Archive for the ‘Misc’
Just a few thoughts three weeks into the season:
• You know, the Mets might actually be a pretty good team. Maybe not a great team, but they can pitch, their lineup isn’t bad, and they certainly came into this series playing well. In the past week and a half, the Yankees have swept three games on the road against a bad Rays team, then they took three of four against a good team in Detroit, then they won two of three against the red-hot Mets. For the Yankees, this season could come down to durability over the long term, but in the short term, they’ve been good. The challenge is to maintain this level of health and production.
• One home run away from 660 for Alex Rodriguez. If it happens in the next three days, it’s going to be fascinating to see what the Yankees do (or don’t do) to announce the milestone. It’s a curious fight over that marketing agreement, and I don’t know enough about contract language to have an opinion about which side is right, but I’ll give the Yankees’ front office credit for this much: they’ve let Joe Girardi and the rest of the team stay out of it. Even if the scoreboard makes no mention of Willie Mays, I would still fully expect the team to come out of the dugout to celebrate at home plate. They know what’s going on, and they’ve embraced A-Rod as a teammate. Just last week I had a Yankees player who’s not particularly close with Rodriguez tell me he’s been great in the clubhouse ever since he returned from suspension.
• One other random thought about 660: what if it doesn’t happen this week at Yankee Stadium but instead comes over the weekend at Fenway? Would the Red Sox make a big show of it just to make the situation a little more awkward for the Yankees? If the Red Sox put an announcement on the video board announcing No. 660 specifically as a “marketable milestone,” I’d laugh, but then again, it’s not my $6 million.
• Carlos Beltran looks bad, and the question seems to be how long the Yankees give him regular playing time in hopes he snaps out of it. With another year left on his contract, a release isn’t as easy as it was with Alfonso Soriano last season. At this point, I think the Yankees have a better chance of Beltran turning it around than actually getting something useful for him on the trade market. That said, if and when the Yankees are willing to make a change, both Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores are in Triple-A playing like viable alternatives.
• Speaking of alternatives, Jose Pirela has started a rehab assignment. Gregorio Petit has played better lately, but I still wonder if Pirela might come straight to New York once he’s ready to play regularly. Petit’s only playing second base anyway, so the fact Pirela can’t play shortstop is a non-issue, and he certainly seems to be an offensive upgrade.
• The Yankees have been picking their battles with John Ryan Murphy — most of his at-bats have come against lefties, and he hasn’t hit much in his few at-bats against righties — but he’s really thrived so far. He’s been productive at the plate, and he’s really thrived behind the plate as well. Francisco Cervelli has been pretty decent in Pittsburgh, but I can’t imagine the Yankees regret that trade. Justin Wilson’s been good (except that one brutal outing), Murphy is clearly ready for a big league job, and Austin Romine cleared waivers to keep the catching depth intact.
• This bullpen is good. Andrew Miller obviously looks great, Dellin Betances seems to be thoroughly back on track, and the pen has legitimate depth now that Chasen Shreve and Chris Martin seem to have established themselves as legitimate big league options. It’s a good bullpen, which makes it interesting to think about what might happen when Chris Capuano and Ivan Nova are ready to go (but, as always, these things seem to take care of themselves).
• And speaking of the bullpen, would it make sense on Tuesday to bring up Chase Whitley in place of Petit, then replace Whitley with Pirela on Wednesday? If not, the Yankees would have to send down either Shreve or Martin to make room for their spot starter. That might be a way to make the move without making a change in the bullpen. That said, there are plenty of Triple-A relievers who are pitching well and could come up to fill a hole. Going without Petit for a day would leave the Yankees without a backup middle infielder.
• As for the decision to use Whitley as a spot starter, the Yankees clearly had this in mind when they sent Whitley to Triple-A to start the season. He pitched well enough in spring training to win a spot in the big league bullpen, but it seems safe to assume the Yankees wanted him stretched out for exactly this kind of spot-start opportunity. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have kept him on schedule to so perfectly pitch in Masahiro Tanaka’s place. Bryan Mitchell’s past two starts have been terrific for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, but he’s not lined up the way Whitley is (and Whitley’s been plenty good himself).
Associated Press photos
The day of reckoning is here. Well, it could be tomorrow or Tuesday or, well, you get the point.
