Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

Buyers? Sellers? How about winners?

Take heart, Yankees fans, your club may just get in this race for a post-season berth after all. All this debate about whether they Yankees should be buyers or sellers at the Aug. 1 non-waiver trade deadline could rage for another two weeks.

For the second straight night, the Yanks showed Baltimore they are not ready to be buried in the standings. A 7-1 victory pushed the Yanks’ record above .500 at 47-46 and within 6 1/2 games of the Orioles in the American League East standings. That is not an insurmountable deficit with 10 weeks remaining on the schedule.

As I mentioned in an earlier posting, if the Yankees were going to be taken seriously as a contender they had to start playing better within their division. Three straight victories over AL East clubs on this homestand is a nice start.

The Yanks’ keystone combination of second baseman Starlin Castro and shortstop Didi Gregorius were the chief architects of this victory. Each had two hits and scored two runs with Castro driving in four runs.

Gregorius had a premium at-bat with two out in the second inning against Orioles starter Vance Worley. After falling behind 0-2, Gregorius worked the count full and won a 10-pitch duel with a walk. Castro then crushed a 3-1 pitch to left field for his 11th home run. The Yankees pushed their lead to 3-0 in the fifth on an RBI single by Jacoby Ellsbury, but he was thrown out at third base later in the inning trying to advance all the way to third base from first base on a ball that eluded catcher Caleb Joseph.

An extra run would have come in handy in the sixth when the wheels fell off for Nathan Eovaldi, who had been banished to the bullpen two weeks ago but worked his way back into the rotation with 7 2/3 innings of scoreless relief. Eovaldi was pretty effective for the most part Tuesday night. He got 12 outs in a row before he walked Ryan Flaherty with one down in the sixth.

A single up the middle by Adam Jones and a well-struck double to left by Joey Rickard produced a run and spelled major trouble for Eovaldi, who then walked Manny Machado to load the bases for major-league home run leader Mark Trumbo.

Anthony Swarzak came on and got two foul pop-ups to get the Yankees out of the jam. First baseman Rob Refsnyder made a dazzling catch down the right field line of Trumbo’s towering fly. Gregorius ran down Jonathan Schoop’s floater down the left field line.

“He made quality pitches,” manager Joe Girardi said of Swarzak. “He went right after hitters.”

Gregorius and Castro were at it again in the bottom of the sixth as the Yankees added two more runs. One out after a leadoff walk to Brian McCann by Orioles reliever Odrisamer Despaigne, Gregorius lined a single to left. Castro followed with a smoking liner to right-center for a two-run double.

Chase Headley put on the finishing touch with a two-run home run in the eighth off Mychal Givens.

The Yankees clearly won the bullpen game in this one and did so without having to use Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman. While the Orioles’ pen allowed four earned runs in 3 2/3 innings, the Yankees’ Swarzak and Nick Goody combined for 3 2/3 hitless innings with five strikeouts.

Yanks’ best pitching combo avoids sweep by Bosox

If the Yankees are going to make a real run for a postseason berth, they are going to have to start doing better against clubs in their own division. Sunday night was a good start, a 3-1 victory over the Red Sox to avoid getting swept at home against their traditional rival.

It has been rough going for the Yankees in the American League East this year. Sunday night’s victory improved their record in the division to 11-19, including 2-6 against the Red Sox. Against the rest of the major leagues, the Yanks’ record is 34-27.

Coming off his briefest start of the year July 10 at Cleveland, Masahiro Tanaka again pitched well following a Yankees loss in out-dueling David Price and ending Boston’s six-game winning streak. Dustin Pedroia took Tanaka deep with one out in the first inning, but that would be all the Red Sox would score all night as they were stymied by Tanaka and No Runs DMC, the best possible pitching combination for the Yankees.

Tanaka went six innings, allowed only two other hits and one walk with seven strikeouts to improve his season record to 7-2 with a 3.15 ERA. It is even better when he starts on extra rest. The righthander was pitching on six days’ rest Sunday night. His record when he starts on five or more days’ rest is 6-0 with a 1.64 ERA.

