eovaldi walked two batters to load the bases with one out in the sixth, Chasen Shreve doused the flames by getting Erick Aybar on an infield fly and David Freese on a grounder to Chase Headley, one of eight assists by the third baseman in the game. He also drove in the Yankees’ first run with one of his three hits, a two-out single in the third inning.

Shreve followed with a scoreless sixth before his left-handed partner, Justin Wilson, took over in the eighth. After two quick outs, Wilson was taken deep by Mike Trout, whose 21st homer accounted for Los Angeles’ only run.

Dellin Betances came on at that point for a four-out save (No. 7), although it got dicey in the ninth with two walks. The big guy finished it off with a strikeout of pinch hitter C.J. Cron. The Angels were hitless in 23 at-bats with runners in scoring position in the series, which makes it amazing that they won two of the three games.

The Yankees moved into second place in the American League East by a half-game over the Rays, who were nearly no-hit by the Indians Wednesday night. Tampa Bay travels to New York to face the Yankees in a three-game series over the 4th of July weekend

After hot homestand, bats turn cold on road

First place in the American League East was all theirs for the taking Tuesday night, but the Yankees failed to take advantage of losses by the Orioles, Rays and Blue Jays by suffering the same fate.

For five innings, it appeared as if Iva Nova would drive the Yanks back to the top of the division. In his second start since coming back from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow, Nova took a shutout into the sixth inning. He wiggled out of danger in the first two innings as the Angels were hitless in five at-bats with five runners in scoring position and stranded five runners, three of them in scoring position.

Then in the sixth, the Angels struck quickly and deeply as Nova was tagged for back-to-back home runs by Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar for the first runs the righthander had allowed in 12 innings this year.

The blows offset the solo home run Mark Teixeira hit leading off the second inning against Angels starter Andrew Heaney, who allowed only one other hit through seven innings and earned his first major league victory. Other than Tex’s 19th home run, the Yankees had only five other base runners on a single by Brett Gardner, two walks, an error and a wild-pitch third strike. None of them got past first base with the Angels turning three double plays along the way.

It was a tough loss for Nova, who scattered eight hits with two walks and seven strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings. A nasty curve served him well in the game until he could not keep the ball in the yard. Adam Warren, back in the bullpen after having done a good job as a starter, did his part in keeping the Yankees close with 2 2/3 innings of scoreless, one-hit, one-walk, two-strikeout relief.

The bats have turned cold on this trip, which ends Wednesday. After a homestand in which they batted .351 with 19 home runs and averaged 7.5 runs per game, the Yankees through six games on the trip are hitting .192 with five home runs and are averaging 2.5 runs per game. Of the Yankees’ 15 runs on the trip, nine came in one game.

LED lighting coming to Stadium in 2016

The Yankees announced a pending partnership with GigaTera and PLANLED to install light emitting diode (LED) field lighting at Yankee Stadium prior to the 2016 major league season. The new energy efficient lighting system will be just the second of its kind to be used in a MLB stadium. The other is Safeco Field in Seattle.

“We are always looking for better ways to conserve natural resources at Yankee Stadium and are thrilled to be able to partner with GigaTera and PLANLED to install state-of-the-art LED field lighting at our venue,” Yankees vice president of stadium operations Doug Behar said. “These new lights will not only help us reduce our carbon footprint but also showcase all of the world-class events that take place at Yankee Stadium in the most pure and natural lighting that currently exists.”

The initiative continues the Yankees’ efforts in promoting a sustainable environment. Since opening the current Stadium in 2009, the organization has made a dedicated commitment to establishing impactful environmental practices – including renewable energy, composting, water conservation and sustainable purchasing – and to educate fans about the importance of environmental stewardship.

“We are pleased and honored to be selected as the lighting partner of the Yankees and to have the opportunity to provide the most advanced stadium lighting system to the most prestigious franchise in sports history,” KMW/Giga Tera chairman Duk Yong Kim said. “Our SUFA X system will achieve dramatic energy saving while enhancing the visual experience for the players, the fans at the ballpark and TV viewers at home.”

Added PLANLED CEO John Hwang: “Yankee Stadium will display the future of sports lighting, implementing the research applied design strategy that has been developed in partnership with distinguished researchers, thought leaders, lighting designers and research & development engineers.”

Earlier this month, the Yankees received the 2015 Environmental Leadership Award, presented by the Green Sports Alliance and which recognizes a sports team and venue that best exemplifies the practices of promoting a sustainable environment. Green Sports Alliance members represent nearly 300 sports teams and venues from 20 different sports leagues and 14 countries across the world.

