Results tagged ‘ Mark Teixeira ’

Yankees waste solid effort from Sabathia

It is tough to lose a two-hitter, but that is what happened to CC Sabathia Thursday. The lefthander gave up only two singles through seven innings, which marked the eighth consecutive game in which the Yankees’ starting pitcher lasted six or more innings.

That was the good part. The bad part is that Blue Jays lefthander J.A. Happ was just as stingy in limiting the Yankees to one run in seven innings. A home run with two out in the first inning by Starlin Castro accounted for the Yankees’ scoring in a 3-1 loss that allowed Toronto to jump ahead of them in the American League East standings.

The Yankees stayed out of last place in the division but fell two games under .500 in dropping two of the three games in the abbreviated home stand against a club that has had more than it share of turmoil lately. Losing the series stunted much of the momentum derived from a 5-2 trip to Phoenix and Oakland. The Yankees will spend the next 10 days on the road again with stops in St. Petersburg, Fla. (three games), Toronto (three), Detroit (one), and Baltimore (three). Only the rainout makeup game against the Tigers will be outside the AL East, so there will be plenty of chances for the Yanks to gain ground in the standings.

It hurt to waste so strong an effort by Sabathia, whose record fell to 3-3 butt whose ERA shrunk to 2.83. Neither of the two runs off Sabathia, who struck out seven batters, walked one and hit one, was earned because of an error by shortstop Didi Gregorius, whose defense has been inconsistent (eight errors in 42 games).

Gregorius booted a hard grounder by Devon Travis with one out. Sabathia retired Darwin Barney on a fly to center but loaded the bases by yielding a single to Jose Bautista and walking Josh Donaldson. Edwin Encarnacion lashed a single to left to score the two runs that gave the Jays the lead for what turned out to be for good.

Sabathia kept the Yankees in the game after that with four hitless innings, but the Yankees could not muster much of an offense against Happ and two relievers. Chase Headley and Gregorius singled with one out in the fifth before Austin Romine grounded into a double play. In the eighth against righthander Gavin Floyd, Jacoby Ellsbury batted for Romine and led off with a single. He reached second on an infield out but was stranded as Aaron Hicks flied out and Alex Rodriguez struck out.

Rodriguez was back from his two-game, injury-rehabilitation assignment at Double A Trenton and in the lineup as the designated hitter for the first time since he went on the 15-day disabled list May 4. A-Rod was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. Carlos Beltran, who had been the Yankees’ hottest hitter as a frequent DH in Rodriguez’s absence, was back in right field and had a brutal day at the plate (0-for-4, all strikeouts). He is now hitless in his past nine at-bats. Romine played first base in place of Mark Teixeira, who had an injection in his ailing neck and will be out of the lineup for several days. Relief pitcher Chasen Shreve was placed on the DL because of a sprained left shoulder.

The Blue Jays scored an insurance run in the ninth off Aroldis Chapman, who was not in a save situation and gave up three singles.

Thursday marked Sabathia’s 10th career start of seven or more innings pitched and two hits or fewer without allowing an earned run and his first since April 5, 2011 against the Twins (seven innings, two hits). With his seven strikeouts, Sabathia raised his career total to 2,610, surpassing Hall of Famer Tom Glavine (2,607) and tying Chuck Finley (2,610) for 23rd place on the all-time list.

Neck stiffness resurfaces for slumping Teixeira

While Alex Rodriguez is on the road back to good health and expected to rejoin the Yankees for Thursday’s late-afternoon series finale against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, there are other physical concerns disrupting the club.

Rodriguez homered in two at-bats for Double A Trenton Wednesday night after going 2-for-4 with a run batted in Tuesday night on an injury-rehabilitation assignment. It is too bad A-Rod did not take to playing first base a couple of years ago because the Yankees may have a real need there.

