Results tagged ‘ Alex Rodriguez ’

Yanks take 12-1 lead, then have to sweat it out

The Yankees ended the trip in Boston the way it began in Atlanta with a blowout victory, although matters got a bit dicey in the late innings, which is typical of life at Fenway Park.

Scoring runs was what this trek was all about for the Yankees, which they sorely needed following their prior disappointing homestand. Perhaps the upcoming, 10-game homestand against the Rays, Orioles and Blue Jays that begins Friday night will be more successful for the Bombers now that they have loosened up offensively.

A 13-8 victory over the Red Sox in a late-afternoon start made it a 5-1 trip for the Yankees, who outscored opponents by a combined score of 57-24.

It did not take long for David Ortiz to break out of his funk. The day after he took a golden sombrero with four strikeouts Tuesday night, Big Papi broke the spell in the first inning with a double to right field that scored Mookie Betts, who led off with a double off the Green Monster but was still stuck on second base with two out.

Boston’s glee was short-lived, however. The Yankees responded in the second inning with an eight-run outburst that began with a two-run home run by Greg Bird. Yes, that was Bird at first base for the Yankees as manager Joe Girardi came to his senses and kept Alex Rodriguez as the designated hitter instead of using him at first base against a left-handed starting pitcher, in this case rookie Henry Owens.

With the injury to first baseman Mark Teixeira that has sidelined him for two weeks and likely will keep him out another fortnight, Girardi had been contemplating playing Rodriguez a first base on occasion even though he displayed no proclivity at the position when used there earlier this season. The feeling here is that A-Rod should not wander off the DH position at this time of year after spending all season in that role. Moving to a position in the field for a 40-year-old who has hardly used a glove all season did not seem to make much sense.

So Rodriguez stayed at DH with Bird at first base, and did that not work out for the Yankees as they chased Owen in that second inning? Bird’s homer following a one-out walk to Chase Headley was the rookie’s fourth hit in 10 at-bats against lefthanders, so it could mean that platooning him may not be necessary.

And A-Rod struck the blow that knocked out Owen, a two-run single, then trotted home after Carlos Beltran slugged the first pitch from reliever Ryan Cook over the Monster for the Yanks’ third home run of the inning. John Ryan Murphy had followed Bird’s blow with one of his own.

The inning also included yet more hits from red-hot Didi Gregorius (single) and Stephen Drew (double), both left-handed hitters, and another run-scoring hit off a lefty by Chris Young. Drew kept it up with a three-run home run an inning later as did Gregorius with a solo shot in the fifth.

Boston fans who remember his importance as the shortstop on the Red Sox’ 2013 World Series champions may wonder why Yankees fans have been so rough on Drew. Actually, Yanks fans have been awfully patient with Drew, whose batting average was below .200 most of the past two seasons.

After starting the trip 0-for-4 with his average falling to .192, Drew vaulted over the Mendoza the past four games with nine hits in 12 at-bats (.750) with two doubles, two home runs and nine RBI and is now hitting a robust .211.

Gregorius, another Yankees infielder who took a while to win over the fans, also had a huge trip with 14 hits in 24 at-bats (.583), one double, two home runs and 10 RBI. The shortstop walked three times and scored seven runs and lifted his batting average from .253 to .272.

An emotional spot for the Yanks was the appearance of Andrew Bailey in relief of winning pitcher Mashiro Tanaka (11-6) in the seventh inning. Bailey, the 2009 American League winner of the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award with the Athletics, last pitched in the majors two years ago for the Red Sox and came back from two shoulder injuries. The righthander showed some rust in giving up two walks and a single, but just getting back on a big-league hill was a major hurdle for the New Jersey native who now lives in Connecticut.

However, the lack of shutdown work by Bailey and Bryan Mitchell, who gave up two runs in the eighth, forced Girardi to use Dellin Betances in what was once a 12-1 game to get out of a bases-loaded situation with a strikeout of Pablo Sandoval and a force play by Zander Bogaerts.

Caleb Cotham did not make Girardi’s job easier as the skipper was forced to bring in Andew Miller in a non-closing situation after the first two Boston batters in the ninth reached base on doubles. Miller finally put an end to the trip that kept the Yanks within reach of Toronto in the American League East and bolstered their hold on a wild-card berth.