For more information on Yankee Stadium’s green initiatives, please visit http://www.yankees.com and click on the Yankee Stadium tab at the top of the page.

Yankees miss chance to take over 1st place in AL East

It was feast or famine for the Yankees during their four-game series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park against the American League West-leading Astros. The Yankees came back from being shut out Thursday night to post a late-inning, come-from-behind victory Friday night behind the native Texans duo of Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Young. The Yanks out-slugged Houston Saturday night in a home run derby of the major leagues’ power leaders only to manage a meager two hits Sunday in failing to fortify Michael Pineda’s route-going effort.

Sunday’s loss turned the series into a split and cost the Yankees a chance to take over first place in the AL East because Tampa Bay also lost. There is quite a logjam in this division. Only one game separates four teams with the Orioles tied for second with the Yankees and the Blue Jays a half-game behind both of them. Only the Red Sox, eight games out of first place, seem buried at this point.

The good news Sunday was Pineda, who recovered from a God-awful game last week at home against the lowly Phillies when he could not get through the fourth inning and was hammered for eight runs and 11 hits. The righthander bounced back with eight strong innings Sunday in which he gave up three runs – one of them decidedly tainted – and seven hits with no walks (always a good sign with him) and eight strikeouts.

Unfortunately, Astros starter Collin McHugh was slightly better. He hurt himself with a wild pitch in the third inning that led directly to a run on a single by Brett Gardner, whose adventures in the outfield the next inning allowed the Astros to tie the score. Gardner and left fielder Garrett Jones had miscommunication on a fly ball to left-center field by Carlos Correa that fell between them. Gardner inadvertently kicked the ball as well with Correa rounding the bases. The official scorer ruled a double for Correa and a two-base error for Garnder.

A couple of years ago, I took a friend of mine who is a Mets fan to a game at Citi Field on a day the Yankees were out of town and not scheduled. The Mets’ starting pitcher that day, making his major-league debut, was Collin McHugh. Seated behind us were about a dozen of his friends and relatives from Georgia, and what a treat they got. McHugh pitched a two-hit shutout over seven innings before coming out of the game. The Mets did not score for him, however, and eventually lost the game, 1-0, to the Rockies.

McHugh never pitched that well for the Mets again and he was traded to Colorado for infielder Eric Young Jr. The Rockies eventually placed him on waivers from where the Astros scooped him up. He was 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA last year for an Astros team that lost 92 games and with Sunday’s victory improved to 9-3 albeit with a 4.51 ERA this year. Some pitchers take a while to develop.

Gardner’s single and one by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth was all the offense the Yankees could muster against McHugh, who was in position to win when the Astros broke the tie on a triple by Evan Gattis in the seventh and got a tack-on run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Jason Castro.

Just the night before, the Yankees had been in a home run derby contest against Houston. A first-inning grand slam by Brian McCann and a second-inning, two-run shot by Chris Young created a 6-0 lead for Masahiro Tanaka, who like Pineda had been coming off a poor outing (five innings, 10 hits, seven runs-five earned) in a 12-4 loss to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Unlike Pineda, Tanaka did not rebound. The six-run bulge was gone by the fifth inning as he was touched for home runs by Correa, Chris Carter and Jose Altuve. The Japanese righthander looked shell-shocked when he left the game after five. His teammates rebounded for him. Mark Teixeira thrust the Yankees back in front with a two-run double in the eighth. Chase Headley led off the ninth with a monster of a drive to left-center off lefthander Tony Sipp to complete the comeback behind nifty relief work by winning pitcher Chasen Shreve (5-1), Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances (sixth save).

A third straight comeback was not in the cards for the Yankees Sunday.

Young & Eovaldi do a Texas two-step for Yanks

A couple of Texas natives had big nights deep in the heart of their home state Friday night for the Yankees.

Houston native Chris Young ended the Yanks’ 15-inning scoreless streak at Minute Maid Park by clouting a three-run home run in the seventh off previously untouchable reliever Will Harris to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead that was upheld by three Yankees relievers.

The rally created a winning decision for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (7-2), who worked six strong innings under the watchful eye of fellow Alvin, Texas, native Nolan Ryan, who was seated in the front row behind the plate alongside his wife, Ruth. The Hall of Famer rejoined the Astros organization last year after leaving the Rangers.

