These Yankees might be in the mix for the American League East, but apparently they’re not contenders in a fan-voted popularity contest.
Major League Baseball announced its latest All-Star voting totals on Monday, and no Yankees player ranked higher than fourth place at an individual position. Mark Teixeira (sixth in the league in home runs) isn’t even top five at first base, Brett Gardner (tied for the league lead in runs scored) isn’t top 15 in the outfield, and Brian McCann (fifth in RBI) is nearly 10 million votes out of the running at catcher.
Even Alex Rodriguez — with all of his positive press in his stunning return from suspension — has less than a quarter of the votes of Nelson Cruz, who was also wrapped up in Biogenesis and currently leads at designated hitter.
“I’m sure the numbers are an accurate representation of the guys that the fans want to see in the games,” Gardner said. “If our fans haven’t voted as much as the other fans, than maybe there’s a good reason for that.”
Perhaps part of the problem for the Yankees is that their most deserving all-star just might be reliever Dellin Betances, and fans don’t vote for pitchers. Another problem could be that the Yankees’ most recognizable player is Rodriguez, who carries plenty of baggage that might lead fans to vote against him. They also no longer have their All-Star lock at shortstop.
“We don’t have the guys who have been there seven, eight, nine, 10 years,” manager Joe Girardi said. “That’ve been there a long time. You look at the guys with a lot of experience as a Yankee, and we have two or three really, and that’s it. We have Tex, Alex, and Gardy, and that’s about it. A lot of the other guys are new players who don’t necessarily have the history with the fans like some of the other guys who we had for a long time.”
It does seem to say something — though I’m not sure what — that no Yankees player has more total votes than Jacoby Ellsbury, who’s missed more than a month with an injury. It also says something that after Ellsbury, the Yankees’ outfielder with the most votes is Carlos Beltran, who’s definitely not having an all-star season.
Some fans, it seems, simply haven’t realized that the Yankees’ best position player so far just might be the unheralded former college walk-on who’s long carried the label of glorified fourth outfielder.
“I think (Gardner)’s become a complete player,” Girardi said. “He’s not just a leadoff hitter who plays good defense. He’s a guy who drives in runs, and does a lot of different things for your offense.”
According to the WAR statistic measured by FanGraphs, the Yankees have no one as productive as Gardner, who’s 2.5 WAR puts him in a tie with Yoenis Cespedes and Evan Longoria, ahead of Adam Jones and Albert Pujols. Fan voting still has Gardner — a homegrown player putting up good numbers for a wildly popular franchise — outside of the top 15 among outfielders.
“I think that if I’m one of the guys that deserves to go, then I’d like to be a part of it,” Gardner said. “If there’s other guys that deserve to go ahead of me, then I think they should go represent the American League. I haven’t looked at the numbers of other guys to see where the voting is at, so I don’t know. It’s out of my control. I just worry about what I can do, get my work in and go out there and play hard.”
Associated Press photos
This was all pretty predictable. Another start when CC Sabathia wasn’t particularly good. Another postgame clubhouse when both Sabathia and Joe Girardi talked about seeing some positives in the outing. And finally the inevitable news that Adam Warren — and not Sabathia — will move into the Yankees’ bullpen.
“I thought (Sabathia) threw the ball pretty well tonight,” Girardi said. “I know it comes up as four runs in 7.1 innings, but I thought he threw the ball better tonight than he has recently.”
Although Girardi said pregame that the Yankees would stay on rotation, leaving Warren in line to start Wednesday’s series finale, Warren told The Daily News that he’s being moved into the bullpen. The move gives the Yankees what should be the right-handed reliever they’ve been looking for. It also takes care of some workload concerns for Warren, who’s already thrown more innings than in either of the past two seasons.
“Of course (the numbers are frustrating),” Sabathia said. “Not the ERA, but the fact that we’re not winning the games that I start. I just want to keep us in the game and try to get us some wins.”
We’ve certainly seen worse outings than this from Yankees’ pitchers this season, but with Sabathia, this four-run start continued a trend of games in which he’s been prone to costly mistakes at bad moments. Often it’s one big inning getting away from him. Tonight it was a few crucial pitches on a pair of home runs and on three two-out RBIs.
“I made some good pitches; I made some bad pitches,” Sabathia said. “It’s just part of it. But I’m battling and I feel like I’m getting better. … Just mixing fastballs in, two-seamer was pretty good tonight. Just got caught there with a couple cutters, and gave up two homers.”
Those were home runs No. 18 and 19 against Sabathia this season. He’s on pace to blow past his career-high for home runs allowed in a season.
“When he makes a mistake, they’re squaring it up,” Girardi said. “We’ve talked about how his command is really important for him. When he makes a mistake — it looked like he missed on the second home run, he was trying to go in and it was up and away — when you miss, you’re going to get hit.”
Sabathia’s been hit plenty this season, but he’ll start again when his turn comes around next week. Warren will be available in relief.
• Watching this game with no connection to either team, I assume Mike Trout would have been the star of the show. Solo home run plus three running catches to take away extra-base hits. He twice robbed Chris Young, who smoked the ball twice and still came away with an 0-for-4. “You execute, do what you’re trying to do at the plate, but it’s a crazy game we play,” Young said. “Things like that happen. … Both of them (looked like hits), then you remember Trout is out there. He’s been known to make quite a few WebGems, and he made some good plays tonight. So you tip your cap to him.”
• Instead of literally tipping his cap, Young kind of waved his hand in a mock dismissive manner after the second Trout catch. “Just having a little fun,” Young said. “From a fellow outfielder, you can understand that’s what he’s supposed to do out there. He’s a great player, so just having a little fun.”
• The home run was Trout’s 20th of the season. He is now one of six American League players to ever have four 20-plus homer seasons before their age-24 season. The others: Alex Rodriguez, Ken Griffey Jr., Tony Conigliaro, Mickey Mantle and Ted Williams. “He was really the difference in the game,” Girardi said. “You can talk about, he’s responsible for about four or five runs in this game, taking three away from us, maybe four, and providing one himself. He was the real difference in the game.”
