Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

Yanks end bumpy trip on upbeat note

So when is a 2-3 trip considered good? When it starts out 0-3.

That was the situation with the Yankees at the end of a somewhat bumpy ride through Baltimore and St. Petersburg. They finished in an upbeat fashion Sunday with a 4-2 victory that included a semblance of a sustained offense and an encouraging outing by Hiroki Kuroda.

The victory also lifted the Yankees back into second place in the American League East, albeit a distant second since they trail the first-place Orioles by seven games. The Yanks are also 3 1/2 games behind in the chase for the second wild-card berth.

Kuroda was working on extra rest, which is something Yankees manager Joe Girardi intends to do as often as he can in the season’s final six weeks to prevent the fade the Japanese righthander sustained in the second half of the 2013 season. He certainly seemed to benefit from the extra time off.

Never before at his best against the Rays (2-4, 6.07 ERA) or at Tropicana Field (1-2, 6.94 ERA), Kuroda was in first-half form with 6 2/3 innings in which he allowed two runs and four hits. Pitching to contact (one walk, one strikeout), Kuroda retired 17 batters in a row from the first through the sixth innings.

Kuroda gave up a run in the first inning, and that run looked quite large when Rays righthander Jeremy Hellickson, who has pitched only since last month after undergoing arthroscopic right elbow surgery in January, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning and got the first two out then rather easily.

A walk to Stephen Drew was the beginning of a sloppy inning for Hellickson, his last in the game, as the Yankees strung together four hits — a double by Martin Prado, a two-run single by Brett Gardner that gave the Yankees the lead, followed by singles by Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury resulting in another run. The hit by Ellsbury was his only one on the trip in 20 at-bats but came at a good time. Prado also had a superlative game defensively at second base with eight assists and one putout.

Evan Longoria’s RBI single in the seventh off a tiring Kuroda cut the Yanks’ lead to 3-2, but Shawn Kelley stranded a runner at third before turning matters over to Dellin Betances in the eighth and David Robertson (33rd save) in the ninth, which has become a can’t-miss tandem.

Mark Teixeira made it 4-2 in the eighth with his 20th home run of the season and career No. 361, which tied him with Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio on the all-time list. Nice company that.

So the trip’s finish was far better than the start. The Yankees’ offense continues to be a concern. They averaged merely 2.6 runs per game on the trip and have been outscored by 37 runs this season.

But they come home with some momentum and have a chance to make some headway on the upcoming homestand against the also-ran Astros and White Sox.

Jeter’s clutch hit helps Yanks end 5-game losing streak

The Yankees ended a disturbing pattern on this trip in Saturday’s 3-2 victory over the Rays that stopped a five-game losing streak. In the two games at Baltimore that began the trip, the Yankees scored early but failed to add to their lead while the Orioles came back to take each game.

Friday night was different but not in a good way. The Yankees did not give up the lead because they never had one. In fact, they did not score at all.

Saturday was looking like the same thing for a while. The Yanks jumped ahead 2-0 in the second inning against lefthander Drew Smyly on Martin Prado’s sixth home run of the season. Inning after inning went by without the Yankees extending the lead for Shane Greene, who was brilliant with 10 strikeouts in six-plus innings. The Rays scored single runs in the sixth and seventh to tie the score and hang Greene with a no-decision. He was kicking himself for hitting a batter with a pitch to start the seventh. A pinch runner eventually came around to score the tying run.

Then came the ninth, and things started going the Yankees’ way. Brett Gardner led off with an infield single and continued to second base on an errant throw by second baseman Logan Fosythe.

Derek Jeter attempted to bunt Gardner to third base but could not handle lefthander Jake McGee’s high octane gas as the count went to 2-2. Tampa Bay kept its infield tight with the idea that DJ still might bunt despite having two strikes. Nope. The Captain swung away and lined a 99-mph fastball past a diving Forsythe for a single to right-center that brought Gardner home with what proved the winning run.

