On the day he came off the disabled list, Masahiro Tanaka pitched 5.1 innings against Toronto, and that was his shortest outing of the year. Its brevity was easy to dismiss because he was working with a limited pitch count and the results were still awfully impressive for a guy who hadn’t pitched in more than two months.
Today, Tanaka was cleared for more pitches, and there was a definite expectation that he would simply give the Yankees more of the same. One more encouraging start would boost confidence and send the Yankees into the offseason feeling relatively good about the status of Tanaka’s right elbow.
Instead, Tanaka got just five outs. He was charged with a season-high seven runs — five earned — and he was pulled from the game after just 50 pitches. It was bad. Except that Tanaka said afterward that he was simply having a bad day, not a injured day.
“Obviously I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be today,” he said. “But arm and body is fine.”
That is, I suppose, good news, but hearing Tanaka say he’s healthy certainly carries a little more weight when he’s coming off a strong and encouraging start. This start was neither of those things.
“There was no problem,” Joe Girardi said. “He had just thrown a lot of pitches in those first two innings, and I just thought it’s not smart to send him back out or leave him out there, so I just made a change. … He struggled with some command today a little bit and wasn’t real sharp with his fastball for whatever reason. We asked him, ‘Do you feel good?’ and he said, ‘Yeah, I feel good.’ He got in some bad counts and they hurt him.”
Worry about it all winter?
“I would think that he would have some peace of mind knowing that he feels good and knowing that spring training, we’ll build him up as normal as we would any other time,” Girardi said. “I hope he has peace of mind. I’d hate for him to go through the winter and not have it. We asked him even when he came in after the game, ‘You sure you felt OK?’ He said, ‘I felt good. I just didn’t have it today.’”
So this will be the Yankees final image of Tanaka as they move through this offseason. Physically, it seems the injection-and-rehab protocol has helped the ligament, and the Yankees are as confident about his health as they could be given the circumstances.
So how does Tanaka evaluate his first year with the Yankees?
“My goal coming in this season was to stay healthy and keep a spot in the rotation,” he said. “So obviously I wasn’t able to do that. I was only able to do half a job, so with that said, I think I’m a little bit disappointed how the season was. … I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of talk, a lot of expectations, but for me, I just try to go out on the mound and try to do the best I can. Try to put up a W. As far as comparing the first half of the season with next season, I feel like I want to do better than I did the first half of the season.”
• Two at-bats in tonight’s game was the plan all along for Jeter. It’s what he told Girardi he wanted. How many at-bats will he get tomorrow? “Whatever he tells me,” Girardi said. “He told me two at-bats today, so that’s what I did.”
• Kind of looked like Jeter might have hurt himself a little bit while beating out that infield single in the third inning. “No, I don’t think so,” Girardi said. “I think he had run extremely hard, he had to stretch. He probably felt it a little bit in his hamstring. He didn’t say that he was injured, but we’ll see.”
• This was Jeter’s 152nd career game at Fenway Park, matching Mickey Mantle and Lou Gehrig for the most games ever played here by a Yankees player. He should break that record tomorrow.
• This was the first time since August 11 that the Yankees allowed 10 runs or more. It was their 21st loss when scoring at least four runs.
• Ichiro Suzuki had another two-hit day and has hit safely in six of his past seven starts with a .360 average in that span. … Chase Headley also had two hits, his third multi-hit game in the past five. … Chris Young had two more hits including another double and another RBI. Turned out to be a nice addition for the final month of the season.
• As for the ESPN.com report about Girardi addressing the team on Thursday: “Let me clear this up,” Girardi said. “I’m going to clear it up right now. I addressed the team and told them what I expect for next year. Yeah, we’re all disappointed we didn’t make the playoffs. I addressed the team because it’s easier to do it at our ballpark. We need to be better. We need to execute better next year. That’s what baseball comes down to; execution. Everyone in that room is disappointed. I’m not the only one that’s disappointed. I just felt it was the place to do it. We have to go back to work.”
