Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Chapman lighting up jugs gun in record figures

Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman had the Yankee Stadium crowd ooing and ahhing in the ninth inning of Monday night’s 2-1 victory over the Orioles as he threw the five fastest pitches ever tracked by MLB Statcast. They ranged in speeds of 104.0 to 105.1 miles per hour.

Chapman’s 105.1-mph fastball, on the sixth pitch to J.J. Hardy, matched his major-league-record 105.1-mph fastball that was clocked by FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x Sept. 24, 2010 with the Reds against the Padres at San Diego’s Petco Park. Statcast reports that Chapman has a majors-leading 217 pitches of at least 100 mph this season. The next most is 73 by the Braves’ Mauricio Cabrera. According to Statcast, 46.1 percent of Chapman’s 471 total pitches have hit triple digits.

One of Chapman’s No Runs DMC partners, Andrew Miller, had his franchise record streak of consecutive relief appearances with at least one strikeout end at 28, the longest by a major-league reliever since the Indians’ Cody Allen had 29 in a row from Sept. 29 through July 8 last year.

Miller pitched the eighth inning Monday night and retired Manny Machado on a tap to the mound, gave up a single to right-center by Mark Trumbo and got Matt Wieters on a 6-4-3 double play. The DP may be a pitcher’s best friend, but in this case it cost Miller a chance to extend his streak. He will just have to start a new one.

The trio of Chapman, Miller and Dellin Betances has combined for a 2.02 ERA with 26 walks and 191 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
The Yankees are 18-1 when all three pitch in the same game. In those 19 games, No Runs DMC has teamed to post a 1.21 ERA with 16 walks and 90 strikeouts in 59 1/3 innings and held hitters to a .138 batting average in 203 at-bats.

Carlos Beltran went 3-for-4 Monday night, his ninth game this season with at least three hits. He has had three such games in his past 10 games and six his past past 24. Beltran has a slash line of .379/.419/.552 (33- for-87) with 10 runs, six doubles my three home runs, 14 RBI, five walks and a hit by pitch in 24 games and 87 at-bats since April 20.

One off Beltran’s three hits Monday night was a double, career No. 523 to tie Hall of Famer Willie Mays for 45th place on the all- time list. Next up at 524 is Ken Griffey Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame this coming weekend. In 43rd place at 525 is yet another Hall of Famer, Ted Williams. Beltran has 15 seasons with at least 20 doubles, which is tied with Chili Davis for fifth most by a switch hitter in the modern era. The only switch hitters with more such seasons are Eddie Murray (20), Chipper Jones and Pete Rose (18 each) and Roberto Alomar (16).

Alex Rodriguez’s ninth home run of the season and 696th of his career was his 1,758th hit with the Yankees, which broke a tie with Wally Pipp for 17th place on the franchise’s career hit list. A-Rod has 69 career home runs against the Orioles, his second most against any opponent, topped only by the 70 he has slugged against the Angels.

Nathan Eovaldi, back in the rotation to start Tuesday night, is averaging 97.1 mph on his fastball this season, according to FanGraphs’ PITCHf/x, which is the highest average velocity in the American League and the second highest in the majors only to the Mets’ Noah Syndergaard (98.1). Eovaldi earned his way back into the rotation by pitching 7 2/3 scoreless innings in three relief outings.

Who’s on 1st? Ref, not A-Rod, while Tex is hurt

Any plans Alex Rodriguez may have had taking grounders at first base before Monday night’s scheduled game at Yankee Stadium were washed away as batting practice had to be canceled due to severe thunderstorm activity.

Then again, it might have been just a waste of time for A-Rod, who has stated a desire to play the position if it will get him into the lineup more often. Another injury to Mark Teixeira has opened up first base again, but manager Joe Girardi clearly prefers to use rookie Rob Refsnyder there if Tex is not available.

Teixeira, who has missed time this season because of right knee and neck issues, was out of the starting lineup Monday night for the second straight game. He fouled a ball off the area above his left ankle Saturday. A CT scan after the game was negative, but the area is very swollen. Girardi said he did not anticipate being able to use Teixeira Monday or Tuesday nights.

Rodriguez was in the lineup as the designated hitter against the Orioles’ Kevin Gausman and did what will keep him in the lineup, which was to hit a home run. His blow into the left field bleachers off a 2-0 meatball from Gausman in the second inning was A-Rod’s ninth home run of the season and career No. 696.