Regardless, here is what’s important: Alex Rodriguez has moved within one of tying Willie Mays on the all-time home run list. One more and he will trigger the first $6-million milestone clause in his contract, the one for No. 660, which would tie Mays for fourth on baseball’s all-time list.
Rodriguez hit No. 659 off Jon Niese with two outs in the first inning and finished with three RBI as the Yankees beat the Mets, 6-4, to win the rubber game of their Subway Series.
So has A-Rod been told has his next home run will — or won’t — be celebrated?
“I don’t have a marketing degree,” he said. “I’m just focused on playing baseball.”
And, for Rodriguez, that means good baseball. He finished Sunday batting .267 with five homers and 13 RBI, the latter two of which rank second on the Yankees behind Mark Teixeira. A-Rod is tied for sixth in home runs and tied for 18th in RBI in the Majors.
“You think of a guy who really hasn’t played lot in two years and is 39 1/2, you’re not sure what you’re going to get,” Joe Girardi said. “Two hip surgeries. Obviously, he’s been a great player for a long time. But you get to that age and what he’s went through and you’r not sure what you’re going to get. I felt good about what I saw in spring training and expected that to carry over and it has. But I don’t think any of us really knew what to expect just because of what he’s been through.”
The expectations for Rodriguez have seemingly been reset. He’s batting third, DHing every day and thriving.
“I believe and expect him to be productive,” Girardi said.
“We all know he can hit. He’s always been a good hitter. We’re just happy he’s healthy and swinging the bat the way he is,” Andrew Miller said. “You’d have to go ask each person how surprised they are. I’ve been on the other side of it long enough to know that he can hit a baseball. Fortunately, he’s on our side now.”
Rodriguez has enjoyed his strong April. He said he remained in the dark about how fans or the club would view his next home run.
“No idea,” Rodriguez said. “I am just so grateful to be back playing baseball and so happy to be back in Yankee Stadium and in New York.”
• Rodriguez’s impending milestone overshadowed another brilliant effort by the bullpen. Chasen Shreve bailed out Nathan Eovaldi in the fifth to earn his first career victory. He was the first of five relievers who totaled 4.2 no-hit innings and allowed no runs.
Miller (picture above) came last, pitching the ninth for his seventh save in as many chances.
“I think you want to leave the next guy a good situation,” he said. “You want to pick up the guy before you. That kind of thing. I think there’s a synergy between us where we can hand the ball off to the next guy and seal the deal.”
Miller was that “next guy” following Dellin Betances, who was dominant, striking out the first three Mets he faced in the eighth. He struck Michael Cuddyer out third, but his breaking pitch bounced to the backstop and allowed Cuddyer to advance. He then retired Daniel Murphy to end the inning.
• The Yankees hit five doubles on Sunday, including four during the four-run second off Niese. It was the most doubles they’ve hi tin an inning since May 21, 2009 against the Orioles.
• The Yankees are now 8-2 after their 3-6 start and have won series from the AL-leading Tigers and NL-leading Mets in the process.
• This was their first series-win against the Mets since 2012, but they have now won four of the last five. (The Mets entered having taken five of six in the Bronx.)
• Eovaldi was not his best, allowing four runs on seven hits in 4.1 innings. Girardi pulled him after allowing an infield single in the fifth to Juan Lagares. Eovaldi had actually retired the previous five hitters at the time.
“I was surprised when it happened, but I understand the situation,” he said. “I know our bullpen’s been amazing. We had a lefty-lefty matchup right there. Shreve came in and got us out of the jam, so it was great.”
• Girardi remained hopeful that Jacoby Ellsbury will play Monday. He did not check to see if the center fielder was available because of how the game unfolded, but would have had they needed him if the Mets extended the game.
• Infielder Jose Pirela began a rehab assignment with Tampa. He went 0 for 4 with a run scored as the DH. Pirela has been on the seven-day concussion list since April 5.
Photos courtesy of Getty Images.
