Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

Postseason buzz at Stadium lasts only one game

It has been quite a while — perhaps all year — since Yankee Stadium had the buzz it did in the first inning of the American League Wild Card Game Tuesday night. Such is the sound of postseason baseball in New York, which had been missing from the Bronx the previous two seasons.

Unfortunately for Yankees fans, the postseason would last for only one game. AL Cy Young Award favorite Dallas Keuchel proved too much for the Yankees and pitched the Astros to a 3-0 victory. Keuchel allowed three hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings to extend his scoreless innings streak against the Yankees this season to 22. Three Houston relievers held the Yankees hitless over the final three innings.

Fans in the sellout crowd of 50,113 were loud and demonstrative throughout the top of the first inning as Masahiro Tanaka set down the side in order with two strikeouts. As forceful as Tanaka appeared, many of his pitches were up, which he would need to avoid to remain in command.

The crowd kept up the decibel level in the bottom of the inning as Keuchel fell to 3-ball counts on both Brett Gardner and Chris Young. Gardner went down on a called third strike, but Young walked.

Carlos Beltran, possessor of one of the greatest postseason careers in major league history, grounded out to third base as Young moved into scoring position at second, but Keuchel got Alex Rodriguez looking at a well-placed cutter on the outside corner.

The high fastball hurt Tanaka in the second inning as Colby Rasmus turned on the first pitch for a home run into the right field bleachers. Gardner came to Tanaka’s rescue by hauling in Evan Gattis’ drive at the wall in right-center.

One out later, Tanaka flirted with danger. Luis Valbuena singled to center, and Tanaka then walked the 8- and 9-hole hitters, strikeout machine Chris Carter and .211-hitting Jason Castro. That prompted a visit from pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Tanaka used his splitter to get ahead in the count on Jose Altuve, who ended the threat by grounding into a fielder’s choice.

Danger lurked in the third after George Springer led off with a double to center field. Tanaka got National League Rookie of the Year candidate Carlos Correa on a grounder to third and Rasmus, first-pitch swinging again, on a fly to left. Third baseman Chase Headley made a dazzling, one-handed pickoff of a slow grounder by Gaddis and threw out the designated hitter to squelch the rally.

Tanaka was victimized by another high fastball in the fourth that Carlos Gomez parked off the wall behind the visitors bullpen in left field. He made one of his typical show-boating trots around the bases. Yankees catcher Brian McCann had the good sense not to make an issue of it as he did years ago when he was with the Braves and Gomez with the Brewers. The last thing the Yankees needed was for McCann to get tossed.

Yanks manager Joe Girardi felt five innings was enough for Tanaka and brought in lefthander Justin Wilson, who walked Rasmus to start the sixth but then got Gaddis on a double-play grounder and Gomez on another ground ball.

Keuchel, meanwhile, was mowing down the Yankees with regularity. He retired 10 batters in a row before Didi Gregorius opened the home sixth with a single to right, only the Yankees’ second hit.

Gardner became a strikeout victim for the third time, which called to question Girardi choosing him over Jacoby Ellsbury to play center field in this game. Keuchel got another big out when Young grounded into a forceout.

Astros manager A.J. Hinch came to the mound after a sharply-hit single to center by Beltran. After a brief huddle, Hinch stayed with Keuchel to face Rodriguez, who swung at the first pitch and flied out to center.

That turned out to be the Yankees’ only threat against Houston, which was in the postseason for the first time in 10 years since losing Game 4 of the 2005 World Series to the White Sox. The Astros got a tack-on run in the seventh off Dellin Betances. Pinch runner Jonathan Villar got a key stolen base and scored on a two-out single by Altuve.

It was a rough final stretch for the Yankees, who lost six of the last seven games of the regular season and did not even score in the Wild Card Game. Dreams of a 28th World Series championship will have to wait until 2016.

Young gets start in Wild Card Game over Ellsbury

All year Yankees manager Joe Girardi has given one of his two left-handed hitting outfielders a night off against a left-handed starting pitcher. For Tuesday night’s American League Wild Card Game, Jacoby Ellsbury was the one who had to grab the pine.

