Results tagged ‘ Triple A ’

Mac, Gardy join youth corps to beat Angels again

The Yankees’ youth movement continued to pay early dividends Saturday night in a 5-1 victory over the Angels, although not all the faces who made important contributions were that fresh. Some hearty veterans did their part as well.

The Yanks came within an inning of their second straight shutout against an Angels club lingering in last place in the American League West. The Angels finally got on the board when Albert Pujols hit the first pitch Dellin Betances offered in the bottom of the ninth inning to left field for his 583rd career home run, which tied him with former Cardinals teammate Mark McGwire for 10th place on the all-time list.

That has been the only run given up in Anaheim by the Yankees, who have a chance not only to sweep this series in the finale Sunday but also the season series. They swept the Halos in a four-game set at Yankee Stadium in early June.

Luis Cessa limited the Angels to two hits, both singles, in pitching one batter into the seventh inning in his first major-league start. Obtained with fellow rookie Chad Green, who will start Sunday, from the Tigers in an off-season traded for reliever Justin Wilson, Cessa walked only one batter and struck out five to boost his record to 3-0 and lower his earned run average from 5.30 to 4.01.

The Yankees provided Cessa a 3-0 lead before he took the mound beginning with a solo home run by his catcher, Gary Sanchez, that started a two-out rally against Angels starter Ricky Nolasco. Youthful veterans Didi Gregorius and Starlin Castro kept the line moving with a single and double, respectively, before the more grizzled vet Brian McCann, who has settled in nicely as the designated hitter, drove both runners home with a single.

Big Mac was also part of the Yankees’ two-run sixth in which he put himself into scoring position with a stolen base, a first since 2012 for the weary-legged catcher by trade. After his single sent Castro, who had also singled, to third base, McCann took off to the surprise of Nolasco and swiped second. And Big Mac was not finished running. He barreled his way home on a single to right field by Aaron Judge, another newcomer from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who has made a positive early impression.

McCann has been used as the DH to give the Yanks a long look at Sanchez behind the plate. He worked smoothly with Cessa and also showed off his strong arm by throwing out Kole Calhoun at first base in the sixth inning when the Angels right fielder drifted too far off the bag.

The fielding gem of the game, however, came from left fielder Brett Gardner, who had a brutal game offensively (0-for-5) but more than made up for it with his circus catch in the seventh to rob C.J. Cron of a home run. Gardner leaped high, reached over the wall and had to contend with two glove-wearing fans to haul in Cron’s drive and somehow kept his balance by leaning his lower back across the top of the fence.

It was a remarkable play on another remarkable night in Anaheim for a Yankees team trying awfully hard to get back into playoff contention.

Severino should learn from Rivera’s example

It would have been an ideal situation if Dellin Betances came to the mound in the ninth inning Sunday to nail down a save on the same day Major League Baseball’s career saves leader, Mariano Rivera, was honored by the Yankees with a plaque in Monument Park.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, there was nowhere near a save situation for Betances as they lost a chance to pay the Rays back for that sweep in St. Petersburg, Fla., two weekend ago with a 12-3 loss that fell under the category of growing pains.

It certainly was a painful start for Luis Severino, whose record fell to 1-7 with a 7.19 ERA, in an erratic outing. He struck out seven batters in 3 2/3 innings but also allowed eight hits, including two home runs, and seven earned runs. Minutes after the game’s end, the Yankees optioned the righthander to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to continue to sort out his problems.

In watching Severino struggle, I could not help but see a possible connection to Rivera, who also had trying moments as a starter for the Yankees early in his career before finding a home in the back end of the bullpen. In three relief outings over 8 1/3 innings, Severino has allowed one run, and it was not earned. His ERA as a starter is 8.58. Could his future be in the pen?

“We are still looking at him as a starter,” manager Joe Girardi said, “but time will tell.”

It was not a good time for anyone named Luis Sunday. Luis Cessa was rocked for five earned runs and five hits in three innings. It was a much different picture for the youth corps from Saturday’s uplifting victory. Aaron Judge hit another home run, and Gary Sanchez also went deep, but it was a subdued day for the Yanks overall.

The positive aspect for the crowd of 41,473 at Yankee Stadium was the ceremony for Rivera, who joined other team immortals in Monument Park. Former teammates David Cone, Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Paul O’Neill and Jorge Posada; former manager Joe Torre; former pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre; former trainer Gene Monahan and current trainer Steve Donohue took part in the ceremony along with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner, his wife Cristina and sister Jennifer Steinbrenner Swindal.

