Results tagged ‘ Brett Gardner ’

Pineda brings some ‘quality’ to his start

The quality start is somewhat of a bogus statistic. It is rewarded to a starting pitcher who allows three or fewer runs in six innings. Since three runs allowed in six innings converts to an earned run average of 4.50, the quality start can be a pretty hollow stat.

However, a 4.50 ERA looks pretty good these days to Michael Pineda, whose ERA stands at 6.34 after what qualified Sunday as a quality start for him as the Yankees won their fifth straight game and completed their first four-game sweep at Oakland since 1979.

That Pineda had one of those six innings-three runs quality starts was just fine with the Yankees, who have been waiting for him to come close to one and falling in line with the rest of the rotation in creating this winning streak. The more important stat for Pineda was the “W,” a winning decision that ended a winless stretch of eight starts since his only other victory April 6. On that day, the righthander allowed six earned runs in five innings (10.80 ERA) and benefit from his teammates scoring a season-high 16 runs.

Pineda showed progress to some degree in pitching from the stretch and displayed improved control of his slider, which has been wayward to say the least. The most quality of his innings was the sixth because in retiring the side in order Pineda held onto a 4-3 lead and set up the rest of the game for Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman to finish off the Athletics.

Carlos Beltran helped the situation further with a two-out, RBI double in the seventh for a 5-3 Yankees advantage. Betances had two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 seventh, but Miller had to work to avoid having the A’s tie the score in the eighth after consecutive errors by shortstop Didi Gregorius and second baseman Starlin Castro gave Oakland runners on the corner with none out. Miller got a huge strikeout of Danny Valencia before pinch hitter Billy Butler drove in a run with a groundout to third. Another grounder to third by pinch hitter Khris Davis ended the threat before Chapman worked a perfect ninth for his sixth save.

This was the fifth time all three power relievers appeared in the same game. They have combined for a 1-0 record with five saves, a 1.17 ERA and 27 strikeouts in 15 1/3 innings in those games. Overall, the Yankees’ bullpen over the past 20 games is 4-1 with seven saves and a 2.10 ERA in 60 innings.

Yet it has been starting pitching that has done the most to shape the winning streak. Starters were 5-0 with a 2.03 ERA this turn through the rotation and allowed 19 hits and four walks with 26 strikeouts in 31 innings.

After winning the first three games of the Oakland series with only one home run (by Beltran), the Yankees got solo shots from Brian McCann and Jacoby Ellsbury off A’s starter Jesse Hahn. After the A’s regained the lead in the fifth on a two-out, RBI double by Stephen Vogt, the Yankees got a pair of two-out hits of their own to move ahead for good.

Mark Teixeira greeted reliever John Axford with an infield single to end a 0-for-19 stretch and get his first run batted in since May 1 covering 71 plate appearances. The legs of Brett Gardner got that RBI for Tex by scampering home from second base on the grounder that was knocked down by A’s second baseman Chris Coghlan in shallow center field. Castro got the Yankees back in front with a single to left-center.

Beltran finished off an incredible series that brought the Yankees’ season record within one game of .500 (21-22) in which he had nine hits in 17 at-bats (.529) with eight RBI. His fifth double of the set was career No. 515, which tied Hall of Famer Joe Cronin for 50th place on the all-time list. With Alex Rodriguez due to come off the 15-day disabled list when the Yankees open a brief homestand Tuesday night, Beltran will have to surrender his designated hitter duties.

The Yankees are 13-6 since A-Rod went on the DL. Beltran’s productivity has been a major factor in that record. In 12 games as the DH, Beltran hit .367 with nine runs, nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 49 at-bats. The Yankees were 10-2 in those games. Rodriguez has big shoes to fill.

Beltran homers to atone for weak base running

On a night when the Yankees seemed to be doing so many things to avoid scoring, a home run and shutdown pitching made up for all the bizarre offensive mistakes Thursday night in a 4-1 victory at Oakland against a team that had swept the Yankees at home last month.

Carlos Beltran was at the center of the Yankees’ schizophrenia. He drove in a run in the third inning with a double, then failed to score when right fielder Josh Reddick dropped Brian McCann’s fly ball with two outs by not running because he lost count of the outs.

