When a sacrifice isn’t called for

You have to question Brett Gardner’s thinking in the third inning Tuesday night. Light-hitting Brendan Ryan had just led off with a rare extra-base hit, a booming double to left field, and was out there in scoring position for Gardner, the Yankees’ hottest hitter and winner of American League Player of the Week honors for last week.

So what goes Gardy do? Lays one down. That’s right. He drops down a sacrifice bunt to push Ryan to third base. Huh? I have never liked that play unless the batter is a pitcher. You have a runner with good wheels already in scoring position with none out. Why not try to knock the runner in yourself? And if you make an out by at least hitting the ball to the right side the runner will advance anyway.

The play really looked bad when the next batter, Derek Jeter, hit a squibbing grounder to second base against a tight infield for the second out with Ryan having to hold third. Jacoby Ellsbury saved the inning for the Yankees with a liner down the left field line for a double to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

After giving up a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, Hiroki Kuroda settled down over the next few innings and the Yankees drew even against David Price in the second on Brian McCann’s 12th home run.

Yanks go Cy, Cy, Cy for third time

The Yankees are amid a stretch of facing three former Cy Young Award winners in a row. They faced the Tigers’ Max Scherzer Monday night (and beat him, 2-1), were paired against David Price Tuesday night and are scheduled against Justin Verlander Wednesday night.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this marks third time in franchise history that the Yankees have faced former Cy Young-winning starting pitchers in three consecutive games. The most recent period was June 8-10, 2001 when they went 1-2 against the Braves’ Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux. They also went 1-2 spanning the All-Star break in 1999, losing July 11 at Shea Stadium to the Mets’ Orel Hershiser, then going 1-1 July 15-16 against Atlanta’s Glavine and Maddux at Yankee Stadium.

Each of the Yankees’ last 15 games has been decided by two or fewer runs. They are 9-6 over that stretch. According to Elias, it is the club’s longest such streak of games with a final margin of no more than two runs. The previous high was 12 straight games by the old Highlanders from Sept. 10-20, 1904. Elias also noted that it is the longest such streak in the majors since a 16-game run by the 1975 Orioles in 1975. At 37-25 (.597), the Yankees have the majors’ best record in games decided by two or fewer runs.

The Nationals claimed left-handed reliever Matt Thornton off waivers from the Yankees. Thornton, who was 0-3 with a 2.55 ERA in 46 games totaling 24 2/3 innings, could have been taken back by the Yankees, but by letting him go they free up some $4 million for next year’s payroll. The Yankees recalled lefthander Rich Hill from Triple A Scranton to take Thornton’s place. Manager Joe Girardi said that lefthander David Huff and Hill will inherit Thornton’s lefty specialist role.

Special ticket deals for New Era Pinstripe Bowl

Tickets for the 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl with a 4:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Dec. 27, ay Yankee Stadium pitting schools representing the Big Ten Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference will go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 15, on http://www.pinstripebowl.com and http://www.ticketmaster.com.

Yankees full- and partial-season ticket licensees, Yankees Universe members, and Yankees Group Leaders will have the opportunity to take part in a special pre-on-sale beginning Tuesday, Aug. 12. Details may be found at http://www.pinstripebowl.com.

MasterCard cardholders can take advantage of a special MasterCard only pre-on-sale starting at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 13, and ending at 10 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 14. All fans purchasing tickets beginning Tuesday, Aug. 12, through mid-November are eligible for “early bird” discount pricing of up to $30 off per ticket.

The 2014 New Era Pinstripe Bowl will be the first in the bowl’s history to feature teams from the Big Ten and ACC. Each respective conference has entered into multi-year agreements with the Yankees and the New Era Pinstripe Bowl to have a representative school play in the game — the Big Ten from 2014 through 2021 and the ACC from 2014 through 2019.

Established in 2010, the New Era Pinstripe Bowl has seen increased attendance in each of its first four years. In 2013, a sellout crowd of 47,122 saw Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish return to the Stadium and defeat the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, 29-16. This year’s game will be nationally televised by ESPN, which has also secured national and local radio rights for ESPN Radio.