That is fitting with Japanese baseball scheduling in which starting pitchers seldom work more than once a week. That cannot always be worked out in the major leagues, but Yankees manager Joe Girardi has tried whenever possible to get an extra day here or there for Tanaka, whose record after Yankees losses is 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA. He is unbeaten in his past six starts (4-0 with a 3.29 ERA in 38 1/3 innings).

The Yankees have given Price a hard time this year (1-2 with a 7.79 ERA in three starts totaling 17 1/3 innings). They finally got to him in the fourth inning when they scored all their runs on five of their 11 hits in the game.

Didi Gregorius kept up his torrid hitting against left-handed pitching with a one-out single to center to start the rally. He scored the tying run on a double to left by Starlin Castro. After Rob Refsnyder struck out, Austin Romine put the Yankees ahead with a single to center. Singles by Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury accounted for the third run. Ellsbury got a second hit off Price in the sixth to raise his career average against him to .357.

Gregorius added a double off Price in the fifth and is now batting .370 off lefties in 81 at-bats. Going into this season, Gregorius was a .214 hitter against lefthanders. He, Gardner and Ellsbury, the three left-handed hitters in the Yankees’ lineup, combined to go 6-for-11 against Price, who gave up the most hits to left-handed batters in a game in his career.

Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman worked their usual magic over the last three innings, each putting up a zero to extend the bulllpen’s scoreless streak to 19 innings. Chapman walked David Ortiz with one out in the ninth but got Hanley Ramirez to ground into a double play in picking up his 18th save.

Castro has perfect timing in ruining no-hit bid

Starlin Castro picked an ideal time to break up a no-hitter with a two-run home run Sunday that gave the Yankees a one-run lead. After all, it came in the top of the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. Yankees fans know what that means this season — here come Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to do their 7-8-9 magic in the late innings.

It was a startling turnaround for the Yankees, who were facing losing the series against Tampa Bay and falling back into last place in the American League East. On top of that, after being smashed, 9-5, Saturday, the Yanks were on the verge of being no-hit Sunday for the first time in 13 years.

Jake Odorizzi was that good.

If not for a change in an umpire’s decision that allowed Dustin Ackley to reach first base on an error by Rays shortstop Brad Miller, Odorizzi still would have had a perfect game going one out into the seventh. As it was, a no-hitter was in place even after he walked Brett Gardner. Then Castro came through with perfect timing. His home run to left-center was the first — and last — Yankees hit of the game, but it gave them a 2-1 lead in the very capable hands of Betances, Miller and Chapman, who teamed up for nine consecutive outs, seven on strikeouts.

Betances retired the side with two strikeouts in the seventh. Miller struck out the side in the eighth. Chapman duplicated Betances’ feat in the ninth for his seventh save. The 2016 back end of the bullpen formula was perfect again and gave the Yankees a lift leaving Florida for Canada and a three-game date in Toronto with the Blue Jays, who took two of three last week at Yankee Stadium.

As seems to be the custom these days, the Yankees were hit with another injury, a jammed right shoulder to Ackley diving back into first base. Ackley had been playing first base in place of regular Mark Teixeira, who has been out with neck stiffness that required a cortisone injection last week.

After Michael Pineda’s disappointing start Saturday that ended a stretch of nine straight six-plus-inning outings by Yankees starters, Nathan Eovaldi got the rotation on another hopeful roll. The righthander allowed one run, six hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in six innings and extended his personal winning streak to six games. Over his past seven starts, Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.72 ERA with 35 hits allowed, 12 walks and 35 strikeouts in 43 innings.

Masahiro Tanaka got the weekend off to strong start with seven innings of no-run, two-hit pitching Friday night in a 4-1 victory that featured home runs by Alex Rodriguez (No. 6 and career No. 693) and Carlos Beltran (No. 11 and career No. 403). Beltran raised those numbers to 12 and 404 with his 2,500th career hit Saturday off Matt Moore, the lone highlight in a loss that continued the slide of Pineda, who was battered for six earned runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings as his record fell to 2-6 with a 6.92 ERA.

Eovaldi did a terrific job keeping the Yankees close in a game in which they struggled to get a hit and settled for merely one. But it was good enough for an important ‘W.’