That missed run looked huge when the Athletics tied the score in the fourth on a home run by Reddick off Ivan Nova, the only blemish on the righthander’s third straight impressive start that bodes well for his chances to stay in the rotation even with CC Sabathia coming off the the 15-day disabled list to start Friday night.

The Yankees regained the lead in the sixth on a two-out, RBI double by Aaron Hicks. This was the weirdest inning of the night for the Yanks. They had four hits in the inning against Oakland starter Kendall Graveman (1-6) but scored just the one run.

Chase Headley, who has really pick things up offensively of late, led off with a single but was picked off first base, although Headley and Yankees manager Joe Girardi thought Graveman balked. Dustin Ackley singled and crossed to third on a single to right field by Didi Gregorius, who did not run hard out of the box and then tried to stretch his hit on Reddick’s throw to third base and was out at second. Hicks’ two-bagger at least gave the Yankees something from the inning.

Beltran atoned for his base running gaffe by bashing a two-run home run in the top of the ninth off reliever Fernando Rodriguez. Turning a one-run lead into a three-lead with Aroldis Chapman coming in for the bottom of the ninth was very positive penance for Beltran. He got a chance to play hero thanks to Brett Gardner, who walked with two outs right before him. It was a big night for Gardner, who reached base four times (two singles, two walks), stole a base, scored two runs and robbed Yonder Alonso of a potential RBI extra-base hit with a running, leaping catch on the left field warning track in the second inning.

Nova limited the A’s to four hits and no walks with three strikeouts over the first six innings and got 12 outs on ground balls, a sign that his sinker was effective. Also efficient. Nova threw only 62 pitches. He is 2-0 with a 1.65 ERA in 16 1/3 innings as a starter this year.

It may have been surprising to see Nova remain in the dugout as the seventh inning rolled around, but just as he did Wednesday night with Nathan Eovaldi pitching a one-hitter through six Girard could not resist the temptation to nail things down by bringing in Dellin Betances to pitch the seventh, Andrew Miller the eighth and Chapman the ninth. Opponents should take note — you are looking at a six-inning game if you fall behind the Yankees by the middle innings.

Bullpen trio saves near-perfect gem by Eovaldi

Managerial decisions in this age of pitch counts and crowded bullpens often lead to head-scratching among fans. The Yankees’ Joe Girardi and the Diamondbacks’ Chip Hale made questionable moves Wednesday night that in the end proved more costly to Arizona.

The Yankees avoided being swept in the series by the D-backs with a 4-2 victory in the finale, but Girardi put himself on the spot when he decided to remove Nathan Eovaldi after six nearly perfect innings and turn the final three innings over to the power arms of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman. It worked out eventually, but it was touch-and-go there for a while.

Betances walked the first two batters in the seventh, then bounced back to retire the next three hitters, two on strikeouts. Miller hung a 0-2 slider to Chris Owings, who homered leading off the eighth to cut the Yanks’ lead to 3-2, and then struck out the next three hitters. A run in the top of the ninth on a bases-loaded wild pitch provided insurance for Chapman, who did not need it as he retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning to notch his fourth save.

Utilizing all three flame throwers in the same game for the third time was a sign of the importance Girardi placed on winning this game. Earlier in the day, principal owner Hal Steinbrenner leveled criticism at some players and singled out pitchers Luis Severino and Michael Pineda, first baseman Mark Texeira and third baseman Chade Headley. Tex had another tough game (0-for-5, three strikeouts). Headley was 2-for-4 but made a hesitating play in the field in the first inning that allowed the only run charged to Eovaldi, who was nothing short of magnificent.

Brett Gardner’s two-run home run in the first gave Eovaldi a lead before he took the mound. Jean Segura led off with a grounder up the middle that struck the second base bag with the second baseman legging out a double. He crossed to third on a groundout and came home on another, although he stopped in the base path at one point but Headley threw to first base for the sure out.

Eovaldi retired 18 batters in a row following Segura’s hit. The righthander kept the ball down and got 10 outs on ground balls to go with five strikeouts. Of the three fly ball outs against him, two were caught in foul ground. Eovaldi threw 85 pitches through six innings, so it was something of a surprise not to see him come out for the seventh. Girardi admitted he would have kept Eovaldi in the game if he were still working on a no-hitter but added he would not hesitate to use the Betances-Miller-Chapman combine when they were well rested and the opportunity presented itself.