For up-to-the-moment information regarding the game, fans are encouraged to follow the New Era Pinstripe Bowl’s official Twitter account (@PinstripeBowl) and visit its official website, http://www.pinstripebowl.com.

McCarthy stays on a roll

Brandon McCarthy continued his effectiveness in his brief time with the Yankees with 5 2/3 solid innings Monday night in a 2-1 victory over the Tigers. Paired against last year’s American League Cy Young Award winner, Max Scherzer, McCarthy out-dueled him into the sixth inning.

The only run off McCarthy was not earned because of a throwing error by third baseman Marty Prado in the fifth inning that put Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez on first base. After stealing second base, Suarez scored on a single by Ian Kinsler.

Otherwise, McCarthy was brilliant. He worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second inning with strikeouts of Alex Avila and Suarez and finished with eight strikeouts overall. The righthander allowed five hits and two walks and lowered his ERA with the Yankees to 2.08 to go with a 4-0 record. What an improvement over the 5.01 ERA he had with the Diamondbacks to go with a 3-10 record.

Returning the cut fastball to his arsenal has rejuvenated McCarthy, that and an improved Yankees infield defense. Ground-ball pitchers love it when the infielders are reliable, even at unfamiliar positions, which Chase Headley at first base after Mark Teixeira was a late scratch due to light-headedness.

“I told Headley I might use him at first base when Tex needed a day off,” manager Joe Girardi said. “I didn’t think I’d be telling him that at 6:15, however.”

Girardi has been overjoyed about McCarthy. “He has been huge for the rotation,” the skipper said. “Every start for us has beenb good. He used his curveball really well tonight, more than he has since he has been here. He got a lot of outs with that pitch.”

For his part, Scherzer relied on his defense as well, particularly center fielder Ezequiel Carrera, who is getting a shot following the departure of Austin Jackson to Seattle in the three-team trade that brought David Price to Detroit from Tampa Bay. The Yankees will get Price on their menu Tuesday night.

Carrera’s diving, belly-flop catch in the third inning on the warning track of a drive by Jacoby Ellsbury became a long sacrifice fly instead of a game-breaking, extra-base hit. Brian McCann singled in the second run of that inning.

“That was an unbelievable play,” Girardi said of Carrera. “It kept this a really, really close game. Our guys put good at-bats against Scherzer.”

Poor base running by Prado cost the Yankees a run in the fourth. Brett Gardner got in a rundown between first and second so that Prada could try to score from third base, but he did not move and Gardy was tagged out to end the threat. Scherzer pitched through the seventh but left with the Tigers trailing by a run. Detroit would never find that run, thanks to efficient relief by Matt Thornton, Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and David Robertson (30th save).

Yanks mantra: Have glove(s), will travel

One thing about the Yankees this year: the players need to have more than one glove. It was another night of musical chairs for the Yankees in the field Monday against the Tigers.

First baseman Mark Teixeira reported light-headedness just before game time, resulting in a lineup change. Chase Headley moved from third base over to Tex’s spot at first base. Martin Prado moved in from right field to play third base with Ichiro Suzuki starting instead in right.

Also working on a new position is recently-acquired Stephen Drew at second base. A shortstop by trade, Drew has moved to the right side of the infield. He was working intently with first base coach Mick Kelleher, who tutors the infielders, before the game. They concentrated most on making the back-handed pivot to the shortstop covering second and the step-over at second base on double plays.

Even though a newcomer to the position, Drew is already an upgrade defensively over Brian Roberts, who was designated for assignment last week. Headley has also played a solid third base as the Yankees’ infield overall has improved markedly since the recent trades.

Tanaka draws attention; Phelps on DL

Trying to find a place to park in the Yankee Stadium garage Monday afternoon was some task. Masahiro Tanaka was at the Stadium for the first time since going on the disabled list, so the Japanese media was on the scene en masse. And, of course, it was much ado about nothing.

Tanaka, who is recovering from a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, played catch. That was it. He said his arm felt fine, but as manager Joe Girardi said, “It’s way too early” to make any kind of serious assessment.

