Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Yanks squander chance to clinch wild card berth

The Yankees have avoided talking about the wild card as their entry into postseason play as they held out hope of winning the American League East title against overwhelming odds. That hope faded for good Wednesday when the Blue Jays won the day game of a separate-admission doubleheader at Baltimore for their first division championship in 22 years.

The Yankees had a chance to clinch a wild card berth Wednesday night with a victory over the Red Sox combined with a loss by two of the following four teams: the Twins, Angels, Astros or Rangers. The Twinkies and the Halos cooperated by getting beat. That left it up to the Yankees to win at Yankee Stadium in order to spray champagne in getting back to the postseason for the first time in three years.

The Yanks could not hold up their end of the bargain and still face a magic number that is down to one. They were defeated for the third straight night by the Red Sox, who have moved into third place in the AL East since coming to the Bronx this week. Boston blew a 4-1 lead but came back to push the game into extra innings and won, 9-5, in 11.

Alex Rodriguez gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead in the sixth with a solo home run (No. 33). Then with two down in the seventh, Dellin Betances entered in relief of a very effective Justin Wilson and allowed a game-tying home run to Mookie Betts, who had quite a night for the Red Sox amid a very impressive series.

The Red Sox busted out in the 11th against Andrew Bailey and Chasen Shreve. Bailey was touched for three singles in letting the Red Sox take the lead. Jackie Bradley drove in the second run with a suicide squeeze off Shreve, who then gave up a two-run home run to Betts, who is batting .400 with four runs, three doubles, three home runs and four RBI in 15 at-bats in the series.

The Yankees cannot say they did not have opportunities. They were retired in order in only one of the 11 innings and left 15 runners on base. They were 3-for-14 (.214) with runners in scoring position. It was a particularly brutal game for Didi Gregorius, who was 0-for-5 and stranded 10 runners, seven in scoring position.

The Yankees were challenged early as Travis Shaw smacked a three-run home run off Masahiro Tanaka with two out in the first inning.

Tanaka was making his first start in 12 days since he sustained a hamstring strain running out a ground ball at Citi Field. It has been generally assumed that Tanaka would get the call to start the wild-card playoff game Oct. 6, so Wednesday night’s start was viewed as a tuneup.

The Japanese righthander labored through the first inning on 36 pitches, not the way to begin an important start. Teammates came to his rescue, however, rebounding from a 4-1 deficit in the fifth to tie the score against Boston starter Wade Miley.

Doubles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran around a one-out walk to Rodriguez accounted for the first run of the inning. A decision by Shaw at first base to get the sure out there on a grounder by Brian McCann instead of trying to throw out the 40-year-old A-Rod at the plate led to another run with Beltran going to third. He scored the tying run on a hard single by Chris Young off third baseman Deven Marrero.

Miley loaded the bases with walks to Greg Bird and Rob Refsnyder, but Didi Gregorius flied out to left. The rally meant a no-decision rather than a possible losing decision for Tanaka, who came out after the fifth. Refsnyder had hits in his first two at-bats, including an RBI double in the second.

A night full of nothing for the Yankees

No clinching a postseason berth. No attaining the franchise’s 10,000th victory. Not much of anything Monday night for the Yankees, who even lost more ground in their fleeting chance of winning the American League East title.

While the Yankees were in the process of losing to the Red Sox, 5-1, the Blue Jays came back from a 3-1, eighth-inning deficit in Baltimore to beat the Orioles, 4-3, as Toronto bloated its lead over the Yankees to five games with six to play.

It is becoming increasingly clear that the Wild Card playoff game is likely the Yankees’ path to the postseason. Masahiro Tanaka can put himself in position to get the call for that game with a strong outing Wednesday night as he returns to the rotation for the first time in 11 days.

Ivan Nova was working on a five-hit shutout through five innings before giving up his 1-0 lead on two-run home runs by Travis Shaw in the sixth and Jackie Bradley in the seventh. Bradley was also a major factor on defense for Boston with two circus catches in left field that robbed Chase Headley and John Ryan Murphy of potential extra-base hits. Mookie Betts also made a dazzling grab in center field in the seventh to spoil a hit bid by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Nova, who was shipped to the bullpen briefly but returned to the rotation when Nathan Eovaldi went down with inflammation in his right elbow, fell to 6-10 and is now 1-6 with a 6.88 ERA over his past seven starts covering 35 1/3 innings. Deven Marrero got the Red Sox’ third home run of the game and the first of his career in the ninth off Caleb Cotham.