Yankees waste solid effort from Sabathia

It is tough to lose a two-hitter, but that is what happened to CC Sabathia Thursday. The lefthander gave up only two singles through seven innings, which marked the eighth consecutive game in which the Yankees’ starting pitcher lasted six or more innings.

That was the good part. The bad part is that Blue Jays lefthander J.A. Happ was just as stingy in limiting the Yankees to one run in seven innings. A home run with two out in the first inning by Starlin Castro accounted for the Yankees’ scoring in a 3-1 loss that allowed Toronto to jump ahead of them in the American League East standings.

The Yankees stayed out of last place in the division but fell two games under .500 in dropping two of the three games in the abbreviated home stand against a club that has had more than it share of turmoil lately. Losing the series stunted much of the momentum derived from a 5-2 trip to Phoenix and Oakland. The Yankees will spend the next 10 days on the road again with stops in St. Petersburg, Fla. (three games), Toronto (three), Detroit (one), and Baltimore (three). Only the rainout makeup game against the Tigers will be outside the AL East, so there will be plenty of chances for the Yanks to gain ground in the standings.

It hurt to waste so strong an effort by Sabathia, whose record fell to 3-3 butt whose ERA shrunk to 2.83. Neither of the two runs off Sabathia, who struck out seven batters, walked one and hit one, was earned because of an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius, whose defense has been inconsistent (eight errors in 42 games).

Gregorius booted a hard grounder by Devon Travis with one out. Sabathia retired Darwin Barney on a fly to center but loaded the bases by yielding a single to Jose Bautista and walking Josh Donaldson. Edwin Encarnacion lashed a single to left to score the two runs that gave the Jays the lead for what turned out to be for good.

Sabathia kept the Yankees in the game after that with four hitless innings, but the Yankees could not muster much of an offense against Happ and two relievers. Chase Headley and Gregorius singled with one out in the fifth before Austin Romine grounded into a double play. In the eighth against righthander Gavin Floyd, Jacoby Ellsbury batted for Romine and led off with a single. He reached second on an infield out but was stranded as Aaron Hicks flied out and Alex Rodriguez struck out.

Rodriguez was back from his two-game, injury-rehabilitation assignment at Double A Trenton and in the lineup as the designated hitter for the first time since he went on the 15-day disabled list May 4. A-Rod was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Carlos Beltran, who had been the Yankees’ hottest hitter as a frequent DH in Rodriguez’s absence, was back in right field and had a brutal day at the plate (0-for-4, all strikeouts). He is now hitless in his past nine at-bats. Romine played first base in place of Mark Teixeira, who had an injection in his ailing neck and will be out of the lineup for several days. Relief pitcher Chasen Shreve was placed on the DL because of a sprained left shoulder.

The Blue Jays scored an insurance run in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman, who was not in a save situation and gave up three singles.

Thursday marked Sabathia’s 10th career start of seven or more innings pitched and two hits or fewer without allowing an earned run and his first since April 5, 2011 against the Twins (seven innings, two hits). With his seven strikeouts, Sabathia raised his career total to 2,610, surpassing Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (2,607) and tying Chuck Finley (2,610) for 23rd place on the all-time list.

Yanks, Jays going in opposite directions

The team that zoomed past the Yankees last year to the American League East title is moving past them in a different direction this year. The Blue Jays have replaced the Yankees in last place in the division. The Yanks climbed out of the cellar over the weekend in Oakland and have fought back to the .500 mark (22-22) with the 6-0 victory Tuesday night over a Jays team that is not scoring in bunches as it did a year ago.

The Yankees’ stretch of first-rate starting pitching during the six-game winning streak that has pushed them into third place in the AL East continued with Nathan Eovaldi (5-2) shutting out the Blue Jays on two hits in six-plus innings with three walks and five strikeouts in winning his fourth consecutive start and extending his streak of winning decisions to five.

Eovaldi has pitched to a 2.16 ERA over his past four starts and a 2.92 ERA over his past six starts as his season ERA has dropped from 6.11 to 3.95. Relievers Dellin Betances, Kirby Yates and Luis Cessa held Toronto hitless over the final three innings. During the winning streak, Yankees pitchers have a 1.67 ERA in 54 innings. Opponents are batting only .148 in 189 at-bats off Yankees pitching in the past six games.

