Results tagged ‘ Joe Girardi ’

Jeter runs it out as usual in final big-league game

Once you saw Carl Yastrzemski on the field at Fenway Park before Sunday’s season finale that marked Derek Jeter’s last major-league game you know this was a big deal. Yaz is one of the most reclusive former athletes in the world. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1989 and has gone back for a ceremony only twice, in 2000 and 2009 for the inductions of former teammates Carlton Fisk and Jim Rice, respectively.

So there was Yaz on the Fenway infield with other Boston stars of the past – Rice, Luis Tiant, Rico Petrocelli, Fred Lynn, Tim Wakefield and Jason Varitek – all decked out in Red Sox jerseys to pay homage to a star of the Yankees. The Red Sox did it up big for the Yanks’ captain. Along with Varitek, DJ’s counterpart with the Red Sox, former captains of Boston’s other pro sports teams – Bobby Orr (Bruins), Troy Brown (Patriots) and Paul Pierce (Celtics) – were on hand for the pregame ceremony as well.

The Red Sox had taken a tongue-in-cheek approach to Mariano Rivera’s farewell last year, and it laid a huge egg. They made up for that this year with a grand sendoff for Jeter. David Ortiz and Red Sox shortstop Zander Bogaerts presented Jeter with a sign made up of Fenway scoreboard lettering reading, “Re2spect,” and second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who became friendly with Jeter when they were teammates on the USA team in the World Baseball Classic several years ago, handed the retiring icon second base with No. 2 in pinstripes across the front. The Red Sox organization also gave Jeter a $22,222.22 donation to the Captain’s Turn2 Foundation, equaling the largest check he received from an opposing team, that of the Mets. Major League Baseball had also given Jeter a check for that amount, but not surprisingly the Yankees came up with the largest donation of all — $222,222.22.

There had been some speculation that Jeter might pull a Ted Williams and not play in the three-game series following his triumphant final game at Yankee Stadium Thursday night when he had the game-winning hit. Teddy Ballgame homered in his final Fenway at-bat in 1960 and decided not even to go to New York for the last series considering the Yankees had already clinched the American League pennant. Well, the Yankees were out of contention this week, too, something Jeter was not accustomed to, but out of respect for the game and the supporters of the Yankees’ biggest rivals he made the trip to Boston.

There were no such things as farewell tours years ago. Players would receive a standing ovation and then just go home. In fact, Jeter’s last game came on the 46th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s last big-league appearance, also at Fenway Park. The Mick started at first base but never took the field. He batted in the first inning, popped out to shortstop, and was replaced at his position by Andy Kosco. Unlike Jeter, however, Mantle did not announce his retirement in that season of 1968 but rather the following March before the start of spring training in 1969.

Jeter had made a pact with manager Joe Girardi that he would make two plate appearances as the designated hitter, the same as he did Saturday. Jeter did not play Friday night because he was exhausted from all the tension and excitement of his Stadium exit game as well as his last as a shortstop. DJ lined out to short in the first inning. Batting with Ichiro Suzuki on third base after hitting a two-run triple in the third, Jeter hit chopper off the plate and beat it out for a single that drove in a run, his 50th RBI of the season, and settled his career hit total at 3,465, sixth on the all-time list.

At that point, Jeter came out of the game for a pinch runner, of all people, Brian McCann, one of the slowest runners in the majors (he even lost a pregame footrace to Mark Teixeira). Unlike last Thursday night when his emotions nearly got the best of him, Jeter was calm and flashed often his signature smile. While he left the game, he did not leave the dugout and cheered on his mates through a 9-5 victory.

The Red Sox had one more cool surprise for Jeter. They arranged for Bernie Williams, former Yankees center fielder and current road musician, to play “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” on his guitar for his old teammate during the seventh-inning stretch, a poignant moment that echoed the end of an era for the Yankees. Perhaps that is why the Red Sox celebrated the day.

Jeter, not always comfortable with the out-of-town attention this year and under some criticism lately for what seemed at times an over-merchandizing of his farewell tour, was grateful to the Red Sox for this parting glass.

What I will take mostly from this game was Jeter’s hit itself. He ran hard to first base as he did from Day One in a Yankees uniform, forcing an infielder to hurry and eventually be unable to make the play. Most Yankees fans would have surely loved to see Jeet rip one over the Green Monster to finish off his career, but the dash to first base exemplified what Jeter was all about the past 20 years. You run everything out. It is the only way he played every day.