“Some closers are great, but nobody was like that,” Steinbrenner said in the hallway outside the clubhouse. “So to have kind of a sure thing was something that we never took for granted, but we certainly became comfortable with it, then all of the sudden he retires, and it’s a whole different world.”

Among accomplishments listed on Mo’s plaque was his records for saves (652) and games finished (952) and a remarkable postseason earned run average of 0.70 in 141 innings and an appropriate total of saves, 42, matching his uniform number that was retired last year.

“It’s amazing, thinking about all of the people out there in Monument Park, starting with Babe Ruth,” Rivera said after the ceremony. “You have Mickey [Mantle], you have Mr. Joe DiMaggio and my favorite Yogi Berra, and the list is going on and on. And then me, a humble guy from Puerto Caimito, Panama, being in that group of men means a lot.”

Rivera is the ninth pitcher to have a plaque in Monument Park. He joined Hall of Famers Lefty Gomez, Whitey Ford, Red Ruffing and Goose Gossage, along with Stottlemyre, Pettitte, Ron Guidry and Allie Reynolds.

As he was leaving the clubhouse area to rejoin his family, Mo told me a story I had never heard before. It seems that about a month after the Yankees won the 1998 World Series to complete that dominant 125-50 season (counting their 11-2 postseason mark), Rivera went to the Instructional League in Tampa to work with Stottlemyre.

“Mel wanted to help me work on using fewer pitches to get through innings,” Rivera said. “He emphasized me not trying to strike everybody out but to move the ball around the strike zone to get ahead in the count and make the hitters take more defensive swings. Mel was a great influence on my career.”

That episode in Rivera’s career says all there needs to be said about his devotion to his craft. The Yankees had just completed one of the most incredible seasons any team put together, and there was one of the club’s most important figures going back to the drawing board to make himself even better. That is why Mo earned that plaque.

Rookie pair take the baton from A-Rod

On the first day of Yankees baseball without Alex Rodriguez, the franchise turned back the clock to honor its World Series title club of 20 years ago and then offered a glimpse into the future with a starting lineup containing some new names.

And those names, Tyler Austin and Aaron Judge, made history right away. They became the first teammates to hit home runs in their first major league plate appearances in the same game. On top of that, they did so in successive at-bats.

Austin was still getting high-fived in the dugout after his drive into the lower right field stands when Judge smoked a thunderous clout that hit off the facade above the batter’s eye in dead center field well above Monument Park.


Tyler Austin (left) congratulated  for first major-league home run by teammate Aaron Judge, who followed suit minutes later (USA Today photo). 

“You can’t draw it up better than that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We were even able to get both balls back. Austin’s bounced back onto the field, and Aaron’s went into the net. That was special.”

Each newcomer had a 2-for-4 game and displayed electric potential. Less than 24 hours after Yankees fans bid farewell to A-Rod, a new era was emerging before an enthusiastic crowd of 41,682 at Yankee Stadium. The paperwork of granting Rodriguez his unconditional release cleared a roster spot for Austin, who went to work immediately at first base for a resting Mark Teixeira.

After left fielder Brett Gardner, who has hit by a pitch Friday night, notified Girardi that he would not be a player Saturday, the Yankees got word to Judge, who was in upstate Rochester with Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, around midnight. He made the lengthy drive down the Dewey Thruway, hit the city at around 6 a.m. and reported for duty four hours later.

It did not take either rookie long to get into the mix. Each touched the ball in the first inning, which I always think is important for a player making his big-league debut. It gets him in the game from the outset. Austin took a throw at first base from shortstop Didi Gregorius, and Judge made a nice play tracking a fly ball to right field by Evan Longoria.

Look, Friday night was a nice sentimental sendoff to a once great player, but after watching Rodriguez swing behind fastballs for the better part of a .200 season and hit even below that over the past seven calendar months, change was refreshing. Former Scranton teammates Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine were on the field as well. The Yankees are definitely showing off a new look.

Some veterans did their part in the 8-4 victory over the Rays. Starlin Castro, Aaron Hicks and Gregorius, in the unfamiliar role as cleanup hitter, also went deep as the Yankees matched their season high for homers in a game with five. The amazing part of that is that none in the quintet is over the age of 26.

