Results tagged ‘ Brett Gardner ’

Refsnyder experiment over — for now

Rob Refsnyder got clipped by Major League Baseball’s numbers game Sunday. Someone had to come off the Yankees’ 25-man roster to make room for the return of Carlos Beltran from the 15-day disabled list, and it turned out to be Refsnyder.

The prospect was given a four-game cup of coffee the past week and handled himself well, but with two other infielders, Stephen Drew and Brendan Ryan, working on multi-million dollar contracts there was no more space for the rookie second baseman who hit .167 with one home run and two RBI in 12 at-bats.

“I had a great experience,” Refsnyder said. “I got my feet wet. I saw what major-league pitching and defense is all about. If you look at our roster, there are a lot of proven veterans, a lot of guys with a lot of experience and a lot of playoff experience. It’s one of those things where I’m kind of the low guy on the totem pole. I never felt overwhelmed. I took a lot of positives out of it. I think I can compete here and help the team win.”

Refsnyder accepted the demotion with a good attitude. The key now is not to be discouraged about being sent down and keep up the good work at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and work himself back to the big leagues.

Brett Gardner showed off a new look in Sunday’s game. The left fielder was sporting a pair of white cleats, a la Joe Namath, the old Jets quarterback. Gardy raced on those shoes to make a leaping catch of a drive by Austin Jackson in the third inning to rob the Mariners center fielder of a potential extra-base hit.

Betances does his part in AL All-Star victory

CINCINNATI — American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals came through for Dellin Betances. Aware that Betances never got out of the AL bullpen at last year’s All-Star Game at Minneapolis, Yost told the righthander the seventh inning would be all his Tuesday night at Great American Ball Park.

Betances did his part in the AL’s 6-3 victory that guaranteed home field advantage in the World Series to the league, although that did not help Yost last year as his Royals lost Game 7 at home to the Giants. Blame that on Madison Bumgarner.

The Yankees’ set-up reliever got through the seventh unscathed, much like he has during the regular season. Working with a 5-2 lead thanks to a two-run rally in the top of the inning that was fueled in part by teammate Mark Teixeira, Betances retired Giants shortstop Brandon Crawford on a ground ball to second base. After walking Cubs rookie outfielder Kris Bryant, Betances came back to strike out Giants second baseman Joe Panick, the former St. John’s University standout, and set down Diamondbacks outfielder A.J. Pollock on a grounder to third.

In the top of the seventh, Teixeira grounded out to the left side that pushed the Orioles’ Manny Machado to third base from where he scored on a fly ball by the Rangers’ Prince Fielder. Teixeira had a rougher time in the ninth inning as he made the final out of the game striking out on a 103-mph fastball by the Reds’ Aroldis Chapman.

Brett Gardner, the Yankees’ other representative in the game, also had a tough night. He was called out on strikes in both of his at-bats, in the fifth inning against the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and in the eighth against former Yankees teammate Mark Melancon, now the closer for the Pirates.

It was also announced during the All-Star festivities the Franchise Four for each of the 30 clubs in a vote of fans. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America took part in setting up the ballot of eight players from each franchise (full disclosure: I was the BBWAA voter assigned to the Yankees).

It should come as no surprise that the Yanks’ Franchise Four were the team’s Mount Rushmore: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Mickey Mantle. It is pretty hard to break through that quartet. Younger fans may wonder about Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera considering all the club records they have, but the other four men helped shape the franchise and are among the most decorated players in baseball history.

For the record, the eight players on the Yankees’ ballot in addition to the four were Jeter, Rivera, Yogi Berra and Whitey Ford. Believe me, it was hard to leave players like Bill Dickey and Don Mattingly off that list. This was one of those promotions where the Yankees were hurt because of the richness of their history.

There was a nice moment before the game where the four men voted the game’s greatest living players came onto the field — Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax and Willie Mays. I had three of those players on my ballot but chose Yogi over Koufax in a close call. Some might say that Berra belonged there more than Bench, but even Yogi told me once that he thinks JB was the best catcher who ever lived.