How appropriate; Jeter wins his last Stadium game

So it turned out what Derek Jeter needed most in his final game at Yankee Stadium was Mariano Rivera. Then again, if Mo had been available to close out Thursday night’s game, it might not have had the dramatic finish it did.

Appropriate is the key word to describe the finish of the Yankees’ 6-5 victory over the Orioles in the Captain’s last appearance in the home pinstripes. All week long Yankees manager Joe Girardi was asked what gesture he was contemplating for Jeter’s farewell. The skipper kept saying he would consult with Jeter, who did the one thing he has always done over 20 seasons in the major leagues — play the game until the last out.

Who else was better to win Jeter’s Stadium finale than Jeter? He fought back emotion in the last two innings after the Yankees had grabbed a three-run lead but reverted to the cool demeanor that has defined him to be in place to get the game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth inning. It was achieved with his familiar inside-out swing, a single to right field that delivered pinch runner Antoan Richardson to the plate to end as astonishing an evening as there ever has been at either Yankee Stadium.

David Robertson, who succeeded Rivera as the Yankees’ closer, had a nightmare of a ninth inning by giving up a two-run home run to Adam Jones and a solo shot with two out to Steve Pearce that tied the score and threatened to ruin the night for Jeter. Rivera as well as other old teammates Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada, Andy Pettitte, Tino Martinez and Gerald Williams and former manager Joe Torre were in attendance as well as Derek’s parents and his sister and nephew among a crowd of 48,613, the largest this year at the Stadium.

The blown save actually created the possibility that Jeter could be the hero. He had already contributed to the Yankees’ attack with a run-scoring double in the first inning and an RBI fielder’s choice in the seventh when the Yankees went up by a 5-2 score.

Imagine if Girardi had sent Brendan Ryan out to play shortstop in the top of the ninth to let Jeter get a standing ovation leaving the field? What a revolting development that would have been.

Two minor-league call-ups helped frame the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees. Jose Pirela led off with a single past third base. Richardson ran for Pirela and was sacrificed to second by Brett Gardner. I will not use the phrase “those remaining in the crowd” because I doubt anyone left the game before it ended. Up came Jeter to another crescendo of cheers. That was nothing compared to what came next. Jeter’s single was worth the price of every expensive ticket, the hottest one all year in New York.

His current teammates mobbed Jeter on the base path between first while his former comrades looked on approvingly. Hugs and high fives abounded. Jeter walked around the infield waving his cap in acknowledging the fans in every section of the Stadium.

He then walked slowly to the shortstop position, the only one he has ever played on a major-league diamond, and squatted in an almost religious gesture. He said afterward that he will not play shortstop again. He will go to Boston for the Yankees’ final three games of the season and out of respect for Red Sox fans plans to play but as a designated hitter only.

Jeter’s last season was nowhere near his best, but at 40 playing one of the game’s most demanding positions he stayed healthy and made it through 143 of the team’s 159 games. His hit gave the Yankees victory No. 82, guaranteeing them a winning season for the 22nd consecutive year. Jeter never had a losing season in the majors. The Captain also saved his best for last. In his final home stand, Jeter batted .353 with five runs, four doubles, one home run and nine RBI in 34 at-bats.

His Stadium numbers are also impressive. Jeter played in 1,390 regular-season games in the Bronx — 1,004 at the old Stadium and 386 at the current Stadium. He combined to hit .313 with 1,012 runs, 273 doubles, 30 triples, 138 home runs, 666 RBI and 193 stolen bases in 5,514 at-bats.

It is hard to believe that this tremendous career has come to an end. I was able to get a quiet moment with DJ before the game. I am not going to Boston and wanted to say my goodbyes and tell him how much I enjoyed watching him play and thank him for his cooperation over the years.

It was also the end of an era. Jeter, Posada, Pettite, Rivera and Bernie Williams are the only players I have covered in a 40-year career as a baseball writer from their first day of spring training to their last game at Yankee Stadium. They are the Core Four Plus One. Jeter’s retirement ends all that. But what an ending!

Tanaka impressive in 1st post-injury start

Masahiro Tanaka did not walk off the mound Sunday grabbing his right elbow, which was the best development of the day for him and the Yankees. Making his first start in 10 weeks after being treated for a partially-torn ligament in his elbow, Tanaka showed no ill effects of the injury and gave the Yankees encouragement about his status for next season.