Alex Rodriguez launched the 659th home run of his career to move within one of Willie Mays as the Yankees beat the Mets 6-4 to take the rubber game of their series at Yankee Stadium. Rodriguez launched a solo shot to right-center field in the first and the Yankees added four runs in the second off Mets starter Jon Niese. They hit four doubles in the inning and had four two-out hits, capped by an RBI double by Rodriguez. A-Rod’s 523rd career double tied him with Mays for 43rd all-time. The offense allowed the Yankees to survive a rocky start from Nathan Eovaldi, who was hit hard in 4 1/3 innings. He surrendered four runs on seven hits, including a leadoff homer to Curtis Granderson and a pair of RBI doubles by Daniel Murphy.
The Yankee bullpen threw 4 2/3 scoreless innings. Chasen Shreve earned the win and Andrew Miller had his seventh save in as many opportunities.
The Yankees return to the Stadium tomorrow night to host Tampa for the start of a three-game series.
Photo courtesy of Getty Images.
Game 19: Mets at Yankees • 04.26.15
RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 3.12)
Eovaldi vs. Mets
Curtis Granderson RF
Juan Lagares CF
Lucas Duda 1B
Michael Cuddyer LF
Daniel Murphy 2B
Eric Campbell 3B
Wilmer Flores SS
Danny Muno DH
Kevin Plawecki C
LHP Jon Niese (2-0, 1.50)
Niese vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 8:05 p.m., ESPN
WEATHER: Like yesterday, temperatures are expected to hover in the mid-50s. It’s much calmer in terms of wind, so it should actually feel like a regular spring night.
UMPIRES: HP Jim Wolf, 1B Adam Hamari, 2B Doug Eddings, 3B Adrian Johnson
YOU GO TO WAR WITH THEM: The Yankees’ pitchers have a big-league best 3.2 fWAR this season. Their bullpen leads the Majors with 70 strikeouts and is second with a 2.00 ERA in 63.0 IP. As a staff, the Yankees rank second in the AL and third in baseball with 163 strikeouts. They have eight or more games of 10+ strikeouts this season.
IF YOU’RE NOT FIRST, YOU’RE LAST: It’s a small sample size, but the Yankees have been frontrunners this season. When they score first, they win. When they don’t, they lose. They are 8-1 when scoring first and just 2-7 otherwise.
THE METS ARE YOUR MASTERS?: Well, not overall, but the Mets have gotten the better of the Yankees the last three years. They Yankees are 3-7 against their crosstown rival since the start of 2013 and have lost five of their last six to the Mets here in the Bronx. Of course, the Yankees lead the all-time series 57-43, plus a 4-1 playoff mark.
This is Josh Thomson again in for Chad, who will return tomorrow. In the meantime, I will man his Twitter account during the game @lohudyankees and provide periodic updates here.
Update, 9:12 p.m.: A few stats of note from this very entertaining game so far…
A-Rod has hit his 659th career home run, moving him one behind Willie Mays, who is fourth all-time. He also hit his 523rd career double to tie Mays for 44th all-time.
Of course, Granderson also homered to lead off the game, giving him 67 career home runs at the new Yankee Stadium. He is third behind Teixeira (94) and Robinson Cano (79). The homer made Granderson 8 for 18 with three home runs and six RBI here as a Met.
Fear not, Yankee fans. Jacoby Ellsbury seems fine.
Joe Girardi sounded fairly optimistic that Ellsbury will be healthy enough to return to the lineup on Monday. Yes, he is not playing tonight in the rubber game against the Mets, but Ellsbury was listed in the workout groups prior to the game and had begun to stretch when Girardi shut him down out of precaution.
If you missed it yesterday, Ellsbury’s hip tightened, forcing him out of the lineup after seven innings of the Yankees’ 8-2 loss to the Mets.
“Hip got a little tight yesterday. I don’t know if it was from one of his sliding catches that he irritated it on, but I just decided, let’s give him the day,” Girardi said. “That gives him about 48 hours to see if he can play tomorrow.”
The Yankees open up a three games series in the Bronx tomorrow night against the Rays. Ellsbury actually intended to play tonight after receiving treatment from the training staff. Girardi originally was going to let him test it in the pregame, but his plan for the week helped change his mind. Ellsbury was due for a day off this week, so the Yankees hope this will be it.
“I just said, ‘You know what. I was going to give you a day off in these next few days anyway, these next four, I think it’s kind of silly if you could have to leave in the middle of the game,” Girardi said. “So I kind of shut him down. … Hopefully, he’ll be in there tomorrow.”