• This is also Trout’s second season with at least 20 homers before the All-Star break. The only other players to pull that off are Albert Pujols, Jose Canseco and Eddie Matthews.
• The last Trout catch robbed Chase Headley of possible extra bases. Headley seems to be hitting into a lot of that stuff lately. “Chase Headley I think has it worse than anybody this month,” Young said. “He’s been swinging the bat probably better than I’ve ever seen him swing the bat, and the numbers don’t always line up with what we consider success at the plate. It’s just a crazy game.”
• The Yankees got their one run on an Alex Rodriguez RBI single, but they ultimately went 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Trout caused a lot of that, but still, one hit with 10 RISP opportunities is a problem. “(Trout)’s a difference maker out there it seems like every night,” Brett Gardner said. “He made some great plays out there obviously, swings the bat really well, but at the end of the day we just didn’t get enough runs.”
• Gardner actually went 3-for-5 with two doubles to continue his incredible hot streak — he’s hitting .511 in his past 10 games — but he was also a part of the RISP failure, flying to left in a key at-bat in the seventh. “He’s played extremely well,” Girardi said. “That’s why we locked him up, because we knew he was a really good player. He’s living up to everything.”
• Could be that Gardner’s make a case for the All-Star Game. He’s now tied with Yoenis Cespedes for first among A.L. outfielders with 25 multi-hit games.
• Sabathia only walked one guy and struck out five. Of his 95 pitches, 61 went for strikes, and he’s tied for third in the Majors with five road starts of at least seven innings pitched. He got deep into this game, but he left the Yankees in a hole.
• Angels starter C.J. Wilson cut his ERA to 3.78. “I think the defense behind him was outstanding,” Girardi said. “Maybe in our ballpark some of those balls are home runs. Headley might have two, Chris Young might have two. That’s probably the difference.”
• Final word goes to Young: “(Wilson) pitched well. He pitched well and the Angels played amazing defense. I think when you mix those things together, it makes for a good game. That’s not to say we didn’t swing the bats well. It think we swung the bats well, executed what we were trying to do, but pitching and defense wins games, and their defense did a great job tonight.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees’ pitching staff just coughed up 11 runs for the third game in a row. It’s the first time the Yankees have done that since September of 2000, and they’ve done it with the guys who are supposed to be the top three starters in their rotation. First Masahiro Tanaka, then Michael Pineda, and tonight CC Sabathia.
Easy to dismiss the first two as simply bad games by good pitchers. But can the Yankees say the same about Sabathia?
Ivan Nova is coming off the disabled list tomorrow, which means someone is about to fall out of the rotation. Statistically, the worst starter of the bunch is the guy who used to be the staff ace just a few years ago. His 5.65 ERA suggests he’s not only lost that ace title, but he’s also become one of the worst regular starting pitchers in the big leagues.
But Joe Girardi made it clear postgame that Sabathia’s going nowhere.
“He’s a starter for us,” Girardi said. “That’s what he is. That’s what we’re paying him to do, and that’s what he’s going to do.”
This start, though, felt all too familiar. It was yet another Sabathia outing when he pitched well for a while, got out of some trouble, but eventually crumbled under the weight of one big inning and a couple of big home runs. Little surprise that each of the Phillies’ homers was hit by a right-handed batter: Sabathia’s actually put up great numbers against lefties this season, but righties have an OPS well over .900 against him.
“I really don’t have an answer (for why righties have had so much success),” Sabathia said. “I feel like I’m just getting in some bad counts and these guys have been not missing. … It’s definitely frustrating. My stuff is there. I’ve just got to pitch smart. It’s not a case of my stuff being short or anything like that. It’s just: pitching smarter, pitching better.”
Sabathia said his knee hasn’t been bothering him at all. In fact, he said he feels healthy, and he thinks his stuff is good enough to get consistent outs. He got a couple of big strikeouts in the first inning and limited the damage against the heart of the order in the third, but that fourth inning was a mess.
Once again, the Yankees offense scored quite a few runs — enough runs to win on a lot of nights — but the pitching staff couldn’t do its part, and that started with Sabathia once again leaving the Yankees in a hole.
“I always feel good about CC when he’s out there,” Girardi said. “I’ve seen him do it too many times not to believe in him. It’s frustrating for him, but as I said, we’ll continue to work at it, and we’ll get him right.”
Six days from now, it will be Sabathia’s turn again.
“To try to turn this thing around,” Sabathia said of what’s next. “There’s a lot of season left, obviously. Like I said, I feel good about my stuff and my body, where I’m at. It’s just a matter of me going out and executing and putting a game plan together and pitching better.”
• It was Sabathia making the mistakes early. It was Betances making the mistakes late. After striking out the two batters he faced in the eighth inning, Betances simply wasn’t sharp in the ninth. “It’s just that ninth inning my pitches weren’t good,” he said. “Breaking ball wasn’t sharp, my fastball was off, I wasn’t commanding my fastball. It starts with the fastball and goes off that. I’m going after any hitter who I’m facing, and I’m going with my best stuff. It was just today, I didn’t have it in that ninth inning.”
• Betances had been charged with one run all season. Tonight he was charged with four and took his first career loss. He had been 9-0 to start his career, matching Whitey Ford for the longest winning streak by a Yankees pitcher to start his big league career.
• Betances had not pitched since last Wednesday, and Girardi said he was planning to get Betances in this game no matter what strictly because he’d gone so long between outings. “There’s no excuses,” Betances said. “I sucked today and they got the best of me today. … I threw bullpens in between, try to stay as sharp as I can. It was just one of those things. I was good the eighth inning, so I don’t think that was the (problem). It was just the ninth inning. I feel like I’ve got to be more aggressive and make better pitches. I wasn’t able to do that.”