MLB, union to support youth baseball initiative

CINCINNATI — While officials were hopeful that a series of severe thunderstorms that hit this area Monday would not interfere with the Home Run Derby at night on the eve of the All-Star Game at Great American Ballpark, Major League Baseball in conjunction with the Major League Players Association announced plans to allocate $30 million towards a youth baseball and softball initiative throughout North America entitled “Play Ball.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred made the announcement at Monday’s press conference at which American League manager Ned Yost of the Royals and National League manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants announced their starting lineups, including pitchers Dallas Keuchel of the Astros and Zack Greinke of the Dodgers.

“Accessibility is an essential step toward not only strengthening the connection with fan, but also developing talent at the amateur level,” Manfred said. “Through initiatives like Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities, the MLB Urban Youth Academies and the Breakthrough Series, Major League Baseball has provided opportunities for thousands of young people to play the game and showcase their skills. This joint commitment with the MLBPA and its current and former members is a significant step toward expanding our focus on ensuring the future growth and prosperity of our sport.”

The commissioner also singled out Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira for his tireless efforts on behalf of the Harlem RBI youth program in New York. Teixeira, a member of the AL All-Star team along with teammates Brett Gardner and Dellin Betances, attended the new conference with fellow All-Stars Chris Archer of the Rays, David Price of the Tigers, Anthony Rizzo of the Cubs and Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates.

MLB and the PA will also create a 501(c)(3) organization to accept donations from players, clubs, corporations and other interested parties to help fund programs. One of the first major programs under the initiative will be the first Elite Development Invitational, operated by USA Baseball, July 18-30 at the old Dodgertown complex in Vero Beach, Fla. Approximately 150 players, ages 13-16, will participate in the two-week program that will provide player development opportunities to top prospects from minority or underserved backgrounds.

“For as long as the game has been played, generations of major leaguers have been passionate about sharing the game they love with others, especially youth,” PA executive director Tony Clark said. “Many current and former players are already actively involved with programs designed to not only teach the game at the youth level and develop future ballplayers but also help excite the next generation of fans. This initiative will help advance and enhance those efforts. Despite their never-ending determination to preserve and grow interest in baseball, players have long known that reseeding the game at the grassroots level requires the cooperation and support of the entire baseball community. Today’s announcement is great news to all players, and we look forward to working with Major League Baseball to make serious strides to ensure that every kid in the United States and Canada who wants to play baseball has an equal opportunity to do so.”

Two Yankees farmhands made contributions in Sunday’s Sirius XM All-Star Futures Game. Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre outfielder Aaron Judge, the designated hitter for the U.S. Team, had 1-for-4 and scored a run in its 10-1 victory over the World Team. Double A Trenton catcher Gary Sanchez started behind the plate for the World Team and had a double in two at-bats.

Gardner a deserving choice for 1st All-Star selection

Okay, Yankees fans, you can back off the #VOTEGARDY campaign. Brett Gardner did not know when he hit a home run in the first inning Thursday that he had been selected for the American League All-Star squad as a replacement for Royals left fielder Alex Gordon, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list and may be out for as long as two months because of a severe groin strain.

It was not until the fourth inning when word reached Yankee Stadium that AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals had picked Gardner for the team, joining Yankees mates Mark Teixeira and Dellin Betances. By then, Gardy had racked up two more hits in another top-shelf performance that was part of their 6-2 victory over the Athletics.

His teammates had gotten into the act by wearing bald caps in support of their head-shaven left fielder, who was one of five players in the Final Vote Ballot that continues Friday. Yankees fans had been urged to support Gardner, but he was running fourth in the voting. Nevertheless, Yost made the right decision in seeing that Gardner deserved his first career All-Star berth. That does not mean he will be in the starting lineup. The Orioles’ Adam Jones, who was fourth in the fans’ vote, will get that call, but Gardner has his well-earned ticket to Cincinnati for the July 14 game at Great American Ballpark.