Yet Tanaka had made such a strong impression in the first half of his first major-league season just seeing him in uniform again was reason to rejoice. The Yankees hope there are still plenty of more innings left in that arm later in the season.

The rotation took another hit with David Phelps being placed on the DL because of tendinitis in the area above his right elbow. A second MRI on the elbow revealed inflammation. The righthander will be shut down for two weeks.

So Girardi has another decision to make about how to plug his spot in the rotation. The manager dismissed the idea that Michael Pineda might be ready to take Phelps’ turn, which will be Friday night against the Indians. Girardi said the current plan for Pineda is to make at least two more minor-league starts before the Yanks consider reinstating him, although the skipper did say that plans may change.

Girardi surely wants to wait and see what shape the Yankees are in after this four-game set against the Tigers, which included match-ups against the previous three American League Cy Young Award winners — Max Scherzer Monday night, David Price Tuesday night and Justin Verlander Wednesday night.

In addition to Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova were in the clubhouse. Nova is out for the season after undergoing right elbow surgery. Sabathia was walking on crutches following his right knee surgery.

To the shock of absolutely no one, Brett Gardner was named AL Player of the Week for the period that ended Sunday. The left fielder batted .478 with three doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in 23 at-bats. Ibn addition to homers, Gardner also led the majors last week in slugging percentage (1.261) and total bases (29).

“That’s not surprising,” Girardi said of Gardner’s honor, the second of his career. He was also cited the week ending June 9, 2013.

The homestand that began Monday night will conclude next Sunday with Paul O’Neill Day. As part of the ceremonies, O’Neill will be honored with a Monument Park plaque that will recognize his career. Family members and former teammates are expected to take part in the festivities. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by noon.

O’Neill spent the final nine seasons of his 17-year major-league with the Yankees (1993-2001) and was part of four World Series champions (1996, ’98-2000). He won the AL batting title with a .359 average in 1994 and compiled a .303 average, 304 doubles, 185 home runs and 858 RBI in his Yankees years.

Ticket specials will run Monday (Military Personnel Game), Tuesday, (Military Personnel Game), Wednesday (Military Personnel and Student Game), Thursday (MasterCard half-price, Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game) and Saturday (Youth Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Monday, August 4 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Back-to-School Set Night, presented by PC Richard & Son, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Tuesday, August 5 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Derek Jeter Commemorative Ticket Key Ring Night, presented by Delta Airlines, to first 18,000 guests.

Wednesday, August 6 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Luggage Tag Night, presented by The Parking Spot, to first 18,000 guests.

Thursday, August 7 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Magnetic Picture Frame Day, presented by Party City, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Friday, August 8 – Yankees vs. Indians, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees T-Shirt Night, presented by Living Language, to first 18,000 guests.

Saturday, August 9 – Yankees vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m.
Brian McCann Fathead Day, presented by The Learning Experience, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Sunday, August 10 – Yankees vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Cowboy Hat Day, presented by Pepsi, to first 25,000 guests.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at (877) 469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at (800) 943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

Yanks win series from Red Sox; Phelps hurt

The Yankees finished up a disappointing trip with two comeback victories in Boston despite their starting pitchers failing to last long enough to qualify for victories in both games. Most disturbing is that Sunday night’s starter, David Phelps, had to come out of the game after just two innings because of right elbow inflammation.

Manager Joe Girardi said after the game that Phelps’ elbow has been nagging at him for about two weeks. An MRI revealed inflammation but nothing more serious than that. The righthander said his arm would loosen up after warming up before starts, but it did not loosen up Sunday night.

This taste of bad news came on a night when the Yankees got some good news about their pitching. Michael Pineda, one of several starters who have gone on the disabled list this year, threw 58 pitches in a 3 1/3-inning start for Triple A Scranton in which he allowed three hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Girardi said the Yankees hope Pineda can throw as many as 75 pitches in his next start and 90 in the start after that before considering reinstating him probably in mid-August.

There were also reports circulating that Masahiro Tanaka may play catch Monday when the Yankees return to New York to open a four-game series against the Tigers. This set will prove a major test for the Yanks, who will face Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello, one of baseball’s top rotations.