The Yankees had another frustrating game at the plate. One night after stranding 15 base runners, the Yankees left 10 on and were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez, who drove in the Yankees’ run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning, had a chance to break the game open in the second against Eduardo Rodriguez but struck out on a foul tip with the bases loaded. The Yankees had eight left on base over the first five innings leaving Nova scant margin for error.

Severino continues to move up rotation ladder

The Yankees continue to hold out hope that they can catch the Blue Jays and win the American League East title, although the calendar keeps betraying them. They lost another day Sunday when their 6-1 victory over the White Sox was trumped by the Jays’ comeback, 5-4 victory at Toronto on Josh Donaldson’s ninth-inning home run.

So the space between the Yankees and the Blue Jays remains four games with seven to play. Yet manager Joe Girardi and his players are not yet ready to discuss the possibility of being in the wild card game, which grows more likely by the day.

It was hard not to think of that Sunday as the Yankees reduced their magic number for qualifying for the postseason for the first time in three years to three with a victory that featured six shutout innings from Luis Severino, who in a very short time has moved up the rotation ladder.

“He knows how to pitch,” catcher Brian McCann said of Severino, who just may enter the conversation once Girardi decided to talk about his wild-card game plans.

With Masahiro Tanaka still nursing an aching hamstring, it calls to question which pitcher would start the wild-card game that if the season ended tomorrow would be played at Yankee Stadium. At this point, the Yankees cannot know for sure who their opponent will be so setting up a starter now would be foolish.

Girardi did not announce his rotation for the final home series, a four-game set against the Red Sox, beyond Ivan Nova in the first game Monday night against Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox will follow with Rick Porcello Tuesday night, Wade Miley Wednesday night and Rich Hill Thursday night while the Yankees have listed TBA (to be announced).

If he is healthy, Tanaka could get the call Tuesday or Wednesday night. Thursday night would seem doubtful if Tanaka is in line to start the wild-card game, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then again, Girardi could choose Michael Pineda to start that game, and after what everyone saw Sunday Severino might have worked himself into the mix.

The rookie righthander scattered five hits over six innings with one walk and two strikeouts in improving his record to 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA. It was the second career scoreless start for Severino (also Aug. 29 at Atlanta). Over his past seven starts (since Aug. 22), he is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Severino is the first pitcher in franchise history to allow two or fewer runs in eight starts within his first 10 career major-league games.

The final score is a bit misleading because it was a 1-0 game for five of Severino’s six innings. The Yankees got a run without a hit in the first inning off Erik Johnson thanks to two errors by first baseman Jose Abreu but did not score again until Dustin Ackley led off the sixth with his ninth home run, his third since joining the Yankees. They added a second run that inning on a passed ball by catcher Rob Brantly.

Ackley has also worked himself into the playoff mix for the Yanks. Obtained July 30 in a trade from the Mariners, Ackley was out for a month with a back injury but has batted .300 with seven RBI in 40 at-bats since and could displace Stephen Drew as the Yanks’ regular second baseman.

Drew has been battling an inner-ear infection the past 10 days, an ailment that has caused dizziness and affected his balance. Drew and Brendan Ryan, who played third base Sunday, have been in a platoon at second base much of the second half.

The Yankees were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position before they got two hits in a row in those circumstances in the seventh — a single by Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter that loaded the bases and another single by Jacoby Ellsbury that got a run home. Both Yankees runs in the eighth were courtesy of rookies — Greg Bird with an RBI single and Slade Heathcott with a sacrifice fly.

The Yanks finished 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base, but those two runs in the eighth meant that Girardi did not have to use Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Sunday’s crowd of 38,690 boosted home attendance to 3,036,446 that marked the 17th consecutive season that the Yankees have drawn at least three million fans to the Stadium. The 2015 paid home attendance will reflect only 80 dates because of the single-admission doubleheader Sept. 12 against the Blue Jays.

Girardi won’t talk about postseason till Yanks qualify

As the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League East gets firmer by the day, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has begun to get questions about his plans for a potential wild card game. Girardi will not bite, and I do not blame him.