• The Yankees intend to give Chase Whitley a spot start on Tuesday and push their rotation back a day. That means Masahiro Tanaka will pitch Wednesday and miss his bobblehead night Tuesday.
• With Alex Rodriguez stuck two homers shy of matching Willie Mays at 660, Girardi was asked if he’s seen the slugger pressing.
“No. I thought he hit some balls pretty well in Detroit. It’s not the easiest park to hit in,” he said. “I haven’t sensed it yet. But if I do, I’ll sit down and talk to him.”
• Brendan Ryan (strained right calf) is scheduled to return this week for extended spring training games. The next step would be a rehab assignment after that.
“It really just depends on how he respond and how he’s feeling,” Girardi said.
• Even when Ryan returns — or sooner — Girardi is committed to Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius as his starting middle infield. He will deploy Ryan as a spot starter when the club faces a lefty starter.
“They will still be my starting middle infielders,” Girardi said. (So, basically, some of you shouldn’t get your hopes up.)
• Despite his four home runs, Drew is still batting just .176. Girardi expects that to change.
“At the plate, he’s been productive,” he said. “He’s gotten some big hits for us during the course of the season. I look up and I’m shocked when I see what he’s hitting because I think he’s swung the bat a lot better than that. I think those numbers will continue to go up as time goes on. I think his at-bats have really been pretty good.”
• Terry Collins has opted to give rookie Danny Muno — not exactly David Ortiz at the plate — his first career start at DH tonight. The Mets manager was coy about his intentions, but you apparently should fear Muno.
“I knew coming into the series that I was going to DH Daniel Muno today. I really don’t want to tell you why, but I don’t want them to know why. There’s a reason why he’s in there today,” Collins said.
• For your fantasy team: Collins believes David Wright could return as early as Saturday. He’s eligible to come off the DL on Thursday.
The Yankees lost 8-2 to the Mets in the second game of the Subway Series as CC Sabathia surrendered seven runs. He dropped to 0-4 this season. Click here to read Josh Thomson’s story on Sabathia and the Yankees.
The other story today was the Yankees inability to contend with Mets ace Matt Harvey, who pitched into the ninth inning in his first career start in the Bronx. The right-hander received rave reviews from the Yankees, especially Alex Rodriguez, who went 0 for 4 with a pair of strikeouts.
“Wow. As good as advertised,” gushed Rodriguez. “No doubt about it.”
Harvey struck out seven Yankees and hit 98 on the gun on his 102nd pitch of the game, a fastball that beat Rodriguez. The Yankees mustered just five hits against Harvey, three of which came off the bat of Mark Teixeria.
“He’s a horse,” Rodriguez said. “He’s got four plus-pitches, he throws them all for strikes, has a great demeanor out on the mound. The Mets are in good shape. He’s a cornerstone of that franchise.”
Harvey has now thrown 16 2/3 innings against the Yankees in his career and allowed just three runs, 11 hits and two walks while striking out 17. The final pitch to Rodriguez — who was the final out Harvey recorded — capped a second strong start for Harvey against his boyhood team.
“That was fast. That was awesome,” Rodriguez said. “It’s so fun to see all these great young pitchers come up — well, actually it’s not that fun. He’s awesome. That’s what baseball’s all about. I give him a lot of credit. He threw a 98-mph fastball right by me. I tip my cap to that.”
• As you can read in my story above, the Yankees stood in complete support of Sabathia after his fourth straight loss to open the season. He’s now lost six straight decisions dating back to last April 29 — the longest such streak of his career.
Sabathia said he struggled locating his pitches, even when he pitched reasonably well over the first three innings.
“It was what it was. I was getting ahead, but just not with quality pitches, I don’t think,” Sabathia said. “I just didn’t feel a rhythm and didn’t feel the ball was coming out good.”
• Sabathia, who allowed seven runs on nine hits, including three home runs, wasn’t unnerved by fans who booed him as he departed in the sixth.
“Not at all,” he said. “If you pitch bad, you get booed.”
• Naturally, Sabathia indicated that this had been his worst start of the year. Although his manager and his teammates said the big lefty had pitched well enough to win earlier this season, Sabathia knew the reality.