The outburst helped Masahiro Tanaka offset two home runs by Tampa Bay first baseman Phil Miller, which accounted for all the Rays’ runs. Tanaka was pretty effective against everybody else in a no-walk, eight-strikeout effort over seven innings.

Before the game, a reunion of the 1996 World Series champions brought some of that era’s favorites onto the field for a pregame ceremony in which players emerged from the gate between the visitors’ bullpen and Monument Park and walked to their former positions — Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Tino Martinez, Wade Boggs, Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada, Paul O’Neill, Jimmy Key, Cecil Fielder, David Cone, John Wetteland, Darryl Strawberry, Dwight Gooden and Girardi, among others. Arriving on carts were coaches Chris Chambliss, Willie Randolph and Jose Cardenal in one and pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre with manager Joe Torre in another. There was also a tribute to the late Don Zimmer on the center field screen.

This was the unit that rebounded from the playoff loss to Seattle the year before to begin a dynastic run that led to in six American League pennants and four World Series titles over eight seasons. As Yankees fans witnessed Saturday, it has to start somewhere.

A-Rod has not earned starting nod

Alex Rodriguez has had a hard time getting in the Yankees’ starting lineup the past two weeks. Thursday night in Game 4 of the Subway Series seemed to be his best chance of cracking into the lineup because Bartolo Colon was the starting pitcher for the Mets.

To say A-Rod has owned “Big Sexy” in his career is a huge understatement. In 52 career at-bats against Colon, Rodriguez has batted .442 with seven doubles, one triple and eight home runs.

Yet when manager Joe Girardi posted his lineup, there was no Rodriguez in it. For the second straight night, the designated hitter role was filled by Gary Sanchez, the Yankees’ prized catching prospect who was recently recalled from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Sanchez got his first major-league hit, a single to center field in the seventh inning, as part of a 1-for-4 game Wednesday night in the Yankees’ 9-5 victory.

Sanchez had two more hits Thursday night in the 4-1 loss to the Mets that turned this year’s Subway Series into a push as each club won two games. Sanchez scored the Yankees’ run in the seventh. He doubled with one out off Colon and scored on a two-out single by Aaron Hicks off reliever Jerry Blevins. Sanchez beat out an infield single in the ninth off Mets closer Jeurys Familia (38th save) to bring the potential tying run to the plate before Rob Refsnyder grounded into a game-ending double play.

Otherwise, it was all Mets, due largely to Colon (10-6), the 43-year-old marvel who gave up one run, six hits and no walks with one strikeout in 6 1/3 innings. Yankees starter Nathan Eovaldi (9-8) had one bad inning in seven — the fifth — but it was a brutal one.

Kelly Johnson led off with a Yankee Stadium right field porch home run. One out later, Curtis Granderson doubled to left-center. Eovaldi then made a pivotal mistake on a check-swing grounder to the mound by Alejandro De Aza by throwing to second base in an attempt to cut down Granderson, but he slid back into the bag safely, costing the Yanks a possible sure out at first base.

After Neil Walker lined out, Jay Bruce, obtained earlier this week in a trade from the Reds, made his first contribution to the Mets with a three-run home run to right-center. Bruce had been 0-for-10 with four strikeouts since joining the Mets before that homer, his 26th, that raised his National League leading RBI total to 83.

Girardi acknowledged that Rodriguez’s statistics against Colon were “tremendous,” but also pointed out “most of those numbers came many, many years ago.”

Indeed, A-Rod ran up those stats against Colon in the previous decade while he was winning three American League Most Valuable Player Awards against a pitcher who copped an AL Cy Young Award, in 2005 with the Angels. Girardi added that when Rodriguez last faced Colon, in 2012, he was 1-for-6.

As frustrated as Rodriguez may be, at 41 he has not shown much at the plate to warrant his playing regularly. A-Rod started the first five games after the All-Star break and batted .188 with one home run and one RBI in 16 at-bats. He has started once in the past 12 games and struck out four times in that game. Rodriguez has one hit, a single, in his past 19 at-bats as his season batting average has shrunk to .204 with nine homers and 29 RBI in 216 at-bats. He has been stuck at 696 career home runs since July 18.

In defending his decision not to start Rodriguez against Colon, Girardi said most of his problems have come against right-handed pitching. True enough, A-Rod is hitting .196 against righties this year. Wednesday night, he also sat against a left-handed starter, Steven Matz, but Rodriguez has not exactly lit it up against lefties, either (.219).