Before the thunderstorms hit, Rodriguez was able to hit into a BP session and banged several balls into the seats, so he was able to take that into the game.

A-Rod lost playing time at DH against right-handed pitching when Girardi used Carlos Beltran while he was recovering from a hamstring strain. Beltran was back in right field Monday night.

The Orioles tied the score in the third on a solo homer by Jonathan Schoop off Ivan Nova. Beltran helped build the run in the bottom of that inning that turned out to be the decider for the Yanks. Beltran went against the shift with a single to left field that pushed Brett Gardner to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by Brian McCann.

Nova got the Yankees to the seventh inning when Girardi began the merry-go-round of Dellin Betances in the seventh, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth for three more scoreless innings that ran the bullpen’s current shutout string to 22. Chapman had the Yankee Stadium crowd of 31,102 buzzing while pitching to J.J. Hardy when one pitch zoomed in at 105 miles per hour, the fastest pitch thrown ib the major leagues this season.

Rodriguez did not take well to playing first base last year when the Yankees asked him to work out at the position early in the season. He played poorly there and seemed content to be a permanent DH rather than have to wear a glove again, which he did with distinction as a Gold Glove winner at shortstop and third base.

But that was two hip surgeries ago for Rodriguez, who will turn 41 later this month. His .216 batting average is 79 points below his career mark. He is 2-for-13 (.154) on the homestand.

Refsnyder, who was an outfielder in college and an infielder in the minor leagues, has done a decent job at first base and has given the Yankees consistent if unspectacular offense. He is batting .269 with eight doubles and 10 RBI in 93 at-bats.

“He has just had the one day of work, so I’m not ready to commit to that yet,” Girardi said. “Right now I’m going with Ref there. Alex is DHing tonight so I’m going with Ref there. It’s something that we’ll continue to talk about but we’ll stick for Ref for now.”

The Yankees need to win games and not be giving auditions for an important position at this stage of the season. A-Rod had his chance to be a factor at first base and did not work hard enough when the Yankees needed him. Now that playing time as the DH is threatened, he picks up a first base glove. Girardi is making the right call here.

Yankees knuckle under to Red Sox

Alex Rodriguez was back in the starting lineup Friday night for the first time in six games since July 5. A-Rod had made some noise recently by saying he would take another shot at playing first base in case Mark Teixeira should be sidelined again by a cartilage tear in his right knee.

Playing the position was a disaster last year for Rodriguez, but he is willing to give it another try, particularly if it means getting him additional playing time. Carlos Beltran, back in right field after nursing a tender right hamstring the past 10 day, had cost A-Rod at-bats as the Yankees’ designated hitter.

As the Yanks hope to turn things around after the All-Star break, the sight of knuckleballer Steven Wright on the mound for the Red Sox was hardly welcomed. Wright has been a late-blooming cog in Boston’s rotation this season and earned All-Star recognition, although he did not get into Tuesday night’s game at San Diego.

Wright confounded the Yankees enough to be working on a perfect game two outs into the fifth inning. Ironically, it was Rodriguez who ended the righthander’s bid for a perfecto with a slow-roller to the left of the mound that Wright tried to field with his bare right hand, which was the only chance he had for an out, that became a single and finally gave the Yankees a base runner.

You know it is not much of a night for your team when a squib hit is among the game’s highlights.

That was the case for the Yankees until the sixth inning when Wright, working with a 5-0 lead, suddenly lost the plate. Starlin Castro led off with a more conventional hit, a line single to center. Wright then hit Chase Headley with a pitch, putting a runner in scoring position for the Yanks for the first time in the game.

After Brett Gardner flied out to center, Jacoby Ellsbury walked on a full count to load the bases. Beltran, fresh from his All-Star appearance, whacked a single down the right field line to score two runs to raise his career RBI total to 1,501. He became the 46th player in major league history to drive in more than 1,500 runs.

The Yankees cut the deficit to 5-3 when Brian McCann grounded into a force play as Ellsbury crossed the plate. That would be as close as the Yanks would get as they fell under .500 once again at 44-45.

Michael Pineda had another of his head-scratching performances, a combination of swing-and-miss pitching (six strikeouts) and swing-and-hit pitching (three home runs) in five-plus innings.