Eovaldi ran his streak of consecutive batters retired to 22 before Troy Tulowitzki’s one-out single in the second inning. The righthander also retired 12 batters in a row from the first out in the third through the final out of the sixth. Since allowing a leadoff double in the first inning May 18 at Phoenix, Eovaldi has set down 36 of 41 batters faced.

The Yankees’ offense could not be slowed down even in the throes of having to face a knuckleballer. They jumped on R.A. Dickey (2-6) early with a run in the first inning. As it turned out, that was all the scoring they needed.

Toronto right fielder Jose Bautista, the most powerful leadoff hitter in the major leagues, helped the Yankees to that run in the first with a poor decision to dive for a Jacoby Ellsbury line drive that ended up rolling to the wall for a leadoff triple. A walk and a strikeout later, Carlos Beltran beat out a play at first to avoid being doubled up as Ellsbury scored.

Beltran, the Yankees’ hottest hitter of late, got a more legitimate RBI in the fourth with his 10th home run. He also walked and scored in the Yankees’ two-run eighth inning on a sacrifice fly by Chase Headley. Didi Gregorius singled in the second run.

Dickey was gone by then. He was chased in the seventh after giving up an RBI double to Austin Romine. Ellsbury greeted reliever Joe Biagini with a run-scoring single.

Beltran started off the brief homestand as well as he finished off the two-city trip in which he batted .407 with three runs, five doubles, one homer and nine RBI in seven games and 27 at-bats. In nine games since May 15, Beltran has hit .394 with seven runs, five doubles, three home runs and 14 RBI in 33 at-bats.

Yanks escape last place with 4th straight victory

Goodbye, last place. For the first time in nearly a month, the Yankees are no longer at the bottom of the pack in the American League East. Their 5-1 victory Saturday at Oakland paired with Toronto’s 5-3 loss at Minneapolis pushed the Yankees over the Blue Jays in the standings.

The Yankees’ fourth straight victory, their longest winning streak of the year, was their third in a row over the Athletics in paying the A’s back for their sweep of a three-game series at Yankee Stadium last month. The Yankees can go one better with another victory Sunday in the series and trip finale.

It has been a pleasant trek for the Yanks, who stumbled at the beginning of it with two losses in Phoenix, but they have come back on the strength of their starting pitching. Saturday marked the fourth straight game in which a Yankees starter allowed only one run in six or more innings of work.

Masahiro Tanaka went seven innings Saturday, topping the six-inning efforts of predecessors CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova and Nathan Eovaldi. The weak link in the rotation has been Michael Pineda, who will try to turn his fortunes around Sunday.

Tanaka allowed one run on a sacrifice fly by Danny Valencia in the fifth. Two innings earlier facing Valencia with the bases full and one out, Tanaka struck him out looking and ended the threat by getting Khris Davis on a ground ball to third base. Tanaka walked two batters and struck out four in ending a five-start streak of no-decisions. For the season, Tanaka is 2-0 with seven no-decisions and a 3.24 ERA.

This was Tanaka’s third career start against the A’s. He is 3-0 with a 1.31 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. Saturday’s victory was his first start at Oakland and continued his success on the road where he is 1-0 with a 1.69 ERA in four starts this season. For his career, Tanaka is 13-6 with a 3.04 ERA in games away from Yankee Stadium.

A four-run fourth inning off Athletics starter Sean Manaea (1-2, 7.62 ERA) gave Tanaka all the offensive support he would require and once again allowed Joe Girardi in his 1,500th major league game as a manager to rest his three power relievers, although Aroldis Chapman did warm up in the ninth when the A’s got a runner on base with none out against Nick Goody, who worked two scoreless frames.

Carlos Beltran drove in the first run of the fourth inning for his seventh RBI of the series. After a sacrifice fly by Aaron Hicks, Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Rob Refsnyder doubled to right-center for two more runs. Refsnyder played right field for the first six innings. He began his career in the outfield but was moved to second base in the minors and also played some third base during spring training but is now back in his original spot and seems more comfortable. Refsnyder was on a tear this month at SWB, batting .400 with five doubles, two home runs and five RBI in 14 games and 55 at-bats in May. For the season, he is hitting .293 with six doubles, two homers and 10 RBI in 34 games and 133 at-bats. Refsnyder batted .302 in 43 at-bats with the Yankees in two separate call-up stints last year.

