On his day, Jeter is finally in the dark • 09.07.14
It’s not often Derek Jeter is kept in the dark. Not at Yankee Stadium, anyway. News will break, reporters will approach his locker, and Jeter will inevitably ask what’s going on. Told the latest news, Jeter will flash a smile. He might ask, “Oh really?” But it’s always clear that Jeter was in the know long before almost anyone else.
This morning, Jeter will arrive at his home ballpark knowing only that he doesn’t know everything. He knows his family will be involved, he can be fairly confident that the usual former teammates will be on the field in some capacity, but Jeter doesn’t know the details. He doesn’t know the gifts or the special guests. Seems he doesn’t even know whether he’s expected to address the crowd.
All of this could be a distraction for a player desperately trying to make an run toward one last postseason appearance, but that’s not the way Jeter sees it.
“I have no focus problems,” Jeter said. “But I also like being prepared. I can’t prepare for something I don’t know anything about. In that sense, I sort of would like to know. But then again, maybe I don’t.”
Today is Derek Jeter Day at the Stadium. First pitch has been moved back to 1:35 p.m. so that the Yankees have enough time for a pregame ceremony expected to bring around 12:30. The Yankees haven’t said much about their plans, but after bringing Metallica to Mariano Rivera’s farewell ceremony last year, it seems safe to assume the Yankees will go similarly over-the-top for their captain.
Jeter said in spring training that he wanted to enjoy the process of this final season, and whatever the Yankees have planned, it’s hard to imagine he won’t enjoy today’s event. But there’s still something awkward about it. Jeter built his reputation on staying focused. He’s been a winner above all else, but this season, much of the attention has been on his individual legacy. It’s clear, especially on the road, that fans have been coming out specifically to see him play one last time.
“I am aware of it because I’ve heard it from a lot of people and I’ve seen some of the signs,” Jeter said. “A lot of fans have told me that. Still, for me as a player, it’s still odd because I’m trying not to think about that the end is getting closer. But constantly being reminded of it and asked about it, you can’t help but think about it a little bit.”
On the wall of the empty locker next to Jeter’s is a season schedule. It’s big, so even without an official countdown, there’s a constant reminder of how many days are left.
“I see the schedule up there so I’m aware of it,” Jeter said. “But I’m trying not to count down. … I’m trying not to think about it. It’s just how I work. I try not to think about things. I try to focus on what I have to do today as opposed to what’s going to happen weeks down the road.”
Associated Press photo
Postgame notes: “Go back to Jeter’s prime” • 09.06.14
As I type this, there are No. 2 flags already flying over Yankee Stadium, and there’s some sort of crew in center field no doubt beginning to setup whatever the Yankees have planned for Derek Jeter tomorrow. There’s no one in this stadium or in this game who doesn’t know the significance of Jeter’s name, which means Brandon McCarthy was well aware of just how hefty a comparison he was making after tonight’s win against the Royals.
Martin Prado had returned from a hamstring injury to deliver three hits, two of them doubles and each of them in an inning when the Yankees scored. He’s been blistering hot for about three weeks now, and if the Yankees actually make a run into the postseason, it will surely be in no small part because of Prado’s arrival.
“Hitters like that, the biggest compliment you can give is that they’re just a pain in the (butt),” McCarthy said. “Go back to Jeter’s prime, that’s exactly (what Prado’s doing). He’s not knocking balls 20 rows deep. He’s not just driving the ball all over. But they’re just always on pitches. They’re hard to get out. It’s just line drive after line drive after line drive, and the weeks that those start to fall, it’s easy for a lineup to just kind of carry on his momentum.”
Since August 16, Prado has hit .403 with four home runs, 14 runs and 11 RBI. After slugging just .370 in Arizona, Prado has slugged .527 since coming to the Yankees at the trade deadline. He’s hitting .469 with eight RBI in his past eight games at Yankee Stadium.
No one would suggest he’s having a Jeter-like career, but in this little stretch, McCarthy sees a little of the captain in a guy who was his teammate in Arizona and now again in New York.
“It’s been awesome to see him back where he wants to be and where everyone wants to see him these last few weeks,” McCarthy said. “He’s really just starting to hit the ball well. Everything that I remember from Prado toward the end of last season and in Atlanta, today was just kind of an extension of that. Just come right in after missing a few days and just don’t skip a beat and just carry the team.”
The Yankees told Prado to take it easy today. He was healthy enough to play, but they didn’t want him to push it. That’s why he wasn’t moving very well around the bases. He was trying to do just enough to get the job done without taking the risk of further injury. For a player on this kind of roll — a player evoking at least one comparison to Jeter in his prime — even playing at 70 or 80 percent was enough to make a difference.
“It’s been killing me just to see everybody grind it out up there every single day and knowing that we got a pretty good chance to do something special here,” Prado said. “So I put myself in a spot where I’m just going up there (and play). I’m a guy to always go 100 percent, but in this case I got to just play a little bit smart. … I’m in a stage where I can not tell you if I’m 70 percent, 80 percent, but the way I’m playing right now, it feels normal.”
Although Joe Girardi was trying to load the lineup with right-handed hitters to face Danny Duffy, Gardner was actually sidelined and unavailable because of a recurrence of that lower abdominal pain that bothered him in Cleveland earlier this season. He missed only one game in Cleveland and he’s hoping for the same in this situation.