With three more hits Thursday, Gardner has raised his season batting average to .303. He ranks fourth in the major leagues in runs (62) and stolen bases (15) and eighth in doubles (21) and on-base percentage (.382). His .489 slugging percentage is a meaty figure for a hitter who usually bats first or second in the order. In 19 games since June 18, Gardner is batting .418 in 79 at-bats with 19 runs, seven doubles, one triples, five home runs, 12 RBI and 12 walks to raise his season batting average 41 points. His 10th home run of the year Thursday lifted his first-inning batting average to .406 in 69 at-bats with 21 runs, six doubles, two triples, two homers, seven RBI, six walks and three stolen bases.

Those are All-Star caliber stats.

Mashiro Tanaka could not hold the 1-0 lead Gardner provided as the A’s struck for two runs in the second inning aided by a catcher’s interference call against Brian McCann. Yet the doubles Tanaka allowed to Billy Butler and Mark Canha that scored the runs were the only hits off the righthander in his 7 2/3 innings.

Tanaka got 19 consecutive outs (although Butler reached base in the fourth on a third-strike wild pitch, one of the rare glitches in Tanaka’s outing). He walked one batter and struck out six to post his first winning decision in five starts since June 9 and brought his ERA down from 3.94 to 3.63. Now he will get some extra rest during the All-Star break. Tanaka also gave some rest to a bullpen that was busy in the first two games in the series as Nathan Eovaldi and CC Sabathia did not get through the sixth inning either night.

With Tanaka mowing down Oakland hitters one by one, the Yankees were able to stay close and skip past the A’s. The Yanks tied the score against Jesse Chavez in the third on a leadoff walk to Jacoby Ellsbury and singles by Gardner and Teixeira.

Ellsbury put the Yankees in front with a two-run single in the fourth, a rally fortified with a double by Cole Figueroa, a Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up who played third base for ailing Chase Headley (right calf inflammation). Figueroa also doubled in the eighth when the Yankees tacked on two more runs on a wild throw to first base by shortstop Marcus Semien, who has committed an astonishing 28 errors in 87 games, which puts him on a pace for 51 over a full season.

In taking the series, two games to one, from Oakland the Yankees have opened up a three-game lead in the AL East over the Orioles, who did not play Thursday. The Blue Jays and the Rays both lost and trail the Yanks by 3 ½ games and 4 ½ games, respectively.

The Yankees now head to Fenway Park for a three-game set prior to the All-Star break. The Red Sox, who once seemed buried in the division (they were 10 games out June 20), are still in last place but have won four straight games and eight of their past 10 to move to 5 ½ games of first and are only a half-game behind fourth-place Tampa Bay. Boston’s recent resurgence and the steady run by the Yankees of late will add some extra juice to the rivalry over the weekend.

Major comeback by Yankees’ All-Stars

The Yankees’ All-Stars corrected themselves Wednesday night and were major factors in a 5-4 victory over the Athletics that turned into a nail biter in the last inning.

One night after going 0-for-5 with three strikeouts and grounding into a double play, Mark Teixeira clubbed two home runs (Nos. 21 and 22) and made two sparkling plays in the field. He leaned into the Yankees’ dugout to snare a foul by Billy Burns for the first out of the seventh and made a sprawling stop of a hot grounder by pinch hitter Josh Reddick and dived into the bag for the final out of the eighth.

Dellin Betances, who gave up the home run to Brett Lawrie in the 10th inning Tuesday night that sent the Yankees to a 4-3 loss, was back in his familiar set-up role Wednesday night and set the A’s out in order in the eighth with two strikeouts before the Tex web-gem on Reddick.

Andrew Miller returned to his closer role after coming off the disabled list but had a wire act in the ninth as Oakland turned it into a one-run game on a two-run home run by Marcus Semien with one out. Miller struck out Burns for the second out, but a throwing error by third baseman Gregorio Petit put the potential tying run on second base. Petit got a second chance on a ground ball by Ben Zobrist and got the final out of Miller’s 18th save.