“It sucks,” he said. “I just want to try and help the team win. I haven’t been able to do that my three or four times out. This one stings a little more because I didn’t give us a chance at all.”
• The Yankees have now scored just nine runs combined in Sabathia’s four starts.
“Record is irrelevant,” Brian McCann said. “We haven’t swung the bats well when he’s started. I think out of the four starts, he’s been really good.”
“I think sometimes record can be misleading. He could easily be 2-2,” Rodriguez said. “The way he threw against Detroit, one of the best offensive lineups in the American League, was a great barometer for him. Today, he makes a pitch and gets out of that inning. But they went on to score four runs.”
Here’s Joe Girardi: “I’m not going to make too much of one start. I think he’s done a really good job of getting ground balls and strikeouts and keeping the ball in the ballpark before today. Today he struggled for whatever reason.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury exited with hip tightness after the seventh inning. Girardi couldn’t identify when the injury occurred — it is not believed to be reoccurring — but hoped the substitution was just for precaution.
“His hip tightened up a little bit,” Girardi said. “With the score what it was, I just said, ‘I’m going to take you out. Let’s see how you feel tomorrow. Hopefully you’re a player for us.’”
Ellsbury was unavailable to talk to reporters after the game.
• Didi Gregorius made a nice play in the third when he leaped to snare a line drive by John Mayberry Jr. However, the young shortstop committed his third error of the season in the ninth inning when he whiffed on a ground ball off the bat of Michael Cuddyer.
“I just took my eye off that ball right there,” Gregorius said. “That’s what happened. I was trying to be too quick right there. I had more time than I thought.”
Teixeira now has just three singles among his 15 hits, although two of them came on Saturday. The home run, his eighth, moved him one behind Seattle’s Nelson Cruz for the league lead. He also tied Cruz with a big-league best 18 RBI after recording an RBI in his seventh straight start.
• The Yankees have now dropped five of six in the Bronx against the Mets, who are now 14-4 this season.
“I’m very impressed,” Rodriguez said. “(Terry) Collins is doing a great job. I think Sandy (Alderson) has collected some good talent over there. Again, it starts with a cornerstone like Harvey and when you have that, you’re that much closer to your goals.”
Photos courtesy of USA Today Sports and Getty Images.
Mets rock CC Sabathia, who drops to 0-4 • 04.25.15
After a decent first three innings, CC Sabathia was roughed up by the Mets, who scored four runs with two outs in the fourth and went on to defeat the Yankees, 8-2. Sabathia lasted just five-plus innings despite a low pitch-count, but was rocked for seven runs on nine hits, three of which were home runs. He fell to 0-4 in four starts this season.
Lucas Duda, Eric Campbell and Kevin Plawecki all went deep; Plawecki hit a two-run shot in the fourth to make it 5-1. It was his first career home run. The Mets also received a 4-for-4 game from Juan Lagares, who sparked the fourth-inning rally with an RBI triple. The bottom of the order (Nos. 6 through 9) went 6 for 9 off Sabathia with two home runs, a triple and five runs scored.
The Yankee offense was quiet against Mets ace Matt Harvey, who allowed two runs on five hits, struck out seven and walked two in 8 2/3 innings. That included a solo home run hit by Mark Teixeira in the seventh, which gave Teixeira eight home runs and 18 RBI this season. He is one shy of Nelson Cruz for the major-league lead and tied with Cruz for the lead in RBI. Teixeira had three of the Yankees’ five hits.
Harvey improved to 4-0. He has now thrown 16 2/3 innings against the Yankees in two career starts and allowed three runs, 11 hits and two walks while striking out 17.
The teams return for the rubber game of the Subway Series tomorrow at 8:05 p.m. when Nathan Eovaldi opposes Jon Niese.
Photo: Courtesy of Getty Images.
Game 18: Mets at Yankees • 04.25.15
LHP CC Sabathia (0-3, 4.35)
Sabathia vs. Mets
Curtis Granderson RF
John Mayberry Jr. LF
Lucas Duda 1B
Michael Cuddyer LF
Daniel Murphy 2B
Eric Campbell 3B
Juan Lagares CF
Wilmer Flores SS
Kevin Plawecki C
RHP Matt Harvey (3-0, 3.50)
Harvey vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 4:05 p.m., WPIX and FS1
WEATHER: It’s a bluebird afternoon here in the Bronx. The temperature should be in the mid to high 50s for first pitch and it’s a little breezy.