The only negative aspect of the Japanese righthander’s outing was that he failed to go at least six innings for the first time in 19 starts. Manager Joe Girardi made the move to the bullpen after 5 1/3 innings. Tanaka was on a tight pitch count considering the circumstances, so when Edwin Encarnacion hit a ground single to right field against the shift on Tanaka’s 70th pitch the skipper felt he had seen enough, most of which was good.

“Pretty darn good,” Girardi said, then referring to catcher Brian McCann added, “Mac said his stuff was the same [as before he got hurt]. Now we’ve got to get him ready to start Saturday [at Boston]. His first pitch was 92 [mph]. I don’t think I was prepared for that. We haven’t had a lot of good news lately, so this was welcomed.”

Tanaka got off to a shaky start as he allowed hits to the first two Toronto hitters, but the run that scored on a double play proved the only one he would allow. He was touched for five hits and again displayed superb control by not walking a batter (he did hit one) and had four strikeouts. His splitter was on target as eight of the 16 outs he recorded came on ground balls.

“Overall, I was satisfied,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I wanted to check how well the elbow responded. I was able to go pretty strong. I was relieved. Gradually, as the game went on I stopped worrying about it.”

When Tanaka did walk off the mound, he did so with a 2-1 lead. The Yankees tied the score in the bottom of the first on the first of two McCann home runs in the game and went ahead in the fifth on a homer by Brett Gardner, his 17th this season and No. 15,000 in franchise history. Both bombs were off Toronto’s hard-throwing starter, Drew Hutchison, who could not get through the fifth inning.

The Yankees attacked the Blue Jays’ bullpen in the seventh. Back-to-back doubles by Gardner and Derek Jeter off Todd Redmond accounted for one run, and McCann knocked in two more by greeting lefthander Daniel Morris with his second homer of the game and 22nd of the season.

Jeter kept up his torrid home stand with his fourth straight two-hit game, the first Yankees player 40 or older to do that and the first in the majors since the Braves’ Chipper Jones in 2012. DJ is 8-for-17 (.471) with three runs, two doubles, one home run, three RBI and a stolen base on the home stand.

A strong candidate for both Cy Young Award and Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award consideration in the American League before he got hurt, Tanaka improved his record to 13-4 with a 2.47 ERA and to 6-1 with a 1.69 ERA in seven day-game starts. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tanaka is one of four pitchers to have made his first post All-Star Game appearance in September after being named to an All-Star squad that season, joining the Indians’ Ray Narleski in 1956, the Astros’ Joaquin Andujar in 1977 and the Red Sox’ Clay Buchholz in 2013.

Jeter was right to wait to celebrate

There is no use trying to avoid what is going on with the Yankees these closing days of the season. A playoff berth remains a mathematical possibility but only by the slimmest of margins. Yanks manager Joe Girardi said at the start of the recent trip to Baltimore and St. Petersburg, Fla., that the Yankees needed to win every game, and they proceeded to lost five of seven.

They returned to Yankee Stadium Thursday night to begin their final homestand of the season. Despite the dire circumstances of the Yanks’ position in the standings, the Stadium had a buzz to it in the crowd that was by no means capacity but was nevertheless enthusiastic.

Perhaps the reason could have something to do with the person playing shortstop for the Yankees. This is Derek Jeter’s last hurrah at the Stadium, and that may be enough to keep the folks in the seats keeping the faith.

The Captain did not disappoint the faithful, either. Coming off a dreadful trip during which he had a hitless string stretch to 28 at-bats, Jeter got the crowd cheering in the first inning when he beat out a grounder to deep shortstop for a single. The assembled got to roar their approval five innings later when DJ ripped a 3-1 knuckleball from R.A. Dickey to right field for a home run, the cap’s first dinger in 158 at-bats since Aug. 1 at Boston.

As fiercely as the crowd reacted to the blow, Jeter declined to take a curtain call, which is typical of him. The homer made the score 2-0 Yankees with too much baseball left in the game to celebrate at that point. He did not go into the dumps when he was 0-for-28, so he was not going to do any flips for hitting his first home run in six weeks. Never too high, never too low; that defines the Captain.

Indeed, the game was not over by any means. Dellin Betances preserved the shutout work by Shane Greene by getting the final out of the seventh, but Shawn Kelley gave up a game-tying home run to Jose Bautista on a 0-2 pitch with two out in the eighth.

