After each of Andrew Miller’s MLB-leading 13 saves — or, at least after most of them — Joe Girardi has been asked the same question about whether he’s willing to name Miller as his official closer.
Every time that the Yankee manager had been asked, he would dodge the question and give a reason as to why he didn’t think it was necessary. But after Friday’s 5-4 win over the Orioles — the Yankees’ 16th win in their last 21 games — Girardi finally caved.
“Is there a reason I have to?” he quipped. “He’s been closing games for us. He’s our closer. Is that better?”
Girardi then paused before asking with a laugh, “Is that going to be the headline tomorrow?”
Reporters quickly delivered the news to Miller, who downplayed the significance and then hit us with the line of the night.
“Not particularly,” Miller said when asked if it meant anything to hear that Girardi publicly called him the closer. “They’ve been very honest with us the whole time, and I think they’ve done a good job of putting us in situations to succeed. It’s worked pretty well. I was honest with them and I’ve been honest with you guys.
“For what they’re paying me, I’ll do anything.”
Ain’t that the truth.
• Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner continue to get it done at the top of the order, and they’re now hitting a combined .435 in their last 12 games with an on-base percentage around .500. That’s a pace that they clearly won’t be able to keep up, but once again, they were right in the middle of both Yankee rallies tonight. But the biggest hit of the night belonged to Carlos Beltran, who desperately needed one. He’s been slumping and is still hitting under .200, but his two-out, two-run double in the third was a laser to right-center field. With Ellsbury on third and Gardner on second, the O’s elected to walk McCann and load the bases in front of Beltran. That’s rarely happened to him in his career, and he made them pay. “It’s just the strategy of the game,” Beltran said. “Honestly, I don’t take those situations personally. I think the manager (knows) I’m not swinging the bat well lately. But at the same time, I’m seeing the ball good off of their pitchers, so that doesn’t worry me.”
• Girardi has kept running Beltran out there in spite of his struggles, and he offered some insight into his reasoning. It’s probably worth noting that Beltran is now third in the AL in doubles with nine. “We think he’s swinging the bat well,” Girardi said. “Sometimes it doesn’t always show up in the numbers, but we think he’s making more solid contact. I mentioned the other day, there are so many stats out there, and one of them is velocity off the bat. Well, his average velocity is second on our team. He doesn’t have a lot to show for it, but that means he’s centering balls and things will change.”
• I’m sure you’re wondering who is first on the team in the average velocity off of the bat category. That would be none other than Alex Rodriguez, who had a sac fly in the first inning tonight and hit his first triple since 2012 in the fifth.
• Beltran admitted that his slump has been getting to him, but he said he’s trying to stay consistent with his approach and work ethic. “I try not to think about that,” he said. “I try to focus on what I can bring to the game, but of course, I think when you go through tough stretches, confidence gets a little bit low and you have to work through that. In my case, I’ve been through situations like this before every year. This is my 17th year, so every year I go through situations like this. Sometimes, when you go through it early in the season, it’s noticeable. But when you start the season well and go through that in the middle of the season, it’s not that bad because you already have some numbers to back it up.”
• Adam Warren has yet to make it through six innings in six starts this season, and he didn’t even make it out of the fifth tonight. He said this might have been the worst stuff that he’s had so far this season and Baltimore got to him in the fifth. Starting the inning with back-to-back walks was probably the biggest killer. “I just kind of lost it there for a little bit. It’s frustrating because I didn’t have my best stuff, but I felt like I was battling,” Warren said. “I just kind of hit that fifth or sixth inning, and it’s hard to explain. Being down in the bullpen last year, you hate to be the guy that kills the bullpen.”
• Here’s Girardi’s take on Warren’s inability to give the Yankees length: “I thought tonight he was going to be able to do it, (but) in the last two innings that he was out there, he got in some long counts and some long innings and threw a lot of pitches,” he said. “That’s why I made the change. I was hoping to at least get six out of him tonight with us winning 5-0. It didn’t happen, but this is a guy that hasn’t started for awhile. He’s been in our bullpen a lot, and he’s got to learn how to get through those.”
• Getting back to the pen, Miller and Dellin Betances have still yet to allow an earned run through 33.1 innings this season. Eventually, something has to give, but it’s been a heck of a run. “It’s really hard to do, to be able to put a streak like that together with two guys,” Girardi said. “One of the big reasons why we’re winning games is because, when we’re ahead, they’re closing the door. Those are important wins. Those are tough losses when you lose those.”
• What gave Girardi the confidence to finally name Miller his closer? “He’s shown that he can do it,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to bother him, is the bottom line. He’s making his pitches. He’s aggressive, he’s attacking people, he’s getting strikeouts when he needs them, he’s holding runners – he’s doing everything he needs to do.”