Starlin Castro, who had three hits, doubled in a run with two out in the seventh inning to Chase Manaea. Beltran singled leading off the eighth for his 2,495th career hit to tie Mickey Vernon for 99th place on the all-time list. This was the 11th game in which Beltran served as the designated hitter since Alex Rodriguez went on the 15-day disabled list. In those starts, Beltran has hit .356 with nine runs, eight doubles, five home runs and 17 RBI in 45 at-bats. The Yankees are 9-2 in those games and 12-6 since A-Rod went on the DL.

All of which has helped the Yankees get out of the AL East cellar. They had been in last place for 27 consecutive days, a period covering 25 games since April 24. They do not want to go back and hope to take that message to the Blue Jays when they come to the Stadium next week for a three-game set.

Terrible timing for another A-Rod injury

Monday’s open date, the Yankees’ last day off until May 23, did not appear to do anything to invigorate them. In fact, it may have done the opposite. While they did lose Sunday night to finish off being swept by the Red Sox, the Yankees scored seven runs.

Come Tuesday night in Baltimore, the Yankees went right back to their piddling offense. One measly run is all they could muster against the Orioles, who moved back into first place in the American League East with a 4-1 victory that jumped Baltimore back over the Red Sox, who lost to the White Sox.

And to make matters worse, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ hottest hitter on this trip, came up lame in the fifth inning and will undergo an MRI exam on his right hamstring Wednesday. A-Rod missed only two games in Texas at the start of the trip due to an oblique injury, so the Yankees are hopeful they can be that lucky again, except that is a 40-year-old hamstring.

A-Rod’s health was always going to be an issue this season, but the timing of his likely absence from the lineup could not be worse. Rodriguez has hit .353 with four runs, two doubles, three home runs and six RBI in 17 at-bats on a trip in which the Yankees have scored only 16 runs in seven games (2.3 per game), six of them losses. The Yanks have now lost twice as many games as they have won mostly because of an anemic offense and inconsistent starting pitching.

Luis Severino, who had been expected to emerge as a possible staff ace this season, fell to 0-4 with a 6.31 ERA. The righthander also embarrassed himself with two dropped balls trying to cover first base. One of the errors resulted in a run. Despite the PFP (pitchers fielding practice) blunders, Severino was hurt more by two fat pitches to Mark Trumbo, who homered off both of them in driving in three runs.

It was another disappointing outing from a starting pitcher. The Yankees’ rotation has a 4-11 record with a 5.13 ERA in 135 innings in which it has allowed 154 hits. With the margin for error so slim because of the weak run support, the Yankees cannot afford to have starters put them behind early in games.

The Yankees actually gave Severino a 1-0 lead in the second on Didi Gregorius’ two-out, RBI single, but the first of Trumbo’s two homers leading off the bottom half of the inning immediately tied the score. The Orioles filled the bases with two outs with Severino’s first error fueling the rally, but he got Manny Machado, the American League Player of the Month for April, on a popup to first baseman Mark Teixeira on the first pitch.

Baltimore took the lead in the fourth with an unearned run on Severino’s second dropped feed from Teixeira that allowed Jonathan Schoop, who had doubled with two out, to score.

Machado pulled a rock in the fifth when after he led off with a double tried to cross to third base on a grounder to the left side and was thrown out at third by Gregorius. Severino struck out Chris Davis but got victimized by Trumbo again.

The Orioles went down meekly after that as their last 10 batters were retired with Kirby Yates and Johnny Barbato pitching a shutout inning apiece. Baltimore was actually worse than the Yankees were in situations with runners in scoring position. The Orioles were 0-for-6 and the Yankees 1-for-7. The Yankees are actually hitting better with runners in scoring position on the trip (.225) than they are overall for the season (.201).

The Yankees left one runner on base in each of the first six innings against winning pitcher Chris Tillman, who finished strongly by striking out the side in the seventh.