Girardi has taken the view that he will not discuss the postseason until the Yankees have qualified for it, which is only smart. There are still eight games remaining on the regular schedule, so why get ahead of himself?

Toronto remained four games up on the Yanks after both clubs won Saturday. The Yankees’ 2-1 victory over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium followed later in the day the Jays’ 10-8 triumph over the Rays at Rogers Centre. It remains a big hurdle for the Yankees to catch Toronto, but Girardi is not conceding anything yet. His view is that the Yanks need to keep winning no matter what — to stay on the Blue Jays’ tails and to ensure that should the wild card game be their entry into postseason play that they play that game at the Stadium.

Adam Warren had a shaky first inning but settled down to give the Yankees six quality innings. The run he gave up to the first two batters in the game — Adam Eaton singled, stole second and scored on a single by Jose Abreu — was the only one he allowed. Warren yielded another hit thar frame before Adam LaRoche hit into a double play.

Warren gave up no hits or runs after that inning but ran into some difficulty in the fifth after his string of 12 straight outs ended with the White Sox loading the bases on three walks and having to face Abreu again with two out.

“I just walked everybody to get to their best hitter and one of the best hitters in the game; yeah, that was real smart,” Warren said with a dose of sarcasm. “Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] and Mac [Brian McCann, catcher] calmed me down, and we stuck with the game plan.”

Warren stayed with a still muscular fastball against last year’s AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner. After fouling off four straight pitches — three fastballs and a slider — Abreu swung through a 93-mph heater.

That was a crucial point in the game because it was still 1-0 White Sox. The Yankees finally got to Chicago starter John Danks in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury started things off with a single and a stolen base, an important steal because Chase Headley followed with a double that bounced over the fence in left-center. If not for swiping second, Ellsbury would have had to stop at third base on the two-bagger.

Alex Rodriguez then smoked a one-hopper off the glove of third baseman Mike Ott, the force of which sent the ball into the stands for another automatic double that chased home Chase with what proved the deciding run.

The bullpen took over from there with a perfect seventh from Justin Wilson, a perfect eighth from Dellin Betances and a perfect ninth from Andrew Miller (36th save) to preserve the victory for Warren (7-7). The final 13 Chicago batters were retired in order.

“Those three guys have been doing it all year,” Warren said. “We feel that if we have the lead after six we have the game won.”

The four strikeouts by the relief corps boosted the pen’s season total to 573, breaking by two the AL record the Yankees set last year. The all-time record for strikeouts by a bullpen is 589 by the Rockies in 2012.

Warren improved his record at the Stadium this year to 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his seven home starts this season. Warren has given up three or fewer runs in each of his past 12 starts dating to May 8. That matches the longest such single-season stretch by a Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry from June 2 through Sept. 29, 1981.t

Yanks go down fighting but definitely down

At least the Yankees went down fighting. Trailing by four runs in the top of the ninth inning, they loaded the bases with one out against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and had the sellout crowd of 43,602 at Citi Field pretty nervous. Familia recovered, however, and down the Yankees indeed did go.

The 5-1 loss smarted, and least of all because it came against the Mets. These Subway Series certainly draw the interest of the two New York teams’ fan bases, but as former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to point out at this juncture of the season they are not playing for the same prize, which is the downside of inter-league competition.

What hurt mostly is that the setback corresponded with the Blue Jays winning at home against the Red Sox so that the Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. Also, the Yanks were defeated with their ace on the mound, which could mean having Masahiro Tanaka make his next start Wednesday night at Toronto might be a waste of time. A lot can happen over the next four days that could convince manager Joe Girardi to give Tanaka extra rest so that he can be at his sharpest for the wild card game.

With 16 games remaining, it is far too early for the Yankees to concede the division title to Toronto and concentrate on making sure they are the home team in the wild card playoff. But the idea has to have crossed Girardi’s mind.

Tanaka started Friday night on regular rest so that he would be available to pitch in the Toronto series that follows the Subway Series. He pitched well, too, although he could not keep two balls in the yard that ruined his outing. Solo home runs by Lucas Duda off a high splitter in the second inning and Daniel Murphy on a wimpy slider in the sixth were the only real mistakes made all night by Tanaka, who has allowed 24 home runs in 149 innings.