Mark Teixeira was out of the lineup Wednesday night because of neck stiffness, the same ailment that forced him to miss two home games earlier this month against the Royals. It has been a rough month for Teixeira, who is batting .164 with three doubles and two RBI in May that has driven his season batting average down to .195. Tex was 4-for-25 (.160) on the recent trip to Phoenix and Oakland. He went 16 games without an RBI from May 3-21, the longest stretch of his career. He was 1-for-4 with two strikeouts in Tuesday night’s 6-0 victory over the Blue Jays. Teixeira has not homered since April 13, another career-worst stretch of 124 at-bats.

Dustin Ackley was at first base batting sixth in the order Wednesday night. Manager Joe Girardi conceded he does not have that many options at that position. He said he could use backup catcher Austin Romine at first base or use Romine behind the plate and have regular catcher Brian McCann at first. Romine was taking grounders at first base during batting practice.

Gary Sanchez, the catcher Romine beat out in spring training for the role of McCann’s caddy, is also hurt. Playing at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, Sanchez took a foul ball off his right hand Tuesday night and sustained a bone fracture in this thumb that placed him on the disabled list.

A former Yankees catcher was a primary reason the Yankees’ six-game winning streak came to an end. Russell Martin, who entered the game without a home run and only one extra-base hit in 122 at bats, cranked two home runs to drive in three runs for Toronto in its 8-4 victory that dropped the Yankees back below .500(22-23).

The Yanks got a pair of home runs on back-to-back solos by Chase Headley (No. 3) and Didi Gregorius (No. 4) in the seventh but it was too little too late. For the seventh straight game, the Yankees’ starter pitched six innings or more. Ivan Nova (2-2) lasted two outs in the seventh before he hit Edwin Encarnacion with a pitch and was replaced by Chase Shreve, who gave up a two-run homer to Patrick Saunders.

The Blue Jays were not finished with Shreve. Justin Smoak doubled and Martin followed with his second homer of the game. His first came leading off the sixth against Nova, who was charged with four earned runs in 6 2/3 innings. A couple of two-out infield singles in the fourth hurt Nova, who then yielded a bases-clearing double by Ryan Goins.

Martin’s sixth-inning homer came in his 125th at-bat, the second longest drought at the start of a season in his career. Martin did not hit a home run in 2009 until his 218th at-bat for the Dodgers. Martin’s bid for a three-homer game came in the ninth but center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury caught his drive on the warning track.

Toronto starter Marco Estrada earned his first victory in eight starts since April 10. The righthander, who had received scant run support prior to Wednesday night, loaded the bases with none out in the second on singles by Headley and Gregorius and a four-pitch walk to Aaron Hicks but gave up only one run on an infield out. Gregorius had three hits, including a singe off lefthander Chad Girodo, which raised his team-leading batting average against southpaws to .368 in 38 at-bats.

Rodriguez has played only two games at first base, both in 2015, in his career and was not a bit comfortable on that side of the infield as he has been over the years as a shortstop turned third baseman. A-Rod made one error in his 9 2/3 innings as a first baseman.
The Yankees are hopeful Teixeira’s health issues are short-term. If the problem should linger, they would have to weigh all options. After a hot start at SWB, Nick Swisher has cooled off to a .260 batting average with four home runs and 13 RBI. He has been platooned there with Chris Parmelee, who is batting .244 with six homers and 18 RBI.

Pineda brings some ‘quality’ to his start

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bullpen trio saves near-perfect gem by Eovaldi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Terrible timing for another A-Rod injury

Monday’s open date, the Yankees’ last day off until May 23, did not appear to do anything to invigorate them. In fact, it may have done the opposite. While they did lose Sunday night to finish off being swept by the Red Sox, the Yankees scored seven runs.

Come Tuesday night in Baltimore, the Yankees went right back to their piddling offense. One measly run is all they could muster against the Orioles, who moved back into first place in the American League East with a 4-1 victory that jumped Baltimore back over the Red Sox, who lost to the White Sox.