Pitching for the first time in nine days, David Robertson notched his 32nd save to preserve the victory for Dellin Betances (5-0), who pitched a perfect eighth inning. Shawn Kelley also pitched a shutout seventh as the bullpen had its first strong performance on the trip.

The loss dropped the Rays back under .500 (61-62) after they had gotten to the level level with Friday night’s 5-0 victory, quite a feat for a team that was once 18 games under .500. The last major-league team to go from 18-under to .500 in the same season was the Marlins in 2006 when they were managed by current Yankees skipper Joe Girardi.

He picked a perfect game to put Carlos Beltran back in right field for the first time since May 11 because the way Greene pitched nobody hit the ball to Beltran, who did not have a fielding chance until he caught a drive by Evan Longoria for the first out of the eighth inning.

Beltran’s return to the outfield permits Girardi to go back to his preference of using the designated hitter spot as a way to give players a half-game off. Saturday’s hero, Jeter, was the DH in this one.

Girardi decided against using Brian McCann, who came off the 7-day concussion list, and had Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. McCann had a lackluster workout Friday, so Girardi chose to wait at least one more day before getting his regular catcher back in the mix.

The much-needed victory also guaranteed the Yankees will leave St. Petersburg after Sunday’s game no deeper than third place in the American League East. After the shutout loss Friday night, it created a situation where the Rays could have jumped over the Yankees in the standings this weekend, a prognosis that fell apart with Saturday’s comeback victory.

Yankees blown out by Orioles in series opener

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pineda back in rotation Wednesday night

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

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

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

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

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

Yankees acquire Headley from Padres

As to the question that has been floating around as the July 31 trade deadline nears of whether the Yankees will be buyers or sellers, it was answered by general manager Brian Cashman Tuesday with the acquisition of third baseman Chase Headley from the Padres for infielder Yangervis Solarte, Class A Tampa pitcher Rafael De Paula and cash.

Let’s not carried away. Headley is no savior. Two years ago, the switch hitter, 30, finished fifth in the voting for the National League Most Valuable Player Award after leading the league in RBI with 115 and batting .286 with 31 home runs. He slipped to .250 with 13 home runs and 50 RBI a year ago, and this season has been plagued by back problems while hitting .229 with seven homers and 32 RBI.

Headley can be a free agent at season’s end, so he is in essence a rental player and one who has plenty of incentive to have a big finish and put up the kind of offensive numbers that will make him attractive in the open market over the winter and perhaps give the Yankees a lift in their pursuit of a postseason berth, preferably as the American League East division winner.

The Yankees’ signing of Solarte to a minor-league deal figured into this trade. They took a flier on an eight-year minor leaguer, who worked hard to make the team as a utility player and had a delirious six-week run early on that made him a feel-good story at the time and a valuable bargaining chip in trade negotiations.

Solarte, 27, batted .254 with 26 runs, 14 doubles, six home runs and 31 RBI in 75 games and 252 at-bats with the Yankees. He also played in five games with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and hit .600 with three doubles, one triple and five RBI in 20 at-bats.

De Paula, 23, was 6-5 with a 4.15 ERA in 20 games (17 starts) covering 89 innings for Tampa. He was originally signed by the Yankees as a minor-league free agent Nov. 18, 2010.

Headley was en route to New York from Chicago but was not expected at Yankee Stadium by game time. Kelly Johnson, who has shared third base with Solarte and Zelous Wheeler this year, found himself in right field for the first time as a major leaguer. With Mark Teixeira unavailable because of a left lat strain, Brian McCann started at first base with Francisco Cervelli behind the plate.

Weird inning hurts Kuroda, Yanks back at .500

On the mound at Camden Yards for the Yankees Friday night was the last survivor of their Opening Day rotation, and he gave them what they desperately needed from a starting pitcher — length.

Hiroki Kuroda is still part of the starting unit while former mates Ivan Nova, Michael Pineda, CC Sabathia and Masahiro Tanaka have all gone off to the disabled list, some of whom not to return in 2014.