Girardi denied that he was being told by the front office not to play Rodriguez, who is under contract through the 2017 season. And despite reports suggesting that the Yankees have discussed releasing Rodriguez and eating the $27 million due him over the remainder of his contract, general manager Brian Cashman told ESPN Radio there have been no such talks.

“First and foremost, you just have to flat-out admit, it is not easy to eat — meaning release — that kind of money,” Cashman said. “It’s not something you come to a quick decision on. You see players — and I don’t want to name them because they are still playing — but there are players around the game who are on big contracts that have been well-below-average players now for many years, not just a year. Alex hit 33 home runs last year. This is a bigger media market and more attention, and there is certainly a tempest about what should be done. All I can tell you is, slow down a little bit and here is the counterarguments: There is a very large financial commitment through next year on a player of Alex’s caliber that was productive as early as last year.”

The financial considerations are for the front office to worry about. That is not the manager’s concern. He has to put the players in the lineup that give his team the best chance to win. It has been some time since Rodriguez fit into that equation.

I remember years ago talking to a manager who had an aging superstar on his team. The manager said, “The best piece of advice I got from a managing mentor of mine was not to argue with your general manager over the 25th player on the roster and try not to let a star fall on you.”

It is one of the most difficult assignments for any manager, to find a way for a player well past his prime to maintain his dignity while dealing with severely diminished skills.

Also missing from the lineup was Mark Teixeira, who had a big game Wednesday night (three-run home run, two walks, hit by a pitch). The HBP by Matz left Tex with a bruised left shin.

Earning a return to the rotation was Luis Severino, who got his first victory of the season for not allowing an earned run in 4 1/3 innings in relief of Chad Green, who was optioned to SWB. Severino will start next Tuesday night at Boston.

Tex’s 2 HRs protects Green’s 1st big-league win

The Yankees escaped disaster over the weekend at San Diego, thanks to a spot starter and an on-the-spot finisher Sunday. A 6-3 victory over the Padres Sunday was achieved primarily due to the effective pitching of rookie Chad Green and two crucial home runs by Mark Teixeira, who avoided wearing the golden sombrero and in the process cleared the 400-home run plateau.

The Yankees remain the team with the best record in inter-league play since the format began in 1997 (although the Red Sox are right on their heels) but have struggled against National League competition this year. Sunday’s victory improved their mark in inter-league play this year to 3-7. What has hurt the Yankees this season especially in NL parks is a sparse bench. With a 12-man pitching staff and with aging veterans Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran hampered by leg issues, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been limited in options.

Despite the final score, Sunday’s game was a nail biter until the ninth. Green held the Padres to one run and three hits with no walks and eight strikeouts in six innings but departed the game with merely a one-run lead. Normally, that has been gold with Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman in play, but the No Runs DMC combination had its perceived invincibility shaken Saturday night. Betances allowed an inherited runner to score on a double by Matt Kemp in the sixth inning that tied the score. San Diego almost took the lead that inning as well on a single by Melvin Upton, but left fielder Brett Gardner threw Kemp out at the pomerhlate.

Upton did more damage three innings later when he led off the ninth by driving the first pitch from Miller a long way into the left field stands for a walk-off home run. It marked the first loss in six decisions for Miller this season.

Although Betances allowed two hits in the seventh inning Sunday, he protected the one-run advantage with key strikeouts of Derek Norris and Ryan Schrimpf. Miller also put two runners on in the eighth with a single and a walk but retired the dangerous Kemp on a ground ball to work out of it.

Teixeira had given Miller an extra run to work with when he led off the top of that inning with his 400th career home run. Tex, who had struck out in his previous three at-bats, became the fifth switch-hitter to reach the milestone. The others are Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Eddie Murray, future Hall of Famer Chipper Jones and his teammate, Beltran. Texeira connected again in the ninth following an RBI single by Gardner as the Yankees pulled away at 6-1.

That took Chapman out of the equation but only momentarily. Anthony Swarzak could not close it out as Yangervis Solarte singled for his fourth hit of the game and scored on a home run by Alex Dickerson. Chapman then was summoned to notch his 16th save, which he did by retiring the three batters he faced.

Green had been called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start in place of CC Sabathia because the Yankees did not want the lefthander to have to bat or run the bases at Petco Park. It could not have worked out better for the Yankees, who now must decide whether to fit Green, a righthander, into the rotation somehow. Green was named to the International League All-Star squad on the strength of his league-leading 1.54 ERA.