Kelley hung his head as Bautista circled the bases on his 33rd homer of the season as well the pitcher should have. After fouling off a 94-mph fastball back to the screen on 0-1, Bautista made a gesture indicating he just missed a pitch he should have creamed. Kelley threw the same pitch on the next delivery to the same spot, and this time Bautista did not miss it but powered into the left field seats.

After Jeter flied out leading off the home eighth, quite a few fans headed for the exits assuming that he would not bat again. They missed a dramatic finish as the Yankees won, 3-2, on a walk-off error.

Chris Young, who seems to be in the middle of what good things the Yankees have done recently, led off the inning against Aaron Sanchez with a single to center. Antoan Richardson ran for Young and promptly stole second base.

With the count 3-0, Brett Gardner surprised the crowd, not to mention Girardi, by attempting to bunt. He fouled off the pitch and the next one as well as the count went full. Gardy tried one more and dropped a two-strike bunt for a sacrifice to get Richardson to third base. Gardner, bunting on his own, told Girardi in the dugout that Sanchez’s ball was running so much he did not think he could pull him.

The Blue Jays brought the infield in and got what they wanted when Chase Headley hit a ground ball to the right side, but first baseman Aaron Lind let the ball get by him that gave the Yankees another day of hope. They gained a game on the Athletics for the second wild-card spot but still trail by five games with 10 to play.

Playoff hopes dampen after Baltimore weekend

The Yankees got a taste of their own recent medicine over the weekend in Baltimore where their post-season hopes grew grimmer after losing three of four games to an Orioles team that has its magic number for clinching the American League East title to three. The Yankees’ last gasping hope for a trip to the playoffs lay in the second wild-card slot, and they are five games back with 14 games to play.

The Yankees started the series at Camden Yards trip on a high from consecutive comeback victories over Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium in which they obliterated 4-0 deficits. Chris Young, who made huge contributions to both those victories, was in position to be the hero again Friday in the afternoon game of a day/night doubleheader when he homered with two outs in the 11th inning to break a scoreless tie.

Adam Warren, pitching the bottom of the 11th because closer David Robertson had already pitched 1 2/3 innings of relief, couldn’t hold the Orioles down, however, and lost the game on a bases-loaded, two-out double by pinch hitter Jimmy Paredes. The Yankees then got shut out, 5-0, on four hits in the night game, which took away any sense of momentum they had from the Rays series.

Saturday’s 4-3 victory behind Shane Greene and four relievers was a brief reprieve, but the fact that the Yankees had no runs and one hit in the eight innings other than their three-run second that included a home run by Brian McCann and a steal of home by Young was emblematic of the offensive struggles that would continue in the series.

Sunday night’s game resembled the day-game loss Friday in that the Yankees took a one-run lead in the last inning and then gave up two runs in the bottom half for another walk-off loss, their eighth of the season. McCann’s second home run of the series and 20th of the season put the Yanks up, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to bring in Robertson for the third straight day instead of staying with Dellin Betances, who had pitched a shutout eighth with two strikeouts. That gave him 130 for the season, tying Mariano Rivera’s 1996 franchise mark for K’s by a relief pitcher.

I do not fault Girardi’s judgment here. Robertson is his closer. The manager has been careful with his relievers all year so they would be strong in September where they are needed most. Robertson’s stuff was up all inning. The Orioles quickly tied the score on successive doubles by Nelson Cruz and Steve Pearce. One out later, Kelly Johnson, of all people, drove in the winner with another double. Johnson batted .219 in 77 games and 201 at-bats for the Yankees this year before he was traded to the Red Sox July 31 for Stephen Drew, who is hitting .135 in 104 at-bats for the Yankees. The Orioles acquired Johnson in an Aug. 30 deal with Boston. Playing for his third AL East team this season, Johnson finally ended up in first place.

The crushing loss obscured a very good outing by Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up one run and six hits with no walks and five strikeouts in seven innings. Once again, Yankees pitching was not the main problem despite the two bullpen leaks.

The Yankees batted .172 and slugged .261 as a team in the series in which they totaled six runs in 38 innings. They were 2-for-20 (.100) with runners in scoring position. Jacoby Ellsbury was 2-for-17, Mark Teixeira 1-for-11, Brett Gardner 1-for-10 and Derek Jeter 0-for-11. The Captain’s slump goes beyond this series; he is hitless in his past 24 at-bats as his average has sunk to .250.