“Yesterday during the game I didn’t really feel right,” he said. “Same thing maybe a couple months ago in Cleveland something going on like lower abdominal area. I don’t really know exactly what’s going on, but (there is) tightness. Something I feel if I push it I’m going to make it worse. I don’t feel like I’m 100 percent, so hopefully I’ll come in feeling better tomorrow, but right now I don’t have any test scheduled. Just got some treatment today and that’s it.”
Gardner said there wasn’t one particular play when he felt it happen, it was just bothering him yesterday and he finally said something about it after the game.
• If the Yankees make the postseason, would they owe the Kevin Towers a playoff share? Not only is Prado on a roll, but McCarthy has been outstanding. The guy who had a 5.01 ERA in Arizona now has a 2.79 ERA since coming to the Yankees. The team has won seven of his 11 starts. “It’s nice just to contribute,” McCarthy said. “I spent the first half of the season being a hindrance on an organization, and that’s something that doesn’t sit well. To come somewhere where there’s a playoff race going on and you’re a positive influence and something that’s helping the team, that’s really all you can ask for when you’re playing.”
• McCarthy went 6.2 innings with six hits, one walk and four strikeouts. He got huge outs when he needed them but seemed mostly unimpressed with his stuff. “Battled,” he said. “Wasn’t really sharp, but I felt like Murphy did a good job getting me through it and making sure that I could kind of keep going deeper in the game and make those runs that they gave me early hold up.”
• Speaking of John Ryan Murphy, he’d never caught McCarthy outside of one bullpen. He based most of his decisions on what he’d learned from Francisco Cervelli, Brian McCann and Larry Rothschild. “As far as game planning, I got with Cervi and Mac, Larry and all them,” Murphy said. “As far as pitch-calling, I kind of just read that off the way his bullpen goes before the game.”
• Girardi on Murphy: “It’s not like he saw (McCarthy) in spring training or anything like that, so it is impressive. He had a great day for us, getting us started with a double in his first at-bat. Did a great job with McCarthy. Swung the bat extremely well. Kept the one inning going when they throw ball away and we get a run. He had a really impressive day.”
• With nine wins, McCarthy has actually matched a career high. Six of those have come with the Yankees, only three with Arizona. This was his first win since the complete-game shutout on August 21.
• Having stacked the lineup with right-handers, Girardi’s plan kind of backfired when Duffy only lasted one pitch. “You figure you stay with (the lineup) a little bit, and then at a point you’re going to make some changes,” Girardi said. “I went through it twice, in a sense, and then I decided to make the changes, because if you make the changes too early, then you can get stacked left handers, I’m worried about Prado a little bit, how he’s going to make it through the game, so I had to be somewhat careful. I knew I didn’t have Gardy. So get through it twice and see where we’re at.”
• Of course, it’s worth noting that Duffy has been extremely good this season. He entered with a 2.42 ERA, so the Yankees went from facing one of the game’s better left-handers this season to facing a bunch of relievers. “My initial reaction is, you set your lineup up against a lefty and now they’re bringing in a righty,” Girardi said. “I’m like, OK. I started thinking about when do you turning it over, making your moves. But we took advantage of it today. Duffy’s been throwing the ball as well as anyone since about the middle of June.”
• Mark Teixeira got his 1,500th career hit in the American League. He has another 174 in the National League.
• Derek Jeter recorded his 40th RBI with a sacrifice fly in the third inning. He has now recorded 40-plus RBI in 18 seasons, surpassing Mickey Mantle for the most 40-plus RBI seasons in franchise history.
• Final word to McCarthy, speaking about himself and Prado coming over from Arizona: “For us and Chase (Headley) and the guys that came over, you’re getting out of situations where teams were out of it early. You weren’t playing as well as you wanted to play, and that kind of weighs on you. To come somewhere where you’re thrust into a playoff race, and for all of us to kind of get back to where we’d like to be, playing well, I think it’s a weight off all of our shoulders.”
Associated Press photos
Pregame notes: “I think the fatigue is done” • 09.06.14
After a 34-pitch bullpen, Masahiro Tanaka declared his arm soreness to be a thing of the past.
“I feel that it’s way stronger than it was, so way better,” Tanaka said. “I think the fatigue is done.”
For many obvious reasons, that’s reassuring news for the Yankees who absolutely want to get Tanaka into a game this season to make sure his injection-and-rehab protocol has solved his torn ligament issue. The Yankees have made it clear that — even if they’re eliminated from the playoffs — they plan to get Tanaka into a game this season.
And they’re so confident that they have enough time to make that happen, that Joe Girardi largely dismissed the idea of creating games for Tanaka to pitch in October.
“I guess that would be possible,” Girardi said. “But our belief is that he’ll be in games with us. … You have to get him in games to resolve the situation. That’s the bottom line because you can’t wait until next spring to resolve it. So it needs to resolve, and we’ll do everything we can to get him in games before we leave.”
Tanaka sounds similarly confident. After having his throwing program temporarily shut down last weekend because of arm fatigue, he seems back on track. Girardi said the team will meet with the training staff to decide whether the next step is live batting practice or another simulated game.
“Not worried (about how the arm will feel tomorrow),” Tanaka said. “One, because it was a bullpen today, and two, that I really do feel that I’m getting stronger, so I’m really not worried about it.”
