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A New York Yankees blog by Chad Jennings and the staff of The Journal News

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Postgame notes: “Apparently CC does it all the time”04.18.14

CC Sabathia

CC Sabathia threw the two-seamer that he wanted. Yangervis Solarte had in mind that anything close to the bag, he was going to step on third and throw to second. Brian Roberts went to cover second, recognizing immediately the sequence of events that had been set in motion. Scott Sizemore set up for the scoop at first having realized from the very beginning that he was about to be a part of a potential triple play.

Everyone involved was prepared for the moment and handled it as if they’d been there, but only one Yankees player involved in tonight’s triple play had actually been a part of one in the past.

“Apparently CC does it all the time,” Roberts said.

It was the first for Solarte. The first for Roberts. The first for Sizemore (on just the second play he’d ever been apart of at first base). But for Sabathia, it was his third triple play in the past five years. He said he’s pretty sure — but not certain — that he was part of one in Cleveland earlier in his career as well.

“Lucky, man,” Sabathia said. “Unbelievable. Just trying to make a pitch and get a double play. Solarte made a great play, and Sizemore made an even better play on the pick at first.”

It was a play memorable for its unusual quirkiness, but it was important because it was exactly the play Sabathia needed to get the inning and the game under control. The Yankees were already leading 4-0 at the time, but in each of his first three starts this season, Sabathia had allowed one inning of at least three runs. That four-run lead wasn’t safe if Sabathia was going to have another of his one-inning meltdowns. And that second inning, with its double and walk to start, was well on its way to being his undoing.

“It’s so early in the game, so I’m still trying to get established and make pitches,” Sabathia said. “We’ve seen the way I’ve blown leads in the past. Just trying to stay focused and make sure I make my pitches.”

Sabathia’s not going to get a triple play every time he needs one. The key was simply getting the ground ball. A double play would have been huge, just like it was huge in keeping that one-run fourth inning form getting out of control. A triple play might be a quirky sideshow, but it was a sign of Sabathia making the pitch he needed and getting the result he wanted. That’s what made this start his best of the year.

“I’ve never been a part of any of (triple plays),” Joe Girardi said. “Until I’ve been around CC.”

Rob Thomson, Brian McCann· The Yankees legitimately thought Carlos Beltran had hurt himself when he went tumbling over that low wall in right field tonight. Beltran was chasing a foul ball, and he said he didn’t want to take his eye off the ball because of the white ceiling here at Tropicana Field. He had no idea that wall was coming. “I thought, ‘What’s he doing?’” Roberts said. “Obviously the effort’s great, but we need him for the long run. Obviously he didn’t mean to, but it was scary, for sure. To see him get up, and come back over (was a relief). I wasn’t sure if he was going to get up or not.”

· Girardi and Steve Donohue immediately went running into right field to check on Beltran. Beltran came out later in the game, but Girardi and Beltran each said it was not related to the tumble, just getting a veteran player off his feet in a game that was well under control. “I thought he was hurt bad,” Girardi said. “That’s what I was thinking. We asked him, ‘Did you know the wall was there?’ and he said no. I’m thinking, ‘Every place has a wall.’ It was a scary moment. I didn’t take him out because of that, but hopefully he’s not too sore tomorrow.”

· Beltran expect to play tomorrow? “I gotta see how I’m going to wake up tomorrow,” he said. “Hopefully I’m fine.” He said it was his shoulder and his wrist that took the bulk of the impact.

· My guess is Solarte would have run right through the wall and made the catch, but not everyone can be Solarte. The rookie standout had another huge game tonight going 3-for-4 with his first big league home run. “I’m very happy and everything is working out for me,” he said. “The most important thing is that the team is winning right now. That’s what I care about.”

· It was occasionally an adventure at first base, but Sizemore ultimately had another big hit and made most of the plays without trouble. Roberts said he was impressed with Sizemore from the moment he saw him in batting practice. “I think my footwork around the base was a little awkward at times, but I think I did all right,” Sizemore said. “It’s just something I got to keep working on.”