To make matters worse, the Sunday Night Baseball date means the Yankees will arrive in St. Petersburg, Fla., in the wee hours of the morning Monday where that night they open a three-game set against the Rays at Tropicana Field. The playoff outlook is equally as bleary.

Young clinches another comeback from 4-0

The Yankees have taken Joe Girardi’s remark after Tuesday night’s loss to the Rays when he said “Basically, we have to win every game” seriously.

For the second straight night, the Yankees obliterated a 4-0 deficit against Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium. The big difference Thursday night was that unlike Wednesday night when the Yankees had nine innings to stage their comeback this time they were down to their last five outs.

Hell, they did not have a hit let alone a run one out into the eighth inning. This was as remarkable a comeback as the ones shown on the video screen before the game of Games 4 and 5 of the 2001 World Series in memory of Sept. 11.

The 5-4 victory featured two key hits by a new Yankee who was a flop with the Mets, a big home run by a guy who had not played in five of the past six games because of an aching hamstring and with two players painfully hit by pitches.

Chris Young, who has found a home in the Bronx that he could not find in Queens, was at the center of the Yanks’ magnificent final two innings. He doubled to break up Alex Cobb’s no-hit bid with one down in the eighth and scored on Martin Prado’s pinch-hit home run off reliever Brad Boxberger.

Boxberger soon after became the most unpopular guy in the building when he drilled Derek Jeter in the left elbow with a pitch. An error by first baseman James Loney put the potential tying run on base, but Boxberger recovered to strike out Mark Teixeira.

Rays closer Jake McGee, the hard-throwing lefthander, began the ninth by hitting Chase Headley in the chin with a 1-2 pitch, which was a 96-mph fastball. It was a scary sight there for a while as Headley lay on his back next to the plate with blood splattered below his lower lip as he was attended by the Yankees’ trainers.

Somebody in the crowd started a chant directed at McGee “Pay him back.” Ichiro Suzuki followed with a double, and the crowd that had been muzzled much of the night came alive. McGee struck out pinch hitter Zelous Wheeler, but Young finished off the comeback by cranking a 0-1 fastball to left field for a three-run home run.

Young, who was released last month and picked off the scrapheap by the Yankees, has been nothing short of terrific. He is batting .500 with two doubles, two home runs and seven RBI in 12 at-bats for the Yankees with a slugging percentage of 1.167.

“He has done an awful lot for us,” Girardi said of Young, who had five RBI the past two nights. “Gardy [Brett Gardner] got hurt, and that gave [Young] an opportunity. He has made the most of it.”

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Yankees’ past two games mark the first time they have come back to win consecutive games in which they were down by four or more runs in each game since July 30 and 31, 2005 against the Angels.

So the Yankees head off to Baltimore for an important series on a high note. Headley did not accompany them. Although he seemed clear-headed and was not missing any teeth, Headley remained in New York and will undergo tests Friday to check about possible jaw damage and a concussion.

Rally-killing out at the plate sinks Yankees

The worst rule change in baseball went against the Yankees in the fifth inning Monday night and cost them the chance to tie the game against the Rays. At issue was blocking the plate, which Tampa Bay catcher Ryan Hanigan clearly appeared to do as Stephen Drew attempted to score on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Yet after a video review, plate umpire Vic Carapazza upheld his original call. The new rule has become so nebulous it is difficult to interpret. The catcher is now supposed to give a runner trying to score a lane, but he also has to try to catch the ball, which in this case was directly on target.

Major League Baseball issued a memorandum Tuesday clarifying plays in which the ball clearly beats the runner to the plate, which in truth was the case against Drew. Under previous rules, Drew would have no recoil but to collide with Hanigan and try to pry the ball loose.

That is not allowed any more, although Yankees manager Joe Girardi believes a runner in that situation has no alternative. “He had no place to go,” Girardi said of Drew. “I’m not sure whether to instruct my runners to knock the catcher over. I know the sprit of the rule, but maybe we should just go back to normal and suspend a player if someone gets hurt.”

I have seen enough of these plays at the plate this year to equate this rule with that in basketball in the 1970s when the dunk was outlawed in college and high school. Really dumb. Take a fan-pleasing aspect of the game and throw it out.

One of the most exciting plays in baseball is the slide home on a close call. At least it used to be before the powers that be decided to turn it into a dance routine. Is this ball or ballet? The inning was still alive, but Derek Jeter hit a bullet to second baseman Ben Zobrist, who flipped to second to double-up Chris Young.