The Yankees got a run in the first inning off Mets rookie Steven Matz on a sacrifice fly by Chris Young before the lefthander settled down and held the Yankees at bay through the sixth. That was Matz’s last inning and one that presented Girardi with a big decision.

With the score 1-1, the Yankees had runners on first and third and two out with 8-hole hitter Brendan Ryan due up and Tanaka in the on-deck circle. On the bench lurked Alex Rodriguez, rendered a bench warmer because the designated hitter is outlawed in the National League. That might have been the perfect time to let A-Rod try to break open the game as a pinch hitter, but Girardi did not think so.

The skipper’s thinking was that there was still an open base, even though it was second base, so Rodriguez could have been pitched around, perhaps even purposely walked and then Girardi would have to lift Tanaka for a pinch hitter. He liked the way his pitcher was throwing and did not want to chance that Rodriguez would be wasted in an at-bat in that circumstance. So he let Ryan hit or at least swing, which he did on the first pitch and grounded out to end the threat.

Murphy’s homer off Tanaka came in the bottom of that inning, and the Mets never looked back. Juan Uribe would have the big pinch-hit at-bat in the game for the Mets and drove an opposite-field, two-run home run to right off Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling of late (six earned runs in his past four innings).

Rodriguez did come up in the pinch, but it was when the Yanks were four runs behind in the ninth with a runner on second and one out. He, yep, walked, just as Girardi feared would happen earlier. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury off Familia’s shin filled the bases, but the Mets’ closer in a non-save situation retired Brett Gardner on a fly to left and struck out Chase Headley.

The NL East-leading Mets reduced their major number for clinching their first division title in nine years to eight, but this was a case of one New York team being hurt more by a loss than the other was fortified by a victory.

Yankees cannot repeat a miracle finish

No miracle for the Yankees Tuesday night, and they could have used another one to slice into the lead of the Blue Jays, who lost in Atlanta. Instead, the Yankees remained three games back of Toronto in the American League East because they could not complete another ninth-inning comeback at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Once again, they posed a threat with two outs and no one on base in their last licks. This time, the hurdle was higher as the Yankees were down by three runs, not one. That was because of a bloop, two-run single by J.P. Arencibia off Bryan Mitchell in the bottom of the eighth. Right fielder Rico Noel, the rookie who stayed in the game after pinch running for Carlos Beltran in the top of the inning, came oh-so-close to catching the ball with a diving attempt, but it fell free to give Tampa Bay two huge insurance runs.

Dustin Ackley began the Yanks’ comeback attempt with a pinch single, his fourth consecutive hit dating to Sunday. Rays first baseman James Loney was charged with an error for failing to glove a chopper by Jacoby Ellsbury that put runners on second and third with two down.

Brett Gardner, who had started Monday night’s miraculous finale with a two-out walk, had a chance to duplicate Slade Heathcott’s heroics of the night before, but his fly ball to left field was turned into a routine out.

The closest thing to a miracle for the Yankees this time out was the first-inning, opposite-field home run by Alex Rodriguez off Jake Odorizzi. A-Rod’s 32nd home run of the season came on a night it was revealed that he is playing with a bone bruise in his left knee. He also walked in the fourth and scored on Greg Bird’s impressive home run to center that climaxed a 10-pitch at-bat.

Other than that, the Yankees’ offense was as stagnant as it had been for eight innings Monday night when they totaled one hit.

Adam Warren, thrust back into the rotation with the injury to Nathan Eovaldi, made his first start since June 25 at Houston and lasted only four innings as his pitch count soared to 65. Warren gave up four hits in the first inning but only one run. An errant throw by catcher Brian McCann trying to prevent Mikie Mathook from stealing third base in the second inning accounted for the second run off Warren.

The Rays had a miracle of their own in the sixth inning. Nick Franklin, a .133 hitter who entered the game at shortstop after Asdrubal Cabrera strained his knee, trumped Bird by clocking a two-run home run to right off Nick Rumbelow, who had worked out of a jam the previous inning with two key strikeouts but gave up a leadoff single to Logan Forsythe before Franklin’s unlikely bomb.

Forced to empty his bullpen, manager Joe Girardi got quality work from Chasen Shreve and Branden Pinder before Mitchell had his second straight ineffective outing in letting the Rays pull away and leaving the Yankees hoping for another miracle.

