There is no use trying to avoid what is going on with the Yankees these closing days of the season. A playoff berth remains a mathematical possibility but only by the slimmest of margins. Yanks manager Joe Girardi said at the start of the recent trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Fla., that the Yankees needed to win every game, and they proceeded to lost five of seven.
They returned to Yankee Stadium Thursday night to begin their final homestand of the season. Despite the dire circumstances of the Yanks’ position in the standings, the Stadium had a buzz to it in the crowd that was by no means capacity but was nevertheless enthusiastic.
Perhaps the reason could have something to do with the person playing shortstop for the Yankees. This is Derek Jeter’s last hurrah at the Stadium, and that may be enough to keep the folks in the seats keeping the faith.
The Captain did not disappoint the faithful, either. Coming off a dreadful trip during which he had a hitless string stretch to 28 at-bats, Jeter got the crowd cheering in the first inning when he beat out a grounder to deep shortstop for a single. The assembled got to roar their approval five innings later when DJ ripped a 3-1 knuckleball from R.A. Dickey to right field for a home run, the cap’s first dinger in 158 at-bats since Aug. 1 at Boston.
As fiercely as the crowd reacted to the blow, Jeter declined to take a curtain call, which is typical of him. The homer made the score 2-0 Yankees with too much baseball left in the game to celebrate at that point. He did not go into the dumps when he was 0-for-28, so he was not going to do any flips for hitting his first home run in six weeks. Never too high, never too low; that defines the Captain.
Indeed, the game was not over by any means. Dellin Betances preserved the shutout work by Shane Greene by getting the final out of the seventh, but Shawn Kelley gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch with two out in the eighth.
Kelley hung his head as Bautista circled the bases on his 33rd homer of the season as well the pitcher should have. After fouling off a 94-mph fastball back to the screen on 0-1, Bautista made a gesture indicating he just missed a pitch he should have creamed. Kelley threw the same pitch on the next delivery to the same spot, and this time Bautista did not miss it but powered into the left field seats.
After Jeter flied out leading off the home eighth, quite a few fans headed for the exits assuming that he would not bat again. They missed a dramatic finish as the Yankees won, 3-2, on a walk-off error.
Chris Young, who seems to be in the middle of what good things the Yankees have done recently, led off the inning against Aaron Sanchez with a single to center. Antoan Richardson ran for Young and promptly stole second base.
With the count 3-0, Brett Gardner surprised the crowd, not to mention Girardi, by attempting to bunt. He fouled off the pitch and the next one as well as the count went full. Gardy tried one more and dropped a two-strike bunt for a sacrifice to get Richardson to third base. Gardner, bunting on his own, told Girardi in the dugout that Sanchez’s ball was running so much he did not think he could pull him.
The Blue Jays brought the infield in and got what they wanted when Chase Headley hit a ground ball to the right side, but first baseman Aaron Lind let the ball get by him that gave the Yankees another day of hope. They gained a game on the Athletics for the second wild-card spot but still trail by five games with 10 to play.
Sometimes you have to be creative against a knuckleball pitcher. Or sometimes you have to do something to ease the frustration. It may have been a little of both for Yankees third baseman Chase Headley against the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey in the fifth inning of Thursday night’s game at Yankee Stadium.
A switch-hitter, Headley chose to bat right-handed against the right-handed Dickey with two down in the fifth. Batting his customary left-handed against Dickey in the third, Headley flied out to center field.
I remember that Bernie Williams occasionally batted right-handed against the Red Sox’ righty knuckler, Tim Wakefield. Bernie told me it gave him a different perspective because he could see the ball out of Wakefield’s hand better. That, and because as a left-handed batter he had little success against him.
Headley was able to get on base with a walk and eventually scored the first run of the game. Stephen Drew, a left-handed batter, then ripped a double into the right-fielder corner. Jose Bautista made a lazar of a relay to first baseman Adam Lind, who then threw a curveball to the plate that was up the line as Headley reached the plate.
Thursday night marked the beginning of Derek Jeter’s last homestand as his appearance at Yankee Stadium has been reduced to eight games — four against the Blue Jays through Sunday and four against the Orioles next week.
Fans attending any of these games should purchase a copy of the Derek Jeter Commemorative Edition of Yankees Magazine, a 128-page look at the various aspects of this remarkable 20-year career in the major leagues of a player who now holds some of the most important records in franchise history, including most games and most hits.