Girardi wanted to make sure Chris Young, who had a strong year against lefthanders, was in the lineup and chose to sit Ellsbury and have Gardner move from left field to center against AL Cy Young Award candidate Dallas Keuchel, who pitched 16 shutout innings against the Yankees this year.

Young batted .327 with 15 doubles, one triple, seven home runs and 24 RBI in 153 at-bats against lefties this year. Neither Gardner nor Ellsbury finished the season on a high note. Girardi decided the statistics favored Gardner, who hit .276 with 12 doubles, three home runs and 12 RBI in 170 at-bats against lefties, over Ellsbury, a .253 hitter with five doubles, three homers and eight RBI in 154 at-bats against southpaws.

Tuesday night marked the first time the Yankees played in the AL Wild Card Game in the four-year history of the event and was their fifth Wild Card berth overall. They reached the postseason through the wild card in 1995, 1997, 2007 and 2010. The Yankees clinched the 52nd playoff appearance in franchise history, most for any major league club. They have appeared in the postseason in 18 of the past 21 seasons. The Yankees are 12-11 all-time in winner-take-all postseason games, most recently winning 2012 ALDS Game 5 against the Orioles, 3-1. The Yanks have won the opening game of four consecutive postseasons (2009-12) and are 6-1 in postseason openers since 2005.

Of the 25 players on their AL Wild Card Game roster, 10 have prior postseason experience: Alex Rodriguez (75 games), Carlos Beltran (51), Ellsbury (38), Gardner (33), Brian McCann (12), Young (12), Andrew Miller (5), Brendan Ryan (3), Justin Wilson (3) and Ivan Nova (2). Of those 10, only Rodriguez, Gardner and Nova have appeared for the Yankees in the postseason. The roster includes eight rookies — Greg Bird, Slade Heathcott, Bryan Mitchell, Rico Noel, John Pazos, Rob Refsnyder, Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino. Bird and Refsnyder were in Tuesday night’s starting lineup.

Three Yankees players previously appeared in Wild Card Games — Beltran was 1-for-4 in the 2012 NL Wild Card Game with the Cardinals in a 6-3 victory over the Braves; McCann drew a walk in one plate appearance with Atlanta in that same game; Wilson pitched for the Pirates in their 8-0 loss to the Giants in the 2014 NL Wild Card Game and allowed one hit and one walk with one strikeout in one-third of an inning.

Yankees batters hit a club-record 47 home runs of at least three runs in 2015 (40 three-run homers, seven grand slams), 18 more than the next-highest team (Blue Jays with 29). It was the third-highest total in major-league history history, behind the 53 by the Mariners in 1996 and the 48 by the Cardinals in 2000.

Yankees relief pitchers set a single-season record with 596 combined strikeouts, breaking the previous mark of 589 by the Rockies in 2012.

Yankees catchers combined for 28 home runs and 106 runs batted in, the highest HR and RBI totals among any team’s catchers. The Yanks used just two catchers this season, fewest in the majors, the first major-league team to use only two catchers for an entire season since the Pirates in 2012 with Rod Barajas and Michael McKenry). It was the third time in team history that the Yankees used only two catchers in a full season. The other years were 1972 (Thurman Munson and John Ellis) and 1940 (Bill Dickey and Buddy Rosar). Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the roster in September but neither went behind the plate.

Ironically, the Yankees had three catchers on the Wild Card Game roster: McCann, Murphy and Sanchez.

And then there was one — game left

The Yankees have pushed themselves into a corner on this last day of the regular season. Back on Thursday night when they clinched a playoff spot, all seemed right in their world. All they needed to do to make sure that the Wild Card Game to which they were qualified would be at Yankee Stadium Tuesday was to win one of the three remaining games in Baltimore.

So what happened? The magic number for home-field advantage that was cut down to one with Thursday night’s victory is still at one. Losing both ends of the separate-admission doubleheader at Camden Yards while the Astros and the Angels keep winning has brought the Yankees to a do-or-die situation Sunday. If they should lose again and the Astros win, the Yankees will have to travel to Houston Tuesday.

In trying to give some rest for many of his regulars, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went with makeshift lineups Saturday that did not get the job done. All the regulars are in there Sunday behind Michael Pineda for this win-or-else game.