Alfonso Soriano· Sizemore’s big play was the scoop on the triple play. “I guess it’s never easy when it’s in the dirt, but that wasn’t a tougher one,” Sizemore said. “Usually a short hop you can kind of see it and go get it. But maybe on a 1-10 scale, maybe a four (for difficulty).”

· Sizemore said he gave the triple play ball to Sabathia. Seems like a waste. Sabathia’s got plenty of those.

· Roberts had one hit in his past 25 at-bats before doing 3-for-4 with a double and a triple tonight. “I guess results-wise it was the best night I’ve had, so far,” Roberts said. “It’s not the first time I’ve ever started a little slow. You just try to be patient, realize that if you do your work, it’ll turn around eventually.”

· This was only Sabathia’s second win at Tropicana Field since coming to the Yankees. This pitching matchup in particular never seems to go his way. This is only Sabathia’s second win in 10 career head-to-head matchups against Price. “I’ve struggled here, especially against Price,” Sabathia said. “For these guys to come out and swing the way they did, I wanted to put some shutdown innings together. I was able to do that and get the win.”

· Alfonso Soriano hit his first road home run since September 10, 2013. His past five homer, including all three this year, had come at Yankee Stadium. This was his first home run at Tropicana Field since 2005. … Brian McCann’s home run was his first road homer with the Yankees and his first ever at Tropicana Field.

· The Yankees have allowed four runs in this past four games, their fewest over a four-game stretch since September 18-21, 2003. The unearned run in the fourth inning snapped a streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings.

· Final word to Roberts: “David (Price) is not an easy guy to beat. I don’t think the Yankees are the only team that’s ever struggled against him. To get off to a good start, swing the bats the way we did, and watch CC throw the ball the way he did, everything’s good.”

Associated Press photos

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Yankees turn three to beat Price and the Rays04.17.14

Yankees Rays Baseball

CC Sabathia needed avoid a big inning, and he found a tried-and-true way to do that. Turn a triple play before things get out of hand. It’s a method that hasn’t worked for any other Yankees pitcher in the past 46 years, but Sabathia’s gotten pretty good at it. His third triple play in the past five years got the Yankees out of trouble in the second inning, and the team cruised from there to an 10-2 win against David Price and the Rays. The Yankees have turned just three triple plays since 1968, and all three have come with Sabathia on the mound. Tonight, such a play hardly seemed necessarily by the end of the game. The offense pounced on Price for six runs in five innings (they scored just seven runs against him in three games last year). Alfonso Soriano and Brian McCann hit back-to-back home runs. Brian Roberts went 3-for-4. Yangervis Solarte had three hits, including a homer. Jacoby Ellsbury had two hits, two runs and two RBI. Derek Jeter also had a two-hit game. It was the Yankees first 10-run game of the year. For Sabathia, though, the key was avoiding the big, ugly innings that had ruined each of his first three starts this season. The second inning — when the lead was still relatively small at 4-0 — started with a double and a walk before Solarte, Roberts and Scott Sizemore turned a 5-4-3 triple play that left Sabathia standing with both arms raised high above his head. Sabathia went on to allow two runs, one earned, through seven innings, easily his most effective start of the year.

Associated Press photo

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Game 16: Yankees at Rays04.17.14

CC SabathiaYANKEES (9-6)
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Scott Sizemore 1B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki LF

LHP CC Sabathia (1-2, 6.63)
Sabathia vs. Rays

RAYS (7-8)
Ben Zobrist 2B
Desmond Jennings DH
Logan Forsythe LF
Evan Longoria 3B
Wil Myers RF
Sean Rodriguez 1B
Brandon Guyer CF
Yunel Escobar SS
Jose Molina C

LHP David Price (2-0, 2.91)
Price vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:10 p.m. ET, YES Network

WEATHER: Back to a place with warm weather, but of course we’re inside.

UMPIRES: HP Rob Drake, 1B Joe West, 2B Marty Foster, 3B Clint Fagan

NO HOME IN THE DOME: CC Sabathia has struggled here at Tropicana Field. He is 1-7 with a 4.75 ERA in 11 starts here since joining the Yankees, and he’s winless in his past eight starts at the venue (0-5). He has not earned a win at Tropicana Field since April 10, 2010 when the Yankees beat the Rays 10-0.

