Yanks encouraged by Pineda’s work in tough loss

The shot in the arm the Yankees needed Wednesday night came in the right arm of Michael Pineda. Unfortunately, that was not enough to avoid another loss to the Orioles, who again overcame a two-run deficit to sweep the rain-abbreviated series.

The severe rainstorm that caused the postponement of Tuesday night’s game was the only break the Yankees had in their trip to Baltimore. The two losses shoved the Yankees eight games back of the first-place Orioles in the American League East.

Pineda’s start was an example of how important the Yankees considered this series. Originally slated to pitch a minor-league game on injury rehabilitation, Pineda started against the Orioles instead and did a fine job in his first major-league start since April 23 at Boston.The righthander showed no signs of right shoulder problems that kept him on the disabled list for 86 games. Pineda went five innings and did not allow a hit until the fifth when Nelson Cruz led off with a double. He eventually scored on a sacrifice fly by Ryan Flaherty that cut the Yankees’ lead to 2-1.

Once again, the Yankees grabbed an early lead but could not build on it. Francisco Cervelli ended a 0-for-24 streak by Yankees hitters with runners in scoring position dating to last Friday night when he drove a 3-2 knuckle curve from Chris Tillman to left-center field for his second home run of the season. Scoring ahead of him was Stephen Drew, who had doubled.

But that would be the extend of the Yankees’ scoring. They were hitless from the fifth through the eighth innings. A double by Carlos Beltran led to a run in the ninth on an infield out by Chase Headley, but the Yankees could do no better. Manager Joe Girardi was ejected in the seventh inning for arguing over an interference call against Drew, who was charged with running out of the baseline on the way to first by plate umpire Gerry Davis. Drew appeared to be in the line until he neared the bag, but Girardi lost the argument.

The Yankees had to be encouraged by the work of Pineda, who allowed only two hits, did not walk a batter and struck out four.

Another sign of the value the Yanks played on this game was the appearance of Dellin Betances in an outing of more than two innings. Betances had not pitched in five days and with no game Tuesday and an open date Thursday was pushed beyond his usual limit. The righthander pitched two hitless innings with four strikeouts, then one out into the eighth he hung a breaking ball to Joseph Schoop, who slugged his 11th home run that tied the score.

Shawn Kelley put gasoline on the fire after two were out. He gave up a single to Nick Markakis, a walk to Chris Davis and a three-run home run to Adam Jones (No. 23). It was a stunning finish to a disappointing series that extended the Yankees’ losing streak to four games and cost them the chance to give the Orioles a scare.

Yankees blown out by Orioles in series opener

It is still too early to consider a series a must-win, yet that was how the Yankees identified the three-game set against the Orioles that began Monday night with a thud. All the 11-3 loss did was to add more pressure on the Yankees, who need to win the next two games to capture the series.

Based on what happened at Camden Yards Monday night, it is hard to remain optimistic. The Yankees blew a 3-1 lead and were outscored, 9-0, with only one hit, a Derek Jeter double in the fifth, after the second inning. It is easy to say that the bullpen let the game get away from the Yankees, but the offense was also at fault as it failed to tack on runs and force the Orioles out of their game.

Instead, Baltimore remained close enough to strike back and did so in a big way on a two-run home run by Chris Davis off Chris Capuano in the fifth and a three-run bomb by Nelson Cruz in the seventh off Adam Warren. Joseph Schoop added a three-run homer in the eighth off Chase Whitley as the final crusing blown of a 14-hit attack that included eight for extra bases.

Davis, struggling this year after his 53-homer season in 2013, was not even in the starting lineup. He entered the game at third base in place of Manny Machado, who exited in the third inning due to a sprained right knee.

The offensive outburst was a continuation of combustable forces by the Orioles, who have scored 10 or more runs in three of the past four games. What a difference compared to the Yankees, who have reached double figures in runs in only four games all season. Monday night, they got three runs without a run-scoring hit. The runs came on an infield out and a double steal aided by two Baltimore errors.

We all keep waiting for them to turn things around, and there is no better time than now against the first-place team in the American League East. The Yankees now trail the Orioles by seven games. The clubs have nine games remaining against each other, but the Yankees need to make up some ground as early as possible.