Pitching in his home area for the first time, Eovaldi followed his sturdy outing Old-Timers’ Day with another solid performance in front of scores of friends and relatives in the crowd of 37,748. The righthander allowed two runs, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

And yet he was in position to be on the losing side in the game because Astros starter Vincent Velasquez was even better over the first six innings. He held the Yankees to three hits with only one base runner getting beyond first.

One out into the seventh, however, the Yankees made their move. Singles by Carlos Beltran and Garrett Jones prompted Houston manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Harris, who entered the game with a 4-0 record and 0.78 ERA. With no left-handed bat on the bench, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed with Young, who rewarded the skipper by putting a charge into a 1-1 cut fastball for his ninth home run of the season.

Young’s numbers this season are lopsided. He leads American League hitters against left-handed pitching (.379, eight doubles, four home runs, 10 RBI in 66 at-bats), including two hits off Dallas Keuchel, who shut down the rest of the Yankees Thursday night. Against righthanders, however, Young was batting only .177 going into Friday night’s game. By going 3-for-4 against righties, Young improved his stats to .210 with two doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI in 100 at-bats.

Minute Maid Park has become a home away from home for Young. In 25 career games there, he is hitting .410 with seven doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 33 RBI in 105 at-bats with 14 multi-hit games. It marks his highest career average in any major league park.

Young, a graduate of Houston’s Bellaire High School, extended his hitting streak to nine games since June 18 during which he has batted .471 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 34 at-bats. Over the span, Young has raised his season batting average from .220 to .271.

Once the Yankees moved in front, Girardi turned to his pen, which did a superb job. Chasen Shreve struck out the side in the seventh. After a two-out walk by Justin Wilson in the eighth, Dellin Betances was called on for a four-out save, which he handled perfectly with two strikeouts.

Brett Gardner continued his hot hitting with a double and a single and is up to .294. With Tampa Bay losing, the Yankees moved to a half-game of the first-place Rays in the American League East.

Astros’ Keuchel quiets hot Yankees bats

The Yankees found out for themselves Thursday night that the surprising Astros are for real. The Yankees had won seven of nine games at Houston’s Minute Maid Park before this game, which was all Astros behind the pitching of Dallas Keuchel.

The lefthander, who sports a mountaineer’s beard that has spawned hundreds of fake beards worn by Astros fans in his starts, tossed a six-hit shutout in spoiling the start of the Yanks’ seven-game trip to Houston and Anaheim.

The Yankees had 97 hits in their previous seven games, an average of nearly 14 hits per game, but they did not get a runner past first base against Keuchel until the ninth inning when they staged their only rally in the 4-0 loss. Alex Rodriguez singled to center with two out and became the Yankees’ first runner in scoring position when Mark Teixeira walked on four pitches. Keuchel fell behind 3-0 in the count to Carlos Beltran before giving up a hard single to left that loaded the bases.

After doing next to nothing against Keuchel for eight innings, the Yankees actually had the potential tying run at the plate in the ninth. Astros manager A.J. Hinch stayed with Keuchel rather than bring in a righthander what with four left-handed hitters on the Yankees’ bench in Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Garrett Jones and Didi Gregorius. Keuchel then put down the uprising by getting Jose Pirela on a force play.

Pirela played left field, the first time he has played in the outfield as a pro, as Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to go as right-handed as possible against Keuchel. Stephen Drew, back from paternity leave, played shortstop and was the only left-handed batter in the lineup.

Keuchel retired 15 batters in a row from the fourth until A-Rod’s hit in the ninth. The walk to Teixeira was the only free pass issued by Keuchel, who set a personal best with 12 strikeouts. Rodriguez and Chase Headley each struck out three times against Keuchel. Beltran and Chris Young managed two hits apiece off Keuchel.

He led the American League in complete games last year with five. This was the third complete game of this season for Keuchel, who was the AL Pitcher of the Month in both April (3-0, 0.73 ERA) and May (4-1, 2.62 ERA). He is 2-2 with a 3.15 ERA this month and 9-3 with a 2.17 ERA for the season.

The home run derby that was anticipated by the league’s two leading slugging teams (the Astros have 107 homers, the Yanks 98) did not materialize. Yankees starter Adam Warren held George Springer, Carlos Correa and Danny Valbuena in check for the most part, but last year’s batting champ, Jose Altuve, had a big night with two doubles, a single, two stolen bases and three runs. Evan Gattis drove in two runs with a single and a double. Preston Tucker also doubled in a run, and Colby Rasmus added a sacrifice fly.

