Results tagged ‘ Brett Gardner ’

Yanks end bumpy trip on upbeat note

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When a sacrifice isn’t called for

You have to question Brett Gardner’s thinking in the third inning Tuesday night. Light-hitting Brendan Ryan had just led off with a rare extra-base hit, a booming double to left field, and was out there in scoring position for Gardner, the Yankees’ hottest hitter and winner of American League Player of the Week honors for last week.

So what goes Gardy do? Lays one down. That’s right. He drops down a sacrifice bunt to push Ryan to third base. Huh? I have never liked that play unless the batter is a pitcher. You have a runner with good wheels already in scoring position with none out. Why not try to knock the runner in yourself? And if you make an out by at least hitting the ball to the right side the runner will advance anyway.

The play really looked bad when the next batter, Derek Jeter, hit a squibbing grounder to second base against a tight infield for the second out with Ryan having to hold third. Jacoby Ellsbury saved the inning for the Yankees with a liner down the left field line for a double to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

After giving up a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, Hiroki Kuroda settled down over the next few innings and the Yankees drew even against David Price in the second on Brian McCann’s 12th home run.

Tanaka draws attention; Phelps on DL

Trying to find a place to park in the Yankee Stadium garage Monday afternoon was some task. Masahiro Tanaka was at the Stadium for the first time since going on the disabled list, so the Japanese media was on the scene en masse. And, of course, it was much ado about nothing.

Tanaka, who is recovering from a partially torn ligament in his right elbow, played catch. That was it. He said his arm felt fine, but as manager Joe Girardi said, “It’s way too early” to make any kind of serious assessment.

Yet Tanaka had made such a strong impression in the first half of his first major-league season just seeing him in uniform again was reason to rejoice. The Yankees hope there are still plenty of more innings left in that arm later in the season.

The rotation took another hit with David Phelps being placed on the DL because of tendinitis in the area above his right elbow. A second MRI on the elbow revealed inflammation. The righthander will be shut down for two weeks.

So Girardi has another decision to make about how to plug his spot in the rotation. The manager dismissed the idea that Michael Pineda might be ready to take Phelps’ turn, which will be Friday night against the Indians. Girardi said the current plan for Pineda is to make at least two more minor-league starts before the Yanks consider reinstating him, although the skipper did say that plans may change.

Girardi surely wants to wait and see what shape the Yankees are in after this four-game set against the Tigers, which included match-ups against the previous three American League Cy Young Award winners — Max Scherzer Monday night, David Price Tuesday night and Justin Verlander Wednesday night.

In addition to Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova were in the clubhouse. Nova is out for the season after undergoing right elbow surgery. Sabathia was walking on crutches following his right knee surgery.

To the shock of absolutely no one, Brett Gardner was named AL Player of the Week for the period that ended Sunday. The left fielder batted .478 with three doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in 23 at-bats. Ibn addition to homers, Gardner also led the majors last week in slugging percentage (1.261) and total bases (29).

“That’s not surprising,” Girardi said of Gardner’s honor, the second of his career. He was also cited the week ending June 9, 2013.

The homestand that began Monday night will conclude next Sunday with Paul O’Neill Day. As part of the ceremonies, O’Neill will be honored with a Monument Park plaque that will recognize his career. Family members and former teammates are expected to take part in the festivities. Fans are encouraged to arrive early and be in their seats by noon.

O’Neill spent the final nine seasons of his 17-year major-league with the Yankees (1993-2001) and was part of four World Series champions (1996, ’98-2000). He won the AL batting title with a .359 average in 1994 and compiled a .303 average, 304 doubles, 185 home runs and 858 RBI in his Yankees years.

Ticket specials will run Monday (Military Personnel Game), Tuesday, (Military Personnel Game), Wednesday (Military Personnel and Student Game), Thursday (MasterCard half-price, Military Personnel and Senior Citizen Game) and Saturday (Youth Game).