• With starting pitchers struggling, the Yankees have been forced to lean heavily on their bullpen. Five different relievers got in this game. “I think (lack of rotation distance) is the reason you see so many changes in the bullpen,” Girardi said. “We’re shuffling people in and out and we’ve got to start getting some distance.”
• Phillies rookie Maikel Franco had his second straight five-RBI game. He’s now homered three times, doubled once and gone 6-for-8 in these first two games. “We just haven’t made good pitches,” Girardi said. “You look at the three-run homer he hit off CC, it was up and out over the plate. We’ve just got to make better pitches on him.”
• Here’s Betances when asked what he knew about Franco coming into this series: “Not too much. It doesn’t matter. You just have to make pitches whoever it is. He’s hot right now and the credit goes to him, but you face guys that have done it for a while like Miguel Cabrera, you go out there and try to make your best pitch. Today that wasn’t the case. He got the best of me. It was unfortunate we lost this game the way it happened.”
• The Yankees scored six runs, but they also blew some opportunities. The had a runner at third with less than two outs in both the sixth and the seventh innings and couldn’t cash in. “We had opportunities, and we didn’t get it done,” Girardi said. “And that’s frustrating too. Guys are, they’re fighting, they’re scoring runs, and they’re having good at-bats. We just didn’t get it done.”
• Brett Gardner remains red hot. He got on base five times last night, and got on base three times tonight. He also homered for the fourth time in six games. This is the sixth time in his career that Gardner’s homered in back-to-back games.
• Chase Headley’s been stone cold lately, but tonight he had two hits including the 100th home run of his career. The homer snapped a 105-at-bat homerless stretch. “It’s good to see him hit the ball out of the ballpark,” Girardi said. “I’m sure he’s going to hit plenty more. Hopefully he hits another 100 to 150 with us. It’s a big home run, and it means something, and we need him to continue to swing the bat.”
• Headley and Alex Rodriguez hit back-to-back homers in the fifth. It was the second time this season the Yankees went back to back (Stephen Drew and Headley did it back on April 12).
• Chasen Shreve has not allowed a run in his past 12 appearances, during which he’s thrown 13 innings with four hits, four walks and 12 strikeouts. Justin Wilson also hasn’t allowed a run in his past 12 outings, with his streak spanning 11.2 innings with five hits, five walks and eight strikeouts.
• Nick Rumbelow was the fourth Yankees pitcher to make his major league debut in the past three games. Rumbelow allowed a walk and a triple before striking out the last two batters he faced.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “It’s not enjoyable to watch, and it’s not enjoyable to be a part of it. The pitchers are doing everything they can to get people out. Right now we’re just not making pitches, and we’ve got to get better at it. Hopefully we can come out and get a good outing from Nova tomorrow, and you go from there. The last three days have been a struggle. It happens. It happens to teams, but it’s been a lot of runs.”
Associated Press photos
Hard to remember the last time Yankee Stadium got as loud as it did tonight. But there was no walk-off, no monumental home run. There was no milestone, and that was kind of the point. Those weren’t cheers that filled this stadium. They were chants and boos directed at a 27-year-old pitcher who seemed far more willing to hit Alex Rodriguez than give up a hit to him.
“I was just trying to get him out,” Marlins reliever Sam Dyson said. “… If he was going to beat me, he was going to have to get the head out. I ended up throwing four balls kind of at his belt off the plate.”
Four straight pitches inside with Rodriguez one hit away from 3,000. The crowd was not happy about it. Never mind that the walk was part of a four-run inning that removed any doubt about who would win this game. The fans wanted to see history. They wanted to see A-Rod swing the bat. They were supporting Rodriguez as much as they were dismissing Dyson.
“I don’t even know how to describe it,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great. Every time moments like that happen, I can just reflect on a year ago today, (and) how great the fans have been to me. I think their support has actually helped me play a lot better.”
No one seemed to think Dyson was trying to hit Rodriguez (though at least a few of those pitches might have done it had Rodriguez not backed out of the box).
“He didn’t really have much of a chance in his last at-bat,” Joe Girardi said. “I think the crowd wanted to see it, I think that’s the bottom line, and I understand that. I’m sure the young man was trying to get him out, he just threw a bunch of sinkers that were too far inside, and Alex couldn’t even swing at them.”
So history will have to wait. Tomorrow the Yankees get Justin Verlander and the Tigers.
“I’ll think about it some,” Rodriguez said. “But I’m in a good place. Our team is playing well, we like playing at home, having the fans behind us was phenomenal today. My daughters are in town, Father’s Day is around the corner, I’m just really excited and having fun.”
• Not a bad start by Sabathia, but not a great one either. It just kind of felt like a lot of Sabathia’s starts these days. Three runs across six innings is a 4.50 ERA, and if Sabathia could pitch like this every time out, I think the Yankees might take that. It was a winable start, and at times Sabathia looked great with seven strikeouts and no walks. “It’s difficult not, I guess, being the guy I used to be who went deep into games,” Sabathia said. “Just kind of is what it is. I go out there hard as I can until I’m done.”
• When did Sabathia come to grips with being that type of pitcher? “That’s something I came to grips with a couple of months ago; a couple of years ago,” he said. “It just kind of is what it is. Go out there and use my pitches and try to pitch deep into the game. … It really doesn’t change the way I pitch. It’s just frustrating for me that I can only give them six innings at a time.”
• After putting the side down in order the first three innings, Sabathia allowed one run apiece in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Just falling behind, he said. He got into bad counts, and the Marlins were able to chip away and take the lead for a while. “He did a good job,” Girardi said. “To limit them to three runs, a team that has really hit left-handers this season, I thought he did a really good job.”
• Chasen Shreve extended his scoreless streak to 11 innings over his past 10 games. He got his fourth win of the season. Each of his past 17 strikeouts have been swinging third strikes.
• Even though this had become a lopsided game, Girardi had Dellin Betances warming in the ninth. Girardi said he felt the Marlins were too close to being back in it to not have Betances at least getting ready just in case. “If I don’t bring him in and we lose the game, how’s that wear and tear? Girardi said. “Not too good. I’ll be crucified.”
