Pregame notes: “I need to get stronger” • 09.17.14
These are Mark Teixeira’s numbers this season.
First half: .241/.341/.464 with 17 home runs in 73 games
Second half: .179/.283/.298 with four home runs in 42 games
“I need to get stronger,” he said. “This second half has been brutal. I just hit a wall. I need to get a lot stronger, so this offseason is going to be important for that because I’m definitely not where I want to be physically.”
Teixiera doesn’t blame the second-half slide on his lingering wrist soreness. Not exactly, anyway. He looks back to an offseason spent rehabbing instead of working out. He couldn’t lift the way he normally does. Couldn’t go through baseball drills the way he’s used to. And while he opened the season with a strong month of April — .862 OPS that month — his numbers have steadily decreased each month after that, with his slugging percentage in particularly showing a steady and significant decline.
“I didn’t have a normal offseason,” he said. “That’s tough, but it is what it is. I had to rehab all offseason, but the wrist is structurally sound, and from all indications it shouldn’t be a problem next year.”
After sitting out last night because of lingering wrist soreness, Teixeira is back in the Yankees lineup lineup tonight. He’s had two cortisone shots this year, and doctors won’t let him get another, but Teixeira said that every examination has shown his wrist to be structurally undamaged. It’s just sore from time to time.
“That’s what was expected all year,” Teixeira said. “I was fully expecting to have some bumps. This season, I can’t really be that disappointed with the wrist. When it’s flared up, we’ve dealt with it. Take a few days off here and there, get a shot here and there when you need it. But it’s structurally sound. That’s the most important thing. If it gets sore every now and then, you deal with it.”
• Determining whether Teixeira can become a productive hitter again seems like a far bigger issue in the big picture, but here and now, there’s still no issue generating more pregame buzz than last night’s hit-by-pitch and ensuing anger on both sides. “I know I’ve told our guys just go out and play,” Joe Girardi said. “I told Brandon McCarthy, just go out and pitch. What’s happened, happened. We move on. And that’s what happens in the game of baseball. It can be a takeout slide, It can be a lot of different things. Then the day turns, and it’s a different day.”
• Maybe that’s true, but Chase Headley was clearly frustrated with Joe Maddon’s postgame comments from last night. Maddon said that Headley had been “grazed” in New York on Thursday. That’s a pretty poor word choice after a guy took a mid-90s fastball to the chin. Headley said he understands that sometimes a phrase comes out wrong in an interview. “I’m just going to hope that that’s what happened,” Headley said. “That it was a poor choice of words, because that certainly wasn’t the case. I was pretty lucky, the way that it turned out, but I don’t think that it’s fair to be minimized or kind of downplayed in how this all went. … If Evan Longoria got hit like that, or Ben Zobrist or one of their guys, he wouldn’t use that term.”
• Headley said a teammate sent him the comments last night. “I can tell you what the doctor said and what I went through,” Headley said. “I think that speaks for itself. … (The doctor) said it was a miracle that my jaw didn’t shatter. That’s his term.”
• For whatever it’s worth, Headley looked alright when he rejoined the Yankees on Friday, but he’s looked progressively worse since then. There’s now bruising all over his chin and neck due to all the internal damage. Girardi said that blood is starting to collect in Headley’s chest. It’s not a great situation, even if he’s playing through it. “I don’t think Joe understood how hard he got hit,” Girardi said. “I think maybe he misunderstood because of Chase’s toughness, how hard he actually got hit.”
• Remember back in April when Cesar Cabral pitched here at Tropicana Field, faced six batters and hit three of them? That was pretty ugly, too. As Dan Barbarisi pointed out on Twitter today, in the past five years, the Rays have actually been hit by pitches more times than the Yankees in their head-to-head games. That includes this season, when the Yankees have been hit seven times and the Rays have been hit eight times. Girardi, though, stressed that it’s not the number of hit-by-pitches, it’s the location that has him most upset. He feels the Rays have hit the Yankees too high.
• Carlos Beltran is still away from the team. “He’s still attending his family matter,” Girardi said. “I told him to take care of it. When we have you, we have you.”