• Miller’s take on the pressure of being a closer was interesting. He said that he thinks the more tense situations for a reliever often come when you’re brought in with men on to put out a fire, which is a role he was used in a lot last season with Boston and Baltimore. When you’re a closer, you usually enter the ninth with a lead and no one on base. “Ultimately, I feel like what was asked of me, specifically down the stretch of last season, is even greater than anything that’s been asked of me this season,” he said. “Honestly, I think you have a little bit more room sometimes in the ninth inning. In the ninth inning, it’s just about winning the game. In the eighth inning, no matter how big the lead is or the deficit is, you want to keep it at that. I think in the ninth inning, whether you want to or not, sometimes you do have a little bit of cushion. Honestly, I think that’s a challenge sometimes. You need to go out there focused and not worry about that kind of thing.”
• What has Miller thought of Betances? “He’s been really, really good all year, and he’s been absolutely incredible lately,” he said. “It’s a lot of fun. I got to see it probably 19 or 20 times last year playing in the division, but that’s a pretty impressive day today.”
• Don’t be surprised if Girardi rests both Miller and Betances tomorrow. “When I have to give them days off, I have to give them days off,” Girardi said. “That’s the bottom line. I have to make sure that I don’t overuse them. I have to make sure that when they’re used a lot, they get a day off. Tomorrow might be the day.”
• Final word goes to Miller, who was asked if he feels more at ease now that Girardi publicly called him their closer: “You don’t want to get too comfortable,” he said. “This game will humble you pretty quick. I think we just try to get better every day and try to prepare ourselves the way that we have been. Ultimately, I think comfort is a bad thing in this game, because you’ll be uncomfortable pretty quick.”
Associated Press photos
Game 25: Yankees at Red Sox • 05.03.15
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 4.35)
Warren vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (12-12)
Mookie Betts CF
Dustin Pedroia 2B
David Ortiz DH
Hanley Ramirez LF
Pablo Sandoval 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Daniel Nava RF
Xander Bogaerts SS
Blake Swihart C
RHP Joe Kelly (1-0, 4.94)
Kelly vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 8:05 p.m., ESPN
WEATHER: Been a really nice day here in Boston. Starting to feel like spring again.
UMPIRES: HP Jeff Nelson, 1B Laz Diaz, 2B Chris Guccione, 3B Cory Blaser
BEAN COUNTING: Including the current series, the Yankees have now won their past four series at Fenway Park dating to the start of 2014. It’s their longest such series win streak since taking four straight August 2011 to September 2012.?With a win tonight, the Yankees would have their first sweep in a series of three-or-more games at Fenway Park since taking five straight in 2006 (included one doubleheader).
HOME AWAY FROM HOME: The Yankees are 9-3 (.750) on the road this season, the Majors’ second-best road record (Houston has the best at 10-2, .833)
EARLY BIRD SPECIAL: The Yankees are 12-1 when scoring first this season. They’re 3-8 when the opponent scores first.
UPDATE, 8:21 p.m.: Two-out, two-run homer by Teixeira has given the Yankees an early lead heading into the bottom of the first.
UPDATE, 9:00 p.m.: Again with two outs, this time it’s McCann who delivers a two-run double to right-center. It was a good at-bat that ended with a great result. Joe Kelly’s pitch count is into the mid-60s still working through the third inning.
UPDATE, 9:01 p.m.: And now Beltran has an RBI double. It’s 5-0.
UPDATE, 9:38 p.m.: Big double play to get through the fourth with that 5-0 lead intact. Warren is at 62 pitches. We have a replay challenge, but he looked out to me.
UPDATE, 9:41 p.m.: Well, what do I know? Call overturned and it’s runners at the corners with two outs and Sandoval at the plate.
UPDATE, 9:44 p.m.: Ground ball to short and Warren is through the fourth inning. Again. Still 5-0.
UPDATE, 10:05 p.m.: Warren is through five scoreless. He has a 3.51 ERA right now. He’s been good this year. Had that one awful inning in Detroit, but otherwise, he’s been good.
UPDATE, 10:16 p.m.: Gardy. Yardy. Three-run shot for an 8-0 lead in the sixth. That was Gardner’s second of the year.
UPDATE, 10:31 p.m.: Two-out double off the Monster for Ortiz and the Red Sox are on the board. It’s now an 8-1 Yankees lead.
UPDATE, 10:33 p.m.: Hanley Ramirez apparently thinks Adam Warren is trying to hit him in an 8-1 game.
UPDATE, 10:35 p.m.: Four straight batters reached with two outs in the sixth, and so Warren’s night is finished after 5.2 innings. He’s pitched exactly 5.2 in each of his past three starts.
UPDATE, 10:38 p.m.: Well, now it’s a ballgame. Rogers came out of the bullpen and allowed Mike Napoli’s second home run of the season. Napoli’s been brutal this season, but he just pulled the Red Sox within 8-5 in the sixth.