Tex still out, but please keep A-Rod off 1B

The news on the condition of Mark Teixeira’s right leg remains bad, even to the point of worse. Tex, who had hoped to return to action during the three-game series at Boston, will find himself on crutches instead.

An MRI of the All-Star first baseman Tuesday in New York showed a deeper bone bruise than originally revealed and more fluid in the area which he damaged Aug. 17 by fouling a ball off it. Tex has made one start and three plate appearances in 13 games since then. The Yankees are 7-6 in those games.

The only positive part of the medical report on Teixeira is that there is no fracture of the bone. Nevertheless, he cannot run and needs crutches for the next few days just to walk. This does not bode well for the Yankees as they start September and begin a stretch run trailing the Blue Jays by 1 1/2 games in the American League East.

Greg Bird, the rookie who has played first base mostly while Tex has been sidelined, has done a decent job overall, although his performance in Monday night’s 4-3 loss was far from his best. He struck out twice with the bases loaded in his 1-for-5 showing, was thrown out at the plate trying to score and bobbled a potential double-play grounder as what proved the deciding run scored.

All this concern about first base has prompted manager Joe Girardi to consider using Alex Rodriguez there, which I think is foolish. To begin with, A-Rod is not a first baseman. He has spent his entire career on the left side of the infield. Rodriguez played a game there earlier in the season and was horrible in the field. He has been a designated hitter most of the season and benefit from not taxing his 40-year-old legs to make an offensive comeback. I would not mess around with that, especially at a time when A-Rod has shown the first signs of advanced age. He batted .153 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 85 at-bats in August and watched his season batting average slide from .282 to .256. Girardi finally took him out of the 3-hole in the batting order Tuesday night.

The Yankees have other options that to me make more sense. Third baseman Chase Headley, a switch hitter, has shown in the past that he can handle first base as well and could be used in a sort of platoon with Bird. Brendan Ryan also has experience at first base, as does Austin Romine, a catcher by trade and who is one of the eighth minor-league players the Yankees promoted as rosters expanded Tuesday. Utility infielder Dustin Ackley is also experienced as a first baseman.

No matter how you look at it, Teixeira’s loss will be difficult for the Yankees to overcome, but they should not compound it with the notion that a 40-year-old DH who 130 games into the season has played only 35 innings in the field (10 at first base) might be part of the solution.

More tests for Teixeira’s ailing right leg

Mark Teixeira had hoped to be healthy enough to play in Boston, but while the Yankees were preparing for Monday night’s series opener at Fenway Park their first baseman was headed back to New York for more tests on his right leg.

Teixeira injured the leg Aug. 17 when he hit a foul ball off an area near his right shin. He has started one game and totaled three at-bats since then. Tex has been able to swing a bat — he takes BP regularly — but has difficulty running. When he awoke Monday and was still in pain, Teixeira decided another round of tests was needed.

Rookie Greg Bird has been playing first base in Teixeira’s place and entered Monday night’s game batting .255 with two home runs and 10 RBI in 51 at-bats. Yankees manager Joe Girardi also said using Alex Rodriguez at first base is no longer out of the question, which would not be the case if Teixeira were healthy. Since April 27, Rodriguez has played only two innings in the field (one at third base and one at first). A-Rod has worked out at first base the past three days. He was back in the lineup Monday night as the designated hitter after having made only two pinch-hitting appearances over the weekend in Atlanta with the DH prohibited in National League parks.

CC Sabathia, who is on the 15-day disabled list because of right knee inflammation, has resumed throwing on the sidelines. General manager Brian Cashman was quoted as saying that Sabathia would return to the rotation immediately upon his reinstatement from the DL.

The Yankees’ 20-6 victory over the Braves Sunday marked the second time this season they scored at least 20 runs in a game. The other was a 21-5 victory July 28 at Texas when they had a seven-game lead in the American League East that has since been overtaken by the Blue Jays. The Red Sox are the only other team that has scored 20 or more runs in a game this season — a 22-10 victory August 15 over the Mariners at Fenway Park.