• Jacoby Ellsbury is getting another turn at DH to rest his ankle. “This guy’s been playing with an ankle sprain for a month or three weeks or two weeks, whatever it’s been,” Girardi said. “On the turf it’s probably even rougher, so I figured I’d give him a DH day.”
Associated Press photos
After yesterday’s five innings against low-level minor leaguers, Masahiro Tanaka complained of no unusual pain or discomfort today and will step back into the Yankees rotation on Sunday. It’s entirely possible the game will be completely meaningless in the standings, but it will be Tanaka’s most significant test of an elbow ligament that was found to be slightly torn in early July.
“More than anything, I want to see if my body is able to go fully on a major-league mound; pitch on the mound,” Tanaka said. “That’s by far, (more than) anything, most important to me. Also, the fact that, to be able to contribute in the team’s win would be something important to me too.”
Joe Girardi made it clear that Tanaka will pitch Sunday even if the Yankees are mathematically eliminated at that point.
“Obviously he’s got to throw his bullpen again, which I don’t suspect will be a problem, but he’s got to do that,” Girardi said. “… He’s pitching if he’s OK.”
Roughly 70-75 pitches, Girardi said. It seems likely Tanaka would make one more start as long as Sunday goes as hoped.
“Even if it’s short, if I’m able to go out there and have a strong outing, it’ll give me some good confidence (that the elbow has healed),” Tanaka said.
• No surprise that Martin Prado is out of the lineup, but it was a mild surprise that Mark Teixeira’s not in there. It’s hit right wrist again. Girardi said it was bothering him the final game of last week’s home stand, but now it’s significant enough to keep him out of the lineup. “I told him, come see me when you’re ready to go again,” Girardi said.
• Girardi gave absolutely no indication that Teixeira will miss the rest of the season, but it seems worth wondering if that’s possible. “You’re hoping when you have the surgery (last year) that you’re healthy and you can play every day,” Girardi said. “But for whatever reason, it’s lingered with him. Maybe the offseason will help and he’ll get through it and we won’t have that problem. That’s my hope for next year.”
• As for Prado, he had the appendectomy this morning. “He had a stomach ache all day yesterday and played through it,” Girardi said. “He went right from here to (the hospital) to have the tests and they determined that he needed to have surgery.”
• To add similar defensive flexibility, the Yankees have called up Jose Pirela, but he hasn’t played since the end of the Triple-A season two weeks ago. “We’ll try to get him in there,” Girardi said. “He hasn’t done much for two weeks. We’ll work him out a couple of days, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t just throw him in there one day.”
• Girardi said Francisco Cervelli got full medical clearance last night, but Girardi waited until today to get Cervelli back on the field. This is Cervelli’s first game action since those migraines earlier this month.
• This is another Michael Pineda start. He’s faced 102 consecutive batters without allowing a walk or a hit-by-pitch. He hasn’t walked anyone since August 20.
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
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.”
Associated Press photos
The Yankees are making a one-day stop in Kansas City to make up for a early season rain out. I’m not there and will pick up the team tomorrow night in Detroit. A few quick things as the Yankees prepare to face James Shields for the second time this season.
That’s brutal luck, by the way. They caught him during the original trip to Kansas City — he went six innings, no earned runs — and now they have to face him again. And they could face him a third time when Kansas City comes to New York early next month.
Shields is awfully good, and the Yankees could see him three times (amazing, considering he plays for a team the Yankees were supposed to face in only two series this season).
Anyway, a few notes…
• Sounds like Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup for two reasons. He does have awful numbers against Shields, but he’s also been bothered by a nagging left hamstring issue for a few days now. The combination of a mild injury and a tough pitcher seems like a good enough reason to give Teixeira a day off. By the way, he’s setting some sort of record for the most nagging injuries in a season. Maybe everyone deals with this stuff, but for whatever reason we keep finding out about all of Teixeira’s bumps and bruises.
• Speaking of bumps and bruises, Brett Gardner is going to sit out one more game because of that sore ankle. He is planning to do some drills and said he hopes to play tomorrow.