For the second straight night, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to the bullpen early in taking out his starter after 5 1/3 innings. CC Sabathia, who gave up two runs, seven hits and two walks with one strikeout, got his first winning decision in five starts since June 7, although his ERA is still a hefty 5.47. Bryan Mitchell finished the sixth for Sabathia, and Justin Wilson followed with a perfect seventh.

Another important substitution by Girardi was putting Stephen Drew into the game on defense at second base in the top of the seventh. Drew came to bat an inning later and won a nine-pitch duel with Fernando Abad by smacking his 12th home run of the year, not a bad total for a .179 hitter. It proved to be the difference in the game.

Jacoby Ellsbury also came off the DL and was back in the leadoff spot. He had an infield single in four at-bats. Brett Gardner dropped back into the 2-hole and reached base three times on a single and two walks.

An interesting situation may have opened up for Gardner. The Royals’ Alex Gordon, who was voted by fans as the starting left fielder for next week’s All-Star Game at Cincinnati, was carted off the field at Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium Wednesday night after suffering a left groin strain, the severity of which will be determined by an MRI Thursday. If Gordon has to be replaced on the American League roster, Gardner stands a chance at making the team. He and Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes are two outfielders among five Final Vote candidates, so it would behoove Yankees fans to get Gardner as many votes as possible to improve his chances at being picked for the squad by AL manager Ned Yost of the Royals.

Fans may cast their votes until 4 p.m. Friday. To receive the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote mobile ballot, text the word VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages may be received following your vote. Text STOP to opt-out at any time. For help, text HELP. Voting is also open on Twitter as well Friday, using the hashtag #VoteGardy. Voting is very easy at yankees.com, so please visit that site.

Gardner needs fans’ support to make AL All-Star team

Yankees fans have an opportunity to get Brett Gardner on the American League squad for the 2015 Major League All-Star Game July 14 at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark. Gardner is one of five AL candidates on the Final Vote Ballot to pick the last player on the 34-man roster.

The competition is stiff, so Gardner is going to need your help. The other candidates are Red Sox shortstop Zander Bogaerts, Tigers left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, Twins second baseman Brian Dozier and Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas. Considering how aggressive Kansas City fans were this year in voting four of the Royals into the starting lineup, Moustakas presents a major problem to Gardner’s chances of joining Yankees teammates Dellin Betances and Mark Teixeira on the AL team.

So let’s get out the vote for Gardy. Fans may cast their votes until 4 p.m. Friday. To receive the 2015 Esurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote mobile ballot, text the word VOTE to 89269 (USA) or 101010 (Canada). Message and data rates may apply. Up to five messages may be received following your vote. Text STOP to opt-out at any time. For help, text HELP.

Voting is also open on Twitter on Friday, using the hashtag #VoteGardy as well. Voting is very easy at yankees.com, so please visit that site.

Gardner deserves to be an All-Star. Yankees fans can make that happen.

Betances was chosen for the AL pitching staff for the second consecutive year. He did not get to pitch in last year’s game at Target Field in Minneapolis. Teixeira was able to make the team as a backup first baseman because the Tigers’ Miguel Cabrera, who was voted into the starting lineup in the fans’ balloting, is on the 15-day disabled list. The Angels’ Albert Pujols will start instead.

This year marks the first time since 1992 that a player from either New York club is not in the starting lineup. At that year’s All-Star Game in San Diego, outfielder Roberto Kelly represented the Yanks and pitcher David Cone, now an analyst on YES Network cablecasts, represented the Mets. Kelly played three innings in center field and had a two-run double in two at-bats. Cone pitched the fourth inning and retired the side in order with one strikeout. The AL won the game, 13-6.