Ryan Hanigan, Wright’s catcher, started the assault with two out in the third on a solo home run to left, his first of the season. After a leadoff walk to Jackie Bradley Jr. in the fifth, Travis Shaw drove a 3-1 fastball into the right-center field bleachers. Zander Bogaerts made the score 5-0 in the sixth by following a leadoff single by Dustin Pedroia with his 11th home run, which ended Pineda’s night.

Nathan Eovaldi, who will return to the rotation and start Tuesday night against the Orioles, had another strong outing in relief. He allowed two hit and no walks with a strikeout in 1 1/3 innings. The righthander has pitched 5 2/3 scoreless innings as a reliever and earned a chance to get back into a starter’s role.

The sellout crowd of 47,439 at Yankee Stadium was treated to another overpowering inning of relief by Aroldis Chapman, who rang up two fastballs of 103 miles per hour in the a-bat against Dustin Pedroia, one of the lefthander’s two strikeout victims in a perfect ninth inning.

Yanks have major workload after ‘vacation’

SAN DIEGO — Carlos Beltran quickly reminded reporters that at 39 he is not the oldest player on either All-Star squad. American League teammate David Ortiz of the Red Sox is 40, the same age as Beltran’s Yankees teammate, Alex Rodriguez. National League pitcher Bartolo Colon of the Mets is older than all of them at 43.

“I’m great, man,” Beltran said. “I feel happy. I feel blessed. I’m 39 years old. Most of the guys here, other than Bartolo and David — I’m the third oldest player in the All-Star Game. Just being able to be here is gratifying and, for me, it’s motivational.”

Beltran certainly earned his ninth All-Star selection with a strong first half in which he has led the Yankees in all three Triple Crown categories — batting average (.299), home runs (19) and RBI (56). Relievers Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller earned their All-Star berths as well.

Considering the Yankees only played .500 ball (44-44) to the break it is a credit to all three that they earned the trip here to Petco Park, one of baseball’s most striking facilities in the city with the most pleasant weather in the United States.

The AL earned home field advantage in the World Series with a 4-2 victory. Betances and Miller were among the 10 pitchers AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals employed in the game. Betances gave up a hit and threw a wild pitch in the seventh inning but did not allow a run and had two strikeouts. Miller had a rougher time of it in the eighth. The lefthander loaded the bases on two hits and a walk with two out and needed relief from the Astros’ Will Harris, who ended the threat with a called strikeout of the Cardinals’ Alemys Diaz.

The All-Star break is baseball’s vacation, even for those who travel to the game. Beltran’s nagging hamstring limited him to no more than one at-bat. It was doubtful that he would play the field, but he actually manned right field for the sixth and seventh innings as a replacement for the Red Sox’ Mookie Betts. Yankees manager Joe Girardi has gotten Beltran at-bats as the designated hitter, which has relegated a slumping A-Rod to the bench. In his only plate appearance, Beltran flied out to center field.

Once vacation is over, however, the Yankees have to get back to the business of trying to work their way into contention for the AL East title or at least one of the wild card entries. They are 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Orioles in the division and 5 1/2 back of the second wild card berth. They have quite a few clubs to climb over to accomplish their annual goal of reaching postseason play.

“It has to happen,” Beltran said. “It has got to be this; it has got to be in the second half. We have to find a way to play better, man. I know I have said this all through the first half, but I do believe we have what it takes to compete and be contenders in our division. But we have to show it. We haven’t shown it yet.”

Beltran also recognizes that the upcoming homestand after the break that includes visits by two division leaders (Baltimore and NL West leading San Francisco) after a series with rival Boston could be a do-or-die stretch of games. Already there is debate about whether the Yankees will be buyers or sellers at the non-waiver trade deadline of Aug. 1. Beltran and the Yankees’ No Runs DMC trio of relievers that also includes Aroldis Chapman could be helpful to any contender should general manager Brian Cashman decide to move any of them for needed prospects.

“I’m prepared for anything,” Beltran said. “I love where I am, but at the end of the day, we understand that we don’t know what route the team is going to take. I do believe that home stand will be an important one.”

A-Rod back at 3B? It almost happened

The Yankees nearly pulled off a third consecutive ninth-inning victory Friday night at San Diego to begin the 10-game, three-city trip that takes them to the All-Star break. They made a lot of noise but ended up one run short.