• Carlos Beltran’s game winner was the 30th home run of his career to tie a game or give his team a lead in the seventh inning or later. It was his second such home run with the Yankees. After a few good games in a row, Beltran is hitting .286/.348/.405 in the month of June. That’s after a good month of May. “The past couple of months I’ve been putting good at bats,” Beltran said. “It’s a long season, man. I know that it sounds cliché for me to say that, but I just have to approach each at-bat and every game as an individual.”
• After tonight’s game-tying shot, Brett Gardner’s hit 46 career homers, and 22 of those have tied a game or given the Yankees a lead. The Yankees have gone 34-11 in games when Gardner’s gone deep. “He’s been coming up huge for us the whole time,” Sabathia said.
• Mason Williams had two doubles tonight. Of his five big league hits, four have gone for extra bases. “I think he’s done a good job of making adjustments,” Girardi said. “It’s not easy being a young player, really hasn’t spent a lot of time in Triple-A. Not really knowing any of the pitchers that he’s facing. He’s made some nice little adjustments.”
• The Yankees are 9-1 in their past 10 home games. This was technically their sixth series sweep of the year, one away from their total from last year. … This was the fifth time Sabathia made a start without walking anyone this year. … Brian McCann has 20 RBI in his past 22 games. He had three hits tonight and I didn’t even notice until I saw the box score postgame.
• Still really weird to watch Carter Capps pitch with that little hop off the rubber. He must deliver the ball an extra foot closer to home plate, plus he’s able to reach 100 mph (which he did tonight). “When I saw Capps warming up,” Rodriguez said. “I told a bunch of my teammates in the dugout, ‘three-thousand is going to have to wait for another day.’ The chances of me even putting the ball in play are very little. Once I saw him walk out of the game, I was pretty excited.”
• Final word goes to Rodriguez about chasing No. 3,000: “It’s a lot easier to deal with these at-bats because we’re in the middle of a game and we need to win badly. It’s all about wins for us. The game was 5-3 and we’re doing everything in our power to keep the big guy out of the game. The focus is always winning.”
Associated Press photos
On the day he was drafted, Yankees reliever Jacob Lindgren was home in Mississippi. His girlfriend got into town that morning, and so he showed her around. A family friend invited some people over, and so there was barbecuing and swimming.
“It was nice and hot out,” Lindgren said.
It was June 5 of last year, and Lindgren knew he might be a high-round pick. When his name was called, he was the top selection of a Yankees team that hadn’t had much success with top picks. He was a college reliever built to move quickly, joining an organization notorious for advancing even its top prospects slowly.
Less than a year later, Lindgren was in the big leagues, tangible evidence that this might be a new era for the Yankees on draft day.
“A lot of guys that got drafted behind you, they’re like, oh, why did this guy get drafted ahead of me? Stuff like that,” Lindgren said. “There’s always that. Obviously you’ve just got to play good and show them why they drafted you high.”
The Yankees, too, have something to prove.
After two decades of far more failure than success, the Yankees enter tonight’s first round of the draft with the 16th overall selection, their highest pick since 1993. They have three of the top 57 selections, and they have something of a hot streak going. Focused heavily on college players like Lindgren, Aaron Judge and Eric Jagielo, the Yankees early picks the past two years have advanced quickly and shown significant promise.
Lindgren is already in the major league bullpen, Judge is considered the top hitting prospect in the system, and Jagielo has nine home runs in Double-A. Both Judge and Jagielo could be in Triple-A by the end of the summer, just two years after being drafted.
“I always heard (the Yankees) were slow moving their guys,” Lindgren said. “But I was going to do everything in my ability to make things happen.”
Lindgren pitched at four levels with 17.5 strikeouts per nine innings the year he was drafted. He pitched well in big league camp this spring, opened the season in Triple-A, and was called up on May 24, the first Yankees prospect since Deion Sanders in 1989 to reach the majors less than a year after being drafted.
It was a significant step for the Yankees, not only because they were willing to make the move, but because they had a top pick playing well enough to deserve the promotion.
With a few exceptions — Phil Hughes in 2004, Ian Kennedy and Joba Chamberlain in 2006 — the Yankees’ top picks have mostly fallen flat since the overwhelming success of Derek Jeter taken sixth overall in 1992.
The Yankees took a high schooler named C.J. Henry during the otherwise talent-rich first round of 2005. They took a shot on injured basketball player Andrew Brackman with their top pick of 2007. They took a signability risk with Gerrit Cole in 2008. They gambled on high school shortstop Cito Culver in 2010 and have watched him hit well below .200 this season. In the decade before that, they picked forgotten names like Shea Morenz, David Walling and David Parrish.
What draft success the Yankees have had in recent years has been largely confined to the middle rounds: Brett Gardner in the third round of 2005; Adam Warren in the fourth round of 2009; Dellin Betances in the eighth round of 2006, the same year they got former closer David Robertson as a 17th-round steal.
Draft classes, though, tend to be defined by their top picks, and so Lindgren stands out as a success story, both for the player and the organization.
He had been a 12th-round pick of the Cubs out of high school, but Lindgren said Chicago didn’t offer him the signing bonus he wanted until the day before classes started at Mississippi State. Lindgren was already moved in, living on campus and ready to start college. He decided to stay and take his chances that pro ball would be waiting for him.
“Early on, especially when you’re not getting the playing time you wanted, you’re like, man, what am I doing here?” Lindgren said. “But it worked out. It kind of taught me how you have to compete for any job you want. … There was a lot of hype and stuff (as a first-round pick), but I knew I had to come in and prove myself. I always tried to prove that I didn’t belong at each level and just tried to move up as fast as possible.”