The victory was a face saver for the Yankees, who were defeated the previous two nights by the NL West cellar dwellers. They will return to American League play Monday afternoon at Chicago with a July 4th date against the White Sox on the birthday of the late Yankees owner George M. Steinbrenner and radio voice John Sterling.

Yanks’ minor leaguers drawing attention

There is some good news for several Yankees minor leaguers.

Four members of the Scranton/Wilkes Barre RailRiders were elected to the 29th annual Sonic Automotive Triple A All-Star Game July 13 at Charlotte, N.C. Pitcher Chad Green, catcher Gary Sanchez and outfielders Ben Gamel and Aaron Judge are the SWB All-Stars, the most of any International League team in balloting by managers, general managers, media and fans online.

Judge, who was named the IL Batter of the Week for June 20-26, leads the league in home runs with 16, including four in his past sis games. He ranks second in the IL in runs (49) and total bases (140), third in extra-base hits (31) and tied for fourth in runs batted in (46). This month, Judge has hit .337 with nine home runs and 21 RBI in 26 games. His on-base plus slugging percentage is 1.156.

Sanchez is tied with Judge for fourth in the IL in slugging with a .490 percentage and is second on the team in homers (8) and RBI (32). Green leads the league with a 1.54 ERA in 14 starts and 81 2/3 innings and has a 17-inning shutout string going. Gamel, the IL Rookie of the Year in 2015, is batting .293 with a team-leading 12 stolen bases.

Double A Trenton catcher Kyle Higashioka was chosen the Eastern League Player of the Week for June 20-26 for batting .467 with a double, four home runs, 12 RBI and a 1.333 slugging percentage in four games and 15 at-bats. The Huntington Beach, Calif., native is batting .301 with 11 doubles, six homers and 33 RBI in 38 games and 133 at-bats this season.

Sanchez and infielder Jorge Mateo were selected to play for the World Team in the 2016 SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game, which will be played at 7 p.m., Eastern Times, Sunday, July 10, at Petco Park in San Diego as part of the Major League All-Star Game festivities.

In 48 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Sanchez is hitting .277 with 25 runs, 16 doubles, one triple, eight home runs and 31RBI in 195 at-bats. He has also appeared in one game with the Yanks this season and was 0-for-4.

Mateo is batting .270 with 45 runs, eight doubles, eight triples, five homers, 33 RBI and 26 stolen bases in 69 games and 281 at-bats for Class A Tampa. He leads the Florida State League in steals and is tied for the league lead in runs and triples.

Yanks rally early but need pen to secure victory

The national television audience watching Fox’s coverage of Saturday night’s Yankees-Orioles game had to be wondering about all the reports they read or heard about the Bombers’ slumbering offense.

There were the Yankees on national TV lashing out 16 hits and scoring runs in bunches. It was a throwback to the days when the Yankees loved coming to hitter-friendly Camden Yards against some weak Baltimore clubs to improve their batting averages and slugging percentages. The Orioles have had the upper hand in recent years, but the Yankees looked like the Bronx Bombers of old in building a 7-0 lead through six innings.

Ivan Nova was cruising along on a three-hit shutout until Mark Trumbo led off the seventh with his 18th home run, most in the majors. That was just the beginning of the wheels falling off for Nova, who gave up an infield hit to Matt Wieters and a two-run, opposite-field homer to Pedro Alvarez. The onslaught did not give Yankees manager Joe Girardi must time to get a reliever warm up in the bullpen and stayed with Nova, who gave up a bloop single to Jonathan Schoop and walked Ryan Flaherty on a full count.

Nova was on fumes at this point, so Girardi brought in Nick Goody, who proceeded to yield a three-run home run to Adam Jones. Suddenly, 7-0 was 7-6, and the Yankees had nine more outs to get. What for a time was a laugher became a sweat box.

With Dellin Betances, who had pitched the previous two night, unavailable, Girardi relied on Andrew Miller, who did a yeoman’s job in retiring the six batters he faced over the seventh and eighth innings. The Yankees came up with a huge insurance run in the ninth off reliever Vance Worley with one out on a double by Aaron Hicks, who entered the game in right field as a defensive replacement in the seventh, and a single by Alex Rodriguez, his third hit of the game.