ONE AWAY: If Sabathia does manage to get a win today it will his 207th career win, which would move him into a tie with Hal Newhouser for the 25th-most wins in Major League history among left-handed pitchers.

FOUR THE HARD WAY: Not an ideal spot to spend the next four games for the Yankees, because Sabathia’s not the only one who’s struggled here. The Yankees have lost their past four season series at The Trop, going 13-23 over the stretch from 2010 to 2013. The Yankees went 4-5 in this building last year.

UPDATE, 7:36 p.m.: Two-out RBI single by Brian McCann gave the Yankees a 1-0 first inning lead, and Sabathia answered with a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to keep the early lead intact.

UPDATE, 7:41 p.m.: Brian Roberts is that rare player who needs to get hurt every once in a while just to feel normal again. Comes back from a back injury and got just his second hit in 26 at-bats. It’s an RBI triple, of all things. It’s now a 2-0 Yankees lead in the second.

UPDATE, 7:45 p.m.: It’s legitimately fun to watch Jacoby Ellsbury run.

UPDATE, 7:46 p.m.: RBI single for Jeter against the drawn-in infield and the Yankees lead is up to 4-0 still with just one out in the second inning.

UPDATE, 7:58 p.m.: I’ve covered three triple plays, and I’m pretty sure CC was the pitcher for all three. Huge one here to get out of trouble in the second inning.

UPDATE, 8:20 p.m.: Beltran is apparently OK after a pretty nasty tumble over the short wall in foul territory. He was laughing with teammates after the play, but as it happened both Brian Roberts and Derek Jeter looked as if they thought something might have gone wrong. Looked pretty ugly.

UPDATE, 8:29 p.m.: Couldn’t tell if Forsythe would have been out had Sizemore held onto the ball. Doesn’t matter much as Sizemore couldn’t make the play after Jeter went to his left and almost made a decent play.

UPDATE, 8:31 p.m.: Apparently the infield’s going to have to make those throws really perfect for Sizemore at first base.

UPDATE, 8:35 p.m.: Well, that was a weird half inning. Dropped throw at first. Slightly off throw pulls the first baseman off the bag. Nice play to turn two. Then a passed ball and a botched attempt to get the runner at the plate leads to a run. Weird. It’s now a 4-1 game.

UPDATE, 8:46 p.m.: Soriano and McCann have hit back-to-back homers in the fifth. Last time the Yankees hit back to back home runs this season it was McCann and Soriano, in reverse order.

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 582 Comments →

Pregame notes: “They told me to be ready for anything”04.17.14

Scott Sizemore

Scott Sizemore has never played first base. Not once. Not in Detroit. Not in Oakland. Not in the minor leagues. Not in college. Not at Hickory High School in Virginia.

He’s playing first base tonight.

“I haven’t been over there enough to really get a feel for the position,” he said. “But I consider myself a pretty good athlete, a pretty good infielder, so I feel like the basics are there, it’s just a matter of knowing my responsibilities on bunt coverage, all that good stuff.”

Sizemore was going through first base drills in Scranton in preparation for this moment. He was going to play a Triple-A game at first, but that was one of Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s many rain outs, and then Sizemore was needed in the big leagues, and so he came up fully aware that this was a possibility, but without actually getting a turn at the position.

Of course, after putting Francisco Cervelli and Carlos Beltran at first base already this year, Sizemore seems like a natural fit.

“We’re pretty confident that he can do it,” Joe Girardi said. “Obviously he has not been in a game and done it, but I’m pretty confident he can do it. … It’s not the most comfortable position to be in, but when you go through injuries sometimes you have to be a little bit creative. I didn’t really feel like putting Carlos back there, so I went with Sizemore.”

The Yankees face another lefty tomorrow, so there’s a good chance this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Sizemore at one position or another. What happens on Sunday is anyone’s guess, but for now he’s here to plug a hole, even if that means playing an unfamiliar position.

“They told me to be ready for anything,” Sizemore said. “And here I am.”