And to make matters worse, Alex Rodriguez, the Yankees’ hottest hitter on this trip, came up lame in the fifth inning and will undergo an MRI exam on his right hamstring Wednesday. A-Rod missed only two games in Texas at the start of the trip due to an oblique injury, so the Yankees are hopeful they can be that lucky again, except that is a 40-year-old hamstring.

A-Rod’s health was always going to be an issue this season, but the timing of his likely absence from the lineup could not be worse. Rodriguez has hit .353 with four runs, two doubles, three home runs and six RBI in 17 at-bats on a trip in which the Yankees have scored only 16 runs in seven games (2.3 per game), six of them losses. The Yanks have now lost twice as many games as they have won mostly because of an anemic offense and inconsistent starting pitching.

Luis Severino, who had been expected to emerge as a possible staff ace this season, fell to 0-4 with a 6.31 ERA. The righthander also embarrassed himself with two dropped balls trying to cover first base. One of the errors resulted in a run. Despite the PFP (pitchers fielding practice) blunders, Severino was hurt more by two fat pitches to Mark Trumbo, who homered off both of them in driving in three runs.

It was another disappointing outing from a starting pitcher. The Yankees’ rotation has a 4-11 record with a 5.13 ERA in 135 innings in which it has allowed 154 hits. With the margin for error so slim because of the weak run support, the Yankees cannot afford to have starters put them behind early in games.

The Yankees actually gave Severino a 1-0 lead in the second on Didi Gregorius’ two-out, RBI single, but the first of Trumbo’s two homers leading off the bottom half of the inning immediately tied the score. The Orioles filled the bases with two outs with Severino’s first error fueling the rally, but he got Manny Machado, the American League Player of the Month for April, on a popup to first baseman Mark Teixeira on the first pitch.

Baltimore took the lead in the fourth with an unearned run on Severino’s second dropped feed from Teixeira that allowed Jonathan Schoop, who had doubled with two out, to score.

Machado pulled a rock in the fifth when after he led off with a double tried to cross to third base on a grounder to the left side and was thrown out at third by Gregorius. Severino struck out Chris Davis but got victimized by Trumbo again.

The Orioles went down meekly after that as their last 10 batters were retired with Kirby Yates and Johnny Barbato pitching a shutout inning apiece. Baltimore was actually worse than the Yankees were in situations with runners in scoring position. The Orioles were 0-for-6 and the Yankees 1-for-7. The Yankees are actually hitting better with runners in scoring position on the trip (.225) than they are overall for the season (.201).

The Yankees left one runner on base in each of the first six innings against winning pitcher Chris Tillman, who finished strongly by striking out the side in the seventh.

Bats come alive, but Yanks drop 5th straight

On a night when the Yankees showed encouraging signs of breaking out of their offensive malaise, their pitchers were responsible for another loss that completed a three-game sweep by the Red Sox at Fenway Park and extended the losing streak to a season-high five games.

The 8-7 final marked the first time in eight games that the Yankees scored more than three runs in a game and only the sixth time in 23 games this year. They were 4-for-8 with runners in scoring position and totaled five extra-base hits, including career home run No. 692 for Alex Rodriguez, who has recovered quite nicely from that tweaked oblique last week. After missing two games, A-Rod has batted .429 with four runs, two doubles, two home runs and six RBI in 14 at-bats.

Sunday night’s game was a reversal for the Yankees in that the sluggish offense was not the culprit in a defeat. For the second time in three nights, Dellin Betances gave up a two-run home run in a late inning that supplied the deciding run. Friday night it was David Ortiz’s blast in the eighth on a first-pitch curveball. Sunday night, it was a monster shot to left field that went entirely out of the park by Christian Vazquez on a first-pitch fastball in the seventh.

Betances shouldered the blame for both games, but he certainly was not alone. Starter Nathan Eovaldi, who flirted with a no-hitter in his previous outing, surrendered leads of 3-1 and 6-4 in the bottom half of the innings in which the Yankees had gone ahead. Eovaldi was back to his old ways in giving up 10 hits in five-plus innings.