Yankees miss chance to take over 1st place in AL East

It was feast or famine for the Yankees during their four-game series at Houston’s Minute Maid Park against the American League West-leading Astros. The Yankees came back from being shut out Thursday night to post a late-inning, come-from-behind victory Friday night behind the native Texans duo of Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Young. The Yanks out-slugged Houston Saturday night in a home run derby of the major leagues’ power leaders only to manage a meager two hits Sunday in failing to fortify Michael Pineda’s route-going effort.

Sunday’s loss turned the series into a split and cost the Yankees a chance to take over first place in the AL East because Tampa Bay also lost. There is quite a logjam in this division. Only one game separates four teams with the Orioles tied for second with the Yankees and the Blue Jays a half-game behind both of them. Only the Red Sox, eight games out of first place, seem buried at this point.

The good news Sunday was Pineda, who recovered from a God-awful game last week at home against the lowly Phillies when he could not get through the fourth inning and was hammered for eight runs and 11 hits. The righthander bounced back with eight strong innings Sunday in which he gave up three runs – one of them decidedly tainted – and seven hits with no walks (always a good sign with him) and eight strikeouts.

Unfortunately, Astros starter Collin McHugh was slightly better. He hurt himself with a wild pitch in the third inning that led directly to a run on a single by Brett Gardner, whose adventures in the outfield the next inning allowed the Astros to tie the score. Gardner and left fielder Garrett Jones had miscommunication on a fly ball to left-center field by Carlos Correa that fell between them. Gardner inadvertently kicked the ball as well with Correa rounding the bases. The official scorer ruled a double for Correa and a two-base error for Garnder.

A couple of years ago, I took a friend of mine who is a Mets fan to a game at Citi Field on a day the Yankees were out of town and not scheduled. The Mets’ starting pitcher that day, making his major-league debut, was Collin McHugh. Seated behind us were about a dozen of his friends and relatives from Georgia, and what a treat they got. McHugh pitched a two-hit shutout over seven innings before coming out of the game. The Mets did not score for him, however, and eventually lost the game, 1-0, to the Rockies.

McHugh never pitched that well for the Mets again and he was traded to Colorado for infielder Eric Young Jr. The Rockies eventually placed him on waivers from where the Astros scooped him up. He was 11-9 with a 2.73 ERA last year for an Astros team that lost 92 games and with Sunday’s victory improved to 9-3 albeit with a 4.51 ERA this year. Some pitchers take a while to develop.

Gardner’s single and one by Alex Rodriguez in the sixth was all the offense the Yankees could muster against McHugh, who was in position to win when the Astros broke the tie on a triple by Evan Gattis in the seventh and got a tack-on run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Jason Castro.

Just the night before, the Yankees had been in a home run derby contest against Houston. A first-inning grand slam by Brian McCann and a second-inning, two-run shot by Chris Young created a 6-0 lead for Masahiro Tanaka, who like Pineda had been coming off a poor outing (five innings, 10 hits, seven runs-five earned) in a 12-4 loss to the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Unlike Pineda, Tanaka did not rebound. The six-run bulge was gone by the fifth inning as he was touched for home runs by Correa, Chris Carter and Jose Altuve. The Japanese righthander looked shell-shocked when he left the game after five. His teammates rebounded for him. Mark Teixeira thrust the Yankees back in front with a two-run double in the eighth. Chase Headley led off the ninth with a monster of a drive to left-center off lefthander Tony Sipp to complete the comeback behind nifty relief work by winning pitcher Chasen Shreve (5-1), Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances (sixth save).

A third straight comeback was not in the cards for the Yankees Sunday.

Young & Eovaldi do a Texas two-step for Yanks

A couple of Texas natives had big nights deep in the heart of their home state Friday night for the Yankees.

Houston native Chris Young ended the Yanks’ 15-inning scoreless streak at Minute Maid Park by clouting a three-run home run in the seventh off previously untouchable reliever Will Harris to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 lead that was upheld by three Yankees relievers.