Thank Heathcott for September callups

I doubt you will be hearing Yankees manager Joe Girardi gripe about the inequities in roster expansion in September, a favorite topic of his. Not after what happened Monday night, not after a player who was just called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre two days ago delivered the critical blow in what was perhaps the Yanks’ most improbable victory of the season.

This was a tale of two games, really, well, one inning and the other eight, actually. The Yankees were no-hit for seven innings, still scoreless after eight and facing a damaging loss to the Rays with two outs and nobody on in the ninth.

Then, you guessed it, somebody walked, the play that starts so many inconceivable rallies. The somebody was Brett Gardner, who just as quickly put himself in scoring position with a steal of second base.

Rays righthander Brad Boxberger, zeroing in on what would have been his 35th save, instead sustained his sixth blown save as Alex Rodriguez doubled to right-center to tie the score. Suddenly the Yankees had life on what was previously a dead night. After Brian McCann was walked intentionally, Slade Heathcott wasted no time by swinging at the first pitch and driving a three-run home run to left field.

Slade Heathcott! Right, the same young outfielder who had not batted in a big-league game since May and who spent most of this season on the disabled list because of a quad injury and who was still on a Triple A roster before joining the Yankees Saturday as a, that’s right, September callup.

Rosters may expand from the usual 25 to up to 40 come Sept. 1. Managers such as Girardi have railed against this practice in recent years, but it was sure nice for the Yankees to have had Heathcott part of Monday night’s unlikely 4-1 victory.

This was a scoreless game for seven innings, a pitcher’s duel between starters CC Sabathia of the Yankees and Erasmo Ramirez of the Rays. Sabathia had arguably his best game of the season as he did not allow a run for the first time in his 26 starts over 6 2/3 innings.

Unfortunately, the Yankees didn’t get him any runs, either, nor hits until Carlos Beltran foiled Ramirez’s no-hit bid with a scorching single off the shoulder of first baseman Richie Shaffer leading off the eighth.

Pinch runner Rico Noel swiped second, but the Yankees failed to advance him further. Tampa Bay broke the scoreless tie and ended a 21-inning scoreless streak in the bottom of the eighth against Justin Wilson on a two-out, RBI double by Logan Forsythe, who reached third on Brendan Ryan’s second error of the game.

Caleb Cotham got a big third out with a strikeout of Asrubal Cabrera and was rewarded with his first major-league victory when the Yankees rallied in the ninth. Andrew Miller added an exclamation point to the victory by striking out the side in the ninth for his 33rd save.

‘Tex’ is Yanks’ Clemente Award nominee for 2015

Mark Teixeira is the Yankees’ 2015 nominee for the prestigious Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet. Wednesday, Sept. 16, marks the 14th annual Roberto Clemente Day, which was established by Major League Baseball to honor Clemente’s legacy and to recognize officially the 30 club finalists for the award given annually to a major league player who best represents the game through positive contributions on and off the field, including sportsmanship and community involvement.

Teixeira, who is sidelined for the remainder of the season due to a right shinbone fracture, has been involved in charitable endeavors throughout his major-league career. In 2006, the first baseman and his wife, Leigh, established the Mark Teixeira Charitable Fund, an initiative that awarded several scholarships to students from multiple high schools in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area.

Three years later, Teixeira served as spokesman for the National Foundation for Cancer Research through the organization’s “Help Strike Out Sun Damage” program. He endowed a scholarship at his alma mater, Mt. St. Joseph High School in Baltimore, to honor his friend, Nick Liberatore, who died in a car accident while the two were in school together. Tex also established the Mark C. Teixeira Athletic Scholarship Fund at Georgia Tech, where he attended college.

Teixeira has been an avid supporter of Harlem RBI, a nonprofit organization in East Harlem, that provides more than 1,700 boys and girls with year-round academic, sports and enrichment programs. In 2010, he became a member of their board of directors and made a donation of $100,000 to the organization’s college preparation program. In 2011, he was honored at Harlem RBI’s “Bid for Kids” gala, which helped raise $2.25 million.

Since then, Teixeira has chaired the event each of the last four years as it has raised a combined $14.8 million. In 2011, he donated $1 million to Harlem RBI and launched his own “Dream Team 25” campaign to call on his fans to raise additional funds for its partnership with DREAM charter school to construct a 450-seat public charter school facility, community center, 87 units of low-income housing and a rebuilt public park. The project is designed to serve as a model for urban development.