The Yankees departed Cleveland with a fatigued bullpen, so the seven innings Kuroda gave them was heaven sent. Only one of those innings was a clinker, but that was enough to let the Orioles tie the score.

It was a strange fourth inning for Kuroda, who blew the 2-0 lead provided by solo home runs from Brian Roberts in the second and Kelly Johnson in the third off Miguel Gonzalez, who recovered to hold the Yankees scoreless with only three more hits through the eighth.

Kuroda gave up only one hit in the fourth, a bad-hop single past Derek Jeter by Adam Jones, which came after the righthander hit Steve Pearce with a pitch leading off the inning. Kuroda then uncorked two wild pitches, one that advanced the runners and another one out later that send Pearce home. A sacrifice fly by Chris Davis tied the score.

The score stayed that way until the 10th inning when Orioles catcher Nick Hundley lined a single to center field off Adam Warren to score Manny Machado, who had led off the inning with a double. Warren followed Dellin Betances, who was brilliant once again with two hitless innings featuring three more strikeouts. The rookie All-Star’s 84 punchouts are the most for any reliever in the majors.

The Yankees’ offense sputtered as it managed only one hit over the last six innings. The Orioles’ 3-2 victory pushed the third-place Yankees five games behind first-place Baltimore in the American League East as they fell back to .500 at 46-46.

That the game went into extra innings was not what the Yankees wanted by any means, not just two nights after playing 14 innings in Cleveland. It was the Yankees’ fourth extra-inning game in their past 11 games, which is why the relief squad is so weary.

The Yankees added some pitching Friday by recalling Matt Daley from Triple A Scranton and designating Jim Miller for assignment. They also acquired Jeff Francis from Oakland for cash and a player to be named, but the lefthander was not expected to join the team until Saturday. He could be a candidate to start Sunday night in the opening created by Tanaka’s assignment to the DL because of a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

Francis, 33, is 70-80 with a 4.95 ERA in a career covering 238 appearances (217 starts) with the Rockies, (2004-10, ’12-13), Royals (2011), Reds (2014) and Athletics (2014). This season he is a combined 0-2 with a 5.89 ERA in 10 appearances (one start) with the Reds and A’s. He last pitched July 2 for Oakland in a 9-3 loss at Detroit.

Yanks fall below .500, latest in season since ’07

South of .500 went the Yankees Wednesday on what should have been a feel-good day with a special ceremony commemorating Lou Gehrig’s famous farewell speech of 75 years ago. A moving video before the game featured Derek Jeter and baseball’s 30 current first baseman reading the entire text of the Iron Horse’s impromptu address in which he essentially bid farewell to the sport because of his illness, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) that now bears his name.

The 6-3 loss to the Rays before a crowd of 42,343 at Yankee Stadium was a dismal end to a very disappointing homestand as well as a 15-game stretch against American League East foes in which they could have made some real headway.

“It started off good and ended badly,” Girardi said of the stretch in which the Yankees swept a three-game set from the Blue Jays and proceeded to lose nine of the next 12 games, including the past five in a row, their longest losing steak of the season. “We lost every series after sweeping Toronto and had chances to win a number of games.”

You probably keep reading media accounts of how the Yankees are in the market to improve their pitching. Well, during the past homestand, pitching was the least of their problems. The Yanks’ staff pitched to a 3.16 ERA in the six games. That is good enough to win a lot more than one game usually.

A greater problem for the Yankees is their offense. They averaged 3.17 runs per game in the homestand while hitting .222 as a team and slugging .362, appalling numbers. They batted .146 in 41 at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees were without two of their most productive hitters, Mark Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury, in Wednesday’s game due to minor ailments. Tex had fluid drained from his right knee while Ellsbury, in manager Joe Girardi’s words, was “banged up.”

Yet a lineup in which the 3-through-6 hitters were all batting under .230 managed to get 10 hits, including home runs by Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, but were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.