UMPIRES: HP Adrian Johnson, 1B Jim Wolf, 2B Adam Hamari, 3B Doug Eddings
STREAK BUSTERS: On Friday, the Yankees ended the Mets’ 11-game winning streak, which had tied for the longest in club history. Mark Teixeira hit a pair of home runs of Jacob deGrom and Michael Pineda allowed just one run on five hits in 7 2/3 strong innings. The Yankees enter today on a season-high four-game winning streak and area now 7-1 in their last eight.
TEX ON THE MARK: Mark Teixeira now is second in the bigs with seven home runs and 17 RBI. (Nelson Cruz has nine homers and 18 RBI.) Friday was his 38th career multi-HR game. Only Alex Rodriguez (61), Albert Pujols (48) and David Ortiz (47) have more. Teixeira has also recorded at least on RBI in six straight starts and 11 of his last 14 games.
HARVEY DAY IN THE BRONX: Matt Harvey, childhood Yankee fan, will make the second start of his career against the Yankees. He threw eight innings of one-run ball, struck out 10 and walked none in a no-decision on May 28, 2013 at Citi Field. The Mets ultimately won, 2-1. This will be Harvey’s first start at Yankee Stadium.
Again, Josh Thomson here. I’m manning Chad’s Twitter feed @lohudyankees. Join me there during the game, or check here periodically for in-game updates.
Update, 5:45 p.m.: Sorry for the lack of updates earlier. My internet connection was basically non-existent.
Anyway, no good news to report, as you probably know. Sabathia was unable to build on his previous starts. He was good through three, but it all fell apart when he allowed four runs in the fourth. The big lefty finished with five-plus innings, nine hits, seven earned runs and allowed three home runs, including the first of Plawecki’s career, a two-run shot that made it 5-1.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are offering little resistance against Harvey. Their only run came thanks in part to a brainfart by Murphy.
Update, 6:04 p.m.: A lone bright spot today for the Yankee offense — Teixeira just hit a solo homer, his eighth of the season. He’s now tied one behind Cruz for the league lead and tied with Cruz with an MLB-best 18 RBI.
Update, 6:21 p.m.: Ellsbury was removed to start the eighth. I’d assume, for now, that it was for rest. There’s been no announcement in the press box suggesting otherwise so far.
Josh Thomson here for Chad today.
Chris Young will start against a right-hander today for the seventh time already this season. Young has swung a hot bat all season (.357/.426/.762), but he has also benefitted from the slow start by Carlos Beltran, who will sit again here against Matt Harvey.
The switch-hitting Beltran has hit just .173 so far and has yet to hit a home run, and is especially dreadful 6 for 39 (.154) batting left-handed.
Joe Girardi — and, yes, what is he going to say? — believes Beltran will eventually snap out of his skid.
“I know he’s frustrated,” Girardi said. “He had a couple big hits the other day. It’s been a little bit harder left-handed for him, but I really believe he’s going to get going. I do. He probably needs a break here and there and it will start happening for him.”
Another factor in the decision to play Young and bench Beltran were Harvey’s reverse splits. He has actually held lefties to a .185 average in 39 career starts while righties have batter a more respectable .235. The contrast has been even more start so far this season. Righties are 12 for 38 off Harvey (.306); lefties are 5 for 32 (.156).
Beltran also sat two games last week in Tampa because he was sick. The Yankees hope improved health will help improve his contributions at the plate as well.
“I’m sure it hasn’t helped,” Girardi said. “I thought he was still somewhat weak in Detroit. At the end of the road trip, he still had a little bit of a chest cold. I think he’s better now. He’s really important to our offense and we have to get him going.”
• Young enters today’s game 7 for his last 13, including two doubles and a homer. He also has a new nickname.
“Cy’s been playing well. Righties have had more success off Harvey. I thought we’d put Cy out there,” Girardi said.
Young has now started nine of the last 13 games. The staff has actively tried to find opportunities to fit his bat in the lineup.