UPDATE, 11:11 p.m.: Just dumb. Because Hanley thought he was being hit on purpose — for some reason — Ellsbury needs to be drilled? I get the retaliation thing, I even like it, but in this case it was stupid. And also, if your going to hit Jacoby, do it on the first pitch. Don’t try and fail twice and then do it on a 3-0 pitch to the butt.
UPDATE, 11:28 p.m.: David Carpenter finally got into a fairly important situation and got a double play to end the eighth. It’s still 8-5.
Joe Girardi’s still not ready to name a closer, but it’s pretty obvious he has one. And he looks like a good one so far.
Andrew Miller is the first Yankees pitcher — of any title — to have eight saves in the team’s first 20 games.
“The only that’s maybe surprising is that Mariano didn’t have 19 saves in 20 games or something like that,” Miller said. “It just means we’re playing well as a team, and we’re getting good opportunities.”
Last night the bullpen went 4.2 hitless. Tonight it was 3.1 scoreless. Justin Wilson got his first win, Dellin Betances pitched a dominant eighth, and Miller handled the ninth. Somewhere in there, David Carpenter also got a key out.
It’s more or less the way Girardi’s been drawing it up for the past few weeks. Wilson against some middle-inning lefties (but willing to face righties), Carpenter for key seventh-inning outs, Betances in a setup role (often for more than three outs), and Miller in the closer role. Depending on situations, the Yankees have also gotten key strikeouts from Chris Martin, long relief from Esmil Rogers and whatever’s necessary from Chasen Shreve.
Do they have a closer?
“I still believe they both can do the job,” Girardi said. “It gives me a lot of options. It’s working the way we’re doing it. … (The plan is) just to stick with what we’re doing. I’m sure at some point one of them may be down and the other guy may have to do something else. Maybe they pitch a couple days in a row and I want to give one of them a day off. I still believe they’re really interchangeable.”
If Betances had pitched well this spring, or gotten off to a strong first week this season, would the roles be different? Would it have been a mix-and-match in the ninth, or maybe Miller in the eighth, or some other combination in various situations?
“It doesn’t really matter,” Girardi said.
That’s really the truth of the matter. Girardi doesn’t want to stick a label on Miller, because why should he? At this point, we all know the plan, we’ve seen it in action, and it’s worked.
“We all believe in each other, that’s the most important thing,” Betances said. “The staff believes in us, as well. Warren pitched a great game today, McCann put us on top and Miller closed the door. Everybody pitched excellent out of the bullpen, and I’m just trying to follow everybody’s lead, trying to match each other’s intensity.”
The Yankees are on a roll, and regardless of labels, the relievers are keeping it that way.
“I’ll put our guys up against anybody,” Brian McCann said. “The stuff that’s coming out of the bullpen is incredible.”
• The big offensive blow, obviously, was McCann’s go-ahead home run in the sixth. It was his second of the year, snapping a stretch of 40 at-bats without one. “I’ve been feeling good all year,” McCann said. “Obviously the numbers aren’t showing it, but I’ve been seeing the ball good from Opening Day.”
• McCann had a second hit tonight, but that one was a relatively soft single to the left side to beat the shift. The home run led to a run (obviously), but so did that single. “Brian is a good hitter, that’s the bottom line,” Girardi said. “He’s going to be productive for us. Some of the guys take a little while to get going. He had two interesting hits tonight. One was a real big one and the other one was important, too. It gave us another run. I think he’s a middle-of-the-order hitter that’s going to be extremely productive.”
• Carlos Beltran also had a big hit with his hard double immediately after the McCann home run. Beltran has been, quite literally, the Yankees worst hitter this season, but Girardi has said he plans to stick with Belran as a regular in the lineup. Tonight it paid off. “I’m just working in the cage every day on my swing,” Beltran said. “It’ll have to come. I feel like the cage, I’ve been having good sessions. It’s about bringing it to the game.”
• The Yankees have now homered in 16 of their 20 games this season.
• Strong start for Adam Warren, who’s pitched very well ever since that brutal first inning in Detroit last week. He has pitched especially well in this stadium where he has a 1.71 ERA since the start of 2014. Of course, most of those outings came as a reliever. “I’m just trying to give the team a chance to win every time I go out there,” Warren said. “And I feel like I’ve done that. I think the big picture is: The team wins. For me, if I can give the team a chance to win after I go out there, that’s what I’m trying to prove.”
• Warren set a career high with six strikeouts, he almost matched the longest start of his career (which he also reached last time out in Detroit). “The first (start) I think I’ve had this year where I’ve had all four pitches working and I can locate them,” he said.
• Girardi on Warren: “I think he was ahead in the count a lot more tonight. I think that helped him, it kept his pitch count down. He was really aggressive. I thought he threw the ball extremely well; he used his curveball and slider well tonight, too. He got some early strikes with his curveball and did a nice job.”