• According to the report, Girardi got on some players for being overweight and others for not being “hungry” enough. Girardi said he has no problem with the conditioning of his team, and as he’s said publicly all year, he said he’s been happy with the team’s work ethic and desire. “Our team never stopped playing, so I don’t know what you’re asking for,” Girardi said. “The bottom line is we didn’t execute well enough in certain situations, and we have to do better. Whether it’s getting a run in, getting a runner over, making a pitch when you need to make a pitch. We were in a lot of close games. If you could have won five or six more of them, you might be playing next week. Because we were in so many, there are probably some that you can think about. It’s disappointment.”
• Would the message have made a difference if it had been delivered several weeks ago? “I have had some individual meetings where I pull a guy aside and talk about things, but we were eliminated and I just told them,” Girardi said. “… These guys never gave up on us. They never gave up. They kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. We went through difficult things and they kept fighting and fighting. People wrote us off a bunch of times, but they didn’t. They kept fighting. For that, I’ve told you all along, I was proud of them. I just wanted to let them to know what we expect next year. None of us are happy that we’re not playing next week.”
• Final word we’ll give to Brian Cashman from pregame: “We didn’t hit for the most part all year when we needed to, especially in scoring position. We were deficient on the defensive side for a good portion of the season; that improved significantly with the additions and subtractions. But offensively, we never really could get it going. Pitching was tremendous and somehow we fixed that, which is harder typically to do, but the offense we could not fix.”
Associated Press photos
Game 161: Yankees at Red Sox • 09.27.14
RHP Masahiro Tanaka (13-4, 2.47)
Tanaka vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (70-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Xander Bogaerts SS
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
Christian Vazquez C
RHP Joe Kelly (3-2, 4.00)
Kelly vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:05 p.m., FOX
WEATHER: Absolutely beautiful day here in Boston. Couldn’t be much nicer.
UMPIRES: HP Vic Carapazza, 1B Larry Vanover, 2B Angel Hernandez, 3B Paul Nauert
UPDATE, 2:01 p.m.: Tanaka out of the game having not lasted through the second inning. He was knocked around quite a bit here today. The Yankees are primarily concerned with his health — results don’t matter much — but this wasn’t nearly as good as his previous outing. Preston Claiborne in from the bullpen with the Red Sox already leading 5-0 on seven hits. Tanaka got just five outs. He threw 50 pitches, 25 strikes. Could have gone up to 80, but he was clearly laboring.
UPDATE, 2:04 p.m.: And now an error on the new guy. Perez lets what should have been the final out bounce off his glove. It’s now 7-0.
UPDATE, 2:15 p.m.: Claiborne finally gets out of the second inning, but the damage is most certainly done. It’s a 9-0 Red Sox lead heading into the third.
UPDATE, 2:22 p.m.: Jeter chops a ball up the middle for an infield single. Big ovation here at Fenway.
UPDATE, 2:50 p.m.: Looks like Jeter is finished after two at-bats. Francisco Cervelli on deck to hit for the captain.
Joe Girardi said he’s put this weekend entirely in Derek Jeter’s hands.
He’s told Jeter he can play any position, bat anywhere in the order. He’s offered to let Jeter manage this game or any other. It’s entirely up to the Captain to play when and where he wants to this weekend.
And today, he simply doesn’t want to play.
“I think he’s going to take a day off,” Girardi said. “I talked to him today and said, what do you want to do? He said, he’d like to have a day. It’s always difficult at this point because everyone wants to see him, and I understand that, but he’s been through a lot. The team’s been through a lot. We’ve played 18 games in the past 17 days. We got in here late last night, and I think he’s going to take a day.”
To be honest, I left last night’s game feeling pretty confident Jeter wouldn’t play tonight. I still think he’ll play Saturday and Sunday, and Jeter was clearly drained after last night. I can’t imagine trying to get up for this game after what he went through last night.
Girardi told the story of Jeter not being able to find one of his batting gloves in the first inning last night. Jeter swore he’d brought it with him to the bench, but it was nowhere to be found. He’d clearly forgotten it. And Jeter’s an organized guy, not prone to forgetting a batting glove that he’s brought with him to the bench every day for 20 years.
“That was the first sign probably for me that something was going on yesterday,” Girardi said.
And so, for the first time that anyone can remember, Jeter has asked not to play a regular-season game.