In addition, Teixeira, who is the co-chair of the Harlem RBI’s $20 million Capital Campaign and the chair of its Home Run Leadership Council, continues to work with MLB to connect fellow players in support of local RBI programs around the country.

Teixeira has made personal visits to the Harlem facility, reading to students and providing baseball instruction to them. Notably, since Teixeira joined the organization, Harlem RBI has expanded its efforts to reach Mott Haven in the South Bronx, with special attention on the Paterson Houses. This year he organized Yankees teammates Alex Rodriguez and Brett Gardner to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge along with Harlem RBI youth.

The Yankees will recognize Teixeira’s nomination for this year’s Roberto Clemente Award with an on-field ceremony Thursday, Sept. 24, prior to their 7:05 p.m. game against the White Sox.

Beginning on Roberto Clemente Day, fans are encouraged to participate in the process of selecting the winner of the award by visiting, which is powered by MLB Advanced Media, to vote for one of the 30 Club nominees. Voting ends Friday, Oct. 9, and participating fans will be automatically registered for a chance to win a trip to the 2015 World Series, where the winner of the Roberto Clemente Award presented by Chevrolet will be announced.

The concept of honoring players for their philanthropic work was created in 1971 as the Commissioner’s Award but was renamed the Roberto Clemente Award in 1973 in honor of the Hall of Fame right fielder and 15- time All-Star who died in a plane crash New Year’s Eve 1972 while attempting to deliver supplies to earthquake victims in Nicaragua.

Yankees players who have received the Clemente Award were Ron Guidry in 1984, Don Baylor in 1985 and Derek Jeter in 2009. Others who played for the Yankees but won the award while with other clubs were Phil Niekro with the Braves in 1980, Dave Winfield with the Twins in 1994, Al Leiter with the Mets in 2000 and Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals in 2013. Leiter’s broadcast partner in the YES Network booth, Ken Singleton, won the award in 1982 with the Orioles.

Among the other winners are Hall of Famers Willie Mays, Brooks Robinson, Al Kaline, Willie Stargell, Lou Brock, Rod Carew, Gary Carter, Cal Ripken Jr., Barry Larkin, Ozzie Smith, Kirby Puckett and Tony Gwynn.

Tanaka gem ends home losing streak

It took six tries, but the Yankees finally guaranteed themselves another winning season at Yankee Stadium. At the same time, they saved some face in a long, exasperating weekend against the front-running Blue Jays.

Sunday’s 5-0 triumph behind a determined Masahiro Tanaka was the Yankees’ 41st victory at the Stadium this year, which extended their stretch of consecutive winning seasons at home to 24 (since 1992). It is the longest current winning streak in the major leagues and the most since the Yankees’ big-league record of 47 winning seasons at home from 1918 through 1964.

It ended a five-game losing streak at the Stadium and followed a twin killing Saturday in a miserably long day. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said before the game that the team needed a well-pitched game more than anything, and Tanaka gave him all he could have wanted and more.

The Japanese righthander shut down the Blue Jays on four hits and no walks over seven innings and 108 pitches. Tanaka has given up only one earned run in 16 innings against Toronto’s powerful lineup this year.

“Location” was Girardi’s response for why Tanaka has done so well against a Blue Jays team that leads the American League in runs and home runs. “He was down in the zone all day. He had a good splitter, a good slider and worked in a cutter as well.”

Tanaka also helped himself with a pickoff play at second base that nailed Kevin Pillar, who had doubled with one out in the second inning. It was a rough weekend for Pillar, who was 1-for-13 at the plate and ran into his teammate, shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, who is out indefinitely due to a small crack in his left shoulder blade.

There were contributions all around in the Yankees’ victory that moved them back to 3 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the AL East and ended a personal seven-game winning streak by former National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey.

Dustin Ackley, who joined the Yankees in a trade from Seattle only to land on the disabled list because of a back ailment, knocked in three runs with a sacrifice fly in the second and his first home run in pinstripes, a two-run shot in the fourth.

Girardi decided to start Ackley at first base when he found out that Greg Bird, who has played there primarily since the season-ending injury to Mark Teixeira, had faced a knuckleball pitcher only once in the minor leagues. Ackley, on the other hand, had some success against Dickey and continued it Sunday. In 13 career at-bats against Dickey, Ackley is batting .462 with two home runs.