• Not sure it means a whole lot — it’s not like we ever see any team make a ton of acquisitions this time of year — but Peter Gammons reports that the Yankees are one of the teams putting in a lot of waiver claims lately. He actually quotes an official saying the Yankees are, “claiming everyone.” Just giving themselves some options as some of these guys potentially hit the market.
• Two Yankees minor leaguers have been suspended under the drug policy. Right-handed pitcher Andy Beresford and first baseman Leonard Thompson have each received a 50-game suspension without pay after testing positive for an Amphetamine. Beresford is with Charleston and Thompson is in rookie ball. Not to knock them, but I honestly didn’t recognize either name.
• Yangervis Solarte seems to be making a positive impression out in San Diego. At the very least, he seems to have set himself up to have a career as a utility man who can hit a little bit.
• Anyone want to bring back Nixy? The Pirates designated the familiar infielder, but even with expanded rosters around the corner, there seems very little reason to actually bring Nix into the mix for the Yankees. They’re already plenty versatile, they have three guys who can play shortstop, and Zelous Wheeler seems like a similar option at second, third and the outfield corners.
Associated Press photo
Dave Robertson had not allowed a home run his past 27 games. He hadn’t allowed a hit since August 2. He still has baseball’s longest active streak of consecutive saves converted.
But even the best relievers have bad nights, and right now the Yankees aren’t able to make up for those inevitable stumbles.
“Those bullpen guys have been operating on a pretty thin line,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Tonight, we weren’t able to get it done. But David’s been about as good as you could be.”
Tonight was not one of those nights. Robertson walked the first two batters he faced and at one point threw seven straight balls, four to walk Jose Altuve and three to fall behind 3-0 against Chris Carter. He found the strike zone with his next pitch. The distance on Carter’s home run was a pretty good indication of just how badly Robertson missed his spot.
“Trying to make a good pitch down and away,” Robertson said. “Instead I threw it right into his bat path and he put it 30 rows deep. It stinks when (the count is) 3-0 that happens, but if a make a good quality pitch, maybe I get a groundball double play. … When you’re not making quality pitches and you’re not throwing the ball where you want to, you’re not going to get outs. I struggled out there tonight, and I blew it for our team.”
He did, and in a vacuum this game might be all about a good reliever having a bad night. But the Yankees offense came down to two big hits tonight: Brian McCann’s two-run homer and Martin Prado’s two-run double. Ultimately, it was more of the same. Another night when the Yankees had a chance to take control of the game, but when their pitching staff slipped up, there was no offense to pick up the slack. The Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
“I thought we hit some balls pretty decent, but we didn’t get too many hits,” Girardi said. “Prado got the lone hit, I think, with runners in scoring position. I think to win you have to do a better job in those situations.”
• A lot of really close pitches for Robertson in that ninth inning. The crowd here at Yankee Stadium seemed to groan with every ball believing so many of them could have been strikes. “That’s the game,” Robertson said. “Sometimes you get those (calls), sometimes you don’t. It changes from day to day with different umpires. I went and looked them. They’re close. I’m not going to say they’re dead giveaway strikes, though.”
• No surprise to anyone that Carter was swinging away on a 3-0 pitch. “You know that he’s swinging there,” Girardi said. “You can’t just groove one. I’m sure that if he had it back – he wasn’t trying to throw it there – (but) it’s just kind of the way the night went for him.”
• With one out and Jacoby Ellsbury at third base in the eighth, the Yankees had Ellsbury running on contact. When Carlos Beltran hit a ball sharply right to the shortstop, Ellsbury was out easily at the plate. “You’re looking at the speed you have at third, the lead he can get, and it’s got to be hit hard at one of the infielders (for him to be out),” Girardi said. “The chances are that (small). A step to his right, a step to his left, he scores. That’s the chance we’re going to take with one out.”
• Actually thought Chris Capuano was perfectly good again. Found up getting away from him in the sixth, but this was the first time since joining the Yankees that he failed to pitch through the sixth, and he gave the team a chance to win. He’s been a perfectly fine fifth starter. Tonight he matched a season-high with eight strikeouts. He has 28 strikeouts and only three walks over his last four starts.