“Maybe in spring training (he’s done that),” Girardi said. “Certain road trips in spring training. I don’t ever remember him saying that. I’m sure he’s emotionally drained today. He’s probably physically drained. He played 10 or 11 days in a row. Our schedule was not easy, day games after night games, but it is the first time I remember.”
• Turns out, Girardi tried to create an emotional farewell even before Jeter’s walk-off. To start the ninth inning, Girardi asked Hiroki Kuroda to walk to the edge of the first base line, then stop. Girardi was going to go get him from there — if he crossed the line, he’d have to face a batter — so that Kuroda could walk off the field to his own ovation after three strong seasons with the Yankees. Kuroda declined. “I was really grateful when he approached me to do that,” Kuroda said. “I felt like the fact that I spent the whole year in the rotation paid off with his gesture. But yesterday, it was meant for Jeter, so I didn’t want to take anything from him. And I felt like I was in that position.”
• Girardi on Kuroda: “I had so many thoughts about Hiro. I knew Ichiro, he’s going to play more. I really wanted to honor Hiro. I really did. … Hiro’s meant a lot to our organization as well and has been a really good Yankee and a really good role model as well. This guy takes the ball every day. You think about the injuries we went through to our rotation. The oldest guy is still standing. That’s because of his preparation and how hard he works. I really wanted to honor him, but he really didn’t want to do it.”
• Kuroda said he hasn’t really thought about whether he’s going to retire after this season. He said he won’t start really thinking about it until he begins to get offers — or not get offers — from other teams. At that point, he said, he’ll begin to really consider whether he wants to pitch another season, and whether he thinks he can hold up through another season at 40 years old.
• Masahiro Tanaka remains on track to pitch again tomorrow. He could go up to 80-85 pitches, but the Yankees might not ask him to throw quite that many. “Obviously I wouldn’t push him too far (with the pitch count),” Girardi said. “Doesn’t really make a lot of sense at this point. But just (want to see) that same stuff.”
• Assuming Tanaka gets through tomorrow with no problems, he’ll have a normal offseason.
• Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup tonight, but that doesn’t mean he’s finished for the weekend. “I’m not going to play him today, and I don’t know if I’ll play him tomorrow,” Girardi said. “But I’m thinking that if Derek plays on Sunday, I’m thinking a lot of these guys might want to play alongside him one last time.”
• Even Girardi had to look at a list to make sure he could announce the lineup correctly. He realizes this lineup is basically a spring training lineup, but he said at this point in the season, after all the days in a row, he wanted to give almost everyone a day off.
• Any part of Girardi that thinks moments like Mariano Rivera last year and Jeter this year make it OK to have missed the playoffs two years in a row? Those moments likely wouldn’t have happened with something on the line. “No,” Girardi said. “There isn’t. I can remember another great Yankee who made the playoffs, and they lost in the playoffs, and the sendoff was pretty special. That was Paul O’Neill. So, no, I would have much rather done it that way, and there’s nothing inside me that thinks it’s OK.”
• Has Girardi talked to Dave Robertson since last night? “No, I have not had a chance to talk to him,” Girardi said. “But he did a great job.”
Associated Press photos
Game 159: Yankees vs. Orioles • 09.25.14
RHP Hiroki Kuroda (11-9, 3.77)
Kuroda vs. Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Steve Pearce 1B
J.J. Hardy SS
Kelly Johnson 2B
Jimmy Paredes 3B
Caleb Joseph C
RHP Kevin Gausman (7-7, 3.57)
Gausman vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: It’s been better.
UMPIRES: HP Adam Hamari, 1B Brian O’Nora, 2B D.J. Reyburn, 3B Jeff Kellogg
MEANINGFUL GAMES: You might have heard that tonight marks the final home game for Derek Jeter. Prior to tonight, of the 2,744 career regular season games he has played in, there has been just one in which the Yankees had already been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (a 19-8 Yankees win on September 26, 2008 at Boston). This will be his first time playing a meaningless game at home.
THE LAST STAND: Since the start of his final regular season homestand on September 18, Jeter is batting .345 (10-for-29) with four runs, three doubles, one home run and six RBI in seven games.