For a complete list of ticket specials, including game dates, seating locations, and terms and conditions, fans should visit http://www.yankees.com/ticketspecials. Please note that all ticket specials are subject to availability.

The homestand will also feature the following promotional items and dates:

Monday, August 4 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Back-to-School Set Night, presented by PC Richard & Son, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Tuesday, August 5 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Derek Jeter Commemorative Ticket Key Ring Night, presented by Delta Airlines, to first 18,000 guests.

Wednesday, August 6 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees Luggage Tag Night, presented by The Parking Spot, to first 18,000 guests.

Thursday, August 7 – Yankees vs. Tigers, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Magnetic Picture Frame Day, presented by Party City, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Friday, August 8 – Yankees vs. Indians, 7:05 p.m.
Yankees T-Shirt Night, presented by Living Language, to first 18,000 guests.

Saturday, August 9 – Yankees vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m.
Brian McCann Fathead Day, presented by The Learning Experience, to first 18,000 guests, 14 and younger.

Sunday, August 10 – Yankees vs. Indians, 1:05 p.m.
Yankees Cowboy Hat Day, presented by Pepsi, to first 25,000 guests.

Tickets may be purchased online at http://www.yankees.com, http://www.yankeesbeisbol.com, at the Yankee Stadium Ticket Office, via Ticketmaster phone at (877) 469-9849, Ticketmaster TTY at (800) 943-4327 and at all Ticket Offices located within Yankees Clubhouse Shops. Tickets may also be purchased on Yankees Ticket Exchange at http://www.yankees.com/yte, the only official online resale marketplace for Yankees fans to purchase and resell tickets to Yankees games. Fans with questions may call (212) YANKEES [926-5337] or email tickets@yankees.com.

Yanks win series from Red Sox; Phelps hurt

The Yankees finished up a disappointing trip with two comeback victories in Boston despite their starting pitchers failing to last long enough to qualify for victories in both games. Most disturbing is that Sunday night’s starter, David Phelps, had to come out of the game after just two innings because of right elbow inflammation.

Manager Joe Girardi said after the game that Phelps’ elbow has been nagging at him for about two weeks. An MRI revealed inflammation but nothing more serious than that. The righthander said his arm would loosen up after warming up before starts, but it did not loosen up Sunday night.

This taste of bad news came on a night when the Yankees got some good news about their pitching. Michael Pineda, one of several starters who have gone on the disabled list this year, threw 58 pitches in a 3 1/3-inning start for Triple A Scranton in which he allowed three hits and a walk with four strikeouts. Girardi said the Yankees hope Pineda can throw as many as 75 pitches in his next start and 90 in the start after that before considering reinstating him probably in mid-August.

There were also reports circulating that Masahiro Tanaka may play catch Monday when the Yankees return to New York to open a four-game series against the Tigers. This set will prove a major test for the Yanks, who will face Max Scherzer, David Price, Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello, one of baseball’s top rotations.

Brett Gardner put the finishing touches on a huge trip for him in which he batted .478 with four doubles, five home runs and seven RBI in 23 at-bats. Gardy doubled in two runs in the second inning as the Yankees came back from a 3-0 deficit to tie the score off an erratic Clay Buchholz and knocked in the deciding run in the sixth off reliever Craig Breslow with his 15th home run of the season.

An RBI double by Chase Headley and a two-run single by Stephen Drew in the fifth helped the Yanks erase another three-run deficit. The bullpen handled matters from there. Esmil Rogers pitched three innings of hitless, three-strikeout relief for a victory in his first appearance with the Yankees. Dellin Betances and David Robertson (29th save) supplied a shutout inning apiece as the Yankees held the Red Sox without a hit over the final five innings after Boston had gotten seven runs and eight hits over the first four frames.

The Yankees had also evaporated a 3-0 deficit Saturday in an eventual 6-4 victory. Shane Greene was removed by Girardi with two outs in the fifth inning and could not get the winning decision that went instead to Shawn Kelley, who pitched 1 1/3 innings of hitless, three-strikeout relief.