Hale’s questionable decision came in the sixth inning with the score 2-1 Yankees. Eovaldi helped himself with the bat by dropping a sacrifice bunt to move Headley to second base with two out. Hale went to the mound to talk to D-backs starter Shelby Miller but let him pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury, who had already reached base three times in the game and had never made an out against Miller. That statement held when Ellsbury hit a ground single to left that scored Headley and made Ellsbury 6-for-6 in his career against Miller. Ellsbury reached base five times in the game with a double, two singles and two walks and scored on the ninth-inning wild pitch. Right behind him was Gardner with two hits, a run and two RBI.

Eovaldi has four consecutive winning decisions over his past five starts with a 3.48 ERA over 31 innings. Chase Field is also something of a home away from home for Eovaldi, who in six career games (five starts) in the Phoenix yard is 3-0 with a 2.67 ERA in 30 1/3 innings and has held opponents to a .165 batting average in 103 at-bats.

Contributions from everyone lifts Yanks over KC

Tuesday night’s 10-7 victory over the Royals was a most satisfying victory for the Yankees considering that everyone in the game contributed, which is a rarity. From top to bottom of the batting order the Yanks gave Kansas City pitchers fits, including its vaunted bullpen.

On the pitching side, Masahiro Tanaka was stuck with another no-decision, although in this case it was a positive for him because the Yankees were trailing when he left the game after seven innings. Andrew Miller gave up a run for the first time this season in his new role as the setup man out of the pen, but he ended up with the winning decision when his teammates rallied for three runs in the bottom of the eighth inning against another previously unscored-upon relief pitcher, Kelvin Herrera. Aroldis Chapman picked up his first save as a Yankee with a shutout ninth amplified by several more fastballs exceeding 100 miles per hour.

The Royals are finding New York much more inhospitable in the Bronx this week than it was for them last October in Queens when they finished off the Mets to win the World Series in five games.

Lorenzo Cain, one of those Series heroes, had a big night for KC with three home runs, the last of which ended Miller’s scoreless streak and tied the score. Miller ended up striking out the side and then watched the offense get him off the hook.

Rookie Ben Gamel in his first major-league start was the only Yankees player without a hit, but he reached base on an error by shortstop Alcides Escobar that got things started with one out in the eighth. Gamel raced home with the go-ahead run on a double to left-center by Brett Gardner. After Starlin Castro was hit by a pitch, Brian McCann boomed a double off the wall in right-center for a two-Rubin double, his third hit of the game.

A costly balk by Royals reliever Joakim Soria had helped the Yankees come to Tanaka’s aid with two runs in the seventh. The RBI hits came from Dustin Ackley (single) and Adam Hicks (double), who are both batting below .200 but combined for three hits, three runs, two walks and three RBI in this game.

One night after clubbing five home runs, the Yankees were homerless but found production in their 13 hits. Didi Gregorius had two doubles and three RBI. Carlos Beltran singled and doubled and scored a run. Chase Headley also singled home a run.

Such an offensive assault was vital because Tanaka was batted about in yielding three home runs. Cain hit two of his homees off Tanaka, the second a three-run jolt in the fifth that turned a 5-2 KC deficit into a 6-5 lead. Tanaka has only one decision, a victory, in seven starts this season.

Another satisfactory aspect of the Yankees’ 4-1 homestand is that they are putting together winning efforts despite a spate of injuries. Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are on the disabled list. Jacoby Ellsbury is still not ready to play because of a tight right hip, and Mark Teixeira will likely be out for the remainder of this series due to neck spasms.

Players need to rally around one another when confronted with such circumstances, and the Yankees are doing precisely that.

Yanks homers give Chapman a chance to close

Yankees fans got their first look at Aroldis Chapman in pinstripes Monday night. The lefthander was everything as advertised with gun readings in triple figures, but there was some rust as well befitting a pitcher who sat out a 30-day suspension at the start of the season for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

Of the 17 pitches Chapman threw in the ninth inning, six were 100 miles per hour or faster — four topped out at 101 and the other two were at 100. After quick strikeouts of the first two batters of the inning, pinch hitter Paulo Orlando ripped a double to center field on what at 90 mph was probably a changeup.

That was impressive for Orlando, who was on the bench all night and then was told to go up and try to hit a guy throwing 100 mph regularly. Alcides Escobar followed with a sharply-struck single past Didi Gregorius at shortstop to drive in Orlando before Lorenzo Cain was out on a pepper shot to Chapman.