Had they been able to tie the score, it would have been interesting to see how the Yankees would navigated their way in the field in subsequent innings. Alex Rodriguez, for example, would have played third base for the first time since 2013. He was excited about the prospect and was wearing his glove as he stood on the dugout steps when Brett Gardner made the final out of the 7-6 loss.

Stranded at third base was Carlos Beltran, who was not supposed to play against the Padres because of a sore right hamstring. He was not needed to play in the outfield, but A-Rod was needed at third base because manager Joe Girardi had already used Chase Headley, Ronald Torreyes and Rob Refsnyder.

Rodriguez and Beltran had big pinch hits in the four-run ninth. Rodriguez singled home a run and eventually came around to score on an infield out by Aaron Hicks. After Didi Gregorius scored on a wild pitch by Brandon Maurer to make it a one-run game, Beltran doubled to left-center. Girardi considered using pitcher Masahiro Tanaka as a pinch runner but kept Beltran in the game. He hobbled to third base on a grounder to the right side by Jacoby Ellsbury before Gardner ended the rally.

The Yankees caught a break that inning because the day before the Padres traded closer Fernando Rodney, who was having a great season, to the Marlins. Matt Thornton, who pitched for the Yankees a couple of years ago, opened the gates by walking Brian McCann on four pitches and hitting Starlin Castro with a 2-2 pitch before yielding the single against the shift to Rodriguez. That was career hit No. 3,110 for A-Rod, who tied Hall of Famer Dave Winfield for 19th place on the all-time list. Winfield happened to be at Petco Park to witness the hit.

Prior to the ninth, the Yankees experienced a stretch of 18 batters in which only one reached base — McCann with a solo home run (No. 13) in the sixth. Their late rally was an attempt to atone for letting the game get out of hand early, which was due largely to another ineffective outing by Nathan Eovaldi.

The Yankees loaded the bases against Padres starter Colin Rea in the first inning but failed to score. San Diego responded in the bottom half with three runs. The key blow was a two-out, two-run double by Derek Norris. Eovaldi was hurt by the long ball once again as he gave up rookie second baseman Ryan Schimpf’s first career home run in the second and a two-run shot to Wil Myers in the fifth.

Eovaldi was strung for six earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. He is winless in six starts since May 29, a stretch in which he is 0-4 with a 9.20 ERA. The righthander has allowed 31 earned runs and 45 hits, including 12 home runs, in 30 1/3 innings in those starts, this from a pitcher who 10 starts into the season was 6-2 with a 3.71 ERA. That ERA has since climbed to 5.54.

In other developments, Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes‐Barre outfielder Aaron Judge was named the International League Player of the Month for June. Judge batted .343 in 102 at-bats and led the IL with nine home runs, 30 runs and a .477 on-base percentage. He also finished among the top three with 25 RBI, 16 extra‐base hits, 70 total bases, 21 walks and a .686 slugging percentage.

Conversely, Nick Swisher has decided to leave the Triple A club. Swish, who played for the Yankees from 2009-12, was hoping to make a comeback after being released by the Braves in spring training. The Yankees have had openings at first base because of injuries, but Swisher never got the call.

The switch hitter batted .255 with seven homers and 25 RBI in 55 games for SWB. After watching Rob Refsnyder, Chris Parmelee and Ike Davis take turns at first base, Swish decided to go home and spend time with his infant daughter.

“I don’t think we would have signed him if we didn’t want to take a look at him,” Girardi told reporters. “We just felt some guys were ahead of him at the time, so he never was called. I respect what he did. He had another baby, so go and enjoy that.”

The winning formula works again

Anyone tired of “No Runs DMC” yet? How could any Yankees fan be? Particularly in close games toward the late innings, the anticipation of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman having an impact on the game whets the appetite of any Yankees fan.

Naturally, this cannot be the formula every game or else the trio of power pitchers could get burned out. But for now, the only burning going on is to the opponents’ bats. The group that radio voice John Sterling calls “Murderer’s Throw” contributed to the Yanks’ third straight victory in this homestand, a 2-1 verdict over the Twins in which Minnesota May have derived satisfaction in at least having someone reach base.