It’s hard to move much faster than Lindgren has. He made his big league debut in the same year as the Yankees 2009 first-round pick, Slade Heathcott, whose development had been slowed by a series of injuries (he’s back on the disabled list now). The Yankees, though, seem to believe the arrival of Lindgren and Heathcott – plus the development of Judge, Jagielo, and former fifth rounders Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird – are a sign that the team’s draft futility is turning around. They’ve especially struggled to find impact hitters, and suddenly the upper levels are crawling with both high-probability and high-ceiling bats.
“We do have an evolving system with some high-end position players,” general manager Brian Cashman said.
Tonight, the Yankees look to add to that stable of talent, trying to build off the recent success of their past two drafts, and trying to find someone capable of following Lindgren’s path to the big leagues.
“They probably just draft whoever’s the best available,” Lindgren said. “They’re just trying to bring good talent into the organization.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “He’s never lost that fire” • 06.07.15
Just when it seemed CC Sabathia might succumb to yet another not-what-he-used-to-be disappointment, the fiery old ace reemerged. He got some strikeouts, got out of some trouble, limited the damage and finally erupted during a confrontation with home plate umpire Dan Bellino about a pitch that ultimately didn’t matter very much.
“He’s never lost that fire, that competitive spirit,” Brett Gardner said. “That’s one of the things that’s made him so successful, I think. Not necessarily yelling at umpires, but the way he approaches the game and his drive, and the way that he wants to win, bottom line.”
The Yankees said they didn’t have a record of career ejections, and Elias doesn’t keep track either, but this was believed to be Sabathia’s first ejection since 2006. And it was sparked by — of all things — the pitch immediately before an inning-ending double play. It was the sixth inning, the Yankees had pulled ahead by three runs, and Sabathia was pitching with one out, two one and a 1-1 count to Kole Calhoun. His slider looked like a strike to the Yankees, but it looked low to Bellino. He called a ball, Sabathia got a double play on the next pitch, and Sabathia complained on his way off the mound.
Crew chief Tom Hallion declined to give details except to say Sabathia was arguing balls and strikes. The whole thing seemed calm until the ejection, at which point Joe Girardi came running out of the dugout and Sabathia got in Bellino’s face. John Ryan Murphy tried to hold him back, which was somewhat absurd.
“He’s a lot bigger than I am,” Murphy said, not exactly breaking news to anyone.
Sabathia was at 87 pitches and had settled in nicely after back-to-back home runs in the first inning. Girardi said he was planning to send Sabathia back out for the seventh. If this were four or five years ago, with that pitch count, pitching into the eighth or ninth surely would not have been out of the question. Sabathia allowed just three hits, all singles, after those two home runs. His biggest pitch might have been his last one.
“That’s been a spot where I’ve kind of struggled with runners on,” Sabathia said. “And to get that double play is huge.”
It was huge, and it’s huge that Sabathia’s won three of his past five starts after winning none of his first six starts. This might not have been vintage Sabathia, but it was a strong and fiery start that let the Yankees finish off their second straight series sweep.
It was a good start. Just happened to end with Sabathia flipping out.
“Just wanted to get my money’s worth, I guess,” Sabathia said.
• In his career, C.J. Wilson has allowed 93 home runs to right-handed hitters. He’s allowed just 18 to left-handed hitters, including today’s go-ahead homer by Brett Gardner. “He just fell behind 2-0,” Gardner said. “I felt like I was going to get a good pitch to hit. I think the catcher setup away, but he missed with a fastball in, and I beat him to the spot. I was ready for it. Just took a good swing, got a good result, and it was a good result today.”
• Gardner has now hit 45 home runs in his career, and the Yankees are 33-11 when he’s gone deep.
• With Brendan Ryan nearly ready to come off the disabled list, Jose Pirela is making a final push to stay on the roster. He doubled and hit his first major league home run today. “It was awesome,” Murphy said. “I told him after his first at-bat, when he went off the wall, he had no power. He proved me wrong.”
• Not so long ago, Pirela had the worst numbers on the team. Now his .268 batting average is the third-highest on the active roster. He has five hits in his past five games. “I’ve been working very hard,” Pirela said through a translator. “I’ve been waiting for this opportunity because I haven’t been playing that much. But now that I have the opportunity, I’m really excited that I could contribute and I hope that God allows that I can continue contributing to the team.”
• By the way, Pirela said he wanted a translator because there were so many reporters around him (maybe 20 or so). When he’s talked one-on-one or to a small group, I’ve never had trouble speaking to him in English. Not particularly unusual for a young guy to want a translator in a situation like that. Has to be intimidating in any language, especially a second language.
• With his fifth-inning strikeout of Johnny Giavotella, Sabathia reached 2,500 career strikeouts. “(It means) that I’m old,” Sabathia said. “That I’ve been around for a long time. I always say, when I retire I can look back and say that’s a big deal. But right now, I’m just in the middle of the season, and trying to help this team win some games.”
• Pretty good inside-the-game stuff from Murphy: “The first inning I thought they were on his two-seamer more than the other teams have been,” Murphy said. “… If they’re on that early, then you just have to go to the four-seam inside to the righties to almost setup that comebacker, which also opened up the two-seam down and away to righties a lot better today.”
• Two bad pitches in the first inning gave the Angels their early lead. First Mike Trout went deep, then Albert Pujols did the same. It was the fourth time those two had gone back-to-back in their four years as teammates. “The one to Pujols was a mistake,” Sabathia said. “But the one to Trout was just Mike Trout. Two seamer down, and he put a good swing on it.”
• By the way, Sabathia said he’d looked at video of the ball that he thought was a strike. His postgame analysis: “It was a strike.” Sabathia said he hadn’t watched video of his epic shouting match. Probably more fun to watch than the pitch, right?
• Sabathia got his first Yankee Stadium win since September 20, 2013. Between home wins he went 0-6 with a 9.42 ERA in the Bronx. The Yankees have now won a season-high sixth straight home games, their longest home winning streak since 2013.
• Final word goes to Gardner: “It’s early June, but I feel good about the way we’ve been playing the last week or two. It’s a game of ups and downs, and you want to be as consistent as possible, but it’s easier said than done. Definitely the last week or so we’ve been playing good baseball, and enjoy the off day tomorrow and then play well next week.”