“We swung the bat better, but in a couple of rallies we couldn’t get the big hit,” Girardi said. “We’re being outscored and out-hit at home.”

The Yankees’ record at the Stadium is 18-23. Overall, it is 41-42, the first time they have been under .500 since April 11 when they were 5-6 after the 11th game of the season. It is the latest point in a season that the Yankees have been under .500 since 2007 when they were 42-43 July 7. The Yankees went on to a 94-68 record that season and qualified for the playoffs as a wild-card entry, so there is still hope.

“I don’t see confidence as a problem,” Girardi said. “I still believe in this team because there is talent in that room. We need to play better.”

Yankees mired in mediocrity

So after 82 games, the Yankees have reached the level of mediocrity. Tuesday night’s 2-1 loss to the Rays put the Yankees’ record at 42-42. Another lackluster offensive showing wasted a strong start by Hiroki Kuroda and resulted in the Yanks’ fourth straight loss.

The Yankees’ only run came on a throwing error by the versatile Ben Zobrist, who is playing shortstop these days instead of second base or the outfield because Yunel Escobar is on the disabled list. After that, Jacoby Ellsbury stole second but was stranded as Mark Teixeira and Carlos Beltran flied out and Alfonso Soriano struck out.

Kuroda pitched well enough to win. He scattered nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in eight innings. The Rays bunched three singles for a run in the fourth inning. James Loney led off the sixth with his fifth home run for what proved the winning run.

In the bottom of that inning, Derek Jeter singled and stole second, but the Yankees couldn’t get him home. Ellsbury was called out on strikes. After a walk to Teixeira, Beltran flied out and Soriano looked at a third strike.

In the ninth, Grant Balfour, who has been a bust as a closer (5.34 ERA), walked two batters but escaped danger when Yangervis Solarte grounded out to end the game.

The Yankees had 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Rays weren’t much better (1-for-8), but Tampa Bay is a last-place club that is 12 games under .500. Former Cy Young Award winner David Price had his streak of consecutive double-digit strikeout games end at five but still had nine punchouts, the most he ever totaled in a game against the Yankees. Price raised his career record against them to 10-5 with a 3.81 ERA, including 6-2 with a 3.67 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Wednesday’s series finale marks the end of five consecutive sets against American League East competition for the Yankees, who got off to a great start when they swept first-place Toronto, but they have not won a series since. They lost two of three to the Blue Jays in a return engagement at Toronto, two of three to the Orioles, two of three to the Red Sox and the first two games of this series to the Rays. They have gone from 3-0 to 6-8 in this stretch.

Fortunately for the Yankees, mediocrity seems to have hit the entire division. Despite the recent downturn, the Yankees are only 3 1/2 games out of first place. Checking the standings in the other divisions, it would appear that the Yanks would have to win the division in order to make the playoffs because four other clubs are well ahead of them for the two wild card berths. There are 80 games remaining on the schedule, however, plenty of time for the Yankees to change direction, which clearly they must to return to serious contention.

Jays a different club away from Stadium

What a difference a venue makes. Last week at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the first-place Blue Jays that let Toronto know it was not going to run away and hide in the American League East. That sweep ran to 16 games the Yankees’ winning streak at home against the Jays.

The return engagement at Rogers Centre was a different story, at least for Monday night’s series opener. The Blue Jays struck early and often in their own building to end Chase Whitley’s good luck charm on the road with an 8-3 victory.

The Yankees had been 5-0 in road games started by Whitley, the Triple A call-up who has done a splendid job in plugging up one of the holes in the injury-riddled rotation. The Alabama righthander did not have it this night, however, as Toronto burst out to a 7-0 lead after two innings. That marked as many runs as Whitley allowed over his four previous starts combined covering 24 2/3 innings.

Melky Cabrera, who has tormented his former teammates since he left after the 2009 season, got the ball rolling for the Jays with a one-out double in the first inning. Adam Lind, batting in the 3-hole with Jose Bautista out because of hamstring problems, knocked in Cabrera with a single.