Yankees relievers had retired 31 batters in a row before Joe Mauer’s opposite-field single to left off Chapman with two out in the ninth inning. It was only the third hit for the Twins, their first since the third inning and ended a stretch of 15 consecutive batters retired.

It was fools’ gold for Minnesota, however, as Chapman ended the game with a strikeout of Brian Dozier, who had accounted for the Twins’ run with a home run leading off the second inning against Michael Pineda.

That was the only blemish on the outing by Pineda, who allowed just one other hit and one walk with eight strikeouts in his six innings of work. The Yankees tied the score in the fifth against Twins starter Ervin Santana on back-to-back, two-out singles by Jacoby Ellsbury, Brett Gardner and Carlos Beltran.

The Yanks threatened again in the sixth, but a rally was choked off when Starlin Castro grounded into a double play. Though the score was tied, manager Joe Girardi went to his favorite formula as he brought in Betances at the start of the seventh in hopes that the Yankees could push across another run.

That did not occur until the eighth against reliever Ryan Pressly. Alex Rodriguez started the inning with an infield single. A hard single to right by Brian McCann sent pinch runner Aaron Hicks to third base. After Mark Teixeira, back in the lineup after 20 days on the disabled list because of torn cartilage in his right knee, struck out, Castro hit a potential double-play grounder to shortstop Eduardo Escobar, who booted the ball for his second error of the game as the eventual winning run scored.

The inning ended on a disputed double play in which McCann was thrown out at home by left fielder Robbie Grossman after catching a liner by Chase Headley. Video replays seemed to indicate that catcher Kurt Suzuki’s tag was high on McCann’s right leg as his left foot crossed the plate, but plate umpire Alfonso Marquez’s call stood after a Yankees challenge.

So the margin remained slim for Chapman, who from the Twins’ viewpoint was at least hittable compared to Friday night when he blew three hitters away with his high-octane fastball. Gardner needed to get on his horse to run down a drive to left-center by Eduardo Nunez. Grossman also hit the ball in grounding out to shortstop before Mauer’s line single. Dozier was not as fortunate as Chapman used sliders to put him away.

The Yankees, now a game over .500 at 37-36, improved their record to 12-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They had combined for 10 consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past four games before Mauer’s hit. Overall, Yankees relievers have 44 consecutive strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver.

To make roster space for Teixeira, the Yankees placed first baseman Ike Davis on waivers. If he clears, he could be optioned to Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as insurance in the event Teixeira’s knee flares up again. Rob Refsnyder’s surprising play at first base and overall versatility made him more valuable to the Yanks than Davis at this time.

‘No Runs DMC’ lives up to its billing

Much has happened to the Yankees this season that was not foreseen. There has been the struggle to get their record above .500, the rash of injuries to first basemen, the long stretches of offensive futility, the inconsistency of the starting pitchers, etc.

Yet there has been one aspect of the 2016 Yankees that has been precisely as advertised — the shutdown work of the three power arms at the back end of the bullpen. A formula of Dellin Betances in the seventh inning, Andrew Miller in the eighth and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth has been damn near perfection. The trio was at its best again Friday night in the Yankees’ 5-3 victory over the Twins in front of a Mickey Mantle Bobblehead crowd of 44,808 at Yankee Stadium.

When starter Masahiro Tanaka got the final out of the sixth inning with the Yanks leading, 4-3, there was a strong sense of anticipation in the crowd that this one could be put in the books with the club getting back to par at 36-36.

The inspiration behind the “No Runs DMC” t-shirts on sale at the Stadium were at their most dominant with three more perfect innings, following a similar performance in the Yankees’ prior victory Wednesday. Betances and Miller each pitched a shutout inning with one strikeout. Chapman outdid himself in the ninth for his 14th save by striking out the side with fastballs regularly going into three figures, including a high of 103 miles per hour.

The self-destructing Twins aided the Yankees with three errors that resulted in Minnesota failing to hold leads of 2-0 and 3-2. A bobble of a grounder by Austin Romine by shortstop Eduardo Escobar started the Yankees’ two-run third that overcame their first deficit against Twins starter Tommy Milone. Consecutive two-out hits by Carlos Beltran (double) and Alex Rodriguez (single) plated the runs that made the score 2-2.