The loss was charged to Ivan Nova (1-1), who replaced Eovaldi in the sixth after a leadoff walk. Travis Shaw, who clocked a game-tying, two-run home run off Eovaldi in the fifth, singled off Nova with one down in the seventh. Brock Holt followed with a grounder to third baseman Chase Headley, who had trouble removing the ball from his glove as the Yankees were able to get a force at second base but not a double play. Betances then was summoned to pitch to Vazquez and allowed a home run for his third consecutive appearance.

Vazquez’s homer put David Price in position for the winning decision that ran his record with his new club to 4-0. It was not a pretty outing for Price, who raised his career mark against the Yankees to 14-7 despite a 4.17 ERA. The lefthander yielded six earned runs and eight hits in seven innings and heard booing at Fenway Park where he has pitched to an 8.34 ERA in four starts totaling 22 2/3 innings. Since the start of 2014, the Yanks have batted .303 with 17 doubles, four triples and six home runs against Price.

Jacoby Ellsbury’s second double of the game tied the score at 1 in the third inning. Two batters later, Rodriguez launched his fifth home run this season to make it 3-1. The Red Sox moved back ahead, 4-3, in the bottom half on a two-run single by Hanley Ramirez and a two-out, RBI single by Holt.

Rodriguez doubled home two runs in the fifth and scored on a single by Mark Teixeira as the Yankees regained the lead, 6-4. Again, Eovaldi could not hold it in yielding the bomb to Shaw. The Yankees made it a one-run game in the eighth with a run on a wild pitch by Koji Uehara, but that would be as close as they came.

While the Yankees sank deeper in the basement of the American League East with an 8-15 record, the Red Sox took over first place in the division by a half-game over the Orioles, who await the Bombers at Camden Yards for a three-game series that begins Tuesday night.

Severino cannot stop the rain of Texas hits

Violent weather was in the forecast for Arlington, Texas, Tuesday night,  which threatened the Yankees’ game against the Rangers. The teams were hoping to get the game in so that they woild not lose their off day Thursday. As it turned out, the Yankees would probably have settled for a rainout. Instead they got a washout.

Rain did fall briefly in a couple of spots, but the game went the distance. The rain that bothered the Yankees more was the rain of hits the Rangers slammed all over Globe Life Park as Texas breezed to a 10-1 victory. The relief the Yankees may have felt for facing a right-handed starting pitcher for the first time in five days dissipated as A.J. Griffin eased through the lineup. He allowed only two singles, both by 9-hole hitter Ronald Torreyes, through six innings and pitched through the eighth.

The Yankees finally got on the board in the seventh on an RBI single by Mark Teixeira, who is on a nice run, but they were eight runs behind at the time. The Rangers bashed out 13 hits — five for extra bases, including home runs by Ian Desmond off Ivan Nova and Roughned Odor off Chasen Shreve — in ending a four-game losing streak.

The most disappointing performance by a Yankees pitcher was that of Luis Severino, who was not taken deep but was stung for six earned runs and seven hits in three innings. It was the poorest outing of the season for Severino, who had a strong spring and was projected as a possible staff ace but has stumbled to a 0-3 start with a 6.86 ERA.

The ugliest inning for Severino was the third. After getting two quick outs on grounders, he gave up a single to birthday boy Nomar Mazara (21) and a double to Adian Beltre. With first base open, Prince Fielder was walked intentionally, a wise strategic move unless what happened next happens, a very unintentional walk to Desmond that pushed in a run. With little feel for his breaking ball, Severino tried to muscle his way through the inning and gave up a two-run single to Mitch Moreland and a run-scoring single by Elvis Andrus on fastballs. In between Severino let in another run with a wild pitch.

It was 6-0 Texas, and all the Yankees could hope for was the fierce storm that was predicted to make an early arrival and rinse those runs away.