Mark Teixeira· Mark Teixeira should be back at first base in three days. Teixeira played three innings in an extended spring training game this afternoon. He’ll play five innings tomorrow and a few innings again on Saturday before being activated for Sunday’s series finale. Girardi said that Teixeira had a “really good day” today and he’s on track to come off the disabled list when eligible. “Everything is pointing to him playing for us,” Girardi said. “It’s something that we have to talk about, but everything points to him being here.”

· Similar situation for Dave Robertson who threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon. He’s supposed to pitch in an extended spring training game on Saturday and should be activated on Tuesday. “I think it’s a distinct possibility,” Girardi said.

· The minor league complex is going to be the place to be on Saturday. Brendan Ryan is supposed to play that day as well. “He’s been swinging,” Girardi said. “I think he’s going to play maybe a little sim game on Friday and get some live ABs. He’s progressing OK. … He’s got to go through a normal spring training. It will obviously be sped up because we can get him more at-bats in certain situations, but we’d like to see him get 40, 50 at-bats.”

· Still no starter announced for Sunday’s game, but Girardi said it will be one of the current relievers. Sounds like David Phelps and Vidal Nuno are the best bets. Adam Warren has basically locked up a late-inning job. “If he starts pitching in the back end like he’s going to do, the plan wouldn’t be to stretch him out,” Girardi said.

· No big moment that landed Brian Roberts back in the lineup today. Girardi has him in there now, and if something happens where the lineup has to change, then it will. So far, though, all signs are that Roberts is ready to play again. Girardi said he’s going to keep an eye on Roberts throughout to make sure he’s moving OK. With Dean Anna and Kelly Johnson on the bench, the Yankees have two other options at second base just in case.

· Girardi said he’s not taking for granted that Derek Jeter’s leg issue is finished. “I’m going to pay attention to it,” Girardi said. “This is back-to-back days. I am going to play attention to it, but I felt good about how he came through yesterday. I thought he had to run pretty hard between first and second, and that was good. Obviously the weather’s a lot better here, but I will keep my eye on it.”

Associated Press photos

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Roberts back in the lineup04.17.14

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Scott Sizemore 1B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki LF

LHP CC Sabathia

Posted by: Chad Jennings - Posted in Miscwith 67 Comments →

Pitching matchups at Tampa Bay04.17.14

CC Sabathia

LHP CC Sabathia (1-2, 6.63)
LHP David Price (2-0, 2.91)
7:10 p.m., YES Network

RHP Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86)
LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00)
7:10 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

RHP Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94)
RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50)
7:10 p.m., YES Network

LHP Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50)
1:40 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network

Associated Press photo

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Yankees try to keep rolling in St. Petersburg04.17.14

Good morning from a Delta flight somewhere high above the east coast.

I’m making my way down to Tampa for tonight’s series opener against the Rays, and it will be my first game in about a week. I was off over the weekend — basically spent three worthless days in bed trying to get over the flu — then I was supposed to cover Tuesday before the rain out. Yesterday was a pretty typical day off leading into a road trip. So I haven’t seen this team first-hand lately, but I managed to watch most of yesterday’s games. More of the same from Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda, who have been obvious bright spots through these first two-plus weeks of the season. More of the same, also, from the bullpen, which has held together despite the loss of its most reliable commodity heading into the season.

Today we’ll have Mark Teixeira playing in his first minor league rehab game while CC Sabathia tries to keep his fourth start from unraveling. He’ll be matched up against David Price, which probably means — regardless of Brian Roberts’ status — another start for Scott Sizemore, who had a couple of hits in yesterday’s nightcap.

Things get started at the Trop a little past 7 tonight. For now, here’s the latest addition to Monument Park. Very cool.

Nelson Mandela Plaque

Photo from the Yankees

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Postgame notes: “You don’t want to be that guy who messes it up”04.16.14

Adam Warren, John Ryan Murphy

The Yankees only managed to score five runs in two games today, but it didn’t matter because they allowed a grand total of zero.

Masahiro Tanaka was brilliant in the first game, allowing two bunt hits over eight innings while striking out 10, and Michael Pineda followed up with six shutout innings of his own. Those two came into the season, on paper, as the Yankees’ No. 4 and 5 starters, but they’re each pitching like an ace.