The play at the plate obscured the fact that it was a rare bad send by third base coach Rob Thompson. Another rule of thumb is not to make the first out at the plate. Had Thompson held Drew at third base, the Yankees would have a run in and the bases loaded with none out and the middle of the order coming up.

The Yankees were marching back from a 4-0 deficit against Chris Archer, who is always been tough against them (5-0 career mark). The righthander was perfect for three innings before Ellsbury homered leading off the fourth. Archer began the next inning by hitting Chase Headley with a pitch and then proceeded to give up four straight singles, including a two-run knock by Young, the Mets’ free-agent bust, following Drew’s RBI hit. Two guys who have had miserable years accounted for the Yankees’ three runs that inning.

Young was playing left field because regular Brett Gardner is still bothered by an abdominal strain. Could he have aggravated it last week when he had that temper tantrum at the plate that got him booted from the game? Just asking. Also out with continuing hamstring soreness was Martin Prado, which is why Drew was in the starting lineup at second base.

Hiroki Kuroda, who had won his three previous decisions, was not sharp and failed to get through the fourth inning. James Loney hit a second-deck home run off Kuroda in the second inning and drove in one of the two Tampa Bay runs in the third with a single. Kuroda was replaced after yielding an RBI single to Zobrist in the fourth.

Seven Yankees relievers combined to shut the Rays down on two hits with two walks and four strikeouts for 5 2/3 innings, but the Yankees had only one hit after the fifth and could not prevent a 4-3 loss that further damaged their already perilous situation in the standings.

“It leaves us in a big hole,” Girardi said. “Basically, we have to win every day.”

Pretty tall order.

‘Ghosts’ can’t save Yanks on Derek Jeter Day

There was a moment in the first inning Sunday when those ghosts that Derek Jeter used to talk about in the old Yankee Stadium seemed to have found their way to the north side of 161st Street.

Jeter, on first base after a leadoff single, successfully avoided a tag by second baseman Omar Infante after fielding a ground ball by Martin Prado that might have started a double play. Infante then dropped the ball and in flipping it toward second base in an attempt for a face-saving force play hit Jeter in the back. All hands were safe.

Could the Yankees be on their way on Derek Jeter Day to a much-needed victory against the American League Central-leading Royals? Were the ghosts of Ruth and Gehrig and Joe D. and the Mick there to guide them through this special day?

Unfortunately, as it turned out, the answer was no. If there were ghosts out there, they were the wrong ones. The Yankees did not score that inning or the next or any of the innings as Kansas City came away with its second shutout in three days without getting an earned run either time.

“We lost those two games, 1-0 and 2-0, with none of the runs being earned,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’s the frustrating point.”

Sunday’s loss was due in part to the Yankees playing well below their captain’s standards. Starting pitcher Shane Greene, who has displayed problems when having to throw to bases, was entirely responsible for the KC run in the second inning when he threw a relay to first base into right field. Girardi argued that Nori Aoki was out of the baseline running to first, but Greene’s throw was so wild that the umpire said there was no chance for a play.

The next inning, right fielder Carlos Beltran dropped a fly ball by Alex Gordon, who came around to score despite stumbling near third base because Beltran’s relay home was so far up the first base line that catcher Brian McCann had no shot at Gordon.

This was not the type of baseball that Jeter has embodied over the years for the Yankees, who cannot afford defensive mistakes when their offense so often struggles. They were limited to four hits, all singles, by four Royals pitchers Sunday and got only three runners as far as second base.

Jeter spoke after the game about the strange situation of being honored as a retiring player and yet still having to play. “You appreciate all the support, the nice things people say, but by the same token you still have to play a game,” Jeter said.

The Yankees are going to have to play the game a lot better if Jeter’s final games are to reach into October.

Yankees heed manager’s message

Yankees manager Joe Girardi could not have made it more clear before Wednesday night’s game. He said the players know the situation they are in, that they need to win games, “and we need to start tonight.”

Coming right up, the Yankees might have said. They did not let a disastrous first inning when they ran into two outs on the same play set the tone for the evening and went on to beat the Red Sox, 5-1.

Hiroki Kuroda earned his third straight victory with seven solid innings while his catcher, Brian McCann, had a four-hit game and drove in three runs. It was McCann who helped the Yanks ignore the sight of Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner being thrown out in a failed double-steal attempt when he connected off Boston starter Anthony Ranaudo for a two-run home run in the second inning.