The Yanks are one of 18 major league teams since 1900 that have scored at least 20 runs in multiple games in a season and just the second since 2001 (the Phillies did it twice in 2008). The Yankees have done it five times — three times in 1939 and twice apiece in 1931, 1949 and 1999. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was only the third time since inter-league play began in 1997 that an AL team scored at least 20 runs in an NL ballpark.

The Yankees’ nine-run seventh inning was their third time scoring at least that many in an inning in the past 31 games (nine in the seventh Aug. 4 against the Red Sox, 11 in the second July 28 at Texas).

Stephen Drew, who grew up in Georgia, went 4-for-4 with three runs, one home run, four RBI and two walks Sunday at Atlanta. He became the third Yankees player this season to reach base safely six times in a game. The others were Brett Gardner (three hits, three walks July 28 at Texas) and Jacoby Ellsbury (four hits, one walk, one hit by pitch May 3 at Boston. Drew and Chase Headley (3-for-3, three runs, one double, one home run, four RBI, two walks) were the first pair of Yankees teammates to each get three hits, three runs and four RBI in the same game since Aug. 23, 1999 by Tino Martinez (4-for-6, three runs, four RBI) and Scott Brosius (4-for-6, 4 runs, six RBI). Also in that game, Girardi was 4-for-6 with a career-high seven RBI.

Yankees ‘Marching Through Georgia,’ baseball-style

Who would have thought Joe Torre was such a prophet back in 1996? The Yankees lost the first two games of the World Series to the Braves at Yankee Stadium, but the ever-cool Torre promised Yankees principal owner George Steinbrenner he would bring the Series back to the Bronx by winning the three games at Atlanta.

“That is my town,” said Torre, who both played and managed for the Braves and lived in Atlanta for more than a decade. “We’ll win the games there and wrap up the Series in Game 6 here.”

Lord knows what Steinbrenner made of such a boast other than to respond, “You better!”

Thanks to the pitching of David Cone and Andy Pettitte, the hitting of Bernie Williams and Jim Leyritz and the fielding of sore-legged Paul O’Neill, the Yanks did precisely that by sweeping the Bravos in their own yard and capping off the Series with a victory at home over Hall of Fame-bound Greg Maddux in Game 6.

And the Yankees have not stopped winning in Atlanta ever since, including this weekend by completing a three-game sweep with a 20-6 battering of the Braves.

Chase Headley and Stephen Drew each homered and drove in four runs. Drew reached base in all six of his plate appearances with three singles and two walks to go with his 16th dinger that got his season batting average over .200 (.201).

Jacoby Ellsbury started the parade against Braves starter Julio Teheran with a three-run home run in the second inning after two were out. The Yankees made it 7-0 in the third with four more two-out runs on two-run home runs by Headley and Drew.

Nathan Eovaldi, who has benefit from abundant run support all season, was fine through five innings but gave up three straight hits at the start of the sixth. All three runners eventually scored as the Braves cut the deficit to 8-5.

The Yankees pulled away with a vengeance in a 27-minute top of the seventh as they sent 14 batters to the plate and scored nine runs. A bases-loaded single by Alex Rodriguez pinch hitting got the first two runs in, and the line just kept moving on RBI hits by Brett Gardner, Brian McCann, Greg Bird, Headley and Drew.

Three more runners crossed the plate in the eighth, one on a double by Branden Pinder, the first extra-base hit by a Yankees pitcher in six years. The Yankees finished with 21 hits with each spot in the batting order getting at least one hit and one run. At the top of the order Ellsbury and Gardner batted seven times apiece in a nine-inning game.

All those runs helped push Eovaldi’s record to 14-2, the best winning percentage (.875) for a starting pitcher this season. The righthander extended his unbeaten streak to 13 starts over which he is 9-0 with a 3.32 ERA in 78 2/3 innings.

McCann had a splendid homecoming to his former stomping grounds in batting .300 with one double, one home run and six RBI in 10 at-bats in the series. He walked five times and scored five runs. Didi Gregorius also had a big series by going 7-for-12 (.533) with a double, a homer and seven RBI.

So after dropping two of three games to Houston at Yankee Stadium in which they batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs (1.3 per game), the Yankees bashed away at a .365 clip with 19 extra-base hits and 38 runs (12.7 per game) against the Braves.