• As reported last night by Sweeny Murti, the Yankees have recalled catcher Austin Romine to give them some additional depth. They need it because Francisco Cervelli is dealing with migraines and won’t be available today. “From the neurologist standpoint, it wasn’t concussion related,” Girardi said. “I’m a migraine sufferer. They’re no fun. Sometimes they come in clusters where you’ll get them a couple days in a row and that’s even worse most of the time I can take my medicine and I’m ok. There’s been a couple times where I’ve had to go to the hospital to get rid of them but hopefully it’s just something he’s going through it and he’ll get through it.”
• Martin Prado is in the lineup, and all indications are that he’ll play today. But the lineup was set before batting practice. “If I have to change it, I’ll change it,” Girardi said. So far, that doesn’t seem necessary.
• Royals starter Danny Duffy has been very good this year, and he’s been especially good against lefties who are hitting just .129/.205/.155 against him. Jacoby Ellsbury is the only lefty in the Yankees lineup today.
• The Yankees have announced that tomorrow’s first pitch has been pushed back to 1:35 p.m. to allow time for the Derek Jeter pregame ceremony. Jeter’s family, several former teammates, and other unannounced “special guests” will take part. “I don’t know anything,” Jeter said. “I haven’t been told. I don’t even know what time I have to be here tomorrow. I don’t know a thing. I don’t know if that’s by design, but no one’s told me anything. I’m looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to something that I assume would be pretty special.”
• Have to assume Dave Winfield will be here, right? That’s Jeter’s childhood idol. Another popular guess in the press box has been Michael Jordan and maybe other great non-baseball athletes to show Jeter’s overall impact and appeal.
• Does having a ceremony like this affect Jeter’s approach in the middle of such a desperate push toward the playoffs? “It doesn’t because my mindset is one day at a time,” Jeter said. “I’m thinking about today. I’m not thinking about tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “You never really lose hope” • 09.05.14
From the outside, this really looked like a new low for the Yankees underwhelming offense. They’d come up with one hit since the third inning, their best chance to score had been doubled off first base, and Koji Uehara was jogging in from the bullpen with a one-run lead in the ninth. To start this month of must-win games, the Yankees were three outs away from losing two of three against a last-place team.
But to hear Chase Headley tell the story, that sense of impending doom was strictly from the outside looking in.
“I think there’s enough confidence in (the dugout), and there’s enough guys who’ve done it before, that you never really lose hope,” Headley said. “You expect each and every day that you come on that field that it’s going to turn around, and hopefully we’re on that way. I feel like we’ve swung the bats better lately. Even some tough outs and balls that we hit at people, it seems to be getting better so hopefully we continue on that trend, but there’s never any give up or any it can’t happen. There’s just too good of players on this team, too good of offensive weapons for this not to happen.”
Mark Teixeira hit his first home run since August 17, then Headley walked off with his fourth homer since coming over from San Diego.
“(The dugout) erupted,” Teixeira said. “It’s been an up and down season for all of us. When you can win a game like that, win a series in that fashion, it just doesn’t happen very much. You don’t hit two home runs off one of the best closers in baseball very much. That was a fun dugout.”
One win doesn’t change the situation. The Yankees are still on the outside looking in. They still face a bunch of must-win games, and there are still a bunch of teams ahead of them, but for at least one night the Yankees kept all hope from disappearing completely.
“We’re very confident, I can tell you that much,” Headley said. “The guys in the clubhouse believe it’s going to happen. It hasn’t happened yet, but we expect it to happen. Obviously walk-off wins, late-inning comebacks, that kind of win gives you some momentum. Having said that, you can’t just rely on that. You have to come out every day and play the game on the field. Hopefully we can build on this, but we expect it to happen. We’re going with the expectations that we’re going to go on a run, we’re going to get it done. The confidence, the belief, the effort, that’s all going to be there. So we’re just going to keep going.”
• Game-tying and game-winning home runs in the ninth inning tend to overshadow a lot of things. In this case, they overshadowed a terrific night for the Yankees bullpen, which pitched 4.2 scoreless innings without using either Dellin Betances or Dave Robertson. “I think games like this when we’re called on to give a lot of innings, we try to take the team on our back and say we’re going to keep the Red Sox there and allow the offense to come back,” Adam Warren said. “And that’s what we did. We’re just going out there and trying to put zeroes.”
• Warren got arguably the biggest outs by retiring three straight in the ninth inning to strand a pair of runners that were on base strictly because of his own mistakes. “With (Allen) Craig I just let the fastball get away and hit him,” Warren said. “Then I expected the bunt and just bobbled it first and kind of panicked after that instead of staying under control. Just trying to get ahead of guys once that happened, and trying to get outs, especially on the ground.”
• Interesting choice by Joe Girardi to trust Rich Hill — who was sent down just a few days ago — against David Ortiz in the fifth. Hill did the job with a big strikeout against a guy who’d homered in his previous two at-bats. “He’s just a really different look, being a sidearmer,” Girardi said. “Ortiz is a great hitter, but anytime you can give a hitter different looks, it’s beneficial. You talk about bullpens, you want different looks in your bullpen, so they’re not used to seeing the same guys. When Rich Hill is right, he’s really tough on left handers.”