“The simple approach is better,” Ackley said of hitting knuckleball pitchers. “He was running the ball inside. I just looked for the first good one over the plate. The important thing is to get out in front and not stay back and let the knuckleball move too much.”

Alex Rodriguez, who was honored by the Yankees in a pregame ceremony for his 3,000th hit earlier in the season, showed some hustle in the second scoring from third base on a sacrifice fly by Didi Gregorius. A-Rod also drove in a run with a two-out double in the eighth that ended Dickey’s outing.

Brett Gardner, who had a huge day at the plate Saturday (4-for-9, three home runs, seven RBI) took a 0-for-4 collar Sunday but made two outstanding running catches in left field to take away potential extra-base hits from Justin Smoak in the seventh and Matt Hague in the ninth.

“Everybody is relieved that we are going on the road [to Tampa Bay] with confidence,” Ackley said.

Alex Rodriguez with family and Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost in pregame celebration of his 3,000th hit.

Alex Rodriguez with family and Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost in pregame celebration of his 3,000th hit.

Wild card looms as AL East slipping from Yanks’ grasp

Scoreboard watchers among Yankees fans may want to pay more attention to what the Rangers, Twins and Angels are doing than to the Blue Jays. Toronto’s doubleheader sweep Saturday left the Yankees 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Jays in the American League East. There is still plenty of baseball left — 21 games for the Yankees, including three at Toronto in two weeks — but more and more it appears their path to postseason play may have to be through the wild card.

Texas and Minnesota are actually closer to the Yankees in the wild card race than the Yanks are to Toronto in the AL East. They have the wild-card lead by three games over the Rangers and four over the Twins. The Angels are six games back of the Yanks.

As if there were not enough baseball in store at Yankee Stadium, the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader went into extra innings. The second game also took more than four hours to complete due to a 33-minute rain delay.

The lone star of the day for the Yankee was Brett Gardner, who was 4-for-9 with three home runs and seven RBI. Two of the homers and six of the RBI were in the nightcap, a 10-7 loss in which the Yankees fell behind by six runs early and cut the deficit in half twice only to fall short.

In what was a home run derby in the opener for much of regulation, the winning rally for Toronto in the 11th inning was a quiet one. The Blue Jays batted around with 10 hitters coming to the plate and only two balls were put into play. Nevertheless, Toronto came away with four runs and a 9-5 victory.

It turned out to be perhaps the ugliest inning the Yankees played this year. After Andrew Miller pitched two scoreless inning with four strikeouts but the Yankees failed to score, Bryan Mitchell started the 11th and loaded the bases on two walks and a hit batter. The hit by pitch came between the walks and on a 1-2 pitch to Cliff Pennington, who had flubbed two sacrifice attempts.

After Mitchell struck out Dioner Navarro, Yankees manager Joe Girardi brought in Chasen Shreve, who had a nightmare of an outing — a walk to pinch hitter Russell Martin, a single to Ben Revere, the only hit of the inning, and two more bases-loaded walks to Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. The crowd of 46,278 was stunned.

The Yankees got the home run derby started against Blue Jays started Marco Estrada with solo shots by Gardner in the first and Chase Headley in the second and a two-run, opposite-field blast by Alex Rodriguez in the fourth.

Michael Pineda blew a 4-1 lead as the Blue Jays, who hit five home runs Friday night, tied the score in the fifth on a leadoff homer by Revere and a two-run bomb by Edwin Encarnacion following a walk to Bautista, who had homered in the fourth.

Bautista crushed his second homer of the game leading off the eighth against Betances, a booming drive to dead center off the Monument Park screen to put the Jays in front for the first time in the game. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom half on an RBI single by Brian McCann, but with the bases loaded Headley and Greg Bird could not get the ball out of the infield.

The situation did not improve much for the Yankees in the second game, a rain-soaked affair in which Ivan Nova struggled mightily with his control and put them in a 6-0 hole in the second inning.

Pennington, pressed into duty with the injury to shortstop Troy Tulowitzki, smashed a three-run homer that inning. Nova also gave up five other hits, hit two batters and threw two wild pitches before he was mercifully removed.


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