• This was Wilson’s first win with the Yankees. He hadn’t picked up a win anywhere since July 12 of last season. He retired all three batters he faced. “When the phone rings and we’re told to get up, then that’s our time,” Wilson said. “Really, we just want to go out there and get outs.
• Betances has not allowed a hit in his past five appearances, a span of six innings in which he has one walk with 11 strikeouts.
• When did the season start to turn around for Betances? “The second time I pitched in Baltimore,” he said. “I felt my breaking ball was getting better and I was throwing it more for strikes. I felt a lot better after that.”
• Jose Pirela continued his rehab assignment today by playing second base for Double-A Trenton. I really wonder if the Yankees might option Gregorio Petit tomorrow to make room for Chase Whitley and then activate Pirela in time to play against a left-handed starter on Wednesday.
• Tough break for a really good guy: Brandon McCarthy is out for the year with a torn UCL. McCarthy was an obvious injury risk, but the Dodgers were willing to go four years with him. Looks like they’ll get maybe two and a half years out of that contract. Yankees showed some early interest but weren’t willing to a contract that big. Good call.
• Down in Trenton, Dan Pfeiffer reports the Yankees have released left-handed reliever Fred Lewis. Last spring, Lewis put himself on the map with a good big league camp, but he got off to a rough start last season and fell off the radar pretty quickly. Became thoroughly overshadowed in the organization’s upper-level bullpen depth.
• Final word goes to Girardi about moving into sole possession of first place: “It’s better than the alternative. Obviously we have a long way to go, but we’re playing a lot better baseball than we were the first time we were here. That’s a good thing. We just need to continue to do it.”
Associated Press photos
Game 20: Yankees vs. Rays • 04.27.15
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez 3B
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran DH
Chris Young RF
Stephen Drew 2B
Didi Gregorius SS
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 5.40)
Warren vs. Rays
David DeJesus DH
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Evan Longoria 3B
James Loney 1B
Brandon Guyer LF
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Tim Beckham 2B
Rene Rivera C
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 5.32)
Karns vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s a little cold, but not too bad. Can’t complain after last week in Detroit.
UMPIRES: Greg Gibson HP, Marvin Hudson 1B, Chad Fairchild 2B, Jim Joyce 3B
ALL THEY DO IS WIN, WIN, WIN: Tonight is the Yankees’ eighth straight game against a team with at least a share of first place in its respective division. The Yankees?are 5-2 over the stretch. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the longest such stretch for the Yankees since eight straight games in June of 2011 against Boston, Cleveland and Texas (the Yankees went 6-2 in those games).
WAR, WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR: Yankees pitchers have a Major League-best 3.4 WAR according to FanGraphs (next-highest is Pittsburgh at 3.1). The Yankees are second in the A.L. and third in the Majors with 173 strikeouts (behind the Dodgers and Indians). According to FanGraphs, Yankees pitchers rank first in the A.L. and fifth in the Majors with a 3.27 FIP.
SAVINGS PLAN: Andrew Miller has seven saves, tying four others for the second-highest total in the Majors. He has joined Mariano Rivera (seven saves in the first 19 games of 2011) as the only pitchers to reach seven saves in 19 team games in Yankees history.
UPDATE, 7:13 p.m.: Infield single and ground-rule double have the Rays in business here in the first. Longoria up with a chance to do some damage.
UPDATE, 7:17 p.m.: Longoria struck out swinging. Loney grounded to first. Those are two huge outs to get Warren through the first inning scoreless.
UPDATE, 7:26 p.m.: No milestone in the first inning. A-Rod pops out.
UPDATE, 8:25 p.m.: Warren is through five scoreless. He’s been pretty sharp since that first-inning jam. Of course, some run support would be nice.
UPDATE, 8:43 p.m.: Gardner walks in a run, giving Rodriguez a chance for a milestone grand slam, but A-Rod rolled over to third base and the Yankees will settle for a 1-0 lead in the fifth.
UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: Not the best throw of Stephen Drew’s life. Warren got the ground ball he needed, but the Yankees couldn’t get the out at the plate and the Rays have tied the game at 1 here in the sixth.
UPDATE, 8:57 p.m.: Wilson strikes out Loney and we’re into the bottom of the sixth with the game tied at 1.
UPDATE, 9:01 p.m.: Brian McCann has his second home run of the season and it’s a 2-1 Yankees lead in the sixth.
UPDATE, 9:02 p.m.: And there’s a double for Beltran.
UPDATE, 9:13 p.m.: Add a double by Drew it’s now a 3-1 Yankees lead heading into the seventh. Beltran and McCann have been keys to the offense tonight. That’s something new.
UPDATE, 9:34 p.m.: After the hustle double by Gardner and an intentional walk to A-Rod, Headley is in to pinch run with one out in the seventh. There will be no milestone tonight.