This, quite obviously, bodes very well for the Yanks moving forward.

“That just goes to show you how well our pitchers threw today, and it’s nice to have. When you can shut the other team down for 18 innings, you’re doing some things right,” Joe Girardi said. “Our rotation was pretty good on the homestand. We had the one hiccup where we gave up a lot of runs, but for the most part, they threw the ball extremely well.”

Pretty good may be a bit of an understatement, because the biggest reason that the Yankees have won nine of their last 13 has been excellent starting pitching.

CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Ivan Nova have been solid, but it’s the youngest two guys in the rotation who have the most upside. And they’re proving it on the rubber.

“I’m very excited because two years ago (I was hurt), and right now, I’m pitching my first three games really (well),” Pineda said. “I want to continue to work hard every five days and be ready on the mound.”

Michael Pineada· Pineda didn’t have the same kind of swing-and-miss stuff that Tanaka showed earlier — he only struck out three — but he was dealing with a very cold night and really bore down with runners on. The Cubs got runners into scoring position in the third, fifth and sixth innings, but each time Pineda was able to keep them from crossing home plate. “Today was hard because it’s too cold,” he said. “My changeup was working really good tonight, and I’m happy with that. It’s hard for warming up in between innings, but I made adjustments.”

· Despite only throwing 89 pitches through six innings, Girardi decided to pull Pineda before the seventh. I guess it makes sense not to push him too much this early in his first full season back from shoulder surgery. “As cold as it was, and I’ve told you, we’re going to be somewhat careful,” Girardi said. “We don’t have an innings limit on him, but we’re going to be somewhat careful. We just felt it was time to get him out.”

· Girardi brought David Phelps in for the seventh, and he immediately got into trouble by putting the first two hitters on. But he rallied from there and recorded four straight outs. Matt Thornton got the final two outs in the eighth, and then Adam Warren got his first save of the season in the ninth. He has yet to allow a run in seven innings. “I think we feed off of each other and want to keep the train rolling on,” Warren said of the pitching staff. “You don’t want to be that guy who messes it up, so it kind pushes you a little bit to keep it going.”

· What was it like for Warren to be out there in a save situation? “It’s definitely a little bit different,” he said. “You get the blood flowing a little bit more, but I just tried slowing everything down. Everything was moving really fast to begin with, but the biggest thing for me is making sure that I’m staying slow and staying behind the ball.”

Scott Sizemore· The Yankees pounded out 12 hits in the second game, but left 12 men on base and only scored two runs. Brett Gardner had a two-out RBI single in the fourth, and Scott Sizemore did the same thing in the fifth. For Sizemore, it was his first big league RBI since 2011. “I’m sure it was special for him, because he’s been through a lot with the two knee surgeries and getting close to getting back, in a sense, and then tearing I believe his interior cruciate,” Girardi said. ”For him, it was a special day. Big hit. There weren’t a lot of runs scored today, and he was part of it.”

· This was the first time that the Yankees had two shutouts in one day since they did it against the Royals on April 19, 1987, roughly two months before I was born. “That was incredible,” Warren said. “Our starting pitchers gave us a lot of innings, which is huge in a doubleheader. It saves the bullpen and the guys that came out of the bullpen threw the ball well, too. Anytime you can get two wins and hold them to no runs, it’s even better.”

· Needless to say, Girardi was thrilled about not having to overuse the pen today. “It was big because we’re going to Tampa and we have a fairly rested bullpen,” he said. “At times, our bullpen has been a little bit fatigued because of some of the games that we’ve been in, but I feel pretty good about where our bullpen is going into an important four-game series. And that’s because of our starters.”

· Pineda was asked if he used pine tar, or any other substance, to get a better grip on the ball tonight. He said no, and said that he hasn’t paid attention to all of the talk about the substance on his hand in his previous start. Girardi said he never discussed it with him, but acknowledged that he wanted to see how Pineda responded to the media attention. “I think there’s a little concern on my part, because I haven’t had him long enough to know how he responds to certain things,” he said. “Some guys are really good at just moving on; some guys will think about it. But I thought he handled it extremely well and was ready to go tonight.”