Gardner’s main competition for American League Player of the Week honors may be his own teammate, Carlos Beltran, who continued his hot streak with his sixth straight multi-hit game. He had a double and a single and scored two runs. On the trip, Beltran hit .480 with five runs, two doubles, one home run and five RBI in 25 at-bats.

Rest may have done Yanks a lot of good

It is beginning to look like the All-Star break was just what the Yankees needed. They certain appear rejuvenated after the four-day break. Derek Jeter, Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances were the Yankees’ representatives in Minneapolis, but only Jeter played in the game. Tanaka, on the disabled list, chose not to go, and Betances was stuck in the bullpen, yet that, too, might have been a blessing.

The rest of the Yankees got some needed R&R and have come back with a determination to make a strong run for the American League East title.

Saturday, the Yankees took up from where they left off Friday night with first-year players making significant contributions in a 7-1 victory over the Reds and All-Star pitcher Alfredo Simon.

Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, who drove in key runs Friday night, were back in the mix Saturday. Beltran had two more hits, including his 10th home run of the season. McCann started a three-run rally in the sixth inning with an against-the-shift, infield single.

At the bottom of the order, Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson combined for four hits, four runs and two RBI. In addition to his two singles, Roberts reached base on an error by right fielder Jay Bruce, who dropped a routine fly ball in the third inning that led to a gift run on a single by Brett Gardner.

Roberts left off the fifth with a single. Johnson followed with a single, and both runners advanced on a passed ball by Devin Mesoraco. A sacrifice fly by Gardner, who had three RBI in the game, and an RBI single by Jeter pushed the Yanks’ lead to 4-1.

“We took advantages of their miscues,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We moved runners over. We got the big hits. We had good at-bats. We were very fundamentally sound.”

Among the more recent newcomers is winning pitcher Brandon McCarthy, who is off to a terrific start with the Yankees after a not very terrific first half with the Diamondbacks. Acquired July 6 from Arizona in a trade for lefthander Vidal Nuno, McCarthy has had a quality start in each of his first two appearances for the Yankees.

The righthander provided a strong six innings Saturday in allowing one run on a home run by Chris Heisey, five other hits and no walks with nine strikeouts. Known as a sinkerballer, McCarthy had more of a power sinker Saturday as the strikeouts total attests. He also got seven of his other nine outs in the infield, six on ground balls.

This was the McCarthy the Yankees envisioned when they made the trade. Yankees fans might have scoffed when they saw that McCarthy was 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA in 109 2/3 innings for the Diamondbacks, but with the Yanks he is 1-0 with a 1.42 ERA, one walk and 12 strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings.

McCarthy credited McCann, his catcher, with guiding him through the game by using his cut fastball as well as the sinker on a day when his curve was not particularly sharp.

“My curve was nothing special, but all three fastballs were there,” McCarthy said. “I had gotten away from throwing the cutter with Arizona. Here they want me to keep the cutter in play to set up hitters in a different way. It’s hard to keep major-league hitters off balance with just one pitch.”

Coming to the Yankees marks a new beginning for McCarthy coming off from a club that was in last place in the National League West.

“A situation like that can energize and motivate players,” Girardi said.

“It’s energizing in itself just to be in a division race,” McCarthy said.

The Yankees’ play post the All-Star break promises they could be in the race to stay.

Rookies get major league firsts at start & finish

The Yankees helped relieve some of the pressure on Shane Greene making his first major league start Monday night at Cleveland by knocking out Indians starter Justin Masterson two batters into the third inning en route to building a 5-0 lead.

Masterson usually has his way with the Yankees at Progressive Field. He took a 3-0 record and 0.38 ERA in three career starts against the Yanks in the Tribe’s home yard into the game. He was nowhere close to that effective Monday night as the Yankees chased him with five runs, six hits, three walks and a hit batter in two-plus innings.