“We’re trying because he’s playing so well,” Girardi said. “The good thing is, we’ve run into some lefties. We’ll see another one tomorrow. There have been some situations where I’ve been able to get him in there. He’s been swinging so well, we’re looking for ways.”
• OK, now onto the serious business. Some of the Yankees have started to grow mustaches at the behest of Brett Gardner, who said it has been something of a inspiration during their rebound from a 3-6 start.
It’s not directly related to their current four-game winning streak. Gardner noted that they lost a game in Detroit after some of the players had started the stache movement, which he thinks originated last weekend in Tampa.
Dellin Betances is among those growing his stache, although it’s pretty hard to tell. Betances said he had the worst mustache “by far,” but he will keep it for the time being.
“Until my wife says, hey, you’ve got to shave it off, I’m going to keep growing it,” Betances said.
Girardi has thought about joining his players, but it sounded like his wife, Kim, did not approve.
“I thought about it. (Gardner) asked me about it, so we’ll see. I have to answer to someone at home,” Girardi said.
Gardner hasn’t had any luck with A-Rod, either. If he does, @MongoNewYawk has given us an image to remember.
• On more serious matters (no, seriously), Girardi said the Yankees have considered adding a sixth starting pitcher, but no decision has been made as to when and how that pitcher would fit into the rotation.
• A lot of talk in today’s pregame turned to tomorrow night’s starter, Nathan Eovaldi, who had, by far, his best start at a Yankee last time out against the Tigers. The Yankees hope he can build off that start, which was highlighted by an improved slider and more work on the inside part of the plate.
“I saw in Detroit the best slider I’ve seen him have. I thought it had great depth,” Girardi said. “I thought he threw his curve ball well. They had a predominantly right-handed lineup, so maybe he didn’t throw as many splits as in some of the other games. Probably as important as anything, I thought he pitched inside to them. You throw 95, 96 and you’re able to pitch inside for strikes and a little bit off the plate, guys aren’t really comfortable. That’s really important.”
Girardi cautioned Eovaldi detractors that the right-hander is still young (25) despite this being his fifth season in the Majors.
“I think sometimes because he’s been up a few years, people forget about how young he really is,” Girardi said. “He’s a young starting pitcher. He’s still developing. When you learn how to do some of the things he’s learning how to do, it just makes you that much more effective.”
• Of course, the Yankees will face Harvey today for just the second time. He threw eight scoreless against them, struck out 10 and walked none back on May 28, 2013 at Citi Field.
Mets manager Terry Collins saw no reason for a pep talk with Harvey, who grew up a Yankees fan in Groton, Conn.
“He craves this spotlight. I don’t have much to say to Matt Harvey on the days he pitches. He doesn’t have much to say, except growl,” Collins said. “He’s ready. This is what this guy looks for, looks forward to doing, on this stage, in this city, and he knows it’s a big game for us. He’ll be ready.”
The Yankees have done many things right over the course of this streak in which they’ve won seven of eight, but there were two major revelations that stood out on Friday in the opener of the Subway Series.
When he’s on, Michael Pineda can be downright filthy. And Mark Teixeira looks as healthy and productive as he’s been in years.
“We’ve turned it around,” Joe Girardi said after the 6-1 win over the Mets. “We’ve swung the bats well, we’ve pitched extremely well, and I think probably the biggest thing is our defense got to where we thought it would be. You get some come-from-behind wins, and all of a sudden you start to feel good about yourself. You always worry about anxiety at the beginning of the year for players trying to get off to a great start. It’s just not always going to happen.”
There were plenty of causes for concern when the Yanks went 3-6 in their first nine games, but since then, pretty much everything has gone right. Perhaps the most worrisome aspect of the team was an aging lineup, but the Yankees are now second in the AL in runs scored and third in home runs.
Teixeira, who now has seven in the month of the April for the first time in his career, has been a force from the cleanup spot.
“I’m very thankful for the health, and it is what I envisioned, hitting more home runs and driving the ball,” he said. “Taking that ‘A’ swing that you guys have heard me talk about before – being able to feel strong and healthy, and take my normal swing. And I knew that walks would be the byproduct of that. When you’re driving the ball and hitting home runs, pitchers are more careful.”