· More good news for the Yankees. Mark Teixeira took batting practice and ran the bases today, and he’ll play three innings in a game tomorrow. Girardi said it won’t be a sim game, but he also didn’t know where beyond saying, “somewhere in Florida.” It sounds like he’ll play in the series finale with the Rays this weekend, barring any setback. “He’s going to play three innings tomorrow,” Girardi said. “He’s right on track where we want him to be, and Sunday is definitely a possibility.”

· Final word goes to Warren: “It was a lot of fun. We can’t so too much down there, but just seeing all of the weak contact and strikeouts they got. It’s a big confidence booster for our whole team.”

Associated Press photos

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Pineda follows Tanaka’s gem with strong outing to complete sweep04.16.14

Michael Pineada

While he wasn’t quite as dominant as Masahiro Tanaka was in Game 1, Michael Pineda was still pretty darn good in the nightcap. The Yankees completed a sweep of the Chicago Cubs in the second game of Wednesday’s doubleheader with a 2-0, as Pineda tossed six shutout innings for his second win of the season. He allowed runners to get into scoring position in the third, fifth and sixth innings, but wiggled out of trouble each time. He allowed four hits and one walk while striking out three on 89 pitches.

David Phelps came on in the seventh and put the first two batters that he faced on, but then recorded four straight outs, including two strikeouts. Matt Thornton recorded the final two outs in the eighth, and then Adam Warren worked the ninth for his second career save and first of the season.

The Yankees finished with 12 hits, but only managed two runs. Brett Gardner hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth, and Scott Sizemore hit a two-out RBI single in the fifth. For Sizemore, it was his first big league RBI since 2011.

Associated Press photo

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Game 15: Cubs at Yankees04.16.14

Michael PinedaYANKEES (8-6)
Brett Gardner CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran DH
Alfonso Soriano LF
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Scott Sizemore 3B
Kelly Johnson 1B
John Ryan Murphy C

RHP Michael Pineda (1-1, 1.50)
Pineda vs. Cubs

CUBS (4-9)
Emilio Bonifacio CF
Ryan Sweeney LF
Anthony Rizzo 1B
Nate Schierholtz DH
Starlin Castro SS
Luis Valbuena 3B
Wellington Castillo C
Ryan Kalish RF
Darwin Barney 2B

LHP Travis Wood (0-1, 2.92)
Wood vs. Yankees

TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m. ET, YES and WFAN

WEATHER: Still cold.

UMPIRES: HP Fieldin Culbreth, 1B Sean Barber, 2B Tom Woodring, 3B Manny Gonzalez

LET’S PLAY TWO!: After Tuesday’s game was rained out, the Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader with the Cubs today. Masahiro Tanaka started the first game, with Pineda taking the ball in the second.

ANYTHING YOU CAN DO…: After eight shutout innings from Tanaka in the first game, can Pineda, who has also pitched very well, keep the good pitching going?

BRONX BOMBERS: After starting off slow, the Yankees power bats have come alive. They’ve hit at least one homer in each of the past seven games. Beltran has homered in three straight.

NOTE: I’ll be updating here every so often, but I’ll be much more active on Twitter. Follow me@vzmercogliano to join the conversation!

UPDATE, 8:38 p.m.: After the Yankees squeaked a run across in the fourth thanks to a two-out RBI single from Gardner, Pineda wiggled out of trouble in the fifth to maintain the 1-0 lead. A sac bunt from Castillo put runners on second and third for the Cubs with one out, but Pineda struck out Kalish and got Barney to pop-up to center. He didn’t have to pitch out of the stretch much in the first four innings, but came up big right there.

UPDATE, 9:11 p.m.: Yanks get another run in the fifth on a two-out RBI single from Sizemore — his first MLB RBI since 2011. Pineda stranded a runner at third again in the sixth, and Girardi is going to David Phelps in the seventh. Pineda’s final line: 6 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 1 BB, 3 K, 89 pitches (57 strikes).

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