In the 6-3 victory, the Yankees figured out a way to solve their dilemma of hitting with runners in scoring position — just come up with no one on base let alone in scoring position and hit the ball over the fence.

That approach worked very well against Royals righthander Chris Young, not the former Yankees outfielder but the journeyman pitcher who was one of Kansas City’s World Series heroes last year. The Yanks bashed five solo home runs off Young in 2 2/3 innings.

Brian McCann began the assault with two out in the first inning. After the Royals tied the score in the second on a homer by Alex Gordon, Carlos Beltran led off the bottom of the inning by taking Young deep. Beltran was just getting started it seemed.

Brett Gardner and Aaron Hicks started things off in the third with bombs to right field. Two outs later, Beltran connected again for his 38th multi-homer game (all but one are two-homer games). That marked the first three-homer inning for the Yankees since May 25 last year, also against KC and Jeremy Guthrie, by Gardner, McCann and Chase Headley.

That was it for Young, who tied a dubious franchise record for home runs allowed in a single appearance and departed the game with a swollen 6.68 ERA. Such an outing did not bode well for the defending World Series champs because they have had just as hard time as the Yankees scoring runs this year. KC entered play with only one more run scored than the Bombers.

The Royals might have been better off starting Dillon Gee, who gave up only one run on a sacrifice fly by Hicks in 5 1/3 innings.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was hoping Ivan Nova, starting in place of disabled pitcher CC Sabathia, could give the Yankees at least 75 pitches. Nova did even better than that (81 pitches), but his own error probably cost him a shot at a winning decision.

Nova missed the bag taking a throw from Mark Teixeira while covering first base on a grounder by Escobar and lost a precious out. When left-handed Eric Hosmer came to the plate with two down in the fifth, Girardi brought in lefthander Phil Coke to face the Royals first baseman who flied out to the left field warning track. Failing to pitch a full five innings to qualify for a victory, Nova was hung with a no-decision despite a first-rate effort.

The victory went to Kirby Yates (2-0), who pitched scoreless, one-hit ball for 1 2/3 innings. It was also a big night for rookie Ben Gamel, who singled in his first major-league plate appearance in the eighth.

The Yankees finished the game 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position, but they enjoyed their new formula for scoring.

Tight hip knocks Ellsbury out in 1st inning

Jacoby Ellsbury’s trip around the bases in the first inning Friday night proved costly as the center fielder hurt his right hip while scoring the Yankees’ first run. Ellsbury came out of the game at inning’s end and was to undergo an MRI exam. This is the same hip that Ellsbury injured last year that placed him on the disabled list.

Ellsbury entered the game with a career slash line of .429/.448/.929 in 28 career at-bats against Red Sox starter Rick Porcello, who brought a 5-0 record and a 13 1/3-inning scoreless streak into the game. Ellsbury helped put an end to that by drawing a four-pitch, leadoff walk, stealing second and third base and scoring on a two-out double by Brian McCann. On the trot home Ellsbury pulled up lame. Dustin Ackley came out to play right field at the start of the second inning with Aaron Hicks moving to Ellsbury’s spot in center.

Ackley tied the score for the Yankee in the bottom of the second with a two-out, RBI single. The Red Sox had scored in the first inning against Michael Pineda on a two-run home run by David Ortiz, his third homer in four games against the Yankees this year and the 50th of his career against them.

Ellsbury’s injury comes at a time when the Yankees are pretty beat up. Alex Rodriguez and CC Sabathia are on the DL. Brett Gardner returned to the lineup after not starting Thursday night in Baltimore because of a a bruised right triceps.

Sabathia gem ends six-game skid

That was not the old CC Sabathia on the Camden Yards mound for the Yankees Wednesday night but rather the CC Sabathia of old, the stud they counted on to stop long losing streaks. Reaching back into his past, the 6-foot-7 lefthander provided an outing worthy of a true stopper.

With seven shutout innings, Sabathia did his part in making the Yankees’ six-game losing streak history. Mixing his best changeup of the season with sliders, sinkers and cut fastballs and aided by three double plays turned behind him, Sabathia held the Orioles at bay and kept the Yankees in the game long enough to figure a way to get to Orioles starter Tyler Wilson, who matched CC in throwing up zeroes over the first five innings.