After the Twins went ahead by a run in the fourth, the Yankees came right back in the bottom of the inning and filled the bases with none out without a ball leaving the infield on a walk to Chase Headley, a bunt single by Didi Gregorius and an error by Minnesota first baseman Joe Mauer, who failed to globe a sharp grounder by Aaron Hicks. Romine’s fly ball to the warning track in left field tied the score. A two-out single by Rob Refsnyder put the Yankees in front for the first time in the game and for good.

Tanaka (5-2), who was not particularly sharp, held the Twins down for the next two innings to set the table for the most intimidating bullpen in the majors since the Reds’ notorious “Nasty Boys” of the 1990 World Series champion Reds.

Hicks, who came to the Yankees from the Twins in an off-season trade for backup catcher John Ryan Murphy, now in the minors, stung his former teammates with an opposite-field home run to left for an insurance run in the eighth that was as welcome as it was, as it turned out, unnecessary.

The Yankees are 11-0 when all three DMC pitchers appear in a game. They have combined for eight consecutive 1-2-3 innings over the past three games in which all have worked together and have not allowed a ball out of the infield in the past two games. Yankees relievers overall have 40 straight strikeouts since their last walk June 15 at Denver and have retired 23 batters in a row.

Yanks’ trip smoothing out after ‘rocky’ start

After the disappointment of getting swept in a two-game series at Denver, the Yankees are on the verge of trumping that with a four-game sweep at Minneapolis. They are three-quarters of the way there with very impressive victories over the Twins heading into a Father’s Day finale Sunday with Nathan Eovaldi opposing Minnesota’s Ervin Santana.

Friday night, the Yankees struck early with four first-inning runs on the way to an 8-2 victory behind Masahiro Tanaka (4-2), who was sharp as a tack (one run, seven hits, no walks, five strikeouts) over eight innings. Carlos Beltran, who missed both games against the Rockies, whacked a two-run home run in that first inning to stop a 0-for-12 slump.

Beltran added another two-run homer at a more clutch moment Saturday. The opposite-field blow to left off righthander Kevin Jepsen tied the score with one down in the eighth inning. The Yankees continued their comeback against the Twins’ ragged bullpen with three runs in the ninth, then had to hold their breath somewhat when Aroldis Chapman gave up back-to-back homers to Eduardo Escobar and pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki to survive, 7-6.

Give Suzuki credit. He fouled off four consecutive 102-mph fastballs from Chapman before connecting on yet another 102-mph heater. But most of the credit Saturday went to the Yankees, who had fallen into a 4-0 hole against Twins starter Ricky Nolasco, who had a four-hit shutout working through six innings.

Leading off the seventh, Beltran got one of his rare leg hits these days with a dribbler to the left side on which Eduardo Nunez could not make a bare-handed play. Alex Rodriguez, who had a three-homer game at Target Field in late July last year, followed with a drive to right off a 1-2 fastball for his eighth home run of the season and career No. 695.

The Yankees got two more hits that inning but pushed across no more runs. With one out in the eighth, another infield single, this time by Brett Gardner, preceded a home run, Beltran’s 18th of the season. Gardner had been hitless in his previous 14 at-bats and was 1-for-15 on the trip.

Lefthander Fernando Abad, who was having a fine season out of the bullpen until the Yankees came to town, got the last out of the eighth, which turned out to be the only one he would get in the game. He began the ninth with a walk to Chase Headley. You could always hear the uh-oh coming out of Twins manager Paul Molitor’s mouth in the dugout.

Didi Gregorius, who has broken a 1-1 score with a three-run home run off a first-pitch fastball from Abad Thursday night, dropped down a beauty of a bunt for a single. After a Juan Centeno passed ball advanced the runners, Rob Refsnyder was walked intentionally to load the bases.

Righthander Ryan Pressly came on and struck out pinch hitter Starlin Castro but fell into a full count with Jacoby Ellsbury and had to come in with a fastball which Ellsbury knocked into right-center for a two-run single. A wild pitch by Pressly moved crucial as it turned out. It moved Refsnyder to third from where he scored on a fly ball by Gardner. That run proved vital when Chapman gave up the two homers after he had struck out the first two batters.

So it was a shaky 13th save for Chapman that preserved the winning decision for Andrew Miller (4-0), who had shut down Minnesota with two strikeouts in the eighth. Anthony Swarzak also played a big part in the game with a 1 2/3 hitless innings of two-strikeout relief.