McCann singled to lead off the fifth when the Yankees made it 3-0 on a sacrifice fly by Jacoby Ellsbury, who sure looks comfortable in that leadoff spot. Ellsbury tripled with one out in the seventh and scored on a single by Gardner. After a fielder’s choice and a walk loaded the bases for McCann, he singled again to pump the Yanks’ lead to 5-1. A second RBI was snuffed out when Carlos Beltran was thrown out at the plate. It’s a pretty good sign for a team that can get three players thrown out on the bases and still win the game.

“Sometimes you get a little too over-aggressive,” Girardi said. “I wasn’t happy with two guys getting thrown out, but that mistake didn’t cost us dearly.”

The Yankees could use some good signs these days. Kuroda provided a big one. He struck out five of the first seven batters and finished with eight punchouts in seven innings. He did not walk a batter, although he did hit one who came around to score in the sixth on a double by Brock Holt, the only one of the four hits off the Japanese righthander that went for extra bases.

“Hiro had a great sinker and split,” Girardi said. “He had fatigue issues in the second half last year, and we have tried to do some things [additional rest] this year to get him to this point.”

Girardi placed his own emphasis on this game by going to his 1-2 punch in the bullpen with Dellin Betances working the eighth with a four-run lead and David Robertson the ninth in a non-save situation.

The Yankees picked up a game on the Athletics and the Tigers in the wild card chase but still trail them by four games, are 3 1/2 behind the Mariners and even with the Indians. The post-season remains very much an uphill climb with several clubs to step over, but for this night anyway the Yankees did not take a step back.

Yanks off to grim start in homestand

It was not the way the Yankees wanted to open the homestand. Starting pitcher Shane Greene, who has pitched well overall for the Yankees, did not have it Tuesday night and left the game in the third inning trailing the Red Sox, 6-0. That put the Yankees in uphill-climb mode the rest of the game and they finished on the south side of a 9-4 score.

And matters got no better after the game when manager Joe Girardi revealed that Martin Prado has an aching left hamstring and will be examined Wednesday by team physician Dr. Chris Ahmad. Prado had two more hits and is batting .292 since coming to the Yankees.

Yet he was also part of the questionable base running that cost the Yankees dearly in the fifth inning when they were putting together a sustained offense. Carlos Beltran got a bad read on a fly ball, and Prado, one of the most alert players in the majors, made a rare rock that put a cramp in the Yankees’ rally.

After Beltran led off the inning with a single, Brian McCann bunted against the shift and dunked a roller to third base for a single. Up came Prado, who had homered off Boston’s Joe Kelly in the third, and hit another rocket to left field that perplexed Yoenis Cespedes as well as Beltran apparently.

Beltran looked as if he thought Cespedes would catch Prado’s drive which went behind the left fielder. Beltran then pranced to third base and stayed there. Meanwhile, Prado, seeing the ball get over Cespedes dashed around first base thinking double all the way and did not notice until it was too late that McCann was at second base because he could not have advanced with Beltran at third. Prado ended up getting tagged out in a rundown. A bit hit became a big out due to hesitant base running.

“It looked like we were getting to [Kelly], and we gave them an out,” Girardi said.

The Yankees clearly had Kelly on the ropes. He walked the next two hitters to force in a run and got lucky when shortstop Xander Bogaerts was standing in the right spot to glove a smoking liner by Jacoby Ellsbury. Upon video review, an inning-ending grounder by Derek Jeter was reversed to an RBI single, but Brett Gardner was called out on strikes.

There can be no reviews of ball/strike calls. If so, Gardner might not have been punched out. He was so sure plate umpire Tim Timmons’ strike-three call was wrong that he slammed his helmet and bat in disgust, which only served to get Gardner ejected.

“I have more self control than that, but I was frustrated,” Gardner said. “I was frustrated by some of the calls in my first two at-bats when I struck out. I felt like it was way outside. He threw me out of the game before I even spoke to him.”

I do not care how justified Brett may be in protesting a borderline call, there is no way a player can get himself thrown out of such a game. For a team like the Yankees hanging by a thread in trying to qualify for a post-season berth, a player, especially one batting third in the order, getting tossed because he lost his temper is inexcusable.

The result was that Gardner was out of the game and Stephen Drew was in. Anybody like that exchange?

The game also featured a statistical rarity. The Yankees did not have a fielding assist. Boston made only one out on the ground, and it was an unassisted play at first base by Mark Teixeira. The Red Sox struck out 12 times and made the other 14 outs in the air.

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