• Costly mistake for Antoan Richardson. In his Yankees debut, Richardson was a seventh-inning pinch runner and wound up doubled off first base on a fly ball to center. He was running on the pitch, which complicated matters, but his mistake came in not picking up the ball soon enough. “I’ve got to peek a little earlier,” Richardson said. “I picked it up almost a step before I got to second base, and that’s just a little bit too late. … I think any time the ball gets into the outfield in the air you should be able to get back if you’re running on the pitch. If I execute the way I’m supposed to, I think I get back.”
• Girardi on Richardson: “We brought him here to steal bases. That’s why he’s here. The big thing is, you’ve got to peek. When you’re a baserunner, you have more than one responsibility than just running the bases. You’ve got to see where the ball’s hit. And it’s important that baserunners do that.”
• Teixeira on his at-bat against Uehara: “It’s funny how baseball works. Until two strikes, I was trying to hit a home run. Once I got to two strikes, his split is so good, if you try to pull a split and he throws it, you’re probably going to miss it or roll over it. I’m trying to hit a line drive to left there, actually. He hung a split in the middle of the plate, and because of that, I stayed on it and put a good swing on it.”
• Headley on his at-bat against Uehara: “You’ve got to try to get him up and he’s got the great split (with) good separation on the fastball and the split velocity-wise, so you really have to get him up in the zone. I felt like I was seeing him pretty good. He threw me a good fastball down and away in a hitter’s count, and I took it because it wasn’t what I was looking for. When it finally got to 3-2, I got a pitch I could handle and that was the at-bat.”
• Chris Capuano on the two Ortiz home runs: “The guy is a Hall of Famer. You’ve got to be tight with your location when you’re making pitches to him. I made two loose pitches, a fastball that came over the middle and kind of a hanging slider. He hammered it. He’s a good hitter. He does that.”
• This was Headley’s third career walk-off home run, and it was his second walk-off since coming to the Yankees. His first came in his game with the team. “I actually knew everybody’s name this time,” he said.
• It was the Yankees sixth walk-off of the season and their third via home run (also Carlos Beltran in June and Brian McCann in August). It was the team’s 34th come-from-behind win of the season, and by coming back from three runs they matched their largest comeback of the season.
• Derek Jeter got his 540th career double tying his childhood hero Dave Winfield and Joe Medwich for 32nd place on baseball’s all-time list. He hit the ball pretty hard three times tonight. “That (double) was crushed,” Teixeira said. “He just missed one in his first at-bat; that ball was crushed. It’s a good sign. Like I said, all bets are off in September. Derek might hit six or seven home runs this month. We’d like that. You just never know, because baseball is a weird game.”
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I think this team has fought all year long. We’ve went through a lot of tough losses. We’ve went through a lot of tough things and this team has never given up. Extra-inning wins and ninth-inning wins, it’s who this group is. There’s a lot of character in that room and at times we’ve had a lot of things that haven’t went right for us, but they’ve never stopped fighting.”
Associated Press photos
Joe Girardi made a change at the top of the order today, just not the change so many have been suggesting. Jacoby Ellsbury is back in the leadoff spot, Brett Gardner is batting third for the first time, and Derek Jeter is still right in between them as the No. 2 hitter.
“For the first four months of the year, he was probably one of our most consistent hitters,” Girardi said. “One of the three most consistent hitters in our club. I consider us kind of to be in playoff mode right now, for us, because we obviously need to win games. Throughout his career, he’s been clutch in the playoffs, and we’re leaving him there. He’s a hot topic always just because of who he is, but there’s other issues that we have in our club that we have to get better at as well.”
Is there pressure to keep Jeter in that spot for his final month?
“No, not necessarily,” Girardi said. “… If I had eight other guys hitting .300, it probably wouldn’t be difficult (to move him down). When you look up and down at our numbers, we’ve had a number of guys that have had tough years. Years that we wouldn’t have projected. So (if) I move him, who am I going to put there? That’s my question. Who you going to move there that’s been more consistent during the course of the season. We haven’t hit collectively as a team, and to single him out is not fair. … (Rank) 13 out of 15 in runs scored. That’s not all Derek’s fault. That’s collectively we haven’t hit.”
Of course, it’s hard to know how much of Girardi’s persistence with Jeter is because of external pressure — because of who Jeter is and what his final season means — and how much is because of the disappointing hitters around him. The Yankees really haven’t had many consistent alternatives. Martin Prado is hot right now, but his first few weeks with the team were underwhelming. Gardner is coming off a bad month. Mark Teixeira is coming off a terrible month.
“(Jeter) could hit .600 and if the other guys don’t produce around him and through the lineup, then it’s not going to matter what he hits,” Girardi said. “So, as I said, it’s going to have to be a collection of all these guys that can swing the bat extremely well. And if one guy’s not, the other guy picks him up. That’s the bottom line.”
• Masahiro Tanaka has been examined by Dr. Chris Ahmad, who diagnosed him with nothing more than arm fatigue. “Every manual test that they did came out really well,” Girardi said. “They just said he had some arm fatigue. He’s scheduled to throw a bullpen sometime this week and hopefully he’s ready to do it.” Tanaka played catch today and apparently had no issues.