Pitching matchups vs. Rays • 04.27.15
RHP Adam Warren (1-1, 5.40)
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 5.32)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Chase Whitley (2-0, 2.12 in Triple-A)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-1, 1.65)
7:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.22)
LHP Drew Smyly (0-0, 3.86)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
Associated Press photo
David Price actually very good career numbers at Comerica Park, and through most of his career he’s pitched well against the Yankees. The past two times he faced the Yankees in this ballpark, though, his starts have been a mess. Last August, in only his second home start with the Tigers, the Yankees pounced on Price for eight runs and nine straight hits in the third inning. Tonight, it was six runs on five hits, two walks and a hit batter in the first inning, then two more runs in the second inning.
Price’s start got so out of hand that at one point he intentionally walked Gregorio Petit with two outs and a runner at third.
“Being able to do what we did, it gives us a lot of confidence,” Carlos Beltran said. “When the offense is good and everything is working well, we’re capable of doing that.”
“I guess it’s just one of those things,” he said. “For whatever reason we’ve put together good at-bats, strung together consistent at-bats throughout the lineup to get multiple hits. … Each time you’ve got to prepare for him, knowing he watched the game film, knowing he’ll probably attack hitters differently. Then try to put quality at-bats together, grind out at-bats, and do as much as you can to put quality at-bats together. That’s all you can really do against someone like that.”
This was a brutal night, especially in that first inning with the snow falling and hands far colder than anyone would like when they’re throwing a baseball. This wasn’t the best version of Price, but the Yankees took advantage of it. And while Adam Warren got his night turned around, the Yankees kept attacking Price with a two-out rally in the second inning, then a couple of hits in the third.
The Yankees aren’t simply getting better results in the past week, they’re legitimately playing better.
“I said all along, I think this group’s talented,” Girardi said. “Sometimes guys get off to slow starts and you don’t make too much of it. You’ve just got to ride things out. We played really bad the first week at home. Really bad. We’ve turned it around on this road trip and are playing better. Our defense is getting better. Base running’s better. Continuing to swing the bats. It’s a group that really wants to win, and they’ve got a lot of fight in them.”
Tonight that fight was directed at Price, and the Yankees once again knocked him out in the third round.
• Adam Warren said he did enough stretching and throwing during that 31-minute top of the first inning that he felt loose and ready to pitch, but when he got to the mound, he walked four of the first five batters he faced. After that, he was terrific, but that first inning was brutal. “I think you just kind of have to learn how to pitch out there and find a way to get some feeling in your hands and on the ball,” Warren said. “… You want to go out there and just attack hitters, especially in those kind of conditions. So that was tough for me just because I hate walking people in general. It was tough to deal with, but I tried to bounce back and get back to my strengths: pounding the zone.”
• When Larry Rothschild went to the mound, the message was largely about regrouping. Warren said Rothschild reminded him to stay back as long as possible and try to keep the ball down, but he was also telling him to get some more feeling in his fingers. Girardi said going to the mound was as much about giving Warren a break as anything. “Sometimes you just need to step back for a second and regroup,” Girardi said. “I didn’t ask (Rothschild) what he said, but whatever he said worked.”
• After that first inning, Warren and the Yankees relievers — Justin Wilson, David Carpenter, Chasen Shreve — not only kept the Tigers scoreless, but they kept the Tigers from even getting into scoring position. “I’m proud of the way I bounced back and gave the team some depth,” Warren said. “Got into the sixth, so I’m pleased with that.”
• Esmil Rogers started tossing in the bullpen in the first inning, and Girardi said he was about one hitter away from getting him hot and ready to enter the game. Warren getting through that inning and then pitching into the sixth basically saved the bullpen from having to burn out anyone heading into tomorrow’s finale and another seven games in a row without an off day.
• Gregorio Petit came into this game with a .261 OPS. Not batting average. Not on-base percentage. On-base-plus-slugging of .261, yet he’s the one who delivered the big blow with a three-run double in the first inning. Then he was intentionally walked in the second. His OPS climbed by nearly .200 points in one night. “I know I can hit,” Petit said. “I trust myself a lot. Things haven’t gone the way I wanted, but that’s baseball. You’re going to have good days and bad days. You have to just keep working. That’s what I’ve been doing and today it came out at the right time.”
• Petit has five major league walks in his career. Tonight’s was certainly the first time he was walked intentionally in the big leagues. “I was smiling in my head, I can’t lie,” he said. “I was kind of surprised, but it’s part of the game.”
• Price walked Petit to face Didi Gregorius, who made an out that at-bat, but later doubled in two runs for his first extra-base hit of the year. Gregorius also had a walk in the game, but he also made another error and made two questionable decisions in the first inning. “I’ve said all along that this is a place where it takes some guys some time to get comfortable here,” Girardi said. “New York’s not the easiest place to come and play and be really good right from the beginning. We’ve seen a lot of really good players take time to adjust, and I think he’s adjusting as it goes on. I do.”
• Should Gregorius have thrown the ball normally instead of flipping underhand on that potential double play ball in the first? “I don’t think we’re getting it either way,” Girardi said. “I think he was making sure that he got one out.”