• Capuano on his start: “My command wasn’t as sharp as I would have liked it to have been in those last two innings. I started leaving some balls over the middle. Still in the sixth inning there with one out and nobody out, 2-2 game. I had a good chance to get through that inning, and Dominguez pulled his hands in and did a good job on a 2-2 pitch. I wasn’t able to get the lefty behind him, so it really came down to those last two batters in the sixth for me.”
• It’s getting to the point of having no new questions to ask these hitters. They all recognize what’s going on, and if they had answers, things would be different. “We’ve got to score more runs,” Mark Teixeira said. “We’ve had two-run leads, but to get a two-run lead in the (fourth) inning doesn’t mean much. You’ve got to keep adding on.”
• And here’s further recognition of an obvious problem: “We came together in spring training and expected to have a little more thunder,” Teixeira said. “We’re a little bit different team than we were to start the season, and we just haven’t really had that power.”
• I mentioned on Twitter before the game that there were a ton of guys on the field for early batting practice today — I’d say there’s usually two or three, today there were at least eight that I counted. “Our guys come to work every day,” Girardi said. “They work at their trade and they work really hard and they grind it out and they try to get better every day. That’s all you can really ask from them. Sometimes it works really well and sometimes it doesn’t and it’s been inconsistent this year. I think we had seven or eight guys hit early today.”
• Brian McCann has homered in three of his last four home games. He has hit 12 of his 14 home runs at Yankee Stadium this year.
• This was the second time this season that Robertson allowed more than two earned runs. Also only the third time this season that he allowed two or more walks. The only other time he did both was that June 1 letdown against Minnesota.
• If you’re scoring at home, the Yankees have now lost six of their past eight games. Could say they’ve won two out of three, but losing six of eight seems to paint a more accurate picture of what’s going on right now.
• Girardi said David Phelps saw Dr. Ahmad during the game, and Girardi wasn’t sure about the plan for Phelps going forward. Indications are, so far, that Phelps feels fine and expects to keep throwing. Might have a more definitive plan tomorrow.
• Final word to Teixeira: “Two days ago we were talking about a two game win streak and going on a run. We’re not going to let one game get us down too much. Pretty sure we’re still in the race, we just need to score more runs and win more games.”
Associated Press photos
The schedule won’t let the Yankees give Hiroki Kuroda six days off before every start down the stretch, but they were able to give him that many this time, and it seemed to make a difference. Coming off a rough outing against Cleveland, Kuroda looked like a dependable piece of the rotation again this afternoon.
At times, he looked like more than that.
“When he’s got his stuff darting like that to both sides of the plate, he’s tough to beat,” Brian McCann said. “… He was splitting both sides of the plate, kept them off balance all day. They came out really aggressive, he slowed them down a little bit with some offspeed early in the count. He pitched awesome.”
Last time out, Kuroda couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, and the Yankees would like to believe that was simply a bump in the road, not a sign that he’s about to begin the down-the-stretch collapse that became familiar the past two seasons. Before that disappointment last Sunday night, Kuroda had pitched to 3.49 ERA in his previous nine starts.
“The two extra days, I was able to physically get refreshed, as well as mentally,” Kuroda said.
Kuroda is the only part of the Opening Day rotation that’s lasted the whole season. He had a pretty rough month of April, but he’s been pretty consistent ever since. There have been some short, ineffective starts mixed in there, but he hasn’t allowed more than four earned runs since the beginning of May.
“He had everything in his arsenal today,” Joe Girardi said. “I think it was important because people would start asking questions, ‘Is he tired?’ Maybe the extra days helped him. … We will do it when we can. Unfortunately, we lose one off-day going to Kansas City where he could have been afforded it, but I think he’ll only go one start this time through with five days. It should help, yeah.”
• Mark Teixeira’s home run was No. 361 in his career, passing Gary Gaetti and tying Joe DiMaggio for 80th place on baseball’s all-time list. He was the first Yankees hitter to reach 20 home runs this season, the latest they’ve gone into a season without a 20-homer guy since 1995 when Paul O’Neill reached that number on September 12.
• Brett Gardner’s two-run signle in the fifth inning gave him 52 RBI for the season, matching his single-season career high. For a little while, Gardner was tied with Teixeira and Jacoby Ellsbury for the team lead in RBI, but both Teixeira and Ellsbury drove in runs later in the game.