The Yanks’ feeble offense of late awakened in the sixth with the help of some needed breaks. Baltimore center fielder Adam Jones’ failure to get the ball out of his glove after a catch of a Carlos Beltran fly ball gave the Yankees a run as Jacoby Ellsbury, who had a perfect night in his 1,000th career game, was able to score from third. Brian McCann got the first of his three RBI with a single, and a throwing error by Wilson on a Starlin Castro squib in front of the plate accounted for another run.

The Yankees turned on the juice by batting around in the eighth against the Baltimore bullpen to produce four runs on a two-run double by McCann, a two-out, RBI single by Didi Gregorius and Brett Gardner getting hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Gardner came out of the game in the ninth and may not play in Thursday night’s finale. Fortunately, X-Rays on Gardner’s right triceps were negative.

The 10-hit attack came on a needed occasion with Alex Rodriguez going on the 15-day disabled list because of a strained right hamstring. Beltran took over as the designated hitter with Adam Hicks starting in right field. Hicks was 0-for-4 and was the only Yankees player who did not get to run around the bases.

Ellsbury was 3-for-3 with two walks and two stolen bases. Gardner singled, scored a run and drove in one. Beltran had a sacrifice fly, a double and scored a run. Mark Teixeira reached base four times with a single and three walks and scored twice. McCann had two hits and three RBI. Gregorius had a hit, a run and an RBI. Even slumping Chase Headley had a single.

The 7-0 victory was the Yankees’ first shutout of the season on the winning side (they have been blanked twice).

The lone hiccup was that of Kirby Yates, who took over in the eighth inning and loaded the bases with one out on a double to Manny Machado and two walks, a cardinal sin for pitchers working with a seven-run lead. Manager Joe Girardi would have preferred to stay away from Dellin Betances or Andrew Miller in this game but had no choice but to bring in Betances, who has had a rough trip but ended the threat with a called strikeout of Chris Davis and getting Mark Trumbo on a foul pop.

Sabathia deserved every bit of run support the Yankees could give him. In his 203rd start for the Yankees, which tied him with Tommy John for 15th place on the all-time franchise list, Sabathia improved his career record against the Orioles to 19-7 with a 3.35 ERA, including 11-6 with a 3.63 ERA at Camden Yards. Much of Sabathia’s success in Baltimore was back in his prime. Since the start of the 2012 season, CC had eight winless starts at Camden Yards before Wednesday night.

Since joining the Yankees in 2009, Sabathia has won all four of his starts with the club trying to stop a losing streak of five or more games. His record on those occasions is 4-0 with an ERA of 0.86 over 31 1/3 innings in which he has allowed 21 hits and six walks with 30 strikeouts.

In his seventh start with the Yankees May 8, 2009 at Baltimore, Sabathia pitched a four-hit shutout — the 11th shutout of his career — to stop a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory. He ended a five-game skid May 31, 2013 with a 4-1 victory over the Red Sox, his fifth career game with at least 10 strikeouts and no walks. Two and a half weeks later June 16, 2013 at Anaheim, Sabathia halted another five-game losing streak and took a shutout bid into the ninth inning in an eventual 6-5 victory.

Wednesday night was like old times.

Red Sox pound Green Monster late for comeback win

Fenway Park has been a comfort zone for the Yankees in recent years. Red Sox fans could not have been pleased that the Yankees won seven of nine games there last year and were 23-13 at Fenway since the start of 2012, their best four-year run in the rival team’s home in 49 years.

Masahiro Tanaka certainly looked comfortable at Fenway Friday night. Until the seventh inning, that is. Tanaka was working on a three-hit shutout through six when the tide turned against him. Three left-handed batters went to the opposite field for hits that wiped out a 2-0 deficit.

A double off the wall by Jackie Bradley that scored Travis Shaw and Brock Holt, each of whom had punched singles to left field with one out, was the killer for Tanaka, a stunning development since it came one pitch after the righthander had struck out Ryan Hanigan on a 94-mph fastball. 

Given new life, the Red Sox struck again in the eighth against Dellin Betances. David Ortiz drove a hanging curve ball over the Green Monster for a two-run home run. Just like that, the Yankees were 4-2 losers. Yankees fans have seen Ortiz do such dramatics over the years against the Bombers. Ortiz is a career .307 hitter with 48 home runs and 160 RBI in 834 career at-bats against Yankees pitching. Fourteen of those homers have given Boston leads in games. Yankees fans are happy this is his last season.