That is what playing in Atlanta can do for them.

The Yankees’ .857 all-time winning percentage at Turner Field based on a 12-2 record is their highest at any ballpark in club history (minimum two games played). They have an eight-game winning streak dating back to June 24, 2009 at the Ted, which is in its 19th and final season as the home of the Braves, who will move to the suburbs next year. The only longer winning streak by an opponent is a nine-gamer by the Phillies from June 6 to Sept. 18, 2008.

The Yankees have won all five road series at Turner Field (3-0 this year, 3-0 in 2012, 2-1 in 2009, 2-1 in 2000 and 2-0 in 1998). They scored at least six runs in nine of their 14 games at the Ted.

Including postseason play, the Yankees’ all-time record in Atlanta is 17-2 (.895), featuring a perfect 5-0 in World Series play. In addition to those victories Torre promised the Boss in 1996 in the last three games played at old Fulton County Stadium, the Yanks won both World Series games at Turner Field in their four-game sweep in 1999.

After what the Yankees saw of Braves pitching over the weekend, they can be sure there will be no World Series in Atlanta this year.

Fan’s fall to his death shakes up players

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was actually asked by a reporter after Saturday night’s game, a 3-1 victory over the Braves, if the game should have continued after a man in the stands at Turner Field fell from the 401 level to the 220 level not far from where some family members of Yankees players were located.

The mother of Yankees catcher Brian McCann was at the game to watch her son play at Turner Field for the first time in two years and near the area when the man fell approximately 50 feet onto the concrete.

“My mom was right in the mix,” McCann said. “All our families are up there so you’re just praying for the best. It’s so unfortunate.”

By the time the question was posed to Girardi, who was diplomatic in his response, it had become known that the man had died. His fall occurred during the top of the seventh inning at the time Alex Rodriguez was announced as a pinch hitter for Luis Severino, the Yankees’ starting pitcher.

The man was later identified as Greg “Ace’ Murrey, 60, from suburban Alpharetta, Ga., and a Braves season ticket holder. A moment of silence to his memory was observed before Sunday’s game with players from both teams lined up respectfully in front of their dugouts.

With all due respect to the deceased, why should the game have been stopped? It was a terrible tragedy, no doubt, but the man was attended to quickly by medical personnel in the ballpark and hurried off by ambulance to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead on arrival.

Unfortunately, people get hurt in the stands pretty much on a daily basis in Major League Baseball what with foul balls zinging into the stands throughout the game. No ballgame would ever get completed if it was stopped every time a fan got hurt.

Obviously, this was far more serious that most injuries, but no one could know for sure at the time whether Murrey would survive the fall, so why criticize the teams for continuing play?

I recall covering a game at the old Yankees Stadium in the early 1990s when suddenly a body zoomed down in front of us in the pressbox from a deck above us. Bill Pennington of the New York Times was sitting next to me and said, “Did you just see what I saw?”

We leaned over the railing and saw a man in his early 20s bouncing on the protective screen that covered the seating area behind the plate. Without that, this guy would have been a goner, just like the man in Atlanta.

Major League Baseball is looking into the possibility of placing more protective screens in ballparks to help protect fans from baseballs hit into the stands. Saturday night’s incident at Atlanta was of a different sort, however. An investigation into Murrey’s fall is ongoing.

Yanks fail to capitalize on lengthy homestand

The schedule has been the Yankees’ ally since Aug. 2 when they were through playing any games outside the Eastern time zone and had 59 percent of the remaining games at home. They failed to take advantage of this situation in the 10-game homestand they completed Wednesday with a dreadfully dull 6-2 loss to Houston.

After beginning the homestand with a three-game sweep of the Twins, the Yankees dropped three of four games to the Indians and two of three to the Astros to finish a lackluster 5-5 while falling out of first place in the American League East.

The Cleveland series was particularly hurtful because the Tribe is a last-place team in the AL Central. As for Houston, these are no longer your father’s Astros. They have spent a good part of this season in first place in the AL West with the league’s top pitching staff and a power-laded if strikeout-prone batting order.

The Yankees were able to grab a 1-0 victory in the series opener but then were outscored by the Astros, 21-3, over the next two games with both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova Tuesday night and Michael Pineda Wednesday, failing to get out of the fourth inning.