• That two-run single up the middle was a huge hit for the Yankees, who had been hitless in the game until the batter before, Martin Prado, came through with a double. For a team desperate for offense, that Gardner at-bat felt like a must-have opportunity. “I’m thinking about trying to get a run across, you know?” Gardner said. “I’m just thinking about trying to find a way to get a pitch to handle. I’m definitely not thinking negative thoughts.”
• Including Gardner and Prado, five straight Yankees reached base with two outs in that fifth inning. “You get an excellent at-bat from Stephen Drew, a long at-bat (for a walk),” Girardi said. “A long at-bat from Prado, then Gardy gets the big hit there. Then Ells; a big hit as well as Jeter. To be able to put those together when it looks like you have nothing going and he’s rolling along with a no-hitter, it’s big.”
• It was Ellsbury’s first hit of the road trip. He was 0-for-17 on the trip before that two-out RBI single.
• Derek Jeter has a hit in 12 of 14 games this month. He went 4-for-13 this weekend. Of his 11 hits against the Rays this season, seven have come with two strikes. How’s that for relatively obscure stats coming from the Rays media relations department?
• After allowing those back-to-back singles in the first inning, Kuroda retired his next 17 in a row. “I think my slider, especially against righties, was a pretty decent staple,” Kuroda said. “For me, the thing was I wanted to pound the zone today and be aggressive; a lesson from the last time.”
• Kuroda threw 72 pitches in the first six innings, but he threw 25 pitches in the seventh before being removed with two outs. Shawn Kelley got a huge strikeout to get Kuroda out of the jam. Really, that might have been the at-bat of the night. Runners were left stranded at the corners, and it was only a one-run game at the time. “That’s a huge out, obviously,” Girardi said. “If he doesn’t, they’re going to tie the score and have a chance to take the lead. It’s a really big out.”
• Dave Robertson has now converted 21 straight save opportunities. Oddly, though, he hasn’t had a strikeout in three straight appearances. He’s stuck at 499 career strikeouts. This is only the fifth time in his career that he’s gone three consecutive outings without a strikeout. He also did it back in April.
• McCann on returning to the lineup after more than a week off: “Good after the first couple innings. I felt it get in game speed. The first couple innings were a little fast on me, but then (things) settled down and it was just like another game.” McCann said the speed of the game struck him more behind the plate than at the plate.
• Yet again, excellent infield defense for the Yankees. Chase Headley made a diving play at third, and Martin Prado made at least three really nice plays at second. “It was really good,” Girardi said. “They made some excellent plays. Prado made some excellent plays today and some tough plays. You can look at the play in the eighth inning where he doesn’t try to do too much; he understands to just get an out. It was outstanding.”
• Final word goes to Gardner: “Well, we’ve won our last two games. Obviously we’ve got another off-day tomorrow and hopefully we’ll go home and have a good week at home. We didn’t do what we wanted to do in Baltimore and obviously losing Friday night here, but the last two days have gone pretty good. We continued to pitch great and hopefully this week our offense can pick up the slack and give our pitchers a little breathing room.”
Associated Press photos
Postgame notes: “We’re running out of time” • 08.16.14
One week ago, there was some actual optimism around this Yankees team. Maybe not enough evidence to think the team was out of the woods and on its way, but certainly reason to think they just might be ready to at least make it interesting. As of last Friday, the Yankees had won three of four against the Tigers, six of seven overall, and they’d just scored 10 runs against the Indians. They were seven games above .500 and had generally played pretty well since the All-Star break.
They haven’t won a game since. And the offense – even with its new additions filling the bottom of the order – has scored just seven runs in its past five games.
“Morale’s down a little bit,” hitting coach Kevin Long said. “But it’s our job to try to keep it up and keep guys as positive as we can during a time like this. That’s one of our biggest challenges. We’ll stay at it, come ready to work tomorrow. We need something to turn. And we need it to turn in a hurry.”
As of tonight, the calendar is crossing into the second half of August. There’s a month and a half remaining, there are three teams between the Yankees and the second wild card, and it could be five teams if the Yankees are swept this weekend at Tropicana Field.