Bats come alive, but Yanks drop 5th straight

On a night when the Yankees showed encouraging signs of breaking out of their offensive malaise, their pitchers were responsible for another loss that completed a three-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park and extended the losing streak to a season-high five games.

The 8-7 final marked the first time in eight games that the Yankees scored more than three runs in a game and only the sixth time in 23 games this year. They were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and totaled five extra-base hits, including career home run No. 692 for Alex Rodriguez, who has recovered quite nicely from that tweaked oblique last week. After missing two games, A-Rod has batted .429 with four runs, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 14 at-bats.

Sunday night’s game was a reversal for the Yankees in that the sluggish offense was not the culprit in a defeat. For the second time in three nights, Dellin Betances gave up a two-run home run in a late inning that supplied the deciding run. Friday night it was David Ortiz’s blast in the eighth on a first-pitch curveball. Sunday night, it was a monster shot to left field that went entirely out of the park by Christian Vazquez on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh.

Betances shouldered the blame for both games, but he certainly was not alone. Starter Nathan Eovaldi, who flirted with a no-hitter in his previous outing, surrendered leads of 3-1 and 6-4 in the bottom half of the innings in which the Yankees had gone ahead. Eovaldi was back to his old ways in giving up 10 hits in five-plus innings.

The loss was charged to Ivan Nova (1-1), who replaced Eovaldi in the sixth after a leadoff walk. Travis Shaw, who clocked a game-tying, two-run home run off Eovaldi in the fifth, singled off Nova with one down in the seventh. Brock Holt followed with a grounder to third baseman Chase Headley, who had trouble removing the ball from his glove as the Yankees were able to get a force at second base but not a double play. Betances then was summoned to pitch to Vazquez and allowed a home run for his third consecutive appearance.

Vazquez’s homer put David Price in position for the winning decision that ran his record with his new club to 4-0. It was not a pretty outing for Price, who raised his career mark against the Yankees to 14-7 despite a 4.17 ERA. The lefthander yielded six earned runs and eight hits in seven innings and heard booing at Fenway Park where he has pitched to an 8.34 ERA in four starts totaling 22 2/3 innings. Since the start of 2014, the Yanks have batted .303 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs against Price.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s second double of the game tied the score at 1 in the third inning. Two batters later, Rodriguez launched his fifth home run this season to make it 3-1. The Red Sox moved back ahead, 4-3, in the bottom half on a two-run single by Hanley Ramirez and a two-out, RBI single by Holt.

Rodriguez doubled home two runs in the fifth and scored on a single by Mark Teixeira as the Yankees regained the lead, 6-4. Again, Eovaldi could not hold it in yielding the bomb to Shaw. The Yankees made it a one-run game in the eighth with a run on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara, but that would be as close as they came.

While the Yankees sank deeper in the basement of the American League East with an 8-15 record, the Red Sox took over first place in the division by a half-game over the Orioles, who await the Bombers at Camden Yards for a three-game series that begins Tuesday night.

Weapons old and new sustain Yankees

The Yankees have a new weapon in their offensive arsenal this year. It is called catcher’s interference whereby a player is awarded first base if the opposing catcher interferes with the batter’s swing.

For the third time in a season that is only 16 games old for the Yankees, Jacoby Ellsbury reached base Saturday due to catcher’s interference, in this case that of Tampa Bay’s Hank Conger. It was a painful play as well for Conger, who hurt his left hand and had to come out of the game.

The situation kept a rally alive for the Yankees in the seventh inning. It came on a 3-2 pitch, which is Ellsbury’s favorite count these days. Friday night, he stole home on a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner, an unusual decision to say the least.

The catcher’s interference call loaded the bases for the Yanks with two out. Gardner followed with a laser-beam line drive off the glove of pitcher Xavier Cedeno, one of three lefthanders Rays manager Kevin Cash threw against the Bombers in the game. Cedeno keep the ball from getting to the outfield, but the infield single was good enough to score the tying run.