Brett Gardner put the finishing touches on a huge trip for him in which he batted .478 with four doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in 23 at-bats. Gardy doubled in two runs in the second inning as the Yankees came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score off an erratic Clay Buchholz and knocked in the deciding run in the sixth off reliever Craig Breslow with his 15th home run of the season.

An RBI double by Chase Headley and a two-run single by Stephen Drew in the fifth helped the Yanks erase another three-run deficit. The bullpen handled matters from there. Esmil Rogers pitched three innings of hitless, three-strikeout relief for a victory in his first appearance with the Yankees. Dellin Betances and David Robertson (29th save) supplied a shutout inning apiece as the Yankees held the Red Sox without a hit over the final five innings after Boston had gotten seven runs and eight hits over the first four frames.

The Yankees had also evaporated a 3-0 deficit Saturday in an eventual 6-4 victory. Shane Greene was removed by Girardi with two outs in the fifth inning and could not get the winning decision that went instead to Shawn Kelley, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of hitless, three-strikeout relief.

Gardner’s main competition for American League Player of the Week honors may be his own teammate, Carlos Beltran, who continued his hot streak with his sixth straight multi-hit game. He had a double and a single and scored two runs. On the trip, Beltran hit .480 with five runs, two doubles, one home run and five RBI in 25 at-bats.

Yanks find out Red Sox have not quit on 2014

The change in the calendar should have given the Yankees a sense of urgency. The dog days of August are upon us with each game becoming more and more pivotal. Friday night at Fenway Park proved a major disappointment in the first game after the non-waiver trade deadline as the Yankees failed to do much damage against a rookie pitcher one season removed from Double A ball and fell to the Red Sox, 4-3.

Righthander Anthony Ranaudo, with scores of relatives and friends from New Jersey in the yard, held the Yankees to two runs and four hits and got away with four walks, three of them leading off innings, over six innings to earn a victory in his major-league debut. Another rookie, center fielder Mookie Betts, applied a rally-killing play in the eighth when the Yanks threatened to tie the score. After Derek Jeter homered leading off the inning against Junichi Tazawa, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a drive to his old center field stomping grounds where Betts now roams and made a diving, one-handed catch and slid across the warning track. That play was amplified when Mark Teixeira followed with a double to left field. Tex got to third base with two out but was stranded as Chase Headley grounded out.

Headley was 0-for-4 at the plate, but he made three dazzling plays at third base in Graig Nettles-like style. Newcomer Stephen Drew, shortstop by trade, did a nice job in his first big-league shot at second base and took part in a pair of double plays. Martin Prado arrived in Boston just before game time and entered as a pinch hitter in the seventh and remained in the game in right field where he is expected to play most often. He was 0-for-2.

Carlos Beltran continued his hot streak by driving in two runs. He homered leading off the fourth against Ranaudo and touched the rookie for an RBI single in the sixth that scored Ellsbury, who set it up with a key steal of second base. Since returning from the 7-day concussion list July 18, Beltran leads the Yankees with a .373 batting average in 51 at-bats. He is hitting .329 with five home runs over his past 21 games and 82 at-bats. Beltran has an eight-game hitting streak during which he has hit .448 with three home runs and eight RBI in 29 at-bats. In 11 games at Boston this season, Beltran is batting .356 with five doubles and five home runs.

In his second start for the Yanks, Chris Capuano had a solid outing and pitched into the seventh. He had a rough third inning allowing two runs and four hits, three of them for extra bases, but he settled down after yielding a run in the fourth and retired nine batters in a row before Betts led off the seventh with a single to right. Brock Holt bunted Betts to second, and Dustin Pedroia got him home with a single to center that proved the deciding run.

It was another quiet night offensively for the Yankees, who have lost five of their past six games and dropped six games behind the first-place Orioles in the American League East. Boston’s recent trading off of pitchers Jon Lester and John Lackey indicated they have put up a white flag on the season, but they were not conceding anything Friday night.