Making his first start in a month since coming off the 15-day disabled list because of a right forearm strain, Pineda gave up the first of Evan Gattis’ two home runs in the second inning and came apart in the fourth as the Astros used four hits — including a squeeze bunt — a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch (by Chasen Shreve) to pull away with four runs.

“That inning just got away from him,” manager Joe Girardi said.

Gattis, who had a monster series, connected again in the eighth off Adam Warren for his 22nd home run of the year. The Houston designated hitter was 6-for-12 (.500) with three home runs and six RBI in the series.

The Yankees’ offense consisted of a two-run home run by Didi Gregorius in the seventh inning off eventual winning pitcher Collin McHugh to end a drought of 144 homerless at-bats by the Yanks.

“We’re just not hitting right now,” Girardi said. “That is the root of our problems.”

Talk about an understatement. The Yankees batted .165 with two extra-base hits and four runs in 91 at-bats against the Astros and were hitless in 14 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

“A lot of guys are scuffling at the same time,” Girardi noted.

Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, the 3-4 hitters who spearheaded the offense for most of the season, have both hit a wall in August. A-Rod is batting .138 with two home runs and eight RBI in 80 at-bats this month and is down to .255. With the DH not in use in National League parks, Rodriguez will be a bench player in the three-game set at Atlanta that begins Friday night and may benefit from the time off.

Teixeira started only one of the past eight games and got a pinch-hit at-bat Wednesday. He is bothered by a severe bone bruise to his right shin and can barely run. He is a .175 hitter in August with three home runs and six RBI in 57 at-bats as AL Most Valuable Player talk has faded.

Brett Gardner, 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday, is hitting .202 with two doubles, two home runs and 12 RBI in 129 at-bats since the All-Star break and has lost 29 points on his season average. Jacoby Ellsbury did not play due to a bruised right hip and is indefinite for Atlanta.

Girardi said he hoped Thursday’s open date would give the club a chance to refresh.

“Guys are working hard but not having a lot of success right now,” he added.

Starters must step up while Sabathia mends

It was not that long ago that Yankees manager Joe Girardi spoke of CC Sabathia’s value during a stretch run because of all the pitchers on the staff, especially in the rotation, he had by far the most experience with dealing with the pressure of that time of the season.

There is a good chance now, however, that Sabathia’s presence as the Yankees head into September will be nothing more than as a consultant or cheerleader. The 6-foot-7 lefthander was placed on the 15-day disabled list Monday because of inflammation in his right knee that cut short his start Sunday to 2 2/3 innings in an eventual loss to the Indians that knocked the Yankees out of first place in the American League East when the Blue Jays bounced back from a 5-1, first-inning deficit to beat the Angels, 12-5.

Sabathia sounded confident that he would be able to pitch again this season, but the reality is that he has pitched all season on a damaged knee that has undergone two surgeries and finally gave out after two drainings and a cortisone injection over the past two months.

What this does to Girardi’s plans of using a six-man rotation to give an extra day’s rest to his starters is to scrap them. “We will not need a sixth starter every turn through the rotation,” Girardi said.

The Yankees re-signed lefthander Chris Capuano to a major-league contract after his third designation for assignment over the past four weeks. The lefthander could be used as a spot starter at certain junctures.

Adam Warren, who began the season in the rotation but has done a splendid job in late-innings relief, will remain in the bullpen. So, too, will Bryan Mitchell, who is scheduled to pitch a simulated game Tuesday in his first time back on the mound since Aug. 17 when he sustained a broken nose after being struck in the face by a line drive off the bat of the Twins’ Eduardo Nunez.

Girardi credited Sabathia, who has a 4-9 record and 5.27 ERA, with gutting his way through 24 starts this season with that knee.

“He is a real competitor and was extremely gutsy,” Girardi said. “He took the ball every fifth or sixth day and gave us everything he had. Now the other guys are going to have to step up.”

The stepping up had to begin Monday night with Nathan Eovaldi taking an eight-game winning streak against an Astros club that is leading the AL West by four games and just won three games in a row against the Dodgers, including victories over Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw in the last two games.