High school play nets 2 runs for Yanks

So desperate have the Yankees been to score runs that they resorted to the old high school play in the second inning Monday night at Baltimore and came away with two runs off it, thanks to some wild throws by the Orioles.

Martin Prado was at the plate with runners on first and third and one out when the Yankees went into motion. It is possible that Prado or Chase Headley, the runner at first base, may have even missed a sign. Both are relatively new to the club, after all.

Headley broke for second base and stopped midway up the line as catcher Caleb Joseph threw to the bag. As Headley retreated toward first base, Carlos Beltran broke from third for home and scored after third baseman Manny Machado’s relay to the plate struck Beltan’s helmet.

Headley went all the way to third on that error and was able to score on pitcher Bud Norris’ errant flip. On that one broken play, the Yankees scored more runs than they did in the two games combined Saturday and Sunday against the Indians at Yankee Stadium.

The Orioles closed to 3-2 in the third on a two-out, RBI single by Adam Jones that followed a tough loss for Baltimore. Machado had to be carried off the field after he hurt his knee in the at-bat prior to Jones. Machado fell in the batter’s box and grabbed his right knee after hitting a bat-shattering ground ball to shortstop. Machado was out for half of the 2013 season because of knee surgery on his left knee.

Machado had been hot lately. He doubled and eventually scored in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Nelson Cruz and was 8-for-16 (.500) in the current homestand. This could be a deep wound for the Orioles.

Pineda back in rotation Wednesday night

The Yankees made no secret of the value they place on the three-game series against the American League East-leading Orioles that begins Monday night at Camden Yards. Instead of making one more injury-rehabilitation start for Triple-A Scranton, Michael Pineda will return to the Yankees’ rotation Wednesday night for the finale of the Baltimore set.

It will mark Pineda’s first major-league appearance since April 23 at Boston. The righthander has been on the disabled list since May 6 because of a right shoulder muscle injury and was unavailable for 86 games. He made his second minor league rehab appearance Aug. 8 for Scranton against Columbus and allowed one earned run, six hits and no walks with seven strikeouts in 4 1/3 innings. Before that, Pineda pitched 3 1/3 scoreless innings with three hits, a walk and four strikeouts Aug. 3 for Scranton against Syracuse.

Esmail Rogers, who earned his first victory for the Yankees with five strong innings last Friday night at Yankee Stadium against the Indians, had been slated to start Wednesday night. The move to Pineda gives the Yankees another good arm in the bullpen for the Orioles series.

The Yankees avoided a second consecutive shutout Sunday, thanks to Jacoby Ellsbury’s two-out home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Yanks were last shut out in consecutive games May 12 (1-0) and 13 (2-0) in 1999 against the Angels and have played 2,512 games since. That marks the longest streak of not being shut out in consecutive games in Major League Baseball history, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. Elias also notes that the second-longest such streak in MLB history belongs to the Cardinals, who had 2,367 games between being blanked in back-to-back games Sept. 24-25, 1995 and July 22-23, 2010.

Derek Jeter was in Monday night’s lineup, which would be his 2,707th career game. That ties him with the Royals’ George Brett for ninth place on the all-time list of games by players with only one team. No. 8 on the list is the Giants’ Mel Ott at 2,730.

Cashman: Retire captaincy with Jeter

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman believes that once Derek Jeter retires, the captaincy of the Yankees should retire as well.

Speaking to the Taylor Hooton Foundation’s fifth annual “Give A Hoot” benefit in a luxury suite at Yankee Stadium Sunday, Cash was asked who should succeed Jeter as team captain after his retirement.

Cashman’s response was “I’m not that big on captains myself. More than one player can lead by example. DJ has had this remarkable career, and I think when this great player retires the captaincy should go with him, but that’s not my call.”

Actually, the Yankees once went more than 35 years without a captain and during that time the team won 12 World Series titles. Lou Gehrig had been the Yankees’ captain for 13 years when he was forced into retirement due to illness in 1939. Then manager Joe McCarthy proclaimed that the Yankees would never again have another captain.