CC, Warren, long ball clich wild card spot for Yanks


In what seemed a foregone conclusion at the start of the final homestand of the regular season that the Yankees would clinch their first postseason appearance in three seasons, it took until the last home game of 2015 for them to make it a reality.

After three straight losses to the Red Sox, the Yankees ended the agonizing path to a wild-card playoff berth Thursday night with a 4-1 victory over their long-time rivals. The Yankees were able to taste some champagne before (and perhaps during) their charter flight to Baltimore where they will start a three-game series Friday night (weather permitting) with one more task remaining, that of guaranteeing they are the home team for the wild-card game next Tuesday night.

Just qualifying for that game had been a chore for the Yanks, who were eliminated from the American League East race Tuesday by the division champion Blue Jays. Boston put up a roadblock for three nights, but the Yankees broke through on a damp, chilly night in a game that was played through a steady drizzle over the first six innings.

Having had trouble hitting with runners in scoring position in the series (6-for-29, 30 runners left on base in 27 innings), the Yanks resorted to their traditional ally — the home run — to provide the support for the quality pitching supplied by CC Sabathia, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances.

Solo shots by Carlos Beltran off starter Rich Hill in the second inning, Greg Bird off Jean Machi in the seventh and Rob Refsnyder off Heath Hembree in the eighth powered the Yankees to the 10,000th victory in franchise history. The other RBI for the Yankees was by Brendan Ryan on a two-out single off Hill in the second.

The hearty souls in the announced crowd of 40,033 at Yankee Stadium were rewarded for their endurance under miserable weather conditions.

Upon returning from the disabled list Sept. 9 after recovering from right knee inflammation, Sabathia vowed to have impact on the Yankees’ drive to the postseason, and he did exactly that. The big lefthander held Boston to one run, six hits and three walks (one intentional) with three strikeouts in five innings. In five starts since his return from the DL, Sabathia was 2-1 with a 2.17 ERA in 29 innings.

Sabathia leads the Yankees in innings pitched with 167 1/3. Excluding the strike-shortened seasons of 1981 and 1994, the Yankees have never completed a season in which no pitcher reached 170 innings.

Even more impressive Thursday night was Warren, who supplied three innings of shutout, one-hit, three-strikeout relief. Manager Joe Girardi planned to have Warren pitch out of the bullpen in the wild card game, so nailing down Thursday night’s game meant that Warren does not have to bs used as a starter in Baltimore.

Betances worked the ninth and retired the side on order with two strikeouts for his ninth save. Betances’ game-ending strikeout of Josh Rutledge was the 589th punchout by the Yankees’ bullpen this season, which ties the major league record set in 2012 by the Rockies. The Yanks will likely establish a new standard sometime over the weekend.

This year’s Yankees are the first team in major league history to have seven pitchers get at least 100 strikeouts in a season. Prior to this season, they had never had more than five pitchers reach triple-digit strikeouts in a season (four times, most recently 2013).

Tanaka to start Wednesday night, lined up for wild card

The TBA (to be announced) was removed from Wednesday night’s probable starting pitcher for the Yankees. Masahiro Tanaka will take the mound for that night’s game against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium, which would allow him five days’ rest before an anticipated start by the Japanese righthander in the wild-card playoff scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi still won’t discuss the wild-card situation for two reasons: one, the Yankees have yet to clinch a postseason spot yet, although their magic number is down to two and, two, the Yankees have not been mathematically eliminated from the American League East race, although it would take a major collapse on the part of the first-place Blue Jays, who have a four-game lead over the Yanks with seven to play.

Tanaka’s start Wednesday night would be more than a tuneup. He has not pitched since Sept. 18 at Citi Field against the Mets in which he sustained a Grade 1 sprain of his left hamstring while running to first base on a sacrifice bunt. Tanaka pitched six innings that night even though he hurt his leg in the second inning.

Assuming he has no setbacks Wednesday night, Tanaka would be in line to start the game the Yankees won’t talk about yet.

“I think we all wanted to get to this day,” Girardi said. “We wanted to make sure that he felt good and he could go through all the things that he needed to go through.”

Said Tanaka, through a translator: “I knew that I was going to be out there before the season ended. So, not a big surprise there, but yes, I’m relieved and happy to be out there.”