• For those confused by the move: Putting Tanaka on the 60-day doesn’t really mean much. Those moves are always retroactive, and he’s missed close to 60 days already. He could still come back this season.
• David Phelps threw a 25-pitch bullpen this afternoon (fastballs and changeups), and he’s scheduled for a 35-pitch bullpen on Friday (all of his pitches). Phelps said he expects to throw a simulated game on Sunday, and that might be the final step toward getting him off the disabled list and into the bullpen. “I know that we’ve been going kind of conservative with it just to make sure everything comes back,” Phelps said. “All of the steps have been good along the way, so it shouldn’t be too long.”
• Of the Yankees eight September call-ups, five are relievers. Two of those — Whitley and Mitchell — are basically long men. “Obviously pitching is always important this time of year,” Girardi said. “It gives you more options, with a doubleheader coming up eventually here.”
• Why John Ryan Murphy but not Austin Romine? “The organization made the decision to go with (Murphy),” Girardi said. “Obviously I don’t get to see either one of them play a lot. So they went with Murphy.”
• Not much of a surprise that Chris Young got a call-up. I have to imagine that was a condition of any contract he was looking to sign after being released. “(He’s) been pretty productive in his career off left-handers,” Girardi said.
• If there’s a surprise among the call-ups, it’s certainly Antoan Richardson. “Speed off the bench,” Girardi said. Richardson played with Atlanta a little bit in 2011. He was 26-for-27 stealing bases with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, where he also had a .380 on-base percentage. Kind of a custom-made September call-up, just wasn’t sure the Yankees would actually make the move to get him on the 40-man.
• Zoilo Almonte was designated for assignment after leading Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in home runs and RBI this season. After Almonte struggled in New York last season, Girardi just never seemed to have much faith in his ability to hit big league right-handers the way he did in Triple-A. His splits are so extreme that, despite being a switch hitter, he’s likely a platoon player at best. Last year might have been his opportunity to show something, but he hit .236/.274/.302 (vRHP .250/.296/.342).
• Why Gardner batting third? “He’s probably been as good against right-handers as anyone in our lineup,” Girardi said. “I left Jake in the one hole. My concern in switching the guys when they both were going well was that they’re both going well, why move them. So I put Jake in the one hole when Gardy got hurt and he did extremely well. I’ll leave him there and just put Gardy third.”
• On Ellsbury’s health: “I saw him run on Sunday, which, I was really encouraged,” Girardi said. “He said he felt better yesterday and felt better today and that’s why I have him in center. In saying that, I told him, look, if you feel that it’s an issue out there you’ve got to let me know. If you feel you need to DH a day, you have to let me know.”
Associated Press photos
Jeter not alone with brutal August numbers • 09.01.14
At no point this year was Derek Jeter having a good season. In late April his batting average was pretty close to .300, and he was still getting on base at a decent clip through mid-May, but by Jeter standards, this has always been a down year. Problem is, it’s gotten much worse in the past month.
For the most part, Jeter’s actually had a pretty respectable season for a 40-year-old. Nothing like his prime years — the power has been completely lost — but the kind of production that might have been perfectly useful from a No. 8 hitter (and the kind of year that might have been easier to stomach if the hitters around him were living up to their own expectations).
Until recently, Jeter was doing enough to chip in now and then. But August was bad.
So if you’re wondering why there’s been such an increase is almost universal calls for Jeter to be dropped in the order — a familiar sentiment, but one that’s gained steam in recent weeks — it probably has something to do with Jeter’s moderate production disappearing lately.
Brett Gardner: .213/.295/.372
Streaky hitter had a .932 OPS in July.
Jacoby Ellsbury: .324/.366/.539
Huge month. Too bad no one followed his lead.
Mark Teixeira: .193/.276/.307
Slugging percentage has decreased month by month.
Carlos Beltran: .242/.330/.396
Good first week, but just .183/.290/.283 since August 9.
Brian McCann: .219/.282/.453
Three home runs in a span of five games.
Martin Prado: .282/.308/.466
Trying to match Ellsbury. Hit .367/.377/.617 since August 16.
Chase Headley: .233/.343/.344
Led the team in strikeouts and walks for the month.
Stephen Drew: .153/.225/.306
Bat hasn’t emerged as the Yankees hoped.
Ichiro Suzuki: .352/.357/.389
Two extra base hits; hasn’t had more than three in any month.
Associated Press photos
Game by game, Jeter still eyes the division • 08.29.14
Even though the second wild card is the Yankees most obvious and attainable path to the playoffs, it surely comes as little surprise that Derek Jeter is not ready to give up on the division just yet.
“It’s always the goal, you know what I mean?” Jeter said after yesterday’s loss. “Until something else happens and you have to alter your goals, that’s the goal. But once again, we play (within) our division, so if we win our games, we’ll be fine. I don’t ever think you set your sights on something unless than you can accomplish it, so our goal is to win games. We need to win tomorrow.”
Jeter always seems to have his eye on the bigger picture while focusing on the smaller tasks at hand. Win the division. And do it by winning tonight’s game. And then tomorrow’s game. And the game after that.
“Like I always tell you, when you play the teams that are ahead of you, you don’t have to look at the scoreboard,” Jeter said. “We play our division, so we need to have the approach that we have to win every day. What do we have, 30 games left? You can’t sit around and look at the scoreboard. It’s in our own hands, so we need to win.”