For the second straight night, Teixeira had the Yankees’ only hit with a runner in scoring position that extended his hitting streak to five games during which he is batting .450 with two runs, a double and three RBI in 20 at-bats.

Hits not easy to come by this time against Eovaldi

The best thing about Prince Fielder’s smoking double in the seventh inning Monday night was that it meant Nathan Eovaldi’s no-hit bid was not spoiled by the preceding hit by Nomar Mazara. Imagine if that had been the only hit of the game? Mazara should have grounded out to shortstop, but the Yankees had the shift on, so Mazara’s ball found a hole and slithered into left-center field for a single leading off the seventh.

You can debate the use of infield shifts that have been in vogue in recent years for hours, but the sight of a pitcher wondering where his infielders are is an indictment of what I think is overuse of the practice. Mazara is a rookie for crying out loud, and the Yankees were shifting against him? Mazara wound up getting doubled up on Adrian Beltre’s line drive to Starlin Castro before Fielder got the first legitimate hit off Eovaldi

As a kid growing up in Alvin, Texas, Eovaldi heard all about no-hitters because that is also the home town of Nolan Ryan, who pitched seven of them, three more than any other major-league pitcher. As a flamethrower whose fastball flirts with 100 miles per hour on occasion, Eovaldi resembles Ryan in that phase as well. However, Eovaldi unlike Ryan has not been stingy allowing hits to opponents, so his taking a no-no into the seventh inning was an eye-opener.

Eovaldi entered the game having allowed 701 hits in 649 2/3 innings over the course of his career, including 21 hits in 17 2/3 innings this year in his first three starts. Hitters usually get on base against him but not Monday night. Until the seventh when they both finally got to Eovaldi, Fielder and Mazara had been the only Texas players to reach base. An error by shortstop Didi Gregorius at the start of the second put Fielder on base, but he was quickly erased on a double play. Mazara walked in the fourth and never got beyond first base.

It was not the fastball alone that was working for Eovaldi in the 3-1 victory over the Rangers but how he mixed it with all his pitches. His slider and splitter were dead-on, and he had Texas batters off stride all night. It was a magnificent job by a pitcher in a hitter’s yard.

With a three-run lead going into the eighth, Yankees manager Joe Girardi instead of going to Dellin Betances right away allowed Eovaldi to start the inning, but a leadoff walk ended his brilliant night. Betances came in and got a quick double play before yielding his first earned run of the season on a home run by Brett Nicholas. Betances rebounded with his 23rd strikeout in 10 innings, and Andrew Miller (fifth save) finished the Rangers off in a 1-2-3 ninth.

The Yankees got the trip off to a positive start on a night when two of their players, Alex Rodriguez and Adam Hicks, were unavailable. The Yankees once again struggled with runners in scoring position (1-for-9), but solo home runs by Jacoby Ellsbury and Castro off Texas lefthander Cesar Ramos made up for the lack of clutch. The one hit with a runner in scoring position was a double by Mark Teixeira in the third. Austin Romine, who steered Eovaldi through the game from behind the plate, also had two hits.

Nova still adapting to reliever’s role

The invincibility of the Yankees’ bullpen took a hit Wednesday night due mainly because of a pitcher not used to working in relief. In his previous appearance a week ago at Yankee Stadium, Ivan Nova earned his first career save with four shutout innings against the Astros.

So Yankees manager Joe Girardi had every reason to believe that they could remain within a run’s reach of the Blue Jays when he brought in Nova to hold them down in the eighth inning after Mark Teixeira’s third home run of the season had cut Toronto’s lead to 3-2. Nova, who was beaten out in the spring for a spot in the rotation by CC Sabathia, had a miserable time of it in yielding four runs as the Jays pulled away for a 7-2 victory.

“It’s different for him.” Girardi said about Nova’s new role, “but we need him to get outs.”