Severino continues to move up rotation ladder

The Yankees continue to hold out hope that they can catch the Blue Jays and win the American League East title, although the calendar keeps betraying them. They lost another day Sunday when their 6-1 victory over the White Sox was trumped by the Jays’ comeback, 5-4 victory at Toronto on Josh Donaldson’s ninth-inning home run.

So the space between the Yankees and the Blue Jays remains four games with seven to play. Yet manager Joe Girardi and his players are not yet ready to discuss the possibility of being in the wild card game, which grows more likely by the day.

It was hard not to think of that Sunday as the Yankees reduced their magic number for qualifying for the postseason for the first time in three years to three with a victory that featured six shutout innings from Luis Severino, who in a very short time has moved up the rotation ladder.

“He knows how to pitch,” catcher Brian McCann said of Severino, who just may enter the conversation once Girardi decided to talk about his wild-card game plans.

With Masahiro Tanaka still nursing an aching hamstring, it calls to question which pitcher would start the wild-card game that if the season ended tomorrow would be played at Yankee Stadium. At this point, the Yankees cannot know for sure who their opponent will be so setting up a starter now would be foolish.

Girardi did not announce his rotation for the final home series, a four-game set against the Red Sox, beyond Ivan Nova in the first game Monday night against Boston’s Eduardo Rodriguez. The Sox will follow with Rick Porcello Tuesday night, Wade Miley Wednesday night and Rich Hill Thursday night while the Yankees have listed TBA (to be announced).

If he is healthy, Tanaka could get the call Tuesday or Wednesday night. Thursday night would seem doubtful if Tanaka is in line to start the wild-card game, which is scheduled for 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6. Then again, Girardi could choose Michael Pineda to start that game, and after what everyone saw Sunday Severino might have worked himself into the mix.

The rookie righthander scattered five hits over six innings with one walk and two strikeouts in improving his record to 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA. It was the second career scoreless start for Severino (also Aug. 29 at Atlanta). Over his past seven starts (since Aug. 22), he is 5-1 with a 2.58 ERA in 38 1/3 innings. Severino is the first pitcher in franchise history to allow two or fewer runs in eight starts within his first 10 career major-league games.

The final score is a bit misleading because it was a 1-0 game for five of Severino’s six innings. The Yankees got a run without a hit in the first inning off Erik Johnson thanks to two errors by first baseman Jose Abreu but did not score again until Dustin Ackley led off the sixth with his ninth home run, his third since joining the Yankees. They added a second run that inning on a passed ball by catcher Rob Brantly.

Ackley has also worked himself into the playoff mix for the Yanks. Obtained July 30 in a trade from the Mariners, Ackley was out for a month with a back injury but has batted .300 with seven RBI in 40 at-bats since and could displace Stephen Drew as the Yanks’ regular second baseman.

Drew has been battling an inner-ear infection the past 10 days, an ailment that has caused dizziness and affected his balance. Drew and Brendan Ryan, who played third base Sunday, have been in a platoon at second base much of the second half.

The Yankees were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position before they got two hits in a row in those circumstances in the seventh — a single by Alex Rodriguez as a pinch hitter that loaded the bases and another single by Jacoby Ellsbury that got a run home. Both Yankees runs in the eighth were courtesy of rookies — Greg Bird with an RBI single and Slade Heathcott with a sacrifice fly.

The Yanks finished 3-for-19 (.158) with runners in scoring position and left 15 on base, but those two runs in the eighth meant that Girardi did not have to use Andrew Miller in the ninth.

Sunday’s crowd of 38,690 boosted home attendance to 3,036,446 that marked the 17th consecutive season that the Yankees have drawn at least three million fans to the Stadium. The 2015 paid home attendance will reflect only 80 dates because of the single-admission doubleheader Sept. 12 against the Blue Jays.

Girardi won’t talk about postseason till Yanks qualify

As the Blue Jays’ lead in the American League East gets firmer by the day, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has begun to get questions about his plans for a potential wild card game. Girardi will not bite, and I do not blame him.

Girardi has taken the view that he will not discuss the postseason until the Yankees have qualified for it, which is only smart. There are still eight games remaining on the regular schedule, so why get ahead of himself?