Associated Press photos
One good game can’t change two weeks of disappointment, but if the Yankees are going to end this recent spiral and get their season back on track, this was certainly a giant step in the right direction.
The Yankees actually looked like a good team, again. So good that Nathan Eovaldi shut down one of the highest-scoring lineups in baseball, and it was a secondary storyline at best.
Chase Headley made a nice leaping catch on a line drive, Brian McCann threw out a speedy base runner and Jacob Lindgren delivered a dominant debut. But five home runs — four of them before the team had made its fourth out — thoroughly stole the show. After two weeks of stumbling in every aspect of the game, the Yankees looked like they could hit, pitch and field.
“There was some urgency and a little irritability about how we were playing,” Headley said. “But there was no panic. Guys were (saying), ‘We’re going to come out of this and we’re going to be better for it. We’re going to come together over this.’ Hopefully this was a first step to that.”
Make no mistake, there was no one in the Yankees’ clubhouse claiming one win changes everything, but there was certainly a sense that the Yankees had finally played like they had during that hot streak that lasted from the middle of April through the early part of May.
And it all started with that eight-run first inning, their highest-scoring inning at home since 2013.
“We’ve been on the other side of that for the last week or so it seems like,” Brett Gardner said. “… We haven’t been swinging the bats particularly well the last couple of weeks. When we have given up big innings and gotten in a hole, it’s been tough for us to battle back. Today we were able to jump out in front and Nathan was pretty dominant from the get go.”
Eovaldi didn’t need much help today. The only Royals run came on a little bloop single in the fifth inning. Otherwise, he was thoroughly in control, and the Yankees tacked on after that first-inning outburst. It was their largest margin of victory in more than two years, and it came just when it seemed the team couldn’t get any worse.
“It was nice because we’ve been through some tough losses, we’ve been through some ugly losses,” manager Joe Girardi said. “To be able to get that type of lead was very nice. … Our game is probably as unpredictable as any game in professional sports, just because it really depends on one guy, in a sense: your starting pitcher that day. And you can have you ace going, and he may not have his stuff that day and he might get hammered and give up a lot of runs, so it’s really unpredictable. We’ve been on both sides. And we’ve played really well, and we’ve struggled. Probably like most of the teams in major league baseball right now. We’re over .500 again, we just beat a really good team, and you try to carry that over and carry a good streak again.”
• With first-inning home runs from Headley, Gardner and Brian McCann, the Yankees had their most home runs in an inning since hitting four in the second innings of an October 1, 2012 game against the Red Sox (Cano, Teixeira, Granderson and Martin went deep that time).
• Last time the Yankees scored at least 11 runs off a single pitcher — like they did against Jeremy Guthrie today — it was against Rick Reed on April 21, 2003. Reed also allowed exactly 11 runs (10 earned), but he did it in 4.1 innings. Guthrie’s runs came in an inning plus, jumping his early nearly two runs in the process.
• Gardner, Headley and Alex Rodriguez each reached base twice in the first inning. Gardner, Headley, Rodriguez, Garrett Jones and Slade Heathcott each had multi-hit games. Every home run came with at least one runner on base.
• Pretty aggressive approach by a lot of Yankees hitters today: “When we’re swinging the bats well, that’s what we do as a team,” Headley said. “We can’t go out and work counts. We’re going to be aggressive and hit the pitches we’re supposed to hit. When they make mistakes, you do your damage. When they make their pitches it’s a take. We got back to what we do well and obviously it was a relief for a lot of guys.”
• Slade Heathcott’s thought when he hit his first major league home run? “Is hit real?” he said. “… (Been dreaming about this) ever since I was about 6. It’s just surreal. It’s an awesome opportunity, and I’m just thankful for God, the Yankees, and everyone in my life that’s helped me to get to where I am, had patience to deal with me in the past, and watched me mature and be here now. It’s just been awesome.”
• Heathcott traded some signed baseballs and t-shirts to get the home run ball. “I’ll frame it and put it up in my son’s room, probably,” Heathcott said.
• It’s hard to focus on it after a game like this, but Eovaldi had perhaps his best start of the year against a really dangerous Royals lineup. He allowed one run through seven innings, and although he didn’t strikeout man guys — only four Ks — he did pitch deep into the game without getting his pitch count much above 100. “(Early run support) allows you to attack hitters a lot more,” he said. “You don’t have to be as perfect. Guys were swinging the bat well, playing good defense. It was a good win for us, get us back on track.”
• Eovaldi singled out his slider as the key pitch this afternoon, but Girardi thought it was more about his offspeed pitches in general. “I thought he used his curveball effectively, I thought he got some strikeouts with his split, I just thought he mixed his pitches really well today,” Girardi said. “You know, we’ve talked about Evo a lot, in a sense, when he has his offspeed, he can throw it for strikes, he’s really effective.”
• Terrific big league debut for Jacob Lindgren, who struck out two and got a double play while pitching two scoreless innings. He can miss bats, and he can get ground balls, each of which he did today. “I’d say after the double play ball, was able to lock it in there,” he said.
• This time last year, Lindgren was still pitching in college. He’s the first Yankees prospect since Deion Sanders in 1989 to make his big league debut less than a year after being drafted. “Maybe I should try and play football,” Lindgren said. He later said he’d been a smaller, faster cornerback when he was in high school. Probably picked the right sport.
• Headley has hit .561 with five home runs in seven career games on Memorial Day. He’s had at least one hit in each of those games. That’s according to Elias. Also from Elias: Gardner has a hit in each of his six Memorial Day games hitting .438 in those contests. The Yankees are now 32-11 in games when Gardner hits a home run.