The Yankees’ late rallies took Michael Pineda off the hook. The righthander had another of his weird games where he was overpowering (nine strikeouts) but unable to pick up key third outs of innings. Three of the Twins’ four runs off Pineda in 5 1/3 innings were scored after two were out on an RBI single by Escobar in the second and a two-run homer by Korean slugger Byung Ho Park in the fourth. An error by Pineda in the sixth led to a run on a sacrifice fly by Park.

With 55 hits, including a dozen Saturday, the Yankees are averaging 11 hits per game on the trip. Beltran and Gregorius had three hits apiece Saturday. Beltran has homered in six of his past 13 games, eight of 19 and 13 of 36. Gregorius has had a huge trip with 10-for-20 (.500), two homers, six runs and nine RBI. The bunt single off Abad increased Didi’s batting average against left-handed pitching to .383 in 60 at-bats. He is hitting .287 overall.

Headley, who could not get off the Interstate for the first two months, has his average up to .260 while batting .471 in 17 at-bats on the trip and .417 in his seven-game hitting streak. Now if only the Yankees could get Brian McCann re-started. The catcher took an 0-for-4 collar Saturday, is hitless in his past 12 at-bats and in a 4-for-32 (.125) rut that has shrunken his season average to .207.

Didi no longer an easy out against lefties

Opposing managers should be thinking twice about now about bringing in left-handed relievers to face Didi Gregorius. The book on the shortstop a year ago when he joined the Yankees was that he struggled against left-handed pitching. Gregorius has reversed that this season and because of that the Yankees were able to end their four-game losing streak Thursday night with a 4-1 victory over the Twins.

Twins manager Paul Molitor, who has already suffered plenty with his 20-46 club, made the old-book move in the seventh inning by replacing starter Kyle Gibson with lefthander Fernando Abad to face Gregorius with runners on second and third and one out in a 1-1 game.

One pitch later, Molitor came to regret his move. Gregorius got all of the first-pitch fastball for a three-run home run in the middle of the right field stands. The timing could not have been better since manager Joe Girardi could go with Formula A out of the bullpen, using Dellin Betances in the seventh (no runs, one hit, one strikeout), Andrew Miller in the eighth (no runs, no hits, two strikeouts) and Aroldis Chapman in the ninth (no runs, no hits, one strikeout, 12th save). The Yankees are 9-0 when all three of those relievers appear in the same game.

Gregorius is batting .368 in 57 at-bats against left-handed pitching, the highest average of any left-handed hitter in the major leagues, but until Thursday night he had not hit for much power. Only three of his 21 hits off lefties were for extra bases, all doubles. His sixth home run of the year was his first off a southpaw.

The timing of Gregorius’ homer was also beneficial to CC Sabathia, who was able to get the winning decision that improved his record to 5-4 with a 2.20 ERA. It did not come easy for Sabathia, who pitched with runners on base in four of his six innings. The Twins stranded nine runners with only two hits in 10 at-bats with runners in scoring position against him.

One of those hits was a two-out, RBI single by former teammate Eduardo Nunez that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead in the fourth. Sabathia had worked out of jams in the first and second innings and did so again in the fifth even after he lost a double play on a reverse of an umpiring call.

Meanwhile, Gibson, who entered the game with a 10.72 career ERA against the Yankees, pitched to the minimum number of batters through five innings. The Yankees had two hits, but the runners were erased. Alex Rodriguez erased himself by getting thrown out at second trying to stretch, and Chase Headley was out on the front end of a double play the Twins turned against Ike Davis.

Gibson started coming apart in the sixth, but the Yankees did not take full advantage of it. They loaded the bases with none out on a single by Gregorius, a double by Headley and a four-pitch walk to Davis. Jacoby Ellsbury singled to center, but only one run scored. Brett Gardner then popped out to second, and Carlos Beltran, back in the lineup after a sore left knee kept him out of the two-game series at Denver, grounded into a double play.

The Yankees kept putting runners on base in the seventh. Rodriguez led off with an infield single, and Brian McCann walked. Starlin Castro sacrificed the runners up a base each before Molitor made the fatal move for a lefty reliever to face Gregorius, one Yankees hitter who is enjoying this trip (.545 with two home runs and seven RBI in 11 at-bats).