Toronto remained four games up on the Yanks after both clubs won Saturday. The Yankees’ 2-1 victory over the White Sox at Yankee Stadium followed later in the day the Jays’ 10-8 triumph over the Rays at Rogers Centre. It remains a big hurdle for the Yankees to catch Toronto, but Girardi is not conceding anything yet. His view is that the Yanks need to keep winning no matter what — to stay on the Blue Jays’ tails and to ensure that should the wild card game be their entry into postseason play that they play that game at the Stadium.

Adam Warren had a shaky first inning but settled down to give the Yankees six quality innings. The run he gave up to the first two batters in the game — Adam Eaton singled, stole second and scored on a single by Jose Abreu — was the only one he allowed. Warren yielded another hit thar frame before Adam LaRoche hit into a double play.

Warren gave up no hits or runs after that inning but ran into some difficulty in the fifth after his string of 12 straight outs ended with the White Sox loading the bases on three walks and having to face Abreu again with two out.

“I just walked everybody to get to their best hitter and one of the best hitters in the game; yeah, that was real smart,” Warren said with a dose of sarcasm. “Larry [Rothschild, pitching coach] and Mac [Brian McCann, catcher] calmed me down, and we stuck with the game plan.”

Warren stayed with a still muscular fastball against last year’s AL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award winner. After fouling off four straight pitches — three fastballs and a slider — Abreu swung through a 93-mph heater.

That was a crucial point in the game because it was still 1-0 White Sox. The Yankees finally got to Chicago starter John Danks in the sixth. Jacoby Ellsbury started things off with a single and a stolen base, an important steal because Chase Headley followed with a double that bounced over the fence in left-center. If not for swiping second, Ellsbury would have had to stop at third base on the two-bagger.

Alex Rodriguez then smoked a one-hopper off the glove of third baseman Mike Ott, the force of which sent the ball into the stands for another automatic double that chased home Chase with what proved the deciding run.

The bullpen took over from there with a perfect seventh from Justin Wilson, a perfect eighth from Dellin Betances and a perfect ninth from Andrew Miller (36th save) to preserve the victory for Warren (7-7). The final 13 Chicago batters were retired in order.

“Those three guys have been doing it all year,” Warren said. “We feel that if we have the lead after six we have the game won.”

The four strikeouts by the relief corps boosted the pen’s season total to 573, breaking by two the AL record the Yankees set last year. The all-time record for strikeouts by a bullpen is 589 by the Rockies in 2012.

Warren improved his record at the Stadium this year to 4-1 with a 2.11 ERA in 42 2/3 innings. He has allowed two runs or fewer in each of his seven home starts this season. Warren has given up three or fewer runs in each of his past 12 starts dating to May 8. That matches the longest such single-season stretch by a Yankees pitcher since Ron Guidry from June 2 through Sept. 29, 1981.t

Beltran, McCann provide power turnaround

Beaten up by Mets’ home runs Friday night, the Yankees returned the favor Saturday by going deep twice against fireballer Noah Syndergaard, which accounted for all their runs in a 5-0 victory that tied up Round 2 of the Subway Series that will end tonight with CC Sabathia opposing Matt Harvey on ESPN.

Saturday’s game was a national telecast as well, on FOX, and the Yankees came out looking a whole lot better to the nation than the Mets, although the standings tell a different story. The Mets still have a commanding lead in the National League East while the Yanks trail the Blue Jays by four games in the American League East but with a firm hold on a wild-card slot.

Home runs by Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy and Juan Uribe were the key blows for the Mets in their 5-1 victory Friday night, and the Yankees wasted no time responding with a three-run blast in the first inning by Carlos Beltran. Blast, indeed. Beltran turned around a 100-mph fastball on a 0-2 count from Syndergaard with the ball banging off the facing of the second deck at Citi Field where the switch hitter played in three of his six-plus seasons with the Mets.

The Queens ballpark is also the place where Syndergaard has been practically unbeatable in his rookie season. The flame-throwing righthander entered play Saturday with an 8-6 record and 3.20 ERA overall but 7-1 with a 2.15 ERA at Citi Field. The Yankees certainly adjusted those numbers.