ON THIS DATE: Seems kind of fitting, it was on September 25, 1917 that former Yankees shortstop Phil Rizzuto was born in New York City.
UPDATE, 7:09 p.m.: Jeter had to tip his cap during infield warmups because the Jeter chants were so loud.
UPDATE, 7:10 p.m.: Just as the Bleacher Creatures started chanting Jeter’s name for Roll Call, Nick Markakis went deep. Now De Aza has made it two homers in a row. Already the Orioles are up 2-0. Still no outs.
UPDATE, 7:24 p.m.: That’s just unbelievable. Jeter’s first at-bat, he missed a home run by a matter of feet. He’ll take the RBI double.
UPDATE, 7:29 p.m.: Apparently every Yankees player is going to use a song that Jeter has previously used as a walkup song. That’s pretty cool.
UPDATE, 7:58 p.m.: Jeter grounds to short in his second at-bat. This will not be another 5-for-5 day.
UPDATE, 8:18 p.m.: Replay was on Jeter’s side to end the top of the third, but the Yankees couldn’t score in the bottom of the third and so we’re still tied at 2. Also, this story from Steve Politi is cool.
UPDATE, 8:50 p.m.: Jeter goes down swinging in his third at-bat. Yankees haven’t had a hit since that Chris Young infield single in the first.
UPDATE, 9:29 p.m.: Game tied. Bases loaded. One out in the seventh. Here’s Jeter with a great chance to give the Yankees the lead.
UPDATE, 9:31 p.m.: Slow roller to short. Hardy made a bad throw and it will go down as a fielder’s choice with an E-6, but that’s still an RBI. Could easily be the game-winning RBI.
UPDATE, 10:13 p.m.: Oh my. Dave Robertson allows two homers in the ninth, including a two-out, game-tying shot by Steve Pearce. Jeter no longer credited with the game-winning RBI, but due up third here in the bottom of the inning.
Pregame notes: “Let me play the game first” • 09.25.14
Derek Jeter showed up as his locker briefly. He disappeared through the back door of the clubhouse and returned a few minutes later. It wasn’t particularly unusual — pretty typical pregame back-and-forth, really — except this is his last game at Yankee Stadium, and so there was a playoff-sized packed of media gathered around his locker waiting for Jeter to say … anything, really.
“Afterwards,” Jeter said. “It’s tough for me to start getting emotional and sentimental before I’ve got to play. So let me play the game first. I’ll let you know how I felt about it afterwards.”
Jeter said he’s made no decisions about playing this weekend in Boston. Said he wasn’t sure how many tickets he’d left for friends and family. He said he was thinking mostly about the weather and hoping things would clear up long enough to get the game in.
“I think it’s going to be extremely special,” Joe Girardi said. “Something that obviously he’ll be able to carry with him the rest of his life. I think it’s going to be something that all of us will remember, that we were here tonight; similar to Mo’s last night. That we were at the Stadium the night he played his last game.”
As for a plan, Girardi said he was simply hoping something would occur to him in the moment. If he has a plot in mind — a mid-inning substitution or anything like that — he hasn’t revealed it just yet. But the game means nothing for the Yankees, so Girardi can basically handle Jeter’s final moments however he’d like.
“I’ve been fortunate that I haven’t had to play too many games like this in my career,” Jeter said. “But it is what it is. Our team was not good enough, so we’re out of playoff contention. It’s always difficult. You set your goals and you try to reach something and that goal was unattainable.”
That much Jeter knew when he got to the ballpark today. At some point tonight, the plan is for him find out what it’s like to play one last game at Yankee Stadium.
“My feelings are, I hope the rain stops,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it.”
• There’s a solid chance Jeter’s not the only one playing his final game at Yankee Stadium tonight. Hiroki Kuroda has the start, and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll also retire at the end of this season. “No he has not (announced his plans),” Girardi said. “Obviously that’s something he’ll sit down after the season and make the decision. He’s not 29 either, so I’m not sure.”
• Might not be his last game at Yankee Stadium — seems he’ll probably play again next year — but this is almost certainly Ichiro Suzuki’s final game at Yankee Stadium as a member of the Yankees. I actually think it would be cool if Girardi pulled him from the game for a standing ovation at some point. Maybe take out Ichiro with two outs in the eighth and Jeter with two outs in the ninth?