The Yankees Magazine staff outdid itself with this issue. Nathan Maciborski starts things off with a review of the Captain’s career, and the YES Network’s Jack Curry ends it with an appreciation of Jeter’s impact throughout the world. In between there are comments from Hall of Famers in all sports and Yankees teammates and executives about Jeter.
Jon Schwartz wrote a fine profile of Dick Groch, the scout who signed Jeter. There is a special centerfold highlighting the important hits of Jeter’s career, edited by Kristina Dodge. Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News contributed a story about Jeter’s memories of Fenway Park, hostile territory where DJ had some of his biggest moments.
Alfred Santasiere III had a sit-down with Jeet and “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks, and conducted question-and-answer sessions with two other Hall of Fame shortstops, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ozzie Smith. Also featured is Santasiere’s article from three years ago about Jeter’s return to his hometown of Kalamazoo, Mich.
Santasiere also did an exclusive interview with Derek’s parents, Charles and Dorothy Jeter, who comment separately about the special incidents in their son’s life and career.
And then there are the pictures — hundreds of them from staff photographers Ariele Goldman Hecht and Matt Ziegler, plus an array of photos from Derek Jeter Day Sept. 7 from contributing photographer Tom DiPace.
There are plenty of memories Yankees fans can take away from Derek Jeter’s career. Many of them are encased in this issue, which will be available at Stadium souvenir shops throughout the homestand.
As if their offense wasn’t in bad enough shape, the Yankees have lost one of their most productive hitters for the rest of the season. Martin Prado underwent an emergency appendectomy Tuesday morning in Tampa and was placed on the 60-day disabled list. The Yankees called up utility infielder Jose Pirela from Triple A Scranton/Wilke-Barre to take Prado’s place on the roster.
Replacing Prado at bat and in the field will be difficult. The native Venezuelan, who will turn 31 next month, has been one of the few bright spots in the Yankees’ tepid lineup since he was acquired in a July 31 trade from the Diamondbacks for minor-league catcher Peter O’Brien. Despite playing with a strained left hamstring most of the past two weeks, Prado batted .316 with seven home runs, 16 RBI and an .877 OPS in 37 games and 133 at-bats with the Yankees. Over his past 24 games, Prado hit .389 with six homers and 14 RBI in 90 at-bats.
In addition, Prado demonstrated tremendous versatility as a starter at second base, third base, left field and right field. He had one of the Yankees’ six hits in Monday night’s 1-0 loss to the Rays at St. Petersburg, the second time the Yanks have been shut out in five games on the trip and the 10th time this season.
It also marked the second straight walk-off loss following Sunday night’s 3-2 defeat at Baltimore. Monday night, Shawn Kelley loaded the bases in the ninth inning on two hits and a walk and lost the game on a two-out single by Ben Zobrist. The evening of futility took 3 hours, 28 minutes, which made it the longest 1-0, nine-inning game in major league history.
The Yankees’ fleeting playoff hopes continued to sputter. In the chase for the second wild-card berth, the Yanks trail the Royals by six games, the Mariners by four, the Blue Jays by one and are tied with the Indians.
Pirela, 24, batted .305 with 10 home runs and 15 stolen bases for SWB.
The Yankees got a taste of their own recent medicine over the weekend in Baltimore where their post-season hopes grew grimmer after losing three of four games to an Orioles team that has its magic number for clinching the American League East title to three. The Yankees’ last gasping hope for a trip to the playoffs lay in the second wild-card slot, and they are five games back with 14 games to play.
The Yankees started the series at Camden Yards trip on a high from consecutive comeback victories over Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium in which they obliterated 4-0 deficits. Chris Young, who made huge contributions to both those victories, was in position to be the hero again Friday in the afternoon game of a day/night doubleheader when he homered with two outs in the 11th inning to break a scoreless tie.
Adam Warren, pitching the bottom of the 11th because closer David Robertson had already pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, couldn’t hold the Orioles down, however, and lost the game on a bases-loaded, two-out double by pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes. The Yankees then got shut out, 5-0, on four hits in the night game, which took away any sense of momentum they had from the Rays series.
Saturday’s 4-3 victory behind Shane Greene and four relievers was a brief reprieve, but the fact that the Yankees had no runs and one hit in the eight innings other than their three-run second that included a home run by Brian McCann and a steal of home by Young was emblematic of the offensive struggles that would continue in the series.