In fact, the Yankees went against the numbers. Beltran went into the game with a .193 career average against the Mets. Yankees starter Michael Pineda had allowed eight earned runs in 11 1/3 innings (6.35 ERA) in his previous two starts and was 1-3 with a 6.27 ERA and eight home runs allowed in 33 innings over his six prior starts. Saturday, however, Pineda joined the recent run of success by Yankees starters.

Pineda did not allow a runner past second base in his 5 1/3 innings in taming the Mets on four singles and one walk with four strikeouts. Over the past six games, the Yankees’ rotation is 3-1 with a 1.30 ERA in 34 2/3 innings. The only loss was to Masahiro Tanaka Friday night, and he left the game trailing only 2-1.

Syndergaard recovered from the blow by Beltran that followed singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner resembling their 1-2 combo earlier in the season by retiring 12 batters in order before Dustin Ackley, starting at second base, opened the fifth inning with a triple over Yoenis Cespedes in center field. Yankees pitchers have done a good job of neutralizing Cespedes at the plate. He is 0-for-8 in the series.

The Yankees did not capitalize on Ackley’s hit as Syndergaard struck out Didi Gregorius and Pineda and got Ellsbury on a weak infield grounder. The next inning, though, Beltran singled and scored on another long home run by Brian McCann that swelled the lead. Greg Bird followed with a double, but Syndergaard got two more Ks before departing after the sixth.

The Yankees are 18-8 in games started by opposing rookie pitchers this season. In those 26 starts, rookie hurlers are 7-12 with a 5.17 ERA in 139 1/3 innings. Yankees batters have hit .273 with 21 home runs against the freshmen.

As good as Pineda was, he did not get through the sixth as manager Joe Girardi went to his bullpen early and employed six relievers to nail this one down, including Dellin Betances for all three outs in the eighth (two strikeouts) and Andrew Miller for the final out of the game after the Mets had scratched out a couple of two-out, infield singles in the ninth. The relievers teamed for 3 2/3 shutout innings in which they allowed two hits, both singles, and no walks with eight strikeouts, at one point striking out seven Mets batters in a row.

In all, 20 players were used in the game by Girardi. That is how seriously he is taking each game down the stretch.

Yanks go down fighting but definitely down

At least the Yankees went down fighting. Trailing by four runs in the top of the ninth inning, they loaded the bases with one out against Mets closer Jeurys Familia and had the sellout crowd of 43,602 at Citi Field pretty nervous. Familia recovered, however, and down the Yankees indeed did go.

The 5-1 loss smarted, and least of all because it came against the Mets. These Subway Series certainly draw the interest of the two New York teams’ fan bases, but as former Yankees manager Joe Torre used to point out at this juncture of the season they are not playing for the same prize, which is the downside of inter-league competition.

What hurt mostly is that the setback corresponded with the Blue Jays winning at home against the Red Sox so that the Yankees fell 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East. Also, the Yanks were defeated with their ace on the mound, which could mean having Masahiro Tanaka make his next start Wednesday night at Toronto might be a waste of time. A lot can happen over the next four days that could convince manager Joe Girardi to give Tanaka extra rest so that he can be at his sharpest for the wild card game.

With 16 games remaining, it is far too early for the Yankees to concede the division title to Toronto and concentrate on making sure they are the home team in the wild card playoff. But the idea has to have crossed Girardi’s mind.

Tanaka started Friday night on regular rest so that he would be available to pitch in the Toronto series that follows the Subway Series. He pitched well, too, although he could not keep two balls in the yard that ruined his outing. Solo home runs by Lucas Duda off a high splitter in the second inning and Daniel Murphy on a wimpy slider in the sixth were the only real mistakes made all night by Tanaka, who has allowed 24 home runs in 149 innings.

The Yankees got a run in the first inning off Mets rookie Steven Matz on a sacrifice fly by Chris Young before the lefthander settled down and held the Yankees at bay through the sixth. That was Matz’s last inning and one that presented Girardi with a big decision.

With the score 1-1, the Yankees had runners on first and third and two out with 8-hole hitter Brendan Ryan due up and Tanaka in the on-deck circle. On the bench lurked Alex Rodriguez, rendered a bench warmer because the designated hitter is outlawed in the National League. That might have been the perfect time to let A-Rod try to break open the game as a pinch hitter, but Girardi did not think so.