• Thought the Yankees might use these meaningless games to give Bryan Mitchell one more start, but Larry Rothschild said it’s been so long since his last start, that it wouldn’t really be fair to ask Mitchell to try to start again tomorrow or Sunday. The plan is to stick with Capuano, Tanaka and Pineda for the three games in Boston.
• Girardi on the plans for Jeter this weekend: “I don’t have them yet. I’m waiting to meet with him. He’ll be in, I’m sure, fairly shortly. I talked to him (yesterday). Let’s meet today and decide. Tell me what you want to do. Then, when he does, I’ll let him share it. I probably won’t.”
• Here’s Jeter on what he was feeling during Mariano Rivera’s final game at Yankee Stadium: “I was proud of him. I was happy that I was here. It’s a little different because you don’t know the situation. Mo was getting a massage until 9:30, 9:45, then he goes out there. You have a pretty good idea of when he’s going to come in. I just wanted to be here for him. That’s pretty much it. I was happy for him, I was proud of him that his career was coming to an end. I was just happy to be here for him.”
• Girardi was asked whether he plans to keep anything from tonight’s game. “My lineup cards I keep all the time anyway,” he said. “That’s just what I do because I think it tells a story during the course of a season. Maybe I’ll keep one ball, but it’s the memories more than the mementos that I really want to hold onto. When I think about my time with Derek Jeter, the things he did as a young player, the things he did middle age and as an older player, just being around him. Remembering the 3,000th hit was really special. Those types of things. I remember celebrating in the clubhouse with him. Those are the things that I’m going to remember.”
Associated Press photos
As Derek Jeter’s final home game gets even closer, here are a few links from today’s Journal News looking ahead to what will surely be a memorable day in the Bronx.
I wrote about Jeter’s routines, from his at-bat mannerisms to the way he starts each game with a small prayer after the national anthem. Through 20 years, Jeter has become all about familiarity and comfort and consistency. It’s amazing that we’re going to see some of these routines for the final time.
Columnist Phil Reisman wrote about the classic dignity of Jeter’s career, which is clearly rooted in his upbringing. Phil included this great anecdote from Marty Appel, who’s been around baseball and the Yankees for years: Appel recalled that he was with Jeter’s father, Charles, when an admirer told him how wonderful his son was. “His answer was, ‘So is my daughter.’”
Our photo department put together this picture gallery of Jeter throughout the years. Plenty of shots in there you might have never seen.
As you’re well aware, there’s been a lot of Jeter content generated in the past week or so. Here are a few that stood out to me. And believe me, there are many others.
New York Magazine — Derek Jeter Opens the Door
A glimpse into Jeter’s private life, including some pictures from an upcoming photo book full of personal pictures from Jeter’s final season. Notable mostly for the access to Jeter’s day-to-day.
New York Times Magazine — Derek Jeter, a Yankees Before the Pinstripes
Built around a famous scouting report and a previously unpublished photograph, this piece looks at Jeter’s early days coming out of high school and into the Yankees minor league system.
Rochester Democrat & Chronicle — R.D. Long shares memories of living with Derek Jeter
An old friend from my days covering the International League, Jim Mandelaro caught up with Jeter’s roommate from his first full season in the minor leagues. “I learned a lot of things from him,” Jeter said. “He definitely helped me a lot.”
MLB.com — Sterling has provide Jeter a soundtrack
John Sterling doesn’t take games off. The Yankees broadcaster has been in the booth for each and every game of Jeter’s career, and Bryan Hoch talked to Sterling and Suzyn Waldman about their favorite Jeter memories. “He’s never missed a day?” Jeter said. “Wow. That’s pretty good. He’s probably tired of seeing me, too.”
Sports On Earth — Jeter at the Bat
Another good one from Hoch, who talked to Jeter about the only bat model he’s used throughout his professional career. Yesterday, Louisville Slugger announced it was renaming that particular model in honor of Jeter.