• Later in the first inning, Ellsbury actually got his first RBI of the year. Leadoff guy got his first RBI with a first-inning hit that wasn’t a home run. Funny. “I knew it was a matter of time,” Ellsbury said. “I had been putting together quality at-bats with runners in scoring position, and quality at-bats without runners in scoring position. I knew it was a matter of time before it happened.”
• Back-to-back triples by Beltran and Chase Headley. That means four Yankees have tripled in the past week, and those three are Beltran, Headley, Garrett Jones and Brian McCann. None of those four are speed guys by any stretch of the imagination. “I was once,” Beltran said, with a laugh.
• Might not happen often, so let’s give the final word to Petit: “Everybody thought we were going to have a tough game because of the weather. To get that hit against him, we got to him early and took the lead. It was awesome. It was a great feeling for me and for the team. I was super-happy.”
Associated Press photos
Game 15: Yankees at Tigers • 04.22.15
RHP Adam Warren (0-1, 4.82)
Warren vs. Tigers
Anthony Gose CF
Ian Kinsler 2B
Miguel Cabrera 1B
Victor Martinez DH
J.D. Martinez RF
Yoenis Cespedes LF
Nick Castellanos 3B
Alex Avila C
Jose Iglesias SS
LHP David Price (1-0, 0.40)
Price vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:08 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s legitimately cold here in Detroit. A few flurries during the day. Not great.
UMPIRES: HP Gerry Davis, 1B Phil Cuzzi, 2B Tony Randazzo, 3B Will Little
GLOVE STORY: The Yankees have not made an error in their past six games since April 15 at Baltimore. They’ve gone 4-2 in those games. In their first eight games of the season, the Yankees made 11 errors and went 3-5.
ONE SUCCESS STORY: As you might expect, the Yankees do not collectively have good numbers against David Price. One significant exception, though, is Jacoby Ellsbury who’s a career .327 .353 .551 hitter in 49 at-bats against the Tigers’ ace. Brian McCann has also hit Price in his career. He has just 14 at-bats against him, but he has seven hits including three homers.
GOING DEEP: The Yankees entered today leading the Majors with 20 home runs this season. They have averaged five runs per game, fifth in the A.L. and tied for sixth in the Majors. They are third in the Majors with a .182 ISO (measuring the average number of extra bases a player gets per at bat), trailing only the Dodgers and Blue Jays.
UPDATE, 7:23 p.m.: Bases loaded in the first, McCann just floated an RBI single that landed barely in fair territory along the right-field line. It was enough to score a run — guy weren’t running because it looked like it would be caught — and so the Yankees are up 1-0 still with just one out against Price.
UPDATE, 7:33 p.m.: Price has already thrown over 40 pitches, Gregorio Petit — yes, Gregorio Petit — has just doubled in three runs, and it’s a 5-0 Yankees lead in the first inning.
UPDATE, 7:38 p.m.: Another run off Price. By the way, Rob Thomson is coaching third base today. Espada is at home because his wife just had a baby.
UPDATE, 7:44 p.m.: Top of the first lasted 31 minutes, 51 pitches and six Yankees runs.
UPDATE, 7:50 p.m.: Kind of odd to see Warren have no feel for the strike zone, but he’s walked three of four to start this game. Have to assume the cold has something to do with it (and the fact he had to sit so long after his pregame warmup). Bases loaded with one out for the Tigers.
UPDATE, 7:54 p.m.: Oof. Warren makes it four of the first five to walk in a run. Brutal.
UPDATE, 7:56 p.m.: Nice diving stop by Gregorius, but he seemed to have an easier out at third than second. He went to second, runner safe and that’s another run.
UPDATE, 7:57 p.m.: Another grounder to short, this time Gregorius throws to second underhand for some reason. The play develops too slow for a double play and another run scores. It’s now 6-3.
UPDATE, 8:00 p.m.: Esmil Rogers getting loose in the Yankees bullpen. The Tigers also had a guy getting loose in their half of the first inning.
UPDATE, 8:09 p.m.: Beltran given a triple on that ball to left. So he joins McCann and Jones as the only Yankees to have tripled this season. It’s now 7-4.
UPDATE, 8:12 p.m.: And now Headley has tripled. And now Petit is being intentionally walked. It’s been a weird night.
UPDATE, 8:34 p.m.: Price is finished with one out in the third. He allowed two more hits this inning. It’s an 8-4 game.
UPDATE, 8:46 p.m.: Ball might have taken a little bit of a bad hop, but that’s still a pretty ugly error for Gregorius who botched a relatively routine grounder in the third.
UPDATE, 8:58 p.m.: Didi! Two-run double in the fourth pushes the lead to 10-4.
UPDATE, 9:11 p.m.: Warren is through the fourth inning without allowing another run. He’s at 83 pitches, so he might actually stay in this thing long enough to get a win.