The idea of another Yankees captain was not broached seriously until after George Steinbrenner purchased the club in 1973. Three years later, he recommended Thurman Munson for the role. Told in a meeting of what McCarthy had said 37 years earlier, the Boss said, “I am sure Mr. McCarthy would change his mind if he had met Mr. Munson.”

The catcher served in the role until his death in Aug. 2, 1979. Jeter has been the Yankees’ captain the past 11 years. The previous team captain was Don Mattingly, who retired after the 1995 season. Other former Yankees captains in the Steinbrenner years were Willie Randolph, Ron Guidry and Graig Nettles.

As Cashman pointed out, it is not his call. An owner or a manager or a group of players could well start a campaign for a captain at any time. I am with the GM on this one. You never say never, but I would not mind waiting another 37 years. Jeter’s shoes are just as great to fill as were Gehrig’s.

Jeter passes Wagner for most hits by a shortstop

Honus Wagner

Honus Wagner

It was just a dribbler that the Cleveland third baseman, Lonnie Chisenhall, attempted without success to field bare-handed in the sixth inning Saturday as Derek Jeter crossed first base with his 3,431st career hit.

That single moved Jeter into sixth place on the all-time hit parade ahead of the major leagues’ first great shortstop, Honus Wagner. This was a very big deal.

DJ has passed quite a few legends on the hit list this year, Hall of Famers such as Eddie Collins, Paul Molitor and Carl Yastrzemski. But Honus Wagner? Now you are talking actual royalty.

Wagner, who was known as “The Flying Dutchman,” goes back to the game’s early days. He broke into the National League in 1897 with the old Louisville Colonels, a club that was absorbed by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1900, and played in the very first World Series, in 1903. Wagner was a great star of the dead-ball era, an athletic master at shortstop and one of the game’s best hitters. He won eight batting titles and finished with a career .328 average.

Wagner was a charter member of the Hall of Fame. He was elected in the original class of 1936 with Ty Cobb, Babe Ruth, Christy Mathewson and Walter Johnson. Wagner accepted his position as a role model to youth and famously demanded a trading card sponsored by a tobacco company be removed from circulation so adamantly opposed was he to tobacco usage. The few cards from that 1909 set remain the most precious pieces of memorabilia among collectors.

Years after his retirement as a player Wagner was a coach for the Pirates. Players did not wear numbers on their uniforms when he played but did by the time he coached. His No. 33 has long been retired by the Pirates.

By passing the old Dutchman, Jeter now has more hits than anyone who ever played shortstop. The only players ahead of him on the career hit list are mostly outfielders — Pete Rose (who also played first, second and third base but not shortstop), Cobb, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial (also a first baseman) and Tris Speaker.

This was not lost on the Captain, who knows his baseball history and did not have to be told who Wagner was anymore than any of the other greats he has passed.

“He’s the last one on the list that ever played shortstop, so this one really hit home,” Jeter said. “To have the most hits of any player at one position is pretty special.”

Jeter is 83 hits behind Speaker and probably does not have enough time left (46 games) to make a run for fifth place. But being No. 6 on this list is an enormous accomplishment, not to mention appropriate. After all, 6 is the official scorers’ designation for a shortstop.

O’Neill finds deserving spot in Monument Park

Paul and Nevalee O'Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Paul and Nevalee O’Neill unveil Monument Park plaque (USA Today photo)

Chants of “Paul O-Neill” returned to Yankee Stadium Saturday as the popular right fielder dubbed “The Warrior” by the late George Steinbrenner was honored on the field before the game to mark the dedication of a plaque that will hang in Monument Park, the 29th in that special gallery.

I do not know how many people thought such a day was possible back in 1993 when O’Neill joined the Yankees. Several National League scouts I talked to that spring wondered if O’Neill had the temperament for New York or that he was too temperamental to succeed under the glare of the city and its omnipresent media.

Gene Michael, the general manager at the time, swapped two-time All-Star outfielder Roberto Kelly for O’Neill, who had a .259 career batting average at the time and was known for his clashes with former manager Lou Piniella in Cincinnati. Michael certainly got the last laugh, didn’t he?