“We’re running out of time,” Brett Gardner said. “Every day that goes by and we don’t win, it makes us one step closer to being home at the end of September.”
Alex Cobb pitched well tonight. A few days ago, the Yankees were beaten by Cory Kluber, who’s been terrific. But at some point, tipping a cap is a pretty empty gesture. At some point, the Yankees are simply a team that other pitchers see as an opportunity to pad their own stats.
“You want to score four or five runs a game,” Long said. “That’s what you set out to do. Sometimes the pitching doesn’t allow you do that. Sometimes there’s days when I feel like we really should, and we don’t do it. Against a Corey Kluber, or this guy tonight, it’s understandable that the runs are going to be down. But you’re going to have some days where — not to throw Chris Tillman under the bus, but he didn’t have his best stuff the other night. That’s a guy where you want to capitalize and take advantage of it. Again, when you have a couple guys like tonight, and Kluber, and before that we faced the three Cy Young guys, there’s going to be tough days. But some of those other guys, we should be able to get to.”
Joe Girardi seems to have settled into a stance of absolute confidence. That’s his approach — really, it’s his personality — and it’s honestly hard to imagine this veteran roster responding to some sort of fiery speech from the skipper. Girardi is trying to show confidence that veteran hitters will eventually hit. Maybe he believes in them, they’ll believe in themselves. While Mark Teixeira said he thought morale was just fine, there’s a definite sense in the clubhouse of players who realize the margin for error has worn extremely thin. And everyone is well aware that the offense is the biggest culprit.
“It’s not really baffling,” Teixeira said. “We’re just not getting the job done. You win and lose as a team, and we definitely haven’t been winning as a team lately because up and down the lineup, we just can’t get it done. We all need to step it up.”
It has to happen soon, because just one week after things seemed to be coming together, it’s all falling apart again. And there’s not much time left to pick up the pieces.
• Quick injury update: Brian McCann said he doesn’t really expect to be activated tomorrow. He said he’s really shooting for Sunday. Today was the first time he’d done any on-field drills since the concussion.
• Leadoff man reached base five times for the Yankees, and at no point did that runner advance past first base. But the best run-scoring opportunity was the eighth, when both Jacoby Ellsbury and Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded. Those are the Nos. 3 and 4 hitters, in case you’d forgotten. “And we weren’t able to do it,” Girardi said. “You’re where you want to be in the order, but we weren’t able to come through with a hit.”
• Here’s Teixeira on the idea of hitters trying to do too much in those situations: “That’s natural,” Teixeira said. “If you’re not scoring runs as a team and you get up there and there’s a man on first (you think), ‘If I hit a home run here, we’re back in the game.’ Or, bases loaded, ‘I have to get a hit here.’ Yeah, that’s natural. That’s baseball. That’s why you win and lose as a team because if you’re relying on one guy to get the job done, or you yourself think ‘I’m the only one that’s going to get the job done,’ you’re not going to score runs. Good teams feed off each other. Unfortunately, hitting’s contagious, but not hitting is contagious as well.”
• Of course, here’s the line everyone will love: “I felt like we had a chance (in the eighth) until that guy came out and just made quality pitches,” Teixeira said. “Ells and I were talking about, we didn’t feel that we got a pitch to hit. The guy throws 96 with a good changeup, and we just couldn’t get it done.”
• Quite often guys like Long or Girardi will say that at-bats are good even if results aren’t. Long wasn’t saying that tonight. “At-bats, the last five days, they haven’t been as good as they probably should be,” Long said. “That tells me guys are probably trying a little too hard. There’s not a lot of laughter, there’s not a lot of at-ease at bats, and that makes this game even more difficult.”
• Brandon McCarthy wasn’t hit hard tonight, but he got no run support and took his second loss. Not a lot of ease for the pitching staff, either, when the offense is struggling like this. “It puts pressure on all of us,” McCarthy said. “I know the hitters are feeling it. Anytime you go through this, it affects as a team. You feel it. It’s not a me situation of woe-is-me, they’re not scoring runs. We’re not scoring runs. That’s something I’m sure that weighs on everyone, and everyone is doing what they can to correct it. It’s not a time to have your own personal feelings hurt and worry about yourself.”