• Interesting to think back to the first inning, which Gardner started with a double. Before the Headley home run that started the scoring, Gardner was very nearly picked off at second. “If I’m two or three tenths of a second slower getting back to the bag, I’m out,” Gardner said. “Maybe he takes the next pitch and before you know it, we’re out of the inning and it’s 0-0. You never know. I always hate to look back and say ‘what if’ because baseball is one of those games where, if something was a little bit different, maybe the same pitch wouldn’t have been made. You never know how it would have turned out, but yeah, it was a close play. I don’t want to say I was ready for it, but thank goodness he didn’t catch me off guard too much.”
• Final word goes to Headley: “We were due. Obviously it’s been a tough couple weeks for us, but you’re going to go through that during the course of a season. Considering how bad it’s gone recently, to be where we are? We’re pretty fortunate. We’re going to take the positive side of that and do what we can to keep playing hard.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees have two of the top base-stealers in baseball, and in so many ways, they’re basically interchangeable versions of the same player. Both are left-handed hitters. Both are fully capable of playing center field. Both on focused on on-base skills with occasional power and the ability to create havoc with their speed.
But when they do break for second base, Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner have different ways of finishing off a stolen base: Ellsbury prefers the safer feet-first slide; Gardner chooses the faster head-first approach.
“I could do it a little bit quicker if I went head first,” Ellsbury said. “But you’re just a little more susceptible to fingers getting stepped on, shoulders (getting hurt), all that stuff, so I just go feet first even though it is slower.”
Said Gardner: “I understand the risk. But at the same time, I’m more comfortable doing it that way, and I feel like it’s better, so I feel like it’s a no-brainer.”
For today’s newspaper, I talked to Ellsbury, Gardner and few other Yankees about the risk vs. reward aspect of sliding into second base. The Red Sox essentially forced Ellsbury to abandon the head-first slide, something the Yankees and Mariners tried to do — but were never able to do — with Gardner and Alex Rodriguez.
“Oh yeah, all my coaches and managers begged me not to do it,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously the risk-for-reward: you steal a base versus missing six weeks with a shoulder or wrist (injury) or something. I definitely scared my coaches and managers a lot.”
Ellsbury and Gardner have been steady and productive players at the top of the Yankees’ order. Speed is their greatest attribute, and they put it to use in different ways when sliding into the bag. Get the full story over at Lohud.com.
Associated Press photo
When Alex Rodriguez hit No. 660 on Friday, he stomped on home plate, high-fived his manager, and found himself engulfed by teammates looking to warp him in a hug or slap him on the back. After the game ended, Rodriguez was in front of his locker when those same teammates showered him with beer, treating the home run — as the player — as worthy of a true celebration.
“My teammates have been incredible,” Rodriguez said. “That’s part, also, of why I got so emotional. I didn’t expect them to be so great and gracious.”
I’m not sure anyone knew to expect that. Truth is, there aren’t a lot of guys in the Yankees clubhouse who had played with Rodriguez before this season, so it was anyone’s guess how he might be received. But the guys who had played with Rodriguez in the past, welcomed him back quickly, and ones who were meeting him for the first time, seemed to embrace him in spring training.
“I’ve played with him as much if not more than anybody in this room,” Brett Gardner said. “So I know what he’s all about. I’ve had a chance over the years — over the last eight or nine years — to really see behind the scenes and what goes into his preparation for the game, and the way that he works in the offseason. He doesn’t need to go out of his way to try to win me over.
“Obviously a lot of guys in the room, a lot of new guys in the room, probably coming into spring training weren’t exactly sure what to expect, but I think for the most part, I’ve had a lot of guys come up to me and say that he’s way different than they expected him to be. That’s all a positive. Just a testament to him and how he’s handled the whole situation, and how the team’s handled it.”
I’m not sure anyone would immediately connect Gardner and Rodriguez — one is among the elite players of his generation, the other was a walk-on at the College of Charleston — but they’ve known one another a long time. Gardner was drafted in Rodriguez’s second year with the Yankees, and this is already Gardner’s eighth year in the big leagues.
Gardner’s played with Rodriguez longer than Mark Teixiera, longer than CC Sabathia, longer than anyone else in the Yankees clubhouse.
“I’ve never shied away from saying how I feel about Alex and the way that he works and the way that he plays the game,” Gardner said. “Obviously a lot’s gone on the past couple of years, but his work ethic is still there. And he loves playing the game, and he loves winning, and that seems to be all he really cares about.”
From the outside looking in, Rodriguez seems different. He seems more open, more honest and more candid. Gardner, though, said he hasn’t seen much of a difference in the way Rodriguez handles himself in the clubhouse and on the field.
“He’s been all business since he’s been back,” Gardner said. “Last year, obviously, was very, very tough for him, and tough for a lot of people, but I think ever since he’s come back he’s been all about working hard and trying to help the team win. The way that he is able to help everybody around him and kind of rally everybody together, I think it’s pretty special. It’s a lot of fun watching him work, and a lot of fun playing alongside of him. It’s a lot of fun to watch.”
Associated Press photos
For two years, CC Sabathia knew disappointment and became familiar with limitations. He struggled, and he got hurt, and Sabathia did little to hide his frustration. He was capable of pitching better, and he knew it.
This year, Sabathia is pitching better, and he knows that, too. But still, there’s frustration.
“I’ve been getting better every time out,” Sabathia said after tonight’s letdown. “Obviously that’s not equating to wins or helping us.”
Three starts into the season, Sabathia’s allowed just two extra-base hits and four walks, but he’s 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA. Tonight he faced the minimum through six innings, finished off a complete game by pitching through the eighth, but took the loss because of back-to-back two-out singles in the seventh. The first hit off Didi Gregorius’s glove at shortstop. The second fell into center field, where Jacoby Ellsbury decided he didn’t have a shot at throwing Victor Martinez out at the plate.
“I think (Sabathia) knows he’s throwing the ball well,” Joe Girardi said. “And I think he’s pleased with the way he’s throwing the ball. But there’s frustration there, I’m sure. … I thought the first two starts were good too. He didn’t give up as few runs as he did tonight, but I thought he threw the ball really well. Those first two starts he was not hit hard. He wasn’t. He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, and the results will come.”