The rally created a winning decision for starting pitcher Nathan Eovaldi (7-2), who worked six strong innings under the watchful eye of fellow Alvin, Texas, native Nolan Ryan, who was seated in the front row behind the plate alongside his wife, Ruth. The Hall of Famer rejoined the Astros organization last year after leaving the Rangers.

Pitching in his home area for the first time, Eovaldi followed his sturdy outing Old-Timers’ Day with another solid performance in front of scores of friends and relatives in the crowd of 37,748. The righthander allowed two runs, five hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

And yet he was in position to be on the losing side in the game because Astros starter Vincent Velasquez was even better over the first six innings. He held the Yankees to three hits with only one base runner getting beyond first.

One out into the seventh, however, the Yankees made their move. Singles by Carlos Beltran and Garrett Jones prompted Houston manager A.J. Hinch to bring in Harris, who entered the game with a 4-0 record and 0.78 ERA. With no left-handed bat on the bench, Yankees manager Joe Girardi stayed with Young, who rewarded the skipper by putting a charge into a 1-1 cut fastball for his ninth home run of the season.

Young’s numbers this season are lopsided. He leads American League hitters against left-handed pitching (.379, eight doubles, four home runs, 10 RBI in 66 at-bats), including two hits off Dallas Keuchel, who shut down the rest of the Yankees Thursday night. Against righthanders, however, Young was batting only .177 going into Friday night’s game. By going 3-for-4 against righties, Young improved his stats to .210 with two doubles, five home runs and 13 RBI in 100 at-bats.

Minute Maid Park has become a home away from home for Young. In 25 career games there, he is hitting .410 with seven doubles, one triple, nine home runs and 33 RBI in 105 at-bats with 14 multi-hit games. It marks his highest career average in any major league park.

Young, a graduate of Houston’s Bellaire High School, extended his hitting streak to nine games since June 18 during which he has batted .471 with three doubles, two home runs and eight RBI in 34 at-bats. Over the span, Young has raised his season batting average from .220 to .271.

Once the Yankees moved in front, Girardi turned to his pen, which did a superb job. Chasen Shreve struck out the side in the seventh. After a two-out walk by Justin Wilson in the eighth, Dellin Betances was called on for a four-out save, which he handled perfectly with two strikeouts.

Brett Gardner continued his hot hitting with a double and a single and is up to .294. With Tampa Bay losing, the Yankees moved to a half-game of the first-place Rays in the American League East.

Nova good as new in return from TJ surgery

A homestand that began so promisingly and then seemed to fall apart ended on a very high note Wednesday for the Yankees as Ivan Nova made a triumphant return from Tommy John surgery to repair his right elbow 14 months ago.

The Phillies, owners of the worst record in baseball, threatened to complete a embarrassing sweep of the Yankees behind veteran Cole Hamels, who seems to be auditioning for a variety of clubs in need of a quality starter. Nova followed disappointing starts by CC Sabathia, Michael Pineda and Masahiro Tanaka with 6 2/3 innings of shutout ball against a team that had scored 22 runs over the previous two games.

Yankees pitchers were banged around for 34 runs and 44 hits in three straight losses. Nova’s outing was just what they needed, not that they could have expected it from him. Pitchers coming back from Tommy John surgery do not often have so impressive a first outing as did Nova in a 10-2 victory over the Phillies.

The Yankees gave their teammate some working room by jumping out to a 5-0 lead off Hamels by the fourth inning, a continuation of their offensive combustibility throughout the homestand in which they scored 60 runs in eight games, an average of 7.5 runs per game. On the 5-3 homestand, the Yanks batted .351 with 19 home runs to offset a staff ERA of 5.50.

As for Nova, his ERA is 0.00. In his first start since April 19, 2014, the righthander allowed three hits and two walks. He had only one strikeout but kept the Phillies off base with routine outs. Center fielder Brett Gardner had nine putouts behind Nova.

Gardner also continued his ferocious hitting with an RBI single, a walk and two runs. On the homestand, he had 17-for-36 (.472) with three doubles, one triple, four home runs and 10 RBI. Gardy scored 12 runs and raised his batting average 30 points to .292.