Mark Teixeira, still hobbled by a bruised right shin, took batting practice for the first time since hurting the leg a week ago, and had no problems swinging the bat but is still unable to run at full strength. Teixeira said he could be available as a pinch hitter, but Girardi may wait to use Tex in the field until Friday night when the Yankees open a three-game series at Atlanta.

The set against the Braves and the second Subway Series Sept. 18-20 at Citi Field against the Mets present Girardi the question of whether to use Alex Rodriguez in the field in preparation for the possibility of the Yankees playing in the World Series.

A-Rod has been exclusively a designated hitter most of the year. He started two games at third base and one at first base but has played only two innings in the field (one at third, one at first) since April 27. Girardi said he has no plans to start Rodriguez in inter-league competition but added, “If we have to double switch in the National League ballparks, then all bets are off.”

Yanks need more than A-Rod’s power

Two nights ago, one home run by Alex Rodriguez was enough for the Yankees to win a game. Thursday night, one homer by A-Rod was not enough, although he provided the bulk of the offense in a 3-2 loss to the Indians.

In Monday night’s victory over the Twins, Rodriguez turned things around with his 25th career grand slam. The bases were empty in the fourth inning when he homered off Josh Tomlin, which they were often against the journeyman righthander, 30, coming back from shoulder surgery. The Yankees had only other hit off Tomlin in seven innings, a leadoff double in the third by Chase Headley, who was stranded.

Rodriguez triggered a ninth-inning rally as the Yanks threatened to pull this one out. He led off against closer Cody Allen with a single, and when the reliever did not pay attention to him at first base A-Rod swiped second.

Allen got a big strikeout of Brian McCann, who disputed the call but not as much as manager Joe Girardi, who took up the beef and got ejected for the third time this season. Plate umpire Dan Iassogna actually ran Girardi before the skipper even opened his mouth. Girardi then made sure he got his money’s worth.

In truth, the breaking ball Allen threw for the third strike on McCann was over the plate. Girardi’s argument indicated that he was more upset with Iassogna over a called third strike on Jacoby Ellsbury the previous inning on a pitch from righthander Bryan Shaw that video replays revealed was clearly off the outside corner of the plate. Girardi made a line in that area in the right-handed batter’s box to demonstrate to Iassogna where he thought the pitch was.

Carlos Beltran followed the McCann strikeouts with a solid single through the shift into right field to score Rodriguez and make it a one-run game. A walk to Greg Bird pushed pinch runner Chris Young into scoring position and put the potential winning run on base.

Those runners advanced when first baseman Carlos Santana bobbled a potential double-play grounder by Headley and had to settle for one out at first base, but Didi Gregorius could not get the hit the Yankees needed in flying out to left field.

The Yankees have done well against American League Central teams this year with a 17-9 record but continue to have trouble with the Indians, who are 3-1 against them this year. Ivan Nova had control problems and lasted only five innings in which he gave up three runs, six hits and two walks with four strikeouts. Adam Warren and Chris Capuano supplied two shutout innings of relief apiece, but the Yanks ultimately fell a run short.

Yankees’ ‘Birdman’ flies high

Birdman won the Academy Award as Best Picture for last year, and the Yankees had their “Birdman” give an Oscar-winning performance Wednesday at Yankee Stadium in a 4-3 victory that completed a three-game sweep of the sinking Twins.

All four runs were driven in by rookie first baseman Greg Bird, who whacked a couple of two-run home runs off Ervin Santana. The initial homer, in the fourth inning following an infield single by Carlos Beltran, was the first of Bird’s major league career as was the curtain call urged on by the Stadium crowd of 38,086.

It provided a 2-0 lead for Nathan Eovaldi, who flirted with a perfect game for 5 1/3 innings before coming unglued somewhat in the sixth and allowed Minnesota to go ahead on two-out singles by Joe Mauer and Trevor Plouffe. Mauer singled with the bases full for two runs off a 3-2 fastball from Eovaldi, the one pitch of the 120 thrown by the righthander he wished he could have back.

“I tried to go middle-in,” Eovaldi said, “bad pitch selection.”