That’s the idea, but as Girardi said after Masahiro Tanaka finally pitched a gem on Saturday: everyone wants to have success, and right now, Sabathia’s not having success. He’s experiencing little victories along the way — better arm strength, fewer home runs, good control, lots of ground balls — but Sabathia’s a bottom-line kind of guy. Getting Miguel Cabrera to hit into two double plays and nearly into a third one? That’s great, but it didn’t matter in the end.
“Any time you can get him out, it’s a bonus,” Sabathia said. “But it didn’t equate to a win, so it is what it is.”
Ultimately, the Yankees had a late lead against the team with the best record in baseball, and Sabathia was on the mound when it slipped away. Sabathia knows frustration, and he was feeling it again tonight, even if his manager and his teammates were seeing signs of encouragement.
“He’s right where he needs to be,” catcher Brian McCann said. “Third start in, he looks great. Very encouraged. … Arm strength. It’s there. He’s getting in on the righties. He’s sinking it. Everything comes out of the same slot, and his arm speed is the same on all his pitches. It’s good to see.”
The Yankees played pretty incredible defense through much of the game — more on that in a bit — but there were two plays in the seventh worth questioning. I’m not sure mistakes were made on either one, but they were pivotal moments in the game.
The game-tying single was a sharp ball that hit off Gregorius’s glove. He tried to make a diving catch to his right but just missed it. Really tough play, but Gregorius almost made it, which makes you wonder if he should have made it.
“I made a diving play and tried to stop it,” Gregorius said. “Get at least one out. But it hit my glove, went into the outfield, and they got a chance to tie the game right there. … As a player you want to make every play. For me, I want to make every play when I go out there. That’s how I look at it.”
The go-ahead single dropped into center field where Ellsbury decided to throw to third for the final out rather than throwing home to try to keep the run from scoring. Victor Martinez was running, and he’s not a good runner even when he’s not slightly hobbled.
“I didn’t think we had a shot,” Ellsbury said. “With two outs, you have a huge secondary (lead). By the time I’m touching the ball, I don’t know exactly where he’s at. If there’s one out, definitely, we’ve got a play. But with two outs, getting a big secondary, going on contact, that’s the reason he was able to score is because we had two outs.”
For whatever it’s worth, Girardi said he also thought Ellsbury had no shot at the out at home.
• Of course it’s easy to look back at those two hits in the seventh as making all the difference, but the Yankees scored just one run tonight, and it’s tough to win when that happens. “I thought (Alfredo Simon’s) split was exceptional,” Girardi said. “I thought his sinker was good, and I thought his split was exceptional tonight, and he used it really effectively. He threw some for strikes, expanded when he was ahead, and did a good job.”
• The big at-bat for the Yankees was Ellsbury hitting into a double play with runners at the corners in the eighth. Adds a little insult to injury that Joba Chamberlain was on the mound. “I think that’s about the only way you can double me up right there,” Ellsbury said. “With the play drawing him to second like that, flip to Iglesias — that’s about the only way you can double me up. If it’s hit to his left a little bit, they don’t double me up. Even if I don’t quite hit it as hard, they don’t double me up. That’s about the only way they could have. … I think I’ll take 600 more of those swings the rest of the season, but just unfortunately hit it at the wrong person.”
• Ellsbury did have the play of the game with his diving catch to start the bottom of the fifth. “I didn’t (think I’d get there),” Ellsbury said. “But, you know, I always go for everything like I can catch it. I was pleased to cover some ground and make a play on it.”
• Very next batter after the Ellsbury catch, Brett Gardner made a nice sliding catch in left field. That was his second-best catch of the night. Gardner also made a great running catch at the wall to start the second inning. The first Gardner catch and the Ellsbury catch were each against Victor Martinez.
• Speaking of Victor Martinez, Girardi chose to intentionally walk him in the seventh, even though it put the go-ahead run on base. “Looking at the at-bats, and the at-bats he’s had off him for a number of years,” Girardi said. “He’s hit the ball hard. We made two great plays, and I just went with what I thought was a better matchup. … Usually you don’t (put the go-ahead run on, but with two outs it’s kind of a different story there.”
• As it turned out, the Yankees had a prime opportunity to tie the game on the Gregorius single in the eighth. The ball was hit to center and Chase Headley was held up at third base, but Rajai Davis wound up bobbling the ball, which probably would have allowed enough time to score. “He had the ball in plenty of time and then he dropped it,” Girardi said. “And that’s not something you can predict.”
• The Yankees turned three double plays tonight, and Stephen Drew looked pretty good at second making those turns. “I think he’s getting more comfortable there, obviously, the more he has played,” Girardi said. “He makes a really good one, picks it, and then gets the double play, so yeah, I think he’s really kinda settling in there.”
• Sabathia’s changeup was really good tonight. He’s been talking about that pitch since spring training, and he basically had it all night tonight. That’s the pitch he used on both Cabrera double plays. “Arm speed is a big deal,” McCann said. “When your arm speed’s there and it looks exactly like your fastball and it’s a six, seven mile-per-hour difference, you’re going to get a lot of ground balls and you’re going to keep it off the barrel.”
• Mark Teixeira’s solo homer was the 367th of his career, moving him ahead of Lance Berkman for fifth place on baseball’s all-time home runs list for switch hitters.
• Chase Headley had two singles. It was his third multi-hit game of the year and gave him a three-game hitting streak.
• No real final word here, just a link to make sure you don’t miss the epic postgame meltdown by Reds manager Bryan Price tonight. For some reason, Price believes beat writers have to think about the good of the team before they report. I’ll say this for Girardi and Brian Cashman: I’ve never felt that they were mad or felt like punishing a reporter for writing something negative that’s perfectly fair and accurate. If the Yankees tried to hide the fact a player wasn’t at a game, and that fact got out, there’s no chance the Yankees would blame the reporter.
Associated Press photos