That’s largely true. But the fact is, the Yankees aren’t going to play winning baseball every game the rest of the way. They’re likely going to need some help along the way, whether that’s in the form of another playoff contender stumbling down the stretch, or a few teams making mistakes that hand the Yankees an undeserved win or two.
Just last night, the Yankees hit the ball hard, but had few hits to show for it. They nearly got a huge home run in the ninth, but it was blown foul. Shawn Kelley pitched himself to the verge of a great escape, then made his final mistake. Did the Yankees earn a win yesterday? Obviously not. But if a few small things had bounced a different way, they might have gotten a win just the same.
“You saw what happened (Wednesday),” Brett Gardner said. “We had nine straight hits off (David) Price. Something’s got to go your way for that to happen. That’s why we play 162 games instead of 100. I feel like it all works itself out in the end. Hopefully in the end we’re still standing.”
That’s the big picture hope. The smaller task at hand is tonight’s game in Toronto, just another in a string of “must win” games for a team with very little margin for error.
“We’ve got to turn the page and go and put up a win (tonight),” Joe Girardi said. “You’ve got to take it day by day. It’s definitely not what we wanted (in Detroit), but our guys played hard, played extremely hard this series, and we’ve got to go continue on to Toronto.”
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When a team is winning, a $20 horsehead mask bought on Amazon feels like good luck.
When a team has lost two of three in a tight wild card race, a one-run loss feels like rock bottom.
“That’s about as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career,” Shawn Kelley said.
Surely a misplaced slider on August 28 isn’t the low point of Kelley’s career, but I have no doubt it’s going to feel that way on the flight to Toronto. Three days ago, the Yankees had won five straight and Kelley’s goofy horsehead had become an unlikely team mascot. Now the team has lost two of three and fallen to three games behind both the Tigers and Mariners for the second wild card.
“We need to win every single game,” Derek Jeter said. “I don’t know how else to say it. That’s the approach we need to have. We’re in this position because of how we’ve played up to this point. So we are where we are, and now we need to win.”
As you might expect, there was a definite sense of lost opportunity in the Yankees clubhouse postgame. There were line drive outs. Brian McCann’s near home run was blown just foul. Kelley was one out away from escaping the ninth-inning jam.
When things are going well — when masks are good luck charms, and the team is winning, and 90s hip-hop is blasting in the clubhouse — there’s a real sense that games like this will eventually turn in the Yankees favor. But today, there was no laughing and no music blasting. And that horse mask was nowhere to be found.
“I didn’t watch (the game-winning hit),” Kelley said. “I just put my head down and walked off the field. It would’ve been a nice surprise if he would’ve (caught it), but I assumed it was a homer.”
• To be clear, off the bat I felt certain Alex Avila’s game-winner was a home run. I never thought Ichiro Suzuki had a shot at it until he closed the gap and came fairly close to a full-sprint catch at the wall. Ichiro was close, but I have a hard time suggesting he misplayed it. I’m mostly stunned he got that close. “It’s a do-or-die play,” Ichiro said. “I just went to where I thought the ball was going to be.”
• Girardi on whether Ichiro had a shot to make the catch: “It’s really hard for me to see once it gets out there. I heard him hit the wall, and I think I heard the ball hit the wall. I can’t tell you what exactly happened, but the bottom line is that it ended up being a base hit.”
• Kelley struck out both Nick Castellanos and Torii Hunter on fastballs, and he gave up both the Victor Martinez and Avila base hits on sliders. Surprised he went slider in that two-out situation against Avila? “No, that’s his bread-and-butter pitch,” Girardi said. “He also made some pretty good pitches with some sliders during some of the at-bats too.”
• Kelley on the first-pitch slider to Avila: “I got the outs I wanted to get, and then just overthrew a slider and left it up. Avila can hit that pitch. Most guys can.”
• Everyone involved seem to think McCann had a two-out, three-run home run in the top of the ninth. It seemed fair initially, but it eventually wound its way just foul. “I did (think it would stay fair),” McCann said. “It just kept going. I don’t know if the wind took it or what. It would have been nice if it stayed fair, but it didn’t.”
• Girardi said it “wasn’t a consideration” to use Dellin Betances for two innings tonight, and he indicated that it had nothing to do with using Betances last night. “You feel good about (Kelley) on the mound, especially the way he’s been throwing the baseball,” Girardi said. Kelley’s past five games leading into this one: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K.
• Another pretty good start by Hiroki Kuroda, who has a 3.28 ERA in his past nine games. “I think I was pretty consistent with my splits,” Kuroda said. “I was able to be effective against the right-handers with my split.”
• We’re not into September yet, but Kuroda seems fairly confident that he can finish this season stronger than he did last year. “Yes, I had a bad second half last year and I am conscious of that,” he said. “I try to be different this year.” Kuroda has done things like limit the pitches he throws between starts in an effort to stay strong down the stretch.
• What made rookie Kyle Lobstein so effective? Girardi actually said the Yankees hit the ball better today than they did against David Price. “From the game that I saw, we swung the bats better than we did yesterday,” he said. “We just hit balls at people. That’s unfortunate. One inning we lined out three times. That’s part of the game, and we’re able to put a number of hits together and that’s why we didn’t score, but I actually thought we swung the bats well.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury had one hit, an RBI single. he’s hitting .462 in his past 10 games. Carlos Beltran is also fairly hot lately. He had two hits including a double and is batting .375 on the current road trip. This was his 27th multi-hit game of the season.