New faces galore for Yanks and Red Sox

Talk about needing a scorecard to tell who the players are. The Yankees were set to open a three-game series against the Red Sox Friday night at Fenway Park with both clubs showing off new players. The great news for Yankees fans about the series is that the Yanks will not have to deal with Jon Lester or John Lackey, both of whom were traded away this week as Boston decided to be a seller at the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline to turn its sights on 2015.

The Yankees were buyers instead of sellers at the deadline and imported Martin Prado from the Diamondbacks and Stephen Drew from the Red Sox. Drew, who just had to switch clubhouses, was in the Friday night lineup ready to make his first major-league start at second base. Passing Drew along the way was Kelly Johnson, who went to Boston in a rare Yankees-Red Sox deal. Prado, who has played a lot of second base in his career, will likely play more often in the outfield for the Yankees. He was en route to Boston and was expected at Fenway at some point during the game.

The Red Sox were in the same situation regarding outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, the outfielder they obtained from the Athletics in the trade for Lester and outfielder Jonny Gomes. He was not in the starting lineup, but Allen Craig, who was acquired from the Cardinals in the Lackey deal, was batting fifth and playing left field.

Chris Capuano, who pitched in 28 games for the Red Sox last year and was purchased from the Rockies last month by the Yankees, was to make his second start in pinstripes against Anthony Ranaudo, a New Jersey native who was making his major-league debut. The Yanks also added righthander Esmil Rogers, who was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays Thursday, to their 25-man man roster.

To create room for the three new players, the Yankees designated second baseman Brian Roberts for assignment and optioned infielder Zelous Wheeler and outfielder Zoilo Almonte to Triple A Scranton. No one expected Roberts to replace the departed Robinson Cano, but his slash line of .237/.300/.360 was weak as was his defense. Say this for Roberts. He played more games (91) in a season since 2009, avoided serious injury and fit nicely in the clubhouse.

Torre steps into immortality

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. — The annual pilgrimage to baseball’s mythical birthplace never ceases in its appeal. It provides the chance to reflect on all that is good about the game as the Hall of Fame opens its doors to a new class of immortals.

And what a class in 2014! Former Yankees manager Joe Torre has more than 300 friends and relatives scattered all over this area to witness his induction Sunday alongside fellow managers Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa as well as pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, the longtime Braves teammates, and first baseman Frank Thomas, one of two players with that name in town.

The other Frank Thomas, who was with the original Mets of 1962, is also here signing autographs on Main Street with Hall of Famers and non-Hall of Famers like Darryl Strawberry and Pete Rose. Also John Rocker, although I must say I have no idea why anyone would want his autograph.

Torre was feted Saturday night by the Yankees and Major League Baseball at a private party in a local brewery. Commissioner Bud Selig and Yankees managing partner Hal Steinbrenner spoke glowingly of Torre’s contributions to the game and the franchise. Joe was gracious in his remarks, a sort of test run for the big speech he will on stage at the Clark Sports Center Sunday.

The city is abuzz with former Yankees here and there, including Hall of Famers Whitey Ford, Dave Winfield, Phil Niekro, Wade Boggs, Rickey Henderson and Goose Gossage. (Yogi Berra, not feeling well after a recent fall, canceled at the last minute. His boyhood friend from St. Louis, Joe Garagiola, also could not travel here to accept his Buck O’Neill Award Saturday at Doubleday Field but sent a taped message.)

Others here to witness Joe’s induction include actor-comedian Billy Crystal, Yanks chief operating officer Lonn Trost, Gene Michael, Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry, Lee Mazzilli and others. Among the Hall of Famers who have longstanding relationships with Torre are Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax, plus Tim McCarver, last year’s Ford C. Frick Award winner for broadcasting.

This year’s Frick Award winner, Eric Nadel, the Brooklyn-born Texas Rangers radio voice, gave a lusty speech at Saturday’s ceremony. There was also a wonderful acceptance speech by New Yorker magazine’s ageless (93 actually) Roger Angell, this year’s J.G. Taylor Spink Award winner for baseball writing.

This is perfect company for Torre, whose 12 seasons at the helm of the Yankees continued the franchise’s connection with success. He turned around the attitudes of many a Yankees hater from 1996 through 2007. His ascension into the Hall’s gallery is long overdue.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.