Everybody on the Yankees hit Wednesday except for Carlos Beltran (0-for-5; there is always one player who doesn’t get to the dance floor). After missing two games because of a stiff neck, Mark Teixeira banged out three singles and knocked in two runs.

Chase Headley, Alex Rodriguez, Chris Young, Didi Gregorius and Jose Pirela had two hits apiece. Hamels was gone after five innings in which he allowed five runs, eight hits and three walks, and the Yankees piled it on against two Phillies relievers.

Finally, the Yankees were able to put a net over infielder Maikel Franco, who was 0-for-4 after having gone 6-for-8 (.750) with 10 RBI and five runs over the two prior games.

The Yankees are 12-4 in their past 16 home games since May 25 and have outscored opponents, 115-67, during that time. Nova’s stint was the longest stretch of scoreless innings by a Yankees pitcher in his season debut since Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez pitched eight innings of one-hit ball April 26, 2002 against Tampa Bay.

The victory coupled with the Rays’ loss to the Blue Jays inched the Yankees to one game of first-place Tampa Bay in the American League East.

Gardner back to catalyst form on homestand

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner were a dynamic 1-2 punch at the top of the batting order for the Yankees the first month of the season. But since Ellsbury went on the 15-day disabled list May 20 because of a right knee strain, Gardner seemed lost without his partner.

Going into this homestand, Gardner was in a 94 at-bat stretch in which he hit .223 with four doubles, one triple, two home runs and 12 RBI while watching his season batting average slide from .291 to .262. He has turned it around the past three nights at Yankee Stadium, however, climaxed by a 4-for-5, three-RBI performance Friday night that has pushed his average back up to .277. And not surprisingly, the Yankees won all three games with Gardner back in catalyst mode.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was at a loss before the game to explain the club’s seesaw season during which they have had seemingly equal stretches of good and bad play. One thing the skipper did say that what the Yankees do when things are going good is “not giving extra outs and hitting home runs.”

They adhered to that axiom in the 7-2 victory over the Tigers. Three home runs, including Alex Rodriguez’s 3,000th career hit, against former American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander powered the Yankees to their third straight victory and kept the Detroit righthander winless at Yankee Stadium in four career regular-season decisions. As for not giving extra outs, well, they came close to that but were able to rectify their lone error with a snappy play at the plate to defuse a potentially productive sixth inning for the Tigers.

The Yankees had just taken a 4-2 lead on a two-run home run by Gardner (No. 7) in the bottom of the fifth. The Yanks’ two prior homers were solo shots by Rodriguez (No. 13, career No. 667) in the first and Didi Gregorius (No. 3) in the second. In only his second start of the season after coming back from a right triceps injury, Verlander was not of Cy Young vintage.

Ian Kinsler started the sixth against Adam Warren (5-4), who had yet another strong night as a starter (8 IP, 7 H, 2R-ER, 0 BB, 7 K), with an infield single. Miguel Cabrera, who had struck out in his first two at-bats against Warren, lined a single to right field, sending Kinsler to third.

Yankees third baseman Chase Headley failed to handle right fielder Carlos Beltran’s relay for an error, but he atoned for that immediately when he retrieved the ball behind the bag and threw home to nail Kinsler at the plate on a fine tag by catcher John Ryan Murphy. Cabrera took second on the play but died there as Victor Martinez fouled out to Headley and Yoenis Cespedes grounded out.

The Yankees then pulled away with two runs in the seventh and one in the eighth. Gardner was a significant part of both rallies. He got the seventh inning started by bunting for a single with one out and eventually scored on a wild pitch. In the eighth, Gardner’s two-out single to left scored Chris Young, who had doubled.

Young entered the game as a defensive replacement in center field for rookie Mason Williams, who jammed his right shoulder sliding back into first base on a pickoff attempt by Verlander in the fifth inning. Williams was examined by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad, but no further tests were ordered.

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