Knotting the score at that point put the Yankees in position to use their favorite bullpen formula, Dellin Betances in the eighth and Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Masahiro Tanaka, who had a strong outing (two runs, five hits, one walk, seven strikeouts, one home run in seven innings) was off the hook with a no-decision. So, too, was Tampa Bay rookie Blake Snell, who held the Yankees to two hits and a walk with six strikeouts over five innings in an impressive major-league debut.

It was the Yankees’ more traditional weapon that settled Saturday’s game, a jolting home run by Gardner with two outs in the bottom of the ninth off Erasmo Ramirez, the only righthander in the game for the Rays.

Stacking lefties against the Yankees is a tactic by opponents. Cash will throw another lefthander, Drew Smyly, against the Yankees and Michael Pineda Sunday in the series finale. The idea, of course, is to neutralize Ellsbury and Gardner, left-handed outfielders at the top of the batting order. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had taken to sitting one of them and using right-handed Aaron Hicks in the outfield against lefties, but Hicks got hurt Friday night and will be out for several more days because of traumatic bursitis in his left shoulder, so Ellsbury and Gardner were both in the lineup and had a huge game.

They combined to reach base five times in 10 plate appearances. Gardner had both RBI for the Yankees. Their other run was scored in the first inning on a wild pitch by Snell, who settled down after that. It was the first walk-off victory for the Yankees this season, and the second game-winning homer of Gardner’s career. The other was Aug. 11, 2013 against the Tigers.

Gardner has been the Yankees’ most consistent hitter on the homestand by batting .444 with five runs, two doubles, two home runs, four RBI and five walks in seven games and 25 at-bats.

This has been a big bounce back series for the Yanks, who were swept by Oakland and dropped two of three to Seattle in stumbling into last place in the American League East. They switched places with the Rays with the victories Friday night and Saturday.

Before the game, the Yankees saluted CC Sabathia, wife and mother Marge for their PitCCh In Foundation’s initiative to renovate a baseball field at Claremont Park in the Bronx. The Sabathia’s thanked supporters of the project to refurbish the facility at the corner of Clay and Webster Avenues at a cost of approximately $500,000. Partners involved with the Claremont Park project included members from the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, the Yankees, the New York Police Department’s 44th Precinct and Roc Nation. The Foundation dedicated the field renovation to the Rolando Paulino Little League, which was represented by board member Emily Rufino and Little League players Justin Zapata and Elias Barcacel

Extra-inning loss drops Yanks into cellar

The Yankees’ first extra-inning game of the season ended on a sour note. Tuesday night as the Athletics pulled it out in the 11th, 3-2. The loss also dropped the Yankees into last place in the American League East with a 5-7 record, including falling below .500 (3-4) at home.

The Yankees have scored only nine runs in the four games on the homestand due mostly to getting only two hits in 42 at-bats with runners in scoring position. That is a .048 batting average in clutch situations. For the season, the Yankees are batting .206 under those conditions.

One of those hits was a two-out single in the first inning by Alex Rodriguez that was an an encouraging sign. Alas, the Yankes did not get another one.

The opportunities were there. Brett Gardner led off the third with a double and moved no farther than second base. Carlos Beltran’s sacrifice fly in the fifth also put Starlin Castro on third base, but he was stranded. Chase Headley led off the ninth with a single, but Didi Gregorius could not get a bunt down and eventually flied out, and Jacoby Ellsbury pinch running was thrown out trying to steal second.

The Yankees ended up wasting a good outing by Michael Pineda (two runs, seven hits, one walk, seven strikeouts in six innings) and a shutout inning apiece from Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller before Oakland pushed home the deciding run against Johnny Barbato in his second inning. Jed Lowrie doubled, his fourth hit, and scored on a two-out single by Mark Canha.

Meanwhile in Boston, the Red Sox and Rays also went extras with neither team scoring in regulation, a rarity at Fenway Park, where the Rays won, 3-0, in the 10th. That lifted Tampa Bay above the Yankees in the standings. The Rays will come to town over the weekend. The Yankees hope not to be still in their rear window by then.

The Yankees are 5-13 in their past 18 games against the A’s.  . .Yankees pitchers had at least 10 strikeouts for the third straight game and eighth time in 12 games this season. Their 120 Ks are a club record through 12 games (previously 119 in 2012).

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