The Yankees did not help themselves defensively. Errors by Warren, Drew and catcher John Ryan Murphy all played parts in Astros rallies. Houston maintained its five-game lead in the AL West while the Yankees fell 1 1/2 games behind the Rays in the AL East and only a half-game ahead of the Orioles and Blue Jays.

Hall to honor 11 Yanks legends among WWII vets

The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum will salute the ballplayers who served during World War II and honor the contributions of a modern baseball pioneer’s legacy with two special recognitions during the annual Awards Presentation at Hall of Fame Weekend Saturday, July 25, in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The Hall will recognize all the players who served in World War II, with United States Navy Secretary Ray Mabus speaking on behalf of all military branches as America marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War. More than 500 major leaguers joined the military during World War II, including Hall of Famers such as Bob Feller, who enlisted in the Navy just days after the bombing of Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941; and Hank Greenberg, who re-enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 after being drafted and serving in the Army in 1941 before being honorably discharged Dec. 5, 1941.

Thirty-six Hall of Famers – more than 11 percent of all Hall of Fame members – served during World War II, including eight players with the Yankees: Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey, Joe DiMaggio, Joe Gordon, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto, Red Ruffing and Enos Slaughter. Other Hall of Famers with Yankees connections who served during WWII were executives Larry MacPhail and Lee MacPhail and manager Bob Lemon.

The rest of the Hall of Fame roster of World War II veterans were Feller, Greenberg, Luke Appling, Al Barlick, Willard Brown, Nestor Chylak, Mickey Cochrane, Leon Day, Larry Doby, Bobby Doerr, Charlie Gehringer, Billy Herman, Monte Irvin, Ralph Kiner, Ted Lyons, Stan Musial, Pee Wee Reese, Robin Roberts, Jackie Robinson, Red Schoendienst, Duke Snider, Warren Spahn, Bill Veeck, Ted Williams and Early Wynn.

The Museum will also pay tribute to the legacy and contributions of former Reds, Cardinals and Senators outfielder Curt Flood, whose test of the reserve clause via the United States Supreme Court in 1970 laid the groundwork for the advent of free agency several years later. Major League Players Association executive director Tony Clark will speak on behalf of Flood’s challenge of the system and contributions to the Supreme Court case that led to free agency.

A three-time All-Star and seven-time Gold Glove Award winner in center field, Flood petitioned the Court to allow him to choose his employer instead of being subject to a trade. Flood sat out the 1970 season. That year the Court ruled against Flood in a 5-to-3 decision. His efforts inspired pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally to pick up the fight five years later when they challenged the reserve clause through the players’ right to binding arbitration in 1975. Flood passed away in 1997.

These two special recognitions will join the Museum’s annual presentation of the Ford C. Frick Award for broadcast excellence and the J.G. Taylor Spink Award for meritorious contributions to baseball writing. Dick Enberg, the television voice of the Padres, will receive the Frick Award. Tom Gage, who covered the Tigers for the Detroit News for 36 seasons, has been selected the Spink Award winner by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.

Now in its fifth year, the Awards Presentation takes place at 4:30 p.m. Saturday, July 25, at historic Doubleday Field, the day before the 2015 Induction Ceremony.

Admission for the Awards Presentation is free. The one-hour ceremony precedes the Hall of Fame Parade of Legends, featuring Hall of Fame members in a Main Street parade through Cooperstown.

The Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame features Craig Biggio, Randy Johnson, Pedro Martínez and John Smoltz, who were all elected to the Hall of Fame by the BBWAA in January. More than 50 Hall of Famers are scheduled to be in Cooperstown to honor the Class of 2015 at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, July 26, at the Clark Sports Center, which is one mile south of the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

For more information on Hall of Fame Weekend, please visit http://www.baseballhall.org/visit/hall-of-fame-weekend.

Nova good as new in return from TJ surgery

A homestand that began so promisingly and then seemed to fall apart ended on a very high note Wednesday for the Yankees as Ivan Nova made a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow 14 months ago.

The Phillies, owners of the worst record in baseball, threatened to complete a embarrassing sweep of the Yankees behind veteran Cole Hamels, who seems to be auditioning for a variety of clubs in need of a quality starter. Nova followed disappointing starts by CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka with 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against a team that had scored 22 runs over the previous two games.