WFAN.com — Favorite Derek Jeter Memories From My Years On The Beat
Of all the beat guys, there’s no one Jeter jokes around with more easily or more often than Sweeny Murti. Over on the WFAN website, Sweeny wrote about some of his personal memories of covering The Captain for more than a decade.
The Wall Street Journal — Where Have You Gone, Derek Jeter?
An interesting look at Jeter’s career through the lens of modern media, and the way that Jeter remained a role model despite our ability — and desire — to find the negatives in most of our public figures. Bonus points for the Simon and Garfunkel reference.
Associated Press photo
After asking for a couple of injury updates, this was the third question of Joe Girardi’s pregame press conference this morning:
Do you feel in any way that the team has been hurt overall with Derek playing shortstop every day and batting second?
“No,” Girardi said. “There’s been so much talk about this during the course of the season, and I’ve said, you look at Derek, he had a slow April. He had a pretty good May, a pretty good June and pretty good July. We had a lot of guys who struggled in August and a lot of guys who struggled in September. A lot of the focus has been on him, because of who he is, obviously, but look at our numbers in September. Look at what a lot of the guys have done. You could move guys around, but you move a guy up who’s hitting .200 to replace a guy who’s hitting .220. There’s been a lot of talk about it. You asked me (jokingly) why I didn’t move him up to third yesterday. Collectively, as a group, we have not hit as much as we thought we would have. And that’s been the bigger issue to me than maybe one guy or a spot in the lineup.”
Girardi went on to discuss the clubhouse as a whole, the idea of not only managing an entire lineup, one through nine, but also managing a room of 25 guys, each with a unique perspective and opinion. Some might have seen favoritism in sticking with Jeter at the top of the order. Others might have seen scapegoating had Jeter been moved down when plenty of guys were struggling.
“People always want to put it in one simple compartment,” Girardi said. “That if you do this, that’s what you do. But there’s a ripple effect for everything you do in the clubhouse. You have to make sure that they’re together, and that you’re not putting the clubhouse in a bad place, and that’s something you do have to manage, and you do talk to players. You talk to them about a lot of different things, and situations. Whether you’re going to move them, or you’re going to give them a day off, or a couple days off. That’s why there’s a lot more that goes into decisions than just the individual player. And I think sometimes people lose sight of that.
Does Girardi think the clubhouse would have responded negatively had he made a lineup change after Jeter’s brutal month of August?
“It could have had a ripple effect, sure,” Girardi said. “I think that any move that you make, whether it’s to Derek or any move that you make, has a chance to affect a clubhouse. And that’s my job to talk to coaches and people that understand the pulse of the club all the time. I’ve been in a clubhouse, and I see what things can happen and how it can really change a clubhouse. Sometimes it can be through a trade, and it really disrupts things. That’s a constant worry about me and the clubhouse.”
Has the Yankees clubhouse responded negatively to Jeter’s treatment this season? Would the clubhouse have responded negatively to Jeter being treated differently? I honestly don’t know. It’s hard to get a sense of the clubhouse with so many new guys and so many hurt players. CC Sabathia is a clear leader in there, and he’s one of the guys who’s played with Jeter the most, but he wasn’t around for much of the season. Carlos Beltran seems to be a respected voice, but he’s new, not always vocal, and he was also not always around because of his own injuries (and his numbers were also a problem). I don’t get the sense that players grew frustrated by Jeter hitting second all year, but I’m also not convinced the players would have been upset to see him moved down in the order.
Ultimately, I think Girardi’s right. The Yankees didn’t have enough guys who did nearly enough offensively, and that was a much larger issue than the treatment of Jeter in his final season.
• Carlos Beltran is still not doing much of anything because of his elbow, and Jacoby Ellsbury has not yet begun baseball activities, just a few light exercises in the weight room. Is there enough time for either one to return to the lineup this season? “It’s going to be pretty tough,” Girardi said.
• Girardi said he still hasn’t asked Jeter whether he’ll want to play this weekend in Boston. Might depend on whether the Yankees are eliminated in the next two days. “That’s probably a better question for when we get to Boston,” Girardi said. Jeter said basically the same thing yesterday.