O’Neill absolutely blossomed in New York. Coming under the influence of Don Mattingly and Wade Boggs, O’Neill became a more selective hitter and in his second season with the Yankees won the American League batting title with a .359 average. He would go on to bat .303 over his nine seasons in New York and was a central figure in the Yankees’ four World Series titles in 1996, ’98, ’99 and 2000.

During the pre-game ceremony, O’Neill mentioned his daughter, Allie, was born the day before spring training began in 1996, “and to this believes she is the reason for our first championship.”

O’Neill was in the middle of those glorious seasons. There was his running catch on an aching hamstring for the final out of Game 5 of the 1996 World Series; his playing the clinching Game 4 of the ’99 Series 18 hours after the death of his father, Charlie; his 10-pitch at bat in drawing a walk off Mets closer Alfonso Benitez to start the game-tying rally in Game 1 of the 2000 Series, etc.

And, of course, Game 5 of the 2001 World Series, his last game at the Stadium, which he recalled in his speech.

“Now to you fans, a remarkable thing Nov. 1, 2001, Game 5 of the World Series out in right field and 50,000 people singing my name,” he said. “I want to thank you for one of the special nights of my life. Thank you, fans of New York.”

O’Neill’s sons, Andy and Aaron, were also on the field with their mother, Nevalee, and his mother, Virginia. Also participating were Michael, former trainer Gene Monahan, Hall of Fame manager Joe Torre and former teammates David Cone, Tino Martinez, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera.

Two other former teammates, captain Derek Jeter and manager Joe Girardi, also made presentations to O’Neill on behalf of the team and the organization. Jeter presented a framed version of the plaque and Girardi a career milestone diamond ring with No. 21 in the center.

“The best thing that happened to all of us was playing for the New York Yankees,” O’Neill said.

The plaque reads:

PAUL ANDREW O’NEILL
“THE WARRIOR”

NEW YORK YANKEES
1993 – 2001

AN INTENSE COMPETITOR AND TEAM LEADER, O’NEILL WAS BELOVED FOR HIS RELENTLESS PURSUIT OF PERFECTION.

IN NINE SEASONS WITH THE YANKEES, HE WON FOUR WORLD SERIES AND MADE FOUR ALL-STAR TEAMS, COMPILING A .303 BATTING AVERAGE WITH 185 HOME RUNS AND 858 RBI.

WAS ALSO KNOWN FOR HIS STRONG ARM AND RELIABLE GLOVE IN RIGHT FIELD.

WON 1994 AL BATTING CROWN WITH A .359 AVERAGE.

DEDICATED BY THE
NEW YORK YANKEES
AUGUST 9, 2014

Fans responded to O’Neill’s energy, his blatant disdain for making an out, the all-out, full-throttle effort he gave on a daily basis.

Brandon McCarthy, who pitched well but ended up the losing pitcher in the Indians’ 3-0 victory, paid homage to O’Neill after the game. McCarthy was struck in the left foot by a batted ball but remained in the game. Asked if he thought he might have to come out of the game, McCarthy said, “This is Paul O’Neill Day, not a game to leave early day.”

I remember talking to O’Neill back when people were questioning whether this Ohio Buckeye could handle the pressure of New York where his sister, Molly, was already well known as a food writer for the New York Times.

“What a lot of folks didn’t realize is that it was actually easier for me in New York that it was in Cincinnati,” O’Neill said. “It’s tough to play in your home town. Right from the start, I was accepted here by the fans. I hope I gave back to them as much as they gave to me.”

I would say he did.

Paul O'Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Paul O’Neill, Gene Michael, Gene Monahan, Joe Torre, Tino Martinez, David Cone, Mariano Rivera, Jorge Posada

Matsui attends Inside Experience

image
Hideki Matsui participated in the Inside Experience Friday, a program designed to provide fans with the opportunity to connect with a current or former Yankees player or executive.

Along with the meet and greet, Inside Experience attendees are also able to take a photo with the Yankees’ 2009 World Series trophy, go on a tour of Yankee Stadium, attend batting practice, and receive a ticket to that night’s game.

For more information on the Inside Experience program, visit http://www.yankees.com/theinsideexperience.

Yanks pitchers outshine Tigers’ vaunted rotation

When the Yankees-Tigers series began, all the talk was about Detroit’s rotation. The Tigers had lined up against the Yankees three former American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander and a 13-game winner in Rick Porcello.