Yankees pitchers were banged around for 34 runs and 44 hits in three straight losses. Nova’s outing was just what they needed, not that they could have expected it from him. Pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery do not often have so impressive a first outing as did Nova in a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees gave their teammate some working room by jumping out to a 5-0 lead off Hamels by the fourth inning, a continuation of their offensive combustibility throughout the homestand in which they scored 60 runs in eight games, an average of 7.5 runs per game. On the 5-3 homestand, the Yanks batted .351 with 19 home runs to offset a staff ERA of 5.50.

As for Nova, his ERA is 0.00. In his first start since April 19, 2014, the righthander allowed three hits and two walks. He had only one strikeout but kept the Phillies off base with routine outs. Center fielder Brett Gardner had nine putouts behind Nova.

Gardner also continued his ferocious hitting with an RBI single, a walk and two runs. On the homestand, he had 17-for-36 (.472) with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and 10 RBI. Gardy scored 12 runs and raised his batting average 30 points to .292.

Everybody on the Yankees hit Wednesday except for Carlos Beltran (0-for-5; there is always one player who doesn’t get to the dance floor). After missing two games because of a stiff neck, Mark Teixeira banged out three singles and knocked in two runs.

Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Young, Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela had two hits apiece. Hamels was gone after five innings in which he allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks, and the Yankees piled it on against two Phillies relievers.

Finally, the Yankees were able to put a net over infielder Maikel Franco, who was 0-for-4 after having gone 6-for-8 (.750) with 10 RBI and five runs over the two prior games.

The Yankees are 12-4 in their past 16 home games since May 25 and have outscored opponents, 115-67, during that time. Nova’s stint was the longest stretch of scoreless innings by a Yankees pitcher in his season debut since Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez pitched eight innings of one-hit ball April 26, 2002 against Tampa Bay.

The victory coupled with the Rays’ loss to the Blue Jays inched the Yankees to one game of first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East.

An appropriate “-30-” for 2 Yankees favorites

Willie Randolph and Mel Stottlemyre both wore uniform No. 30 as players with the Yankees. In newspaper parlance, “-30-” means “end of story.” There is no more honorable end of the story for a former Yankees player than to have a plaque in Monument Park dedicated in his honor, which was bestowed on each of these fan favorites at Saturday’s 69th Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium.

They took separate paths to this special day as representatives of two distinctively different eras in franchise history and then joined together on manager Joe Torre’s coaching staff in the 1990s and 2000s to help steer the Yanks through a renewed period of glory.

Randolph’s plaque had been publicized as a prelude to the annual event. The one for Stottlemyre, however, was kept a secret from the former pitcher and pitching coach who has been battling multiple myeloma for the past 15 years. The Yankees could not be sure whether Stottlemyre could make the trip to New York from his home in Issaquah, Wash. His wife, Jean, worked with the Yankees behind the scenes to make a reality the idea conceived by principal owner Hal Steinbrenner.

“This is beyond a doubt the biggest surprise I’ve ever had,” Mel said to the crowd. “Today in this Stadium, there is no one that’s happier to be on this field than myself. I have been battling a dreaded disease for quite some time. I’ve had so much help from my family and I can’t say enough about you people, how supportive you’ve been for me over the years.”

For a man who grew up in Brooklyn, Randolph came full cycle with this ceremonial day. He has touched so many parts of baseball life in New York City from the sandlots and high school in Brownsville to second base and the third base coaching box in the Bronx to the manager’s office in Queens and now to that hallowed area beyond the center field wall at the Stadium.

Accompanied by his parents and surrounded by many former teammates and pupils, Randolph gave a moving speech to the crowd assembled for the Yankees’ annual reunion.

“I began living my dream at [age] 21,” he said, “and I am still living it at 61.”

Randolph came to the Yankees from the Pirates as an added player in a trade and quickly established himself as the regular second baseman under manager Billy Martin, another former Yankees second baseman, in 1976 when the Yankees won their first pennant in 12 years. Willie went on to play on World Series championship teams in 1977 and ’78 and on another Series team in 1981 that lost to the Dodgers. As a Yankees coach, he won four more rings in 1996 and from 1998-2000 and for clubs that played in the 2001 and ’03 Series.

The New York City connection was not missed on Randolph, who has long taken pride in his place in the city’s baseball history. With Saturday’s ceremony, he added to that legend in becoming only the sixth native New Yorker to receive a Monument Park plaque along with Hall of Famers Lou Gehrig (Manhattan), Phil Rizzuto (Brooklyn), Whitey Ford (Queens) and Joe Torre (Brooklyn) and owner Jacob Ruppert (Manhattan). The plaques for Randolph and Stottlemyre bring the total to 35 in Monument Park.