Sunday night’s game resembled the day-game loss Friday in that the Yankees took a one-run lead in the last inning and then gave up two runs in the bottom half for another walk-off loss, their eighth of the season. McCann’s second home run of the series and 20th of the season put the Yanks up, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bring in Robertson for the third straight day instead of staying with Dellin Betances, who had pitched a shutout eighth with two strikeouts. That gave him 130 for the season, tying Mariano Rivera’s 1996 franchise mark for K’s by a relief pitcher.
I do not fault Girardi’s judgment here. Robertson is his closer. The manager has been careful with his relievers all year so they would be strong in September where they are needed most. Robertson’s stuff was up all inning. The Orioles quickly tied the score on successive doubles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce. One out later, Kelly Johnson, of all people, drove in the winner with another double. Johnson batted .219 in 77 games and 201 at-bats for the Yankees this year before he was traded to the Red Sox July 31 for Stephen Drew, who is hitting .135 in 104 at-bats for the Yankees. The Orioles acquired Johnson in an Aug. 30 deal with Boston. Playing for his third AL East team this season, Johnson finally ended up in first place.
The crushing loss obscured a very good outing by Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up one run and six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in seven innings. Once again, Yankees pitching was not the main problem despite the two bullpen leaks.
The Yankees batted .172 and slugged .261 as a team in the series in which they totaled six runs in 38 innings. They were 2-for-20 (.100) with runners in scoring position. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-17, Mark Teixeira 1-for-11, Brett Gardner 1-for-10 and Derek Jeter 0-for-11. The Captain’s slump goes beyond this series; he is hitless in his past 24 at-bats as his average has sunk to .250.
To make matters worse, the Sunday Night Baseball date means the Yankees will arrive in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the wee hours of the morning Monday where that night they open a three-game set against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The playoff outlook is equally as bleary.
The Yankees have taken Joe Girardi’s remark after Tuesday night’s loss to the Rays when he said “Basically, we have to win every game” seriously.
For the second straight night, the Yankees obliterated a 4-0 deficit against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium. The big difference Thursday night was that unlike Wednesday night when the Yankees had nine innings to stage their comeback this time they were down to their last five outs.
Hell, they did not have a hit let alone a run one out into the eighth inning. This was as remarkable a comeback as the ones shown on the video screen before the game of Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series in memory of Sept. 11.
The 5-4 victory featured two key hits by a new Yankee who was a flop with the Mets, a big home run by a guy who had not played in five of the past six games because of an aching hamstring and with two players painfully hit by pitches.
Chris Young, who has found a home in the Bronx that he could not find in Queens, was at the center of the Yanks’ magnificent final two innings. He doubled to break up Alex Cobb’s no-hit bid with one down in the eighth and scored on Martin Prado’s pinch-hit home run off reliever Brad Boxberger.
Boxberger soon after became the most unpopular guy in the building when he drilled Derek Jeter in the left elbow with a pitch. An error by first baseman James Loney put the potential tying run on base, but Boxberger recovered to strike out Mark Teixeira.
Rays closer Jake McGee, the hard-throwing lefthander, began the ninth by hitting Chase Headley in the chin with a 1-2 pitch, which was a 96-mph fastball. It was a scary sight there for a while as Headley lay on his back next to the plate with blood splattered below his lower lip as he was attended by the Yankees’ trainers.
Somebody in the crowd started a chant directed at McGee “Pay him back.” Ichiro Suzuki followed with a double, and the crowd that had been muzzled much of the night came alive. McGee struck out pinch hitter Zelous Wheeler, but Young finished off the comeback by cranking a 0-1 fastball to left field for a three-run home run.
Young, who was released last month and picked off the scrapheap by the Yankees, has been nothing short of terrific. He is batting .500 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 at-bats for the Yankees with a slugging percentage of 1.167.
“He has done an awful lot for us,” Girardi said of Young, who had five RBI the past two nights. “Gardy [Brett Gardner] got hurt, and that gave [Young] an opportunity. He has made the most of it.”
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees’ past two games mark the first time they have come back to win consecutive games in which they were down by four or more runs in each game since July 30 and 31, 2005 against the Angels.
So the Yankees head off to Baltimore for an important series on a high note. Headley did not accompany them. Although he seemed clear-headed and was not missing any teeth, Headley remained in New York and will undergo tests Friday to check about possible jaw damage and a concussion.
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.
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).
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.
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.