The skipper’s thinking was that there was still an open base, even though it was second base, so Rodriguez could have been pitched around, perhaps even purposely walked and then Girardi would have to lift Tanaka for a pinch hitter. He liked the way his pitcher was throwing and did not want to chance that Rodriguez would be wasted in an at-bat in that circumstance. So he let Ryan hit or at least swing, which he did on the first pitch and grounded out to end the threat.

Murphy’s homer off Tanaka came in the bottom of that inning, and the Mets never looked back. Juan Uribe would have the big pinch-hit at-bat in the game for the Mets and drove an opposite-field, two-run home run to right off Chasen Shreve, who has been struggling of late (six earned runs in his past four innings).

Rodriguez did come up in the pinch, but it was when the Yanks were four runs behind in the ninth with a runner on second and one out. He, yep, walked, just as Girardi feared would happen earlier. A single by Jacoby Ellsbury off Familia’s shin filled the bases, but the Mets’ closer in a non-save situation retired Brett Gardner on a fly to left and struck out Chase Headley.

The NL East-leading Mets reduced their major number for clinching their first division title in nine years to eight, but this was a case of one New York team being hurt more by a loss than the other was fortified by a victory.

Ellsbury benched for Subway Series opener

When an opponent starts a left-handed pitcher, as the Mets are doing Friday night, Yankees manage Joe Girardi occasionally gives one of his left-handed hitting outfielders a night off. Not in Friday night’s Yankees lineup at Citi Field was Jacoby Ellsbury.

This should not come as a surprise considering the slump the center fielder has been in this month. Ellsbury is batting .123 with no extra-base hits or RBI in 57 September at-bats and has stolen merely one base. He has three hits in his past 38 at-bats, a .079 stretch that included a hitless string of 25 at-bats that he ended with two hits Wednesday night at St. Petersburg, Fla.

Ellsbury, who was sidelined for seven weeks in the first half of the season due to a right knee sprain, says he is healthy but he has not been the same hitter since he came off the disabled list. He was batting .324 with 14 stolen bases at the time of the injury but in 247 at-bats since his return July 8 Ellsbury has hit .211 with four steals as his season batting average has plummeted to .253.

As it was, this was not an easy decision for Girardi because Brett Gardner, who was the leadoff hitter Friday night and shifted from left field to center, entered the game hitless in his past 15 at-bats since his three-homer, seven-RBI performance in a doubleheader last Saturday against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are 9-8 in inter-league play this season and are on a four-game winning streak against the National League. They won two of three games in this year’s first Subway Series back in April at the Stadium, long before the Mets played their way into postseason contention.

Yankees batters have hit 23 home runs in 17 inter-league games and have scored at least 10 runs in three of their past four games. In inter-league play this season, the Yankees lead all clubs in on-base percentage (.364) and on-base plus slugging percentage (.843) and rank second in runs (108), batting (.290) and slugging (.480).

Yankees pitchers have a 4.89 ERA in 17 inter-league games and 152 2/3 innings after producing a 2.94 ERA in 183 2/3 innings last year, the third-lowest mark in the majors. Yankees starters have a 5.61 ERA in 94 2/3 innings this season and have allowed at least 5 earned runs in six of 17 starts.

Yankees pitchers are 1-for-18 (.056) in inter-league play this year. Branden Pinder ended a team 0-for-30 with an RBI double Aug. 30 at Atlanta, the first hit by a Yankees pitcher Chase Whitley May 14, 2014 at Citi Field, the first extra-base hit since Andy Pettitte’s double June 19, 2009 at Miami and the first RBI since CC Sabathia’s RBI groundout Aug. 2, 2013 at San Diego. Pinder was the second Yankees reliever in the designated hitter era (since 1973) to get a hit. The other was Mike Stanton June 6, 2000 at Montreal. Yankees pitchers have batted a combined .091 with nine doubles, 13 RBI and 45 sacrifice hits in 385 inter-league at-bats.

The Yankees are 3-4 in NL parks this season and are on a three-game winning streak. The Yankees lead the majors in all-time inter-league victories (201) and winning percentage (.593). They have posted a winning inter-league record in 15 of 18 seasons.


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