Brian McCann, who originally was supposed to catch Greene, was the designated hitter instead as Carlos Beltran was removed from the lineup because of a swollen right knee. Greene did just fine with backup Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. McCann did just fine with the bat, too, banging out a double and two singles and scoring two runs, a good sign to see.

Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki joined McCann in the hit parade with three apiece as well. It was the second straight three-hit game for Ichiro, who raised his season batting average to .304.

The Yankees could not have asked for a better first outing from Greene, who was with them earlier in the year and pitched a third of an inning in relief. This time, he went a full six innings and did not allow a hit until two out in the fifth when Nick Swisher broke up the no-hit bid and the shutout at the same time with his sixth home run. Greene was touched for another run in the sixth

Greene was not overpowering. He had only two strikeouts, both coming in the fifth inning, but did not walk anyone, either. He hit one batter, Asdrubal Cabrera, who was eventually caught trying to steal second base. Greene got 11 of his 18 outs in the infield, nine on ground balls.

David Huff worked a 1-2-3 seventh but gave up a home run to Yan Gomes leading off the eighth. Dellin Betances celebrated his being named to the American League All-Star squad by getting the final six outs to record his first major-league save to preserve Greene’s first major-league victory.

Betances got a major assist from shortstop Derek Jeter to get out of the eighth inning without damage. Jason Kipnis, on first base because of an error by second baseman Brian Roberts, fell victim to Jeter’s pretending to take a throw at second on a hit-and-run play, and was embarrassingly doubled up on Cabrera’s foul pop behind third base.

The Yankees are 26-15 in games started by rookies. With the state of the rotation uncertain for much of the period before the All-Star break, the young people stepping up has been huge.

Jeter moves up on All-Star lists

Derek Jeter’s election as the American League’s starting shortstop in next week’s All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis marks the ninth time in his career that he has been voted in the fan balloting to start the game. He received 3,928,422 votes, which raised his career total to 47,433,242, second only to Ken Griffey Jr., the all-time leader with 50,045,065 total votes.

This year will mark the 14th All-Star appearance for Jeter as he passed former teammate Mariano Rivera and Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio into third place on the franchise list behind two other Hall of Famers, Mickey Mantle (20) and Yogi Berra (18).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jeter is the only active player to be named to the All-Star Game with his current team at least 14 times. The record for All-Star Games by a player for only one team is 24 by Hall of Famer Stan Musial with the Cardinals. Hank Aaron was on 25 All-Star Game rosters — 24 with the Braves and one with the Brewers. Willie Mays played in 23 All-Star Games with the Giants and one with the Mets. The AL record is 19 games by Ted Williams with the Red Sox and Cal Ripken Jr. with the Orioles.

The other two Yankees on the AL squad are newcomers to the process, pitchers Masahiro Tanaka and Dellin Betances. This will be the first time the Yankees have had two rookies attending the All-Star Game.

These are all good choices, but I think more consideration should have been given to David Robertson and Brett Gardner. Rivera used to be an automatic choice. D-Rob isn’t at Mo’s level yet, but he has easily been one of the best closers in the league and leads AL pitchers in strikeouts per nine innings. Gardner got lost in the abundance of outfielders, but he has been the Yankees’ steadiest offensive player and remains the league’s top defensive left fielder.

Gardner got hits in his first two at-bats Monday night at Cleveland and has reached base safely in 22 straight games with a plate appearance since June 13. It is the longest such streak for the Yankees since Robinson Cano reached base safely in 26 straight games in 2012 from June 20 to July 20. It also matches Gardner’s longest such streak from 2009. He has hit safely in 18 of those 22 games.

Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki with three singles apiece Sunday at Minnesota became the third pair of teammates each in their 40s in major-league history to get at least three hits in the same game, joining the 1928 Philadelphia Athletics’ Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker and the 2006 San Francisco Giants’ Barry Bonds and Moises Alou. Elias also pointed out that notes Saturda, Jeter and Suzuki became the first pair of 40-year-old teammates with a stolen base in the same game since Bonds and Omar Vizquel for the Giants in 2007.