Toronto scored a run before Nova got an out that inning on doubles by Josh Donaldson and Jose Bautista. The two-base hit was big for the Jays, who have not homered in either game of the series but lashed out six doubles Wednesday night, including two by 9-hole hitter Ryan Goins, who had three hits and two RBI. After getting Edwin Encarnacion out on a ground ball, Nova gave up an RBI single to Troy Tulowitzki and Michael Saunders’ second double of the game on a late swing against the shift.

Russell Martin knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly for the second out, but Nova hit Justin Smoak in the foot with a pitch and gave up a run-scoring single to Goins. The four runs allowed by Nova raised his ERA from 0.00 to 7.20 and that of the overall bullpen from a league-best 0.84 to 2.31.

Michael Pineda got through six innings but threw 105 innings and was uncharacteristically wild with three walks. Goins’ first double with two out in the second put Toronto ahead. After tying the score in the fifth against J.A. Happ on a double by Ronald Torreys, a single by Austin Romine and an infield out, an errant throw by Torreys, who played shortstop with Didi Gregorius getting a night off, opened the door for two Toronto runs. Smoak scored on the wild throw, and Goins came home as Donaldson grounded into a double play.

Kirby Yates pitched a shutout seventh with two strikeouts to extend the bullpen’s scoreless string to 7 1/3 innings before Nova came unglued in the eighth.

Power bats sparking Yanks in early going

The long ball is back for the Yankees at Yankee Stadium, which they will continue to need if their starting pitchers cannot pick up the pace. One game after Michael Pineda lucked out behind a 16-run, 17-hit attack, Nathan Eovaldi struggled through five innings only to be saved by his teammates’ wiping away 3-0 and 5-2 deficits in an 8-5 victory over the Astros Thursday in the rubber game of the season-opening series.

Mark Teixeira’s second three-run home run in two days unlocked a 5-5 score in the seventh inning and was a great sign from a player who has a history of grim Aprils and is coming off a leg injury that ruined the final portion of his — and the Yanks’ — 2015 season. Tex is batting .364 with two homers and seven RBI after a somewhat lackluster spring training during which he expressed concern about his poor timing at the plate. He has come alive at the right time. His 193rd home run with the Yankees pushed him past Tino Martinez into 17th place on the club’s all-time list.

There were plenty of other good signs from the Yankees in a game that began with a 12-minute rain delay but stayed dry the rest of the way. Starlin Castro continued his torrid hitting with two more knocks, including his second home run. Brian McCann got on the board with this first homer of the season and is batting .455 with three RBI. Mac’s 50th homer since joining the Yankees was his 36th at the Stadium. The Yankees belted seven home runs in the series, including three in each of the past two games.

Alex Rodriguez still has not homered since his first at-bat of the exhibition season, but he broke out of a 0-for-9 season start with a single in the fifth that scored the tying run. A-Rod also singled in the seventh and scored on Tex’s homer, an opposite-field blow off Ken Giles thaty cleared the left-field wall. Jacoby Ellsbury entered the game batting .111 and contributed two doubles and an RBI.

For the second straight game, the Yankees got four scoreless innings from their bullpen. Wednesday night all four frames were handled by Ivan Nova. Thursday, it was an ensemble effort with a shutout inning apiece from Kirby Yates, Chasen Shreve, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller, who earned his first save. Miller allowed two hits but struck out the side in showing no ill effects from a chip fracture in his right (non-pitching) wrist. Betances bounced back from the Opening Day loss with a 1-2-3, two-strikeout eighth.

Eovaldi’s five-inning start was a mixed bag. He did not walk anybody, which was good. He had seven strikeouts, which was good. But the righthander was touched for two home runs, which was not good, that came in successive at-bats in the second inning by Tyler White and Preston Tucker. White made it a four-RBI game when he singled in two more runs in the fourth as Houston regained its three-run lead. The power bats of McCann and Castro came to Eovaldi’s rescue, and he got off the hook when Rodriguez knotted the score in the fifth. It was A-Rod’s 1,066th RBI with the Yankees as he passed Jorge Posada for 11th place on the franchise’s career list.

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