Plouffe’s hit was a dribbler between Eovaldi and third baseman Chase Headley that put the Twins ahead momentarily. Bird’s second homer, in the sixth following a walk to Beltran, returned the lead to Eovaldi, who protected it with a perfect seventh before Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances (eighth save) followed with scoreless innings that preserved the victory for Eovaldi, who ran his record to 13-2.

This has been quite a week for Bird, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre a week ago and is hitting .333 with a double, two homers and five RBI. He started the winning rally Monday night, got his first major league RBI Tuesday night and his first homer Wednesday. He got the ball from his second homer because it landed in the Yankees’ bullpen. The first one wound up in the right field second deck.

“I don’t know yet,” he said about whether he can get that ball. “I’m just trying to do my job. It’s so much fun to come in here every day and hear what these guys have to say.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi described Bird as someone “with a slow heartbeat,” meaning that he does not get over-excited and keeps an even keel.

“Some players have to learn to slow the game down,” Girardi said. “That’s not the case with him.”

Bird concurred and said he inherited it from his parents, who were at the game seated in the terrace level behind first base. “I just like to be even-keeled and level-headed,” he said.

Bird got extra playing time during the series because regular first baseman Mark Teixeira has been sidelined with a badly bruised right shin. Bird does not play a position besides first base, but he might earn some more playing time if Girardi decides to sit Alex Rodriguez (0-for-3 Wednesday and hitting .131 in 61 at-bats in August) against some right-handed pitching and use Tex at DH to open up first base for Bird.

That is a consideration for the future. Bird was all about the present Wednesday, and what a present he gave the Yankees.

A-Rod’s slam takes bite out of dog days

What a way to break out of a slump. The dog days of August have had their clutches on Alex Rodriguez all month, but he did some major barking of his own with a grand slam off J.R. Graham in the seventh inning Tuesday night that turned a 4-1 deficit to the Twins into a 5-4 lead for the Yankees, who went on to an 8-4 victory to stay one game ahead of Toronto in the American League East.

How bad had things been going for A-Rod? Well, he was hitless in his previous 14 at-bats, had one hit in his past 27 at-bats and was hitting .125 with three doubles and two RBI in 56 at-bats in August.

But the inning was setting up in his favor as Twins lefthander Ryan O’Rourke kept putting runners on base — Chase Headley with a leadoff single and walks to Brendan Ryan and Brett Gardner. Graham was summoned to calm things down, but he threw gasoline on the fire with a flat fastball on a 1-0 count over the heart of the plate that Rodriguez crushed to right-center. The blow increased A-Rod’s major league record for grand slams to 25.

Yankees hitters have a major-league-high 32 home runs of at least three runs (25 three-run homers, seven grand slams. Just one other club has more than 20. The Yanks have scored 34 of 69 runs this month on home runs. Yankees pitchers meanwhile have allowed 3 homers of at least three runs (12 three-run homers, one grand slam).

It was the first home run for Rodriguez since July 27, his 40th birthday, at Arlington, Texas, when he joined Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players to hit home runs before their 20th and after their 40th birthdays. A-Rod had gone 72 at-bats between home runs, and the timing to end that drought could not have been better.

The salami took Yankees starter CC Sabathia off the hook. He retired the first 13 batters of the game and was in a 1-1 game in the top of the seventh when Minnesota took the lead on a two-run home run by Miguel Sano and added a run on three straight singles later in the inning.

But while Sabathia has not had much run support when he has been on the mound this season he has received it quite often after he has come out of games. Tuesday night marked the seventh time this year the Yankees have come back to score enough runs to spare CC a losing decision. His 4-9 record may be unsightly, but it could be 4-16.

Headley, who got the game-winning RBI in the 10th inning Monday night, was supposed to have Tuesday night off. He came off the bench to start the seventh-inning rally with a single, remained in the game at third base and knocked in two more runs in the eighth with a double. Some day off.

Mark Teixeira did get the night off with a shin bruise. Rookie Greg Bird played first base and got his first major-league RBI with a single in the fourth inning to score Carlos Beltran, who had doubled as part of a 2-for-4 performance that continued his torrid hitting since the All-Star break (.303, 13 runs, seven doubles, six home runs, 12 RBI, 13 walks).

Yet this looked like a Twins night until A-Rod howled back at that August moon.

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