UPDATE, 9:45 p.m.: What a weirdly good start for Warren. That first inning was a total disaster, but he wound up pitching 5.2 innings without allowing another run and without even allowing another runner into scoring position. Looked like the Yankees were going to have to go to their bullpen after one inning, and instead they get to use their pen basically just as they intended coming into this game.
UPDATE, 9:58 p.m.: Long home run by Teixeira, a three-run shot to make it 13-4 in the seventh. Yes, it’s only the seventh.
Alex Rodriguez hit the first home run so far, and he hit the second one so hard, that this was already his best night of the year even before the at-bat that actually won the game. To cap the night, Rodriguez put together a seven-pitch at-bat against Kevin Jepsen, a pitcher against whom he was 0-for-8 in his career. He gave Brett Gardner time to steal, fouled off a 3-2 pitch, then lifted a low curveball into center field.
His teammates were 2-for-26. Rodriguez was 3-for-4 with four RBI.
“Without Alex, we’re going to lose that ballgame,” Joe Girardi said.
Maybe that much went without saying, but it was worth saying anyway because 10 games into the season, the Yankees are being kept afloat by a guy who came into spring training with absolutely no one certain he could still play this game at a respectable level. Even Rodriguez is surprised it’s gone this well.
When Rodriguez homered in Baltimore earlier this week, he said it was the best he’d hit a ball in well over a year. Imagine, then, how good it felt to hit a ball 471 feet in the second inning (or 477 feet if you’re going by ESPN’s estimates). Whatever the number, the ball was crushed. And he followed that home run with a game-tying two-run shot that left the yard in in a hurry in the sixth. Another hard-hit ball, this one a line drive to left.
“It’s pretty impressive, you know, to take all the time off that he’s taken off,” Brett Gardner said. “He’s no spring chicken anymore, either. But the bat speed, his bat’s really, really quick through the zone. He’s taking good swings. It’s a lot of fun to see. … He’s not somebody I’d ever count out. I see how hard he works and how much he loves playing the game, and how good of a job he’s always done in preparing himself for the game. Being able to focus on hitting and not playing defense that often, he can go out there and use all the energy he’s got for those four or five at-bats. So far, he’s looked great and hopefully he can keep it up.”
I guess the takeaway from tonight’s game is … well, it’s everything about Rodriguez at the plate. The raw power. The ability to work an at-bat. The eye for balls and strikes. The steady production.
Tonight, the bullpen was really good, and Stephen Drew hit a home run, and Carlos Beltran got a much-needed hit, and Gardner stole his way into scoring position. But without Rodriguez, the Yankees would have lost this game, and there’s absolutely no doubt about that.
“More than anything, I’m just feeling very grateful to be back playing baseball,” Rodriguez said. “I’m very grateful to Hank and Hal for giving me the opportunity to put the uniform on again. It’s something I don’t take for granted, and it’s much appreciated. It just feels good to be playing baseball. I’m having fun out there.”
• Another save opportunity, and another great outing by Andrew Miller. The Yankees have done four games, and Miller’s saved three of them. He got the final out of the eighth inning, then allowed a soft hit to open the ninth before striking out the final three batters of the game. “Andrew’s done the job, that’s for sure,” Girardi said.
• Miller on his obvious but still undefined role: “This is what I signed up for. That’s what I told them all along. They asked me if I needed to be told I had a certain role or anything like that, and I told them no, and that was the truth. I’ve been telling you guys that all along and that’s really what it is. I think for me, I’m fortunate. I’ve got a nice contract that’s going to take care of me for a while. However they see fit to use me, they can go for it. I’ll do whatever they ask and give them everything I’ve got.”
• In a setup role, Dellin Betances also looked pretty good tonight. Certainly better than he’s looked most nights. he allowed one hit but also got a strikeout and walked no one. “I think he’s making progress each time he goes out,” Girardi said.
• Not such a good night for Adam Warren, who was actually doing pretty well before a crushing sequence of three hitters. After an infield single, Warren allowed a walk, a three-run homer and a solo homer. “I think the Jennings walk was big there,” Warren said. “Because you fall behind 2-0 to the next guy, feel like you have to throw a strike, (he) puts it over the wall, and things just kind of got away from me there. As a starter, you want to limit the big inning. I threw a lot of pitches, and that kind of hurt us. We had to go to the bullpen early, which you don’t want to do.”
• The biggest mistakes were with fastballs. Girardi said he thought Warren pitched alright without his good curveball or slider earlier in the game, but things unraveled quickly. The Yankees wound up using Esmil Rogers for 2.1 innings of hitless long relief. Rogers has been good in that role. “The bullpen was outstanding,” Girardi said. “After having a tough night the other night, they come back and give us five scoreless innings and do a really good job. As I said, they’re not going to be perfect, but they’re pretty good.”