Guess what? None of them notched a victory.

Talk centered on the Yankees’ staff after it limited one of the AL’s top offensive clubs to merely six runs over 39 innings in winning three of the four games. The only game Detroit won, a 4-3, 12-inning matchup, did not provide a victory for their starting pitcher, Price, who was out of the game in the ninth.

Yankees starters, meanwhile, were 2-0 with an ERA of 0.99 as the rotation gave up only three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Not that the Tigers’ crew was bad. The Detroit starters combined for a 2.42 ERA, which any manager will take over a four-game set, but it was just not a match for the Yankees.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory behind rookie Shane Greene and in front of a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,013 was a nice finishing touch. Greene pitched one batter into the ninth and scattered five hits and three walks with five strikeouts to improve his record to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. He as yanked in the fifth inning of his prior start at Boston but this time came close to his first complete game in the majors. Maybe next time.

“We won” is the best thing Greene took from the game. He is a man of few words and at times seems overwhelmed by his surroundings in the majors — except when he is on the mound. The righthander utilized an effective sinker-slider mix with an occasional four-seam fastball that was never more valuable than in the sixth when it produced a pivotal double play against Victor Martinez, the second half of the Tigers’ 1-2 punch behind two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who was rested until the ninth inning Thursday when he batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth against David Robertson (31st save) with a chance to do damage and ruin Greene’s effort.

Cabrera batted with runners on first and second with none out. He hit a hard grounder past Robertson, but it was gobbled up in front of second base by Brendan Ryan, who stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first base for another crucial double play. Fans gasped when Don Kelly lofted a fly ball in shallow center before Stephen Drew, starting at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter, put it away for a satisfying final out. Also bailing out Robertson in the Kelly at-bat was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who made two terrific stops of balls in the dirt to keep the potential tying run at third.

Drew was also responsible for the game’s only run with an opposite-field double to left in the fourth off Porcello. The new mix of players up from the minors and the result of trades has given the Yankees a burst of freshness.

“It has changed the complexion of the team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten better defensively, and pitchers are giving us more innings.”

Greene’s work allowed over-loaded Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances a needed day off. The Yankees had been sputtering at home this year but have turned that around since the All-Star break with 10 victories in 14 games.

“We have talked about needing to play better at home,” Girardi said. “We are doing all the little things. These are the best four starts in a row that we have had all season. Their pitchers were the guys being talked about, but our pitchers did a great job.”

Crowd bemoans off day for Jeter

Thursday was one of those days when manager Joe Girardi is not the most popular guy at Yankee Stadium. An afternoon crowd on a postcard day watched the Yankees take the field without Derek Jeter.

In the Captain’s last major-league season, many fans come to the Stadium hoping to see Jeter in person one more time before his retirement. It might be the only home game they attend all year.

Jeter, who at 3,429 hits is one behind Hall of Famer Honus Wagner for sixth place on the career list, has been incredibly versatile in his final season with 101 games played of the Yankees’ 113 entering Thursday, but he cannot play every day. At 40, he needs an occasional day off, and it Girardi who has to play bad guy to the fans by keeping him on the bench once in a while.

The rare non-start allowed Stephen Drew to return to his more familiar position at shortstop with utility-man Brendan Ryan at second base. Since Drew is being counted on this season to play second base, I was surprised by the alignment. One would think the more Drew plays second base the more comfortable he would become. Girardi’s reasoning was that at this point in their careers Ryan, an excellent defensive shortstop as well, has played more often than Drew at second base. Naturally, it might also be a peak into next season if the Yankees are considering re-signing Drew, who can become a free agent at season’s end, to be Jeter’s successor at shortstop.

First baseman Mark Teixeira, who required three stitches to heal a wound to his left pinky injured in a slide at the plate in Wednesday night’s 5-1 victory over the Tigers, was also out of the lineup. Chase Headley, who has proved a valuable addition since coming over in a trade from the Padres, played first base in Tex’s absence with another relative newcomer, Martin Prado, coming in from the outfield to play third base. That opened up a start for Ichiro Suzuki in right field.

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