• One more DH day for Jeter. “The one thing that I’ve tried to do is manage Derek the whole year so he’d be as productive as he could be and as good a player as he could be all year,” Girardi said. “That was my focus for him, but that’s my focus for every player. How do I manage them so they’re the most productive throughout the course of a season?”
• This will be Shane Greene’s final start of the season. Pushed into the rotation in July, the rookie sinkerballer has certainly put himself on the map for a possible rotation spot next season. One of the unquestioned bright spots of this season.
• Girardi on whether he’s holding out hope for a playoff spot now that the elimination number is down to one: “I think you always have to hold out hope,” Girardi said. “I know that what’s in front of us is extremely difficult. There’s five games left and we have to win five, and Kansas City has to lose five. That’s pretty difficult. But as long as you have a shot, you keep fighting. And I’ll continue to make moves to keep fighting and then you go from there. You see where you are tomorrow.”
Associated Press photos
The stage was set, and the crowd here at Yankee Stadium knew it. Tying run on base. Lefty on the mound. Derek Jeter at the plate. It was a chance for farewell heroics, but Zach Britton threw three straight sinkers and Jeter went down swinging to end the game that put the Yankees right on the verge of playoff elimination.
“You’re thinking that he’s going to hit a home run or he’s going to hit a ball in the gap and we’re going to tie the score,” Joe Girardi said. “You see what happens. It didn’t happen, unfortunately, but you have a pretty good feeling when he’s up there.”
Jeter’s gone through a resurgence this home stand, and he had another hit tonight — an infield single — but there was no magic at the end. And the official end could come as early as tomorrow afternoon. The Yankees have been using the phrase “must win” for a while now, but at this point, it’s literally true.
One more Yankees loss — or one more Royals win — will end the Yankees playoff hopes. Even if the Yankees win the rest of their games, it still probably won’t be enough.
“Every game is must win,” Jeter said. “It’s been must win. That’s the approach that we have for a while now. Nothing changes. We must win tomorrow. That’s the way it’s basically been for a while.”
Because of who he is, because of what this home stand represents, there seemed to be an extra level of excitement for that final at-bat. The reporter next to me actually said, as soon as Brett Gardner stepped to the plate with two outs: You just know Gardner’s getting on base so that Jeter has a chance. And it was perfectly true. It really did feel that way. One way or another, it was going to come down to Jeter.
“I’m trying to extend the inning,” Jeter said. “That’s basically it. So he was better than me tonight and I may face him again. … For me, I’m trying to take the approach that I’m trying to play a game. I’ve told you guys, everything that’s happened, the fans have been special this entire year, especially these last few games that we’ve had here in New York. But we’re still trying to win games, so my approach doesn’t change.”
• In what was likely his final start of the year, Brandon McCarthy had his worst outing as a Yankee. He matched his season-high with three home runs, matched his Yankees-high with five earned runs, and 5.1 innings made this his shortest start since the trade. “If that’s the finishing one, then that one kinda sucks,” McCarthy said. “But I’ve thrown well, there’s been a lot of positives. But I felt like, at least tonight, I was able to not let it spiral out of control, when I was still fighting everything. But it’s not one I would like to have this time of year.”
• Although he walked no one, everyone seemed to agree that McCarthy’s biggest issue was command. It stemmed from mechanics that were slightly off, leaving the movement on his pitches unpredictable at times. “It was just a day where I never really felt like I had a feel for what I was doing,” McCarthy said. “Command of the pitches was okay at times, and then other times it let me down a little bit. I couldn’t find any consistent movement, and my sinker flattened out. Larry (Rothschild) talked about this: some of them just stayed straight, some of them were sinking. It was hard to be consistent and do what I wanted to do, and go with a certain plan of attack if you’re not able to execute.”
• Girardi on McCarthy: “It’s the first night maybe he didn’t quite have his command. He’s been really good with his command. He was pulling some sinkers, he left some balls up and got hurt. He missed with a cutter to Kelly Johnson. Of all he starts that he’s had, this was probably the one that he didn’t have his location.”
• Oddly, despite all the home runs and all the hits, McCarthy was able to strikeout eight without a walk. It was the fourth time this season — all with the Yankees — that McCarthy had at least eight strikeouts without a walk. “When he did throw the ball where he wanted to, he got people out,” Girardi said.