• Third home run in less than a week for Stephen Drew. That’s the same number of home runs he hit in two months with the Yankees last season. Tonight’s homer was No. 100 in his career. “He’s swung the bat I think a little bit better than his numbers indicate,” Girardi said. “We saw it come around the last couple of weeks of spring training, and we need that to continue because he’s a guy that can hit the ball out of the ballpark and hit some doubles and drive in some runs, and it was good to see.”
• Although Girardi wouldn’t commit to putting him in the lineup tomorrow, Girardi did say Gardner probably would have stayed in the game to hit had the game gone into extra innings. He came through three rounds of batting practice alright before today’s game. “I was prepared if my spot came up in the ninth to get a normal at-bat and get up there and swing the bat,” Gardner said.
• No surprise, but Girardi said he went Gardner in to pinch run with hopes of getting a stolen base in that spot. It finally happened on the 12th pitch after Gardner entered the game. “I wish I could have got there a little earlier, but Alex did his job,” Gardner said.
• One underrated play: Jacoby Ellsbury’s catch to end the eighth inning. “At first, my instinct was that that ball is in the gap and I’m going to have to pitch with a runner on base,” Miller said. “I got really excited. It didn’t look like he had too good of a jump on it, but Ells is a great defender. It’s no surprise. You welcome a guy like that behind me.”
• Girardi said he plans to have Rodriguez back at DH tomorrow. He would prefer not to play him in the field when the Yankees are on turf.
• Final word goes to Miller: “Everyone is going to remember those (Rodriguez) homers, and they were both incredibly well-struck, but that at-bat to give us the go-ahead run was incredible. He fought pitches off and stayed on a breaking ball. We shouldn’t be surprised that Alex knows how to hit. He’s a professional hitter, and he’s really good at that. We’re just glad he’s healthy and he’s on our side because right now he’s been a big part of our offense.”
Associated Press photos
Game 10: Yankees at Rays • 04.17.15
RHP Adam Warren (0-1, 1.69)
Warren vs. Rays
Kevin Kiermaier CF
Steven Souza Jr. RF
Asdrubal Cabrera SS
Evan Longoria DH
Desmond Jennings LF
Allan Dykstra 1B
Logan Forsythe 3B
Tim Beckham 2B
Bobby Wilson C
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97)
Karns vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:10 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
WEATHER: Kind of cloudy outside, but perfectly nice under the dome.
UMPIRES: HP Hunter Wendelstedt, 1B Bob Davidson, 2b David Rackley, 3B Jerry Layne
FRESH FACE: I’m not entirely sure I’d ever heard of Rays starter Nate Karns until I put his name on the blog to list the pitching matchups for this series. I might not be alone. Only one Yankees player has ever faced him, and that’s Brian McCann, who’s 0-for-2.
ONE AWAY: Stephen Drew has 99 career home runs and needs one more to reach an even 100. According to Elias, he would join his brother J.D. (242 career homers) to become the eighth pair of brothers to each hit at least 100 homers in the big leagues. The others: Roberto and Sandy Alomar, Aaron and Bret Boone, Ken and Clete Boyer, Joe and Vince DiMaggio, Bob and Irish Meusels, Justin and Melvin Upton, and Delmon and Dmitri Young.
ON THIS DATE: Today marks the 64th anniversary of the first Major League game worked by public address announcer Bob Sheppard at Yankee Stadium on April 17, 1951. It was also Mickey Mantle’s first Major League game.
UPDATE, 7:35 p.m.: Wow. Rodriguez just crushed his third home run of the year. Deep shot to left-center for a 1-0 Yankees lead in the second inning. Swung and missed at the first pitch, then clobbered the second.
UPDATE, 7:53 p.m.: Warren gets his first strikeout of the night and he’s through two innings scoreless.
UPDATE, 8:01 p.m.: That A-Rod homer, by the way, officially measured at 471 feet. What a monster.
UPDATE, 8:11 p.m.: Third home run of the season for Stephen Drew. Gives him 100 for his career and gives the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the fourth.
UPDATE, 8:29 p.m.: Infield single, walk, and three-run homer off the foul pole. Just like that it’s a 3-2 Rays lead in the bottom of the fourth.
UPDATE, 8:32 p.m.: Make that back-to-back homers, and now it’s 4-2.
UPDATE, 9:08 p.m.: My goodness. Line drive home run for Rodriguez here in the sixth. It’s a two-run shot to tie the game. That’s his 61st multi-homer game, first since May 21, 2012. He’s now two away from tying Mays on the all-time list.
Pitching matchups at Tampa Bay • 04.17.15
RHP Adam Warren (0-1, 1.69)
RHP Nate Karns (1-1, 4.97)
7:10 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 7.00)
RHP Jake Odorizzi (2-0, 0.61)
7:10 p.m., FOX Sports 1
RHP Michael Pineda (1-0, 5.11)
1:10 p.m., WPIX
Associated Press photo