That the Red Sox were still in position to make a comeback was due primarily to the failure of the Yankees’ offense to take advantage of all the base runners they had over the first six innings against lefthander Henry Owens, who entered the game with a career 13.50 ERA against them. Brett Gardner’s two-out, RBI single in the fifth was the Yanks’ only hit in five at-bats with runners in scoring position. Alex Rodriguez’s fourth home run accounted for the other Yankees run. They had 10 runners on base in the first five innings against Owens, and only two scored. The Red Sox turned four double plays behind Owens.

Rodriguez’s 691st career home run was also career hit No. 3,082, which pushed him past Hall of Famer Cap Anson into 20th place on the all-time list. Next up is another Hall of Famer, Dave Winfield, at 3,110.

Boston relievers Matt Barnes, Koji Uehara and Craig Kimbrel each retired the side in order in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, respectively. The Yankees’ opportunities came against Owens, but they let them slip away, just like the game.

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

Hicks well-armed for Yankees

Aaron Hicks, who made some news Wednesday night for his arm strength, drew first blood for the Yankees offensively Thursday night with a single on a soft fly ball to center field to drive in a run. The Yankees entered the game batting .189 in 111 at-bats with runners in scoring position (.089 over their previous eight games), so a clutch hit was welcomed.

It was also a boost to Hicks, who had been hitless in his 17 prior at-bats. He had another strong game in the field. In the fourth inning, he climbed the wall along the left field line to glove a foul fly by Chris Coghlan. Two innings later, Hicks showed off that powerful arm again by throwing out Jed Lowrie trying to stretch a single into a double.

Those plays accounted for the highlights in another Yankees loss, 7-3, to the Athletics, who swept the three-game series.

Hicks was in the starting lineup for the second straight night because manager Joe Girardi wanted to load up on right-handed hitters against Oakland lefthander Rich Hill, who gave up one earned run and three hits with 10 strikeouts in six innings. An errant pickoff by Hill allowed Alex Rodriguez to cross from first base to third base in the fourth inning and resulted in an unearned run with A-Rod scoring on a dribbling single to the left side by Austin Romine.

Brett Gardner was on the bench still nursing a stiff neck, although Girardi said the left fielder would have started if the Athletics had started a right-handed pitcher. Romine started behind the plate for Brian McCann, who is 1-for-18 (.056) in the homestand.

Also on the bench was lefty-hitting shortstop Didi Gregorius with righty-swinging Ronald Torreyes starting instead. Girardi had been critical of Gregorius’ poor base running Wednesday when he ran them out of a rally but told reporters not to read anything into Gregorius sitting down and claimed it was just part of getting another right-handed bat in the lineup.

The only left-handed batter in the Yanks’ lineup was center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. Good thing, too. After a shaky few games in the field, Ellsbury made a diving catch in the top of the first inning to rob Mark Canha of a potential run-scoring extra base hit. Ellsbury had a good night at the plate as well with three singles.

Gardner, McCann and Gregorius all entered the game as pinch hitters in the seventh inning when Hill was replaced by righthander Fernando Rodriguez. Yankees starter Luis Severino failed to hold two one-run leads in six innings, but the loss went to Chasen Shreve, who gave up home runs to Khris Davis and Coco Crisp on the first two pitches of the seventh. Coghlan homered off Johny Barbato in the eighth. It was a grim night for the bullpen (five earned runs, three hits, three walks, two strikeouts, three home runs in three innings).

Hicks’ throw from left field that cut down Oakland’s Danny Valencia at the plate to end the fourth inning Wednesday night was recorded at 105.5 miles per hour by MLB Statcast. It was the fastest throw by an outfielder since Statcast debuted at the start of the 2015 season. The previous best was 103.1 mph by the Astros’ Carlos Gomez in September 2015.

It was announced Wednesday that the Grapefruit League drew an average of 7,096 fans per game this spring, the first time in the 100-year history of spring training in Florida that teams eclipsed 7,000 in attendance. The Yankees averaged 10,053 fans per home game at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa to lead the Grapefruit League in attendance for the third consecutive season.

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