Lind did quite a bit more damage in the six-run Toronto second inning. The Jays loaded the bases with none out on three straight singles. A fielder’s choice and an RBI single by Cabrera made the score 3-0 before Lind broke the game open with a three-run home run over the center field wall.

Cabrera extended his hitting streak against the Yankees to 20 games. During the stretch, he has batted .349 with seven doubles, one triple and one home run in 83 at-bats. Melky has reached base safely in all 22 career games against his former club. The last player with a 20-game hitting streak against the Yankees was also named Cabrera, the Tigers’ Miguel (no relation) from 2006-10.

Whitley, who had walked only four batters in his seven prior starts totaling 38 2/3 innings, walked the first two guys up in the fourth and appeared gassed. Dioner Navarro singled to drive in the Blue Jays’ eighth run, which forced manager Joe Girardi to go to the bullpen.

The relief work of David Huff and Shawn Kelley were bright spots for the Yankees. Huff pitched 3 2/3 innings and allowed one hit and two walks with three strikeouts and a wild pitch. Kelley struck out the side in the eighth and gave up one hit.

It was the first poor outing for Whitley, who was charged with eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings as his ERA hiked from 2.56 to 4.07. The righthander allowed 11 hits and three walks with one strikeout and one wild pitch.

Marcus Stroman, who could not get through the fourth inning last week at the Stadium, pitched a solid eight for the Blue Jays this time. The righthander from Long Island gave up one run on Mark Teixeira’s 13th homer and only two other hits, singles by Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki, and had seven strikeouts.

Considering the state of the Yankees’ offense these days, the hole Whitley put his team in was too great out of which for his teammates to climb. The Yankees did score a couple of runs in the ninth off Chad Jenkins. Yangervis Solarte, who entered the game in the eighth, stopped a 0-for-28 slump with an RBI single, and Kelly Johnson doubled in a run.

Those were the Yankees’ only runs other than the two from a pair of homers by Teixeira over the past 27 innings for the Yankees, who fell 2 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays, a sign that they were no longer at Yankee Stadium.

Yankees glad to get back home

The Yankees’ West Coast swing that looked so promising there for a while ended with a thud. After an uplifting, 7-0 victory in Oakland Friday night that followed their three-sweep of the Mariners in Seattle, the Yankees dropped the last two games to the Athletics, who’s best record in the American League is clearly no fluke.

The Yanks managed only three hits off Scott Kazmir through six innings and two relievers retired them in order over the final three innings in a 5-1 setback Saturday. Vidal Nuno was stung for a pair of three-run homers by Derek Norris and Coco Crisp in the first two innings Sunday as Oakland went on to build a 10-0 lead and coast to a 10-5 victory.

Nuno, who was charged with eight earned runs in three-plus innings, has a bloated 5.90 ERA to go with a 1-3 record, but manager Joe Girardi gave no indication of any change in the rotation upcoming. The skipper has stated he plans to go with the current five starters – three of whom are rookies – until the All-Star break, which is still a month away.

There was some sloppiness involved in the two losses at Oakland. Backup catcher John Ryan Murphy was guilty of three passed balls in two games. Brendan Ryan, inserted in Sunday’s game for defense, made an error. Carlos Beltran forgot the number of outs in the eighth inning while on the bases and wandered himself into a double play. Beltran did hit a home run, which was a sign that he may be ready to break out offensively after his disabled list stint when he received a cortisone shot in his elbow. On the plus side, Derek Jeter batted .435 on the West Coast portion of the recently-completed trip.

The Yankees will stay in their own division for a while, beginning with a three-game series against the AL East-leading Blue Jays that opens the homestand starting Tuesday night. The Orioles come to Yankee Stadium for a three-game set beginning Friday night. The Yankees will then travel to Toronto for a three-game series next week and come home to play three games each against the Red Sox and the Rays before embarking on their final trip leading into the All-Star break.

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