The offense has shown positive signs, but the backbone during this recent hot streak has been the pitching staff. They haven’t allowed more than four runs in a game since April 15 in Baltimore, and it seems like the starters are feeding off of each other.
Tonight, Pineda turned in his best start of the young season with nasty stuff and impeccable command.
“We’ve seen so much from Michael since he went through his injury, how many strikes he throws, the development of his changeup, his mechanics have become very sound, he holds runners – he just does a lot of things right,” Girardi said. “I’ve said all along, if we get 30-to-32 starts out of him, I think it will be really good. He also has power, and we’ll see more of that as it warms up.”
• Perhaps most impressive about Pineda’s start (7.2 IP, 1 ER, 5 H, 0 BB, 7 K) was the fact that he excelled in cold weather. Of course, this was an issue for him last year when he got caught with a glob of pine tar on his neck, but he seems to have found ways to cope. I can barely type in this weather, so it’s hard to imagine how one would grip a baseball. “I don’t want to think too much about it because I have to pitch in it,” Pineda said. “But it’s hard.”
• Girardi was also impressed. “It just shows you that he’s grown,” he said. “He’s matured. He took a tough situation last year and figured out how to pitch in the cold. It’s not easy. It really isn’t easy. We’ve seen some pitchers struggle with their command on days like today.”
• It’s also worth noting that Pineda’s ball-to-strike ratio was off the charts. Of his 100 pitches, he threw 78 for strikes. As any pitcher will tell you, it’s much easier to get outs when you’re ahead in the count. “Ahead in the count the whole night. It seemed like every hitter he was strike one on almost all night. And he was very efficient because of that and put hitters away early and located extremely well,” Girardi said. “On a night like tonight, it’s extremely impressive. I thought his stuff was excellent from the beginning, and he just carried it almost eight innings.”
• The other big topic of conversation was the development of Pineda’s changeup. He’s always had a plus fastball and a good slider, but the change was extremely effective tonight. I heard CC Sabathia talking in the clubhouse about how he thinks it’s turning into Pineda’s best pitch. “It’s what I’m looking for,” Pineda said. “I’m working hard to get a really good changeup. Last year, it was good, but especially this year, I feel really good on the mound.”
• Here’s what Tex said about Pineda tonight. “Pineda was great,” he said. “If you have starting pitching that can keep you in every single game like they have been, it just makes the job of the fielders and the batters so much easier. And he was just great. You could tell from the first inning that he had his good stuff, and it let us relax at the plate and just go out there and have fun.”
• Teixeira is still only hitting .218, but he’s slugging .673 and leads the team with 17 RBI. He talked in Spring Training about his willingness to concede batting average if it meant driving in more runs, and Girardi is on board with it. “I want the run production,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is how many runs you score. I don’t know how many RBI he has now – 15, 16, 17. You drive in 17 a month, and we still have time and we started late, you’re going to have a pretty good year.”
• Teixeira spoke a lot after the game about how much of a different it’s made that he was able to go through a normal offseason routine and enter the season 100 percent healthy. Clearly, we’re seeing the benefits. “I think it’s definitely helped,” he said. “After the surgery in ’13 and then just really having a tough season last year – feeling like garbage all year, basically – I knew I had to kind of go all-in with the diet and really ramp up everything about my offseason program. It’s paid off.”
• It might not sound like a big deal, but Teixeira really seems to feel that being more conscience of what he eats is helping him on the field. He spoke about how he’s altered his diet. “I went on an anti-inflammatory diet, which anyone that knows nutrition knows that there’s a lot of foods that you can eat that make your body feel worse,” he said. “Coming off of a major surgery and having three sets of cortisone shots in my wrist last year and two in my back, I knew I had to address inflammation. That’s what I did, and it’s allowed my body to feel better, to work out harder. It’s only three weeks of the season, but hopefully it continues for the next six-plus months.”
• Final word goes to Tex, who spoke about the atmosphere for the Subway Series. “We love this series because it’s for the fans,” he said. “Everything that we do is for the fans because that’s who we play for. The Subway Series really gets the fans excited, and we love that. Whether you’re at Yankee Stadium or Citi Field, we really enjoy playing in front of the fans when they’re excited. I give them a lot of credit. It was freezing outside, it was miserable, but they were still cheering and stuck through the whole game.”
Associated Press photos