Aroldis Chapman took it from there, although the ninth inning began with catcher Austin Romine having to leave the game after being cut on the left hand trying to catch a warmup pitch in the dirt. Brian McCann, who was on the bench nursing a hyperextended left elbow, took over behind the plate.

Chapman walked Jones with two out before striking out pinch hitter Nolan Reimold looking for his ninth save and put to rest any chance of an Orioles comeback. The bullpen has been leaky of late. Kirby Yates and Betances contributed to the Yankees’ blowing a 5-2 lead Friday night. Thursday night in Detroit, the Yankees were up 5-1 and held on for a 5-4 victory despite Betances, Miller and Chapman all being scored upon over the final three innings.

A serious injury to Romine would be critical. The Yankees are running out of catchers. McCann is still not 100 percent, and Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre’s Gary Sanchez is on the disabled list. The Yankees purchased the contract of first baseman Chris Parmelee from SWB to help fill the void of Mark Teixeira, who was placed on the 15-day DL because of torn cartilage in his right knee. Dustin Ackley, who had been Tex’s back-up at first base, had season-ending surgery on his right shoulder and was transferred to the 60-day DL. That opened a spot on the 40-man roster for Parmelee.

Girardi spoke before the game of a possible platoon at first base with Parmelee and Rob Refsnyder, yet with righthander Tyler Wilson starting for the Orioles the manager started Refsnyder, who had an RBI double in four at-bats. Parmelee took over in the field in the eighth.

After taking a 1-0 lead in the third on a sacrifice fly by Romine, the Yankees attacked Wilson for four runs and five hits in the fourth. Carlos Beltran and Rodriguez started the rally with singles. Starlin Castro, who had three hits, doubled home Beltran. A-Rod scored on an infield out. Refsnyder restarted the rally with his double that scored Castro and came home on a single by Romine.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner, who were a combined 4-for-10 at the top of the order, teamed on a double steal with two out in the sixth that resulted in Ellsbury’s second swipe of home this season and the third time in his career.

Everyone in the Yankees’ starting lineup plus Hicks had at least one hit. It would have been an absolute crime if the pitchers could not make all that offense hold up.

Yankees needed more than 1 hit to avoid this loss

Well, at least somebody on the Yankees broke out of a slump Monday night. Brian McCann had been hitless in his previous 21 at-bats before he crushed a two-run home run off the second-deck facade in center field at Rogers Centre in the ninth inning, but that was pretty much for the Yanks offensively in a 4-2 loss.

And if not for the every-night reliance on the bullpen these days maybe McCann would still be in an 0-for. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons did not give Marco Estrada a chance to pitch a complete game. Yes, Estrada threw 108 pitches, past the ridiculous magic number of 100, so naturally he had to come out of the game. Never mind that he was almost never in trouble and rarely had to throw a stressful pitch, but convention today says you must go to the bullpen. Well, that is what Gibby gets for turning the game over to Aaron Loup, who hit Carlos Beltran with a pitch with one out and gave up the humongous bomb to McCann.

Gibbons was forced to dip into his bullpen some more and brought in Drew Storen, who did not help matters right away by giving up a double off the right field wall to Mark Teixeira, who narrowly missed his first home run in 129 at-bats since April 113. Estrada’s second victory over the Yankees in a week’s time was clearly in jeopardy at that point, but they went quietly after that on a fly to right by Starlin Castro and a strikeout of Chase Headley.

If it seems as though I am spending too much time in the ninth inning, well, there was not much else going on for the Yankee offensively over the first eight. Estrada (3-2) scattered four hits and three walks with six strikeouts and faced only two at-bats with runners in scoring position, both futile. And this followed a game at St. Petersburg the day before where the Yankees had only one hit in nine innings yet somehow came away with a victory.

Sunday’s 2-1 comeback over the Rays on Castro’s two-run homer in the seventh marked the second time in Yankees history that they won a game with only one hit, and the first time in a game of at least nine innings. They also won a 1-0, six-inning game July 10, 1914 in the second game of a doubleheader at the Polo Grounds.

The Elias Sports Bureau reports that the Yankees have been held to one-or-zero hits in a game of at least nine innings 58 times. They had lost the first 57 games before Sunday. And yet, this has happened three times this year in the majors. The other two games involved the Mariners at Safeco Field. Seattle won, 1-0, April 29 against the Royals and lost, 3-2, April 4 to the Rangers.