While success seemed to follow Randolph during his playing career, it eluded Stottlemyre after his rookie season of 1964 when he went 9-3 as a midseason callup and started three game of that year’s World Series in the Yankees’ losing effort against St. Louis.

“This is such a shock to me because that era that I played in is an era for the most part the Yankees have tried over the years to forget a little bit,” Stottlemyre said. “We went from being in the World Series in 1964 to fifth in 1965 and dead last in ’66. With a successful organization like the Yankees, they want to forget those years, I think, as fast as they possibly can. It does me a lot of good for something like this to happen because it tells everybody that I really was here.”

Stottlemyre, 73, was the ace of Yankees staffs during those down years and was a five-time All-Star who was 164-139 with a 2.97 ERA over his 11-season career (1964-74) with three 20-victory seasons and 40 career shutouts. After coaching stints with the Mariners, Mets (including the 1986 World Series title year) and Astros, Stottlemyre joined the Yankees as their pitching coach and won Series rings with them in 1996 and from 1998-2000.

One of his pitching disciples, Andy Pettitte, escorted Stottlemyre to the infield as the last player announced among the returning Old Timers that included Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson, Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, Goose Gossage, Ford and Torre as well as Bernie Williams, David Cone, Roy White, Paul O’Neill, Don Larsen, Lou Piniella, Gene Michael and Dr. Bobby Brown.

“I thought they forgot me,” Mel said. “There was no one left in the dugout. They sure know how to keep a secret around here.”

It is a secret no more. The Monument Park plaque is all either new member of the collection needs to know about his worth to a grateful organization. As a final tribute, the Yankees’ starting pitcher in the regularly-scheduled game against the Tigers was Nathan Eovaldi, the current wearer of uniform No. 30.

Gardner back to catalyst form on homestand

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner were a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order for the Yankees the first month of the season. But since Ellsbury went on the 15-day disabled list May 20 because of a right knee strain, Gardner seemed lost without his partner.

Going into this homestand, Gardner was in a 94 at-bat stretch in which he hit .223 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI while watching his season batting average slide from .291 to .262. He has turned it around the past three nights at Yankee Stadium, however, climaxed by a 4-for-5, three-RBI performance Friday night that has pushed his average back up to .277. And not surprisingly, the Yankees won all three games with Gardner back in catalyst mode.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was at a loss before the game to explain the club’s seesaw season during which they have had seemingly equal stretches of good and bad play. One thing the skipper did say that what the Yankees do when things are going good is “not giving extra outs and hitting home runs.”

They adhered to that axiom in the 7-2 victory over the Tigers. Three home runs, including Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit, against former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander powered the Yankees to their third straight victory and kept the Detroit righthander winless at Yankee Stadium in four career regular-season decisions. As for not giving extra outs, well, they came close to that but were able to rectify their lone error with a snappy play at the plate to defuse a potentially productive sixth inning for the Tigers.

The Yankees had just taken a 4-2 lead on a two-run home run by Gardner (No. 7) in the bottom of the fifth. The Yanks’ two prior homers were solo shots by Rodriguez (No. 13, career No. 667) in the first and Didi Gregorius (No. 3) in the second. In only his second start of the season after coming back from a right triceps injury, Verlander was not of Cy Young vintage.

Ian Kinsler started the sixth against Adam Warren (5-4), who had yet another strong night as a starter (8 IP, 7 H, 2R-ER, 0 BB, 7 K), with an infield single. Miguel Cabrera, who had struck out in his first two at-bats against Warren, lined a single to right field, sending Kinsler to third.

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to handle right fielder Carlos Beltran’s relay for an error, but he atoned for that immediately when he retrieved the ball behind the bag and threw home to nail Kinsler at the plate on a fine tag by catcher John Ryan Murphy. Cabrera took second on the play but died there as Victor Martinez fouled out to Headley and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out.

The Yankees then pulled away with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Gardner was a significant part of both rallies. He got the seventh inning started by bunting for a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. In the eighth, Gardner’s two-out single to left scored Chris Young, who had doubled.

Young entered the game as a defensive replacement in center field for rookie Mason Williams, who jammed his right shoulder sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the fifth inning. Williams was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad, but no further tests were ordered.

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