Sabathia kept his hot streak in place. Over his past seven starts, he is 4-2 with a 0.82 ERA and 41 strikeouts in 44 innings. In seven starts on the road this season, CC is 4-2 with a 2.14 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 42 innings. In his past 14 starts against the Twins, Sabathia is 10-1 with a 2.66 ERA.

Then again, Target Field has been a friendly venue for the Yankees. They are 17-5 in the Minneapolis yard that opened in 2010.

Rarified air does not help Yankees

The two-game trip to Denver was supposed to be a soft spot in the Yankees’ schedule. Yeah, right. Despite facing starting pitchers with earned run averages as high as the altitude in Colorado, the Yankees lost both games. Rockies starters Jorge De La Rosa and Chad Bettis were clearly more effective than the Yankees’ Nathan Eovaldi and Ivan Nova.

The Yanks put up a good fight Tuesday night. After falling behind by nine runs through seven innings, the Yankees exploded with a seven-run eighth against the underbelly of the Colorado bullpen, but their own relief corps got roughed up as well in a 13-10 loss, a typical Coors Field score. The Rockies kept it up Wednesday with a 13-hit assault to win, 6-3.

The holes in the batting order did not help. With no designated hitter in a National League park, Alex Rodriguez was reduced to one at-bat as a pinch hitter Tuesday night. With no Carlos Beltran, out with a sore left knee that was drained, or Mark Teixeira, on the 15-day disabled list due to a right knee cartilage tear, the Yankees’ lineup Wednesday featured as its cleanup hitter Chase Headley, who has hit all of three home runs.

All seven of the Yankees’ hits Wednesday were singles. They have just seven extra-base hits (five doubles, one triple, one home run) over their past five games after totaling 21 extra-bases hits (12 doubles, nine homers) in the four-game sweep of the Angels last week.

Coors Field is a place where struggling hitters can improve their statistics, which the Yankees certainly did Tuesday night but less so Wednesday. But for those who thought the Rockies would be easy pickings, it should be pointed out that both clubs entered play Wednesday with the same record — 31-33 — and Colorado is now one game better.

Manager Joe Girardi was justified in getting annoyed with media reports about the 11-game, home-and-home swing this week and next against the Rockies and Twins being a chance for the Yankees to gain ground against sub-par competition. Minnesota may have the worst record in the American League, but that does not mean the Twins intend to roll over and play dead the next four days in Minneapolis or next weekend at Yankee Stadium.

Girardi is correct when he says if the Yankees do not play well it does not matter who the opponent is. And after the recent five-game winning streak at home, the Yankees have now lost four games in a row. In three of those games, starting pitchers allowed five or more runs. Considering the shape of the Yankees’ batting order these days, that is too much to overcome on a regular basis.

Anyone who thought the Rockies were pushover knows nothing about the first five hitters in that lineup. Charlie Blackmon, D.J. LeMahieu, Nolan Arenado, Carlos Gonzalez and Trevor Story combined to go 22-for-43 (.512) with four doubles, one triple, three home runs and 14 RBI with an .860 slugging percentage in the series. Gonzalez’s home run in the eighth inning Tuesday night off Andrew Miller was the first extra-base hit the lefthander has allowed to a left-handed batter all season. The Rockies also scored a run off Aroldis Chapman in the eighth inning Wednesday.

The key to beating Colorado is to bash their pitchers. The Yanks did score 13 runs in two games, but their pitchers could not contain the Rockies, who scored in nine of the 16 innings they batted in the series.

Nova had a string of 24 scoreless innings in inter-league play end when he gave up a run in the third inning. The Yankees took the lead in the fourth on four singles and a throwing error by Rockies catchers Tony Wolters, but Nova was touched for four runs in the fourth that featured a walk and a stolen base by Blackmon, a run-scoring single by LeMahieu, a two-run home run by Arenado, a double by Story, and a two-out, RBI single by Mark Reynolds. Nova had a six-game winning streak in inter-play stopped and is now 8-2 against NL competition.

One bright spot about going to Minneapolis is that the Yankees will be back in the AL with Rodriguez available as the DH. Perhaps Beltran’s knee will allow him to return to the lineup as well. CC Sabathia, who has been the Yankees’ most consistent starting pitcher, draws the first assignment of the series Thursday night at Target Field.

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