• This was the 42nd time the Yankees were limited to two runs or less this season. Little surprise they’re 7-35 in those games.
• Final word to Brett Gardner: “If we make up one game per week we’ll be in good shape at the end. I feel like we’re playing better baseball. Our pitching has been pretty consistent and they give us a chance to win ballgames. We’re headed in the right direction. It’s disappointing today, but we have another game tomorrow so we can’t get too down. We’ll keep grinding away.”
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The Yankees made David Price throw 28 pitches in the first inning. In the second inning, their first two hitters singled. Price pitched out of each jam, but already the Yankees offense was showing some signs of life, and that was before the nine-hit third inning.
“It’s fun, but you don’t see that very often,” Derek Jeter said. “We had some good at-bats. We were lucky we found some holes. That’s why you play the games. Price is as good as anyone in baseball, so we were fortunate. But we needed it.”
They did need it, and that’s the real significant of what happened that inning. It’s not only that the Yankees batted around — nine straight hits, straight through the order — against one of the best pitchers in baseball, it’s that they did it one night after seeing their five-game winning streak come to an end.
This team has repeatedly crumbled just when it’s seemed things are finally going their way, so to regain momentum right away felt significant.
Their past three wins came in games started by Chris Sale, James Shields and Price.
“It’s important,” Joe Girardi said. “We’re talking about winning series, but the other thing is who we’re playing. This is one of the teams in front of us. It’s the last time we see them and the only chance to make up ground that we can rely on ourselves, so we need to win.”
Players said they didn’t realize what exactly had happened after Francisco Cervelli got that RBI single that chased Price from the game. The Yankees obviously realized they were having a good inning, but Jacoby Ellsbury said he didn’t realize everyone had gotten a hit until Kevin Long told him.
“I realized there was no outs when I was on second base,” Brett Gardner said. “But I didn’t realize we had already hit around the order a full time.”
It just kind of happened. There were a few hard-hit balls. A few grounders that found a hole. One infield single when the shortstop simply had no play.
“It’s tough to get that many hits, even if the guys hit the balls on the screws,” Ellsbury said. “… It builds confidence, you know? You want to be the next guy up, just keep the line moving. Even though we only scored that inning, I thought we still hit some balls hard and still had great ABs the rest of the game.”
Said Gardner: “It’s surprising to get three or four hits against him over the first couple of innings, to be honest, as good as he is. We just had some things go our way. Some balls fall. Some guys swinging the bats well. It was a big inning for us.”
• For obvious reasons, Shane Greene was pretty thoroughly overshadowed by the lineup’s one big inning, but the Yankees rookie starter delivered yet another gem of a pitching performance. Two runs on five hits with eight strikeouts through seven innings. The Yankes have won each of Greene’s past five starts, and they’re 5-0 when he starts on the road. “I got to give the credit to Cervy,” Greene said. “I’ve been following his lead for the most part. He knows these guys a lot better than me, so I just listen. Every once in a while I’ll shake him off, maybe two or three times in a game, but other than that, it’s all him.”
• This was Greene’s second strong start against this dangerous Detroit lineup. The big difference this time: Miguel Cabrera was in the lineup (he had the day off last time Greene faced the Tigers). Cabrera had one double against Greene, but Greene got him the other two times they squared off. “I live for that,” Greene said. “I live for those moments.”
• Greene’s key pitch is almost always his sinker, but tonight his slider was tremendous. “I hope it’s good for me every time,” Greene said. “But Cervy will let me know if it’s not or if it is. Just stay with him, you know. Probably by the second I could tell I had a good slider.”
• Why go to Dellin Betances in the ninth inning? “He’s had about three days off,” Girardi said. “And I was well aware of who was the tying run and the winning run, too. I didn’t want to get a couple guys on and then have to get Robby in, so I just felt I would go to Dellin. He was up and hot, so I thought I’d go to him.” — Had the Tigers put together a ninth inning like the Yankees third inning, the tying run was Miguel Cabrera and the go-ahead run was Victor Martinez.
• Because Seattle lost, the Yankees pulled within 2.5 games of the second wild card. They also gained a game in the division. “I didn’t look at (the out-of-town scoreboard),” Ellsbury said. “I know if we play well and we do what we’re supposed to do, it’s going to take care of itself. Obviously I’ll check tonight.”
• What’s Greene thinking as the Yankees offense has that big third inning? “Sometimes you think, hurry up, I want to get back out there,” Greene said. “But it’s nice when a team can go out there and put up runs like that. … When you put up that amount of runs it’s more of just, I need a quick inning, don’t give them any chances, don’t back down. Something like that.”
• Gardner said his ankle felt pretty good. “I was happy with the way it felt,” he said. “Obviously there’s still a little discomfort, but I felt pretty close to full-speed so I was happy with it.”
• Ellsbury leads the Majors with 28 games with two-or-more hits and two-or-more stolen bases since 2008. He had two of both tonight.
• The Yankees are 8-0 this season when Jeter has two or more RBI.