Prior to Monday night’s game at Progressive Field, the Indians organization paid tribute to the team’s late TV/radio personality Mike Hegan, who died last Christmas Day of a heart condition at the age of 71. Hegan was originally signed by the Yankees in 1961 and played for them in two separate stints. He was the son of former Indians All-Star catcher Jim Hegan, who later was a bullpen coach with the Yankees.

Mike Hegan spent 12 seasons in the majors and had some distinctions. With the expansion Seattle Pilots in 1969, he hit the first home run for that franchise and made the AL All-Star team. The Pilots lasted only one season in Seattle and moved in 1970 to Milwaukee and became the Brewers.

Hegan was a member of the Oakland A’s team that won the first of three straight World Series in 1972 before returning to the Yankees. Mike was the last player to bat in the original Yankee Stadium Sept. 30, 1973 in a loss to the Tigers. By the time the Yankees opened the renovated Stadium, Hegan was back in Milwaukee. I was working in Detroit in the 1970s and was at Tiger Stadium covering the Sept. 3, 1976 game when Hegan hit for the cycle.

After his playing days, Hegan went into the broadcast booth with the Brewers for 12 seasons before returning to his hometown Cleveland and working Indians games for 23 seasons. A heart ailment forced him into retirement after the 2012 season.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yanks barely over .500 at halfway point

There was a point Monday night when it seemed like Joe Girardi was managing as if this was Game 7 of the World Series instead of a game in late June.

The score was 2-2 in the eighth inning. Dellin Betances, the third of six Yankees pitchers in the game, had just walked two batters after two were out. Girardi hopped out of the dugout and made the call to David Robertson. Using his closer in the eighth inning of a tie game was certainly an indication that Girardi wanted to win this game badly.

Robertson and Betances have been the Yankees’ best relievers, but on this night neither got the job done. Robertson gave up a single to Rays catcher Ryan Hanigan that gave Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead.

You cannot fault Girardi. After losing two of three games to American League East rivals in each of their previous three series, the skipper wanted very much to get a victory at the start of this series, the fifth straight against division foes.

Brian Roberts gave the Yankees that opportunity with his fourth home run of the season, a solo shot to right with one out in the ninth off Joel Peralta, whose blown save cost Yankee killer Chris Archer a winning decision.

Archer gave the Yankees his usual hard time, although he did blow a 2-0 lead on solo homers by Matt Joyce and Kevin Kiermaier by giving up two runs in the bottom of the third. Archer asked for trouble by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a 1-2 pitch to start the inning. He came around to score on a triple to right by Brett Gardner. The Rays conceded a run by playing the infield back against Derek Jeter, who obliged with one of his four ground balls to second base in the game that scored Gardner.

And there it stood until the eighth when the Rays scratched that run off Betances and Robertson. David Phelps had started for the Yankees and gave up the two long balls but otherwise was solid. Roberts’ homer hung a no-decision on Archer, who is 4-0 with a 1.51 ERA against the Yankees in his career, including 2-0 with a 1.23 ERA at Yankee Stadium.

Whatever lift Roberts’ shot gave the Yankees was short-lived. The Rays scored a run with two out in the 12th to send the Yankees to their third straight loss and put their record at 41-40 at the halfway mark of the season.

“It has been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had our share of issues in the first half, but we’re still in the thick of it.”

Rookie Jose Ramirez walked Brandon Guyer with two out in the 12th. Guyer’s steal of second base was crucial, putting him in position to score on a single to center by Logan Forsythe. Rays reliever Brad Boxberger retired the Yankees in order in both the 11th and the 12th and was the winning pitcher.

Tampa Bay has been hit hardest in the division by injuries but still presented a problem for the Yankees Monday night.

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