The Yankees were going to need more than one hit Monday night in they were going to win because Toronto had four runs, the equivalent of a grand slam, by the fifth inning against Ivan Nova (3-3), who again lost to Estrada. Nova did not have his best sinker and paid for it as five of the Blue Jays’ eight hits off him went for extra bases.

Ryan Goins, the Jays’ 9-hole hitter, touched up Nova for a double and a home run. This is saying something. Goins had entered the game with a .244 slugging percentage. Not batting average, slugging percentage. He was in a 9-for-91 stretch, which works out to a .099 batting average.

More conventionally for Toronto, at the top of the order Jose Bautista and Josh Donaldson each scored a run with Edwin Encarnacion driving both of them in.

Nova did pitch into the seventh inning, which is a plus. Yankees starters have completed at least six innings in 11 of their past 12 starts and are 8-4 with a 2.70 ERA and 60 strikeouts in 73 1/3 innings. Richard Bleier, who was called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes Barre last week, made his major league debut and retired both batters he faced in the eighth inning on ground balls.

Meanwhile, the Yankees kept running to first base and turning right when they were not striking out. The numbers are pretty ugly. Brett Gardner is hitless in his past 20 at-bats and was pinch-hit for by rookie Rob Refsnyder in the ninth inning. Alex Rodriguez, who was on the bench but likely will start Tuesday night against lefthander J.A. Happ, has one hit, a home run, in 16 at-bats (.063) with nine strikeouts since he was activated from the 15-day disabled list five days ago.

Dustin Ackley found himself on the DL because of a jammed right shoulder, which is why Refsnyder was recalled from SWB. The Triple A affiliate was the landing spot for struggling pitcher Luis Severino, who came off the DL Monday. Manager Joe Girardi made it clear that the righthander will have to work out his problems in the minor leagues.

The Yankees are 24-20 on Memorial Day since 1971 (when the holiday was first celebrated on the last Monday in May following the National Holiday Act of 1971). They did not play on Memorial Day in 1973, 2004 or 2005 and are 9-6 on Memorial Day since 2000. The Yanks played on the road on Memorial Day for the ninth time in the past 11 seasons.

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.

Injury rehab stint at Trenton for A-Rod

Alex Rodriguez’s return from the 15-day disabled list will be delayed for at least another day or two. Rodriguez, who was placed on the DL May 4 due to a strained right hamstring, went on an injury-rehabilitation assignment to Double A Trenton Tuesday night. The Thunder has night games Tuesday and Wednesday.

Rodriguez has been eligible to come off the DL since May 19, but he was not activated during the Yankees’ recently completed four-game sweep at Oakland. Carlos Beltran was the DH in all four games and was 9-for-18 (.500) with three runs, five doubles, one home run and eight RBI.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi explained before Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series against the Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium that the decision on Rodriguez was reached Monday during a conference call with club officials. Girardi said the thinking was that A-Rod has been idle for three weeks and needs at-bats. With three righthanders starting for Toronto in this series there is less of a need to hurry Rodriguez back.

And although it is purely coincidental, the Yankees have gotten hot during A-Rod’s absence. They are 12-6 since he went on the DL. DHs have hit a combined .323 with 10 doubles, five home runs and 19 RBI in 62 at-bats. Almost all of the damage has been by Beltran, who started 12 of 15 games as the DH (there was no DH in a three-game series in the National League city of Phoenix) and batted .367 with 11 runs, nine doubles, five home runs and 18 RBI in 49 at-bats. The Yanks were 10-2 in those games.

Using Beltran as the DH spares his aging legs, improves the outfield defense with Aaron Hicks in right field and offers some playing time for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre call-up Rob Refsnyder. Girardi did say that once Rodriguez returns he would again be the full-time DH, but for the time being there is no emergency.

The Yankees made a player move Tuesday in claiming pitcher Layne Somsen off waivers from the Reds and optioning him to SWB. The righthander, 26, made his major league debut with Cincinnati this season and appeared in two games. Somsen pitched a scoreless inning May 14 at Philadelphia and allowed five earned runs in 1 1/3 innings May 16 at Cleveland.

The South Dakota native also made 10 appearances with Triple-A Louisville This year and posted a 1.89 ERA in 19 innings without any decisions. In 86 games, including seven starts, over parts of four minor league seasons, Somsen has a 9-5 career record with a 2.50 ERA.

The Yankees’ 40-man roster now stands at 40.

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