• A few third-inning facts: The Yankees were two shy of the Major League record for consecutive hits in an inning. … The last American League team to have nine straight hits in an inning was Detroit in 1996 (the Cardinals did it last year). … Nine hits was a single-season high for the Yankees. So was right runs. … This was the second-shortest outing of Price’s career and eight earned runs matched his career high.
• Rock solid pregame ceremony by the Tigers, who included Jeter’s family — his nephew stole the show by tipping his cap — his high school coach, former teammates Phil Coke and Joba Chamberlain, Tigers greats Al Kaline and Willie Horton, and various kids from Jeter’s foundation in Kalamazoo. “I thought it was very nice that they involved my family and our leadership program from Kalamazoo,” Jeter said. “We appreciate it a lot. It was a class act by a class organization to include them. Our foundation means a lot to us, and for them to include them, it meant a lot to us.”
• Final word to Jeter on how badly the Yankees needed to keep last night’s loss from becoming a losing streak: “We don’t think like that,” Jeter said. “We think we have to win a game. We had to win today, now regardless of what happened today, we need to win tomorrow. That’s the approach you have to have. You can’t think about winning streaks and losing streaks; we just have to play well.”
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Assuming the rain goes away, tonight will be Derek Jeter’s eighth start at designated hitter this season. He’s still a long way from his single-season career high — 25 DH games in in 2012 — but it seems significant that four of those turns at designated hitter have come in his past nine games.
Now that Carlos Beltran is available to play some right field, it’s clear that Joe Girardi is taking advantage of the opportunity to get Jeter a half day off now and then. Perhaps it’s strictly a rest issue. Perhaps it has a lot to do with Stephen Drew’s glove.
“I’m in the mode that I’m just taking it day by day,” Girardi said. “But with Carlos being able to go into the outfield once in a while, it gives me more flexibility to do this. … We’ve had some long stretches. We have a lot of lefties coming up the next five days after today where he’s going to play (probably at shortstop), so try to give him a little blow when I can. And I thought today was probably a good day. Two plane flights in two days, and as I said, we have day games after night games, so we’re going to need him in there a lot.”
Obviously Jeter prefers playing the field, but he said he understands the DH days, and he seems to embrace them — even when he’s had so many these past couple of weeks.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve done it,” Jeter said. “What, three or four times this year? I think a couple of years ago, in 2012, I may have done it 20 or 30-something times. Because of injuries, Carlos had to DH, so I haven’t really thought about it. My job is to come here, and when I’m in the lineup, play. I like to play every day. I like to play shortstop every day. Everyone is aware of that. But I get it. I understand it. We’ve had a long stretch here. I think we only have a couple of more days off, and then we have another long stretch at the end of the year. So, I don’t know what his plans are. My job is to play.’
Late last season, we saw Girardi use Mariano Rivera a little more heavily, making sure to get every last bit out of the retiring closer. Would he do the same with the retiring shortstop, running him out there with very little rest down the stretch?
“I don’t think I can play him much more than I’ve played him,” Girardi said. “He’s played in all but about 10 games maybe, maybe a few more than that, but there was a time when he missed three because his leg was bothering him. But when you get in these long stretches, these 13-game stretches, I’ve usually given him on day off. And that might be all he gets in this.”
• Brett Gardner was hoping to run today, which he sees as the final test for his sore ankle. If he can run today, he thinks he should be available in some capacity tonight. Gardner didn’t run at all the past two days. “Hopefully that goes well and I’ll be available to play tonight,” he said.
• Here’s Girardi on his approach to the Gardner injury: “My concern was: he said he felt better but he needed to run,” Girardi said. “Gardy’s pretty tough, and Gardy’s played through a lot, which made me believe that it’s probably not 100 percent, which it might not be for a while. This extra day will probably do us some good. My concern is that he favors it, or that he gets out there and he can’t run, and then I’ve got to make a change. It can just really mess things up.”
• Not much concern about Mark Teixeira’s hamstring. “I think you’re always going to watch it a little bit,” Girardi said. “I think the day off probably helped, and we just tell him to play smart. I mean, he did play smart the couple of days that he had it, so he’s just going to have to continue to do that.”
• Masahiro Tanaka threw today, and as long as he still feels fine tomorrow, he’ll remain on track to throw a simulated game on Thursday.
• Initial Arizona Fall League rosters were announced this afternoon. The Yankees are sending RF Aaron Judge, 3B Eric Jagielo, OF/IF Tyler Austin and 1B Greg Bird. They’re also sending pitchers Caleb Cotham, Branden Pinder and Alex Smith. There remains a TBA spot on the roster listed as a Yankees catcher. Pretty interesting group of position players. I actually thought Ramon Flores might go, but I guess not. Jagielo seemed like a near lock in my mind after missing so much time. Bird and Austin make a lot of sense too.
• On the current Yankees momentum: “I think they feel pretty good about themselves,” Girardi said. “But the thing about baseball is you’ve got to go do it every day. It starts with your starting pitcher that night, and I don’t know how you could for any more (than) what Brandon McCarthy has done, but we need him to continue to pitch like this.”
• On the importance of three games against a team that’s also in the mix for the second wild card: “You’ve got to win the series. It’s extremely important. We know they’re a very good team, and we’re facing a good pitcher tonight who didn’t give up too many runs against us the last time. But Brandon pitched really well. You’ve got to win games.”
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