• On the whole, McCarthy’s time with the Yankees was pretty impressive, and his personality seems to fit here extremely well. McCarthy’s a free agent, and would seem like a strong target for this team. “I would prefer to be anywhere that I’m wanted,” he said. “But this would be a hard place to turn down.”
• Brian McCann has 23 home runs this season, and eight of them have come in the month of September. “I’ve been feeling good for a while,” he said. “Just not missing my pitch. Getting it and finding the barrel.”
• Most home runs McCann has ever hit in a single month was nine during July of 2012. His 23 homers this season are the most by a Yankees player whose primary position is catcher since Jorge Posada hit 23 in 2006.
• Jeter now has a seven-game hitting streak, which is the longest active streak for the Yankees. Despite going just 1-for-5 today, he’s still hitting .400 this home stand. He has two Yankee Stadium games left.
• Ichiro Suzuki is hitting .319 in 47 games since August 1 including .350 in 27 home games in that span.
• The Yankees pitching staff had 11 strikeouts today (11 by McCarthy, two by Betances, one by Robertson) which gave them 1,319 strikeouts for the year. That’s a new single-season franchise record, breaking the mark set in 2012. This was the seventh time this season that the Yankees struck out 10 without walking a batter.
• Yankees relievers have a 1.13 ERA in their past 14 home games.
• McCarthy has reached 200 innings in a season for the first time in his career. He got to exactly 200 before coming out in the sixth. He called it a “tremendous source of pride” to finally reach that number. Not a bad year to get there with free agency coming up.
• Final word to Jeter: “You always have to have confidence. We have confidence up until the game is over with, regardless of the score. You have to have confidence that we’ll come back and play an entire game. Confidence has always been there.”
Associated Press photos
Bud Selig is at Yankee Stadium today, and he’s going to address the media in just a few minutes so I need to head back down to the press conference room in just a few minutes. A few quick pregame notes before I head downstairs.
• Mark Teixeira had his latest cortisone injection on Sunday, and he’s back in the lineup tonight. “I’ve gone through all the basic tests, and it seems to have taken,” Teixeira said. “Unless something crazy happens during BP, I should be fine.”
• Teixeira said he usually takes a full month off when the offseason starts. This year, he’s planning to take maybe a week before beginning regular offseason workouts. “Get right back into strengthening,” he said. “My upper body strengthening really didn’t start full time until January (last offseason). Like I’ve told you guys a number of times, I definitely need to get stronger, my whole upper body, but definitely the wrist. … We’re past the rehab point. We need to get into the strengthening point. The strength will help the inflammation stay out of there. Hopefully the little things in my legs that happened this year, I just need to get stronger from top to bottom, but especially the wrist.”
• No baseball activities for either Carlos Beltran or Jacoby Ellsbury today, though Ellsbury will do some light exercises just to see how he responds. Girardi acknowledged that the way he treats those two going forward will likely depend on whether the Yankees stay in the mathematical playoff race. “That’s probably fair to say,” Girardi said. “My guess is, we wouldn’t push it (if the team were eliminated).”
• Is Derek Jeter going to play all three games in Boston this weekend? “My plan is to play him,” Girardi said. “Obviously if things happen and we are eliminated, then obviously I’ll talk to him on a daily basis. My plan is to play him, but I’m going to talk to him and see what he physically needs and what he mentally wants. … My guess is, he’s going to want to play every day.”
• New outfielder Eury Perez is here today. Not in the lineup, but he was in the clubhouse and on the lineup sheet. I assume he’s available off the bench.
• If Masahiro Tanaka is starting Saturday and Michael Pineda is starting Sunday, it seems this will likely be Brandon McCarthy’s final start unless the Yankees advance to a wild card game. He’s been a terrific second-half addition heading into free agency. “For the most part, he has brought out the same stuff almost every game and has gotten deep into games,” Girardi said. “And his sinker has been outstanding. He’s gotten a ton of ground balls. There’s a lot of times when you’ll see guys when they don’t have their A stuff and they have to battle through it, but his stuff has been consistent for the whole time that we’ve had him, for the most part.”
Associated Press photo