• Bad first inning for McCarthy, which he said was all about not feeling quite right in the bullpen during warm-ups, and carrying that feeling into the game. “First inning, I didn’t really have a feel for anything. Warming up, I felt really weird. Same in the first inning. I went out for the second and everything kind of felt normal again, and I was able to get back in a groove and throw strikes. First inning was just kind of weird.”
• Twice the Yankees had a chance to turn a double play in the first inning, and each time they couldn’t do it. Neither was a routine double play, but each seemed to have at least a chance. Girardi didn’t seem to have a problem with the Yankees not turning them, and neither did McCarthy. “I know one kind of ate Stephen up, and Chase has to reach for that other one,” McCarthy said. “Some days those might turn into double plays. Some days they’re tougher plays. I’ve got to do a better job of not getting into that jam where you’re relying on something happening behind you.”
• Headley snapped a streak of 62 straight games without an error at third base. His career-high errorless streak at third is 67 games.
• Derek Jeter actually reached another obscure milestone tonight. It was his 1,007th multi-hit game with the Yankees. According to Elias, that’s the third-most since 1900 for a player with one team, passing Hank Aaron who had 1,006 with the Braves. Stan Musial had 1,59 with the Cardinals and Ty Cobb had 1,211 with the Tigers.
• Final word to Teixeira: “It’s definitely getting late. I said it when we were in Baltimore, or before that series, every game is kind of must-win at this point. We really need to win some games. There’s definitely a sense of urgency in here. We just haven’t been scoring runs.”
Associated Press photos
Usually on a day like this I’d do a random thoughts blog post. Today, it’s not so much thoughts but questions that are on my mind. No answers just yet, but these questions are going to determine much of what happens to the Yankees down the stretch.
Can Michael Pineda’s shoulder hold up this time?
It’s not only the setbacks this season, it’s the fact he had such a significant shoulder injury in the first place. That’s why Pineda’s health remains a concern even after last night’s encouraging start in Baltimore. Pineda looked good in his return to the rotation — hard to ask for more under the circumstances — but one game really isn’t nearly enough to tell us whether he’s going to be a great, good, average or lousy pitcher in the final month and a half. Last night was basically enough to show that he could be an impact arm if he stays healthy. Staying healthy is, of course, the key. It has huge ramifications for this year and beyond.
What happens when Masahiro Tanaka gets on a mound?
He seemed to say all of the right things after throwing what I guess qualifies as an extremely light flat ground bullpen. He’s been able to play catch, do some long toss, and now he’s been able to throw a few fastballs in the outfield. All of the steps have been positive so far, and Tanaka says the elbow pain has vanished, but let’s see what happens when he gets on a mound and dials it up with fastballs, splitters and sliders. The Yankees are hoping to avoid Tommy John surgery for both the short term and the long term, and while the early returns are positive, Tanaka’s not through the woods just yet.
Will Carlos Beltran’s return to right field be a worthwhile idea?
He was awesome in early April, then his bat diminished, then he was hurt, then he came back as only a whisper of what he used to be. But lately, Beltran has been a true impact hitter, one of the best in the Yankees lineup. He’s been terrific since the All-Star break, and the Yankees can hardly afford to lose a guy who’s actually providing offensive production and consistency. Yet, they want to get Beltran back in right field. It makes sense as a way to open the DH spot to rest other lineup regulars — and perhaps open at bats for some sort of raw bat that might clear trade waivers this month — but that’s only a worthwhile move if Beltran is able to play right field without getting hurt again.
Is the bullpen running out of steam?
Aside from that hiccup in Texas and one pitch last night, Dellin Betances still looks great. And Dave Robertson has remained perfectly reliable in the ninth inning. But one of the strengths of this bullpen has been its depth, and Adam Warren’s numbers have not been especially good lately. Chase Whitley, who looked awesome when he first showed up, has thrown a ton of innings by his standards and could be worn down. There’s no longer a proven left-hander. Shawn Kelley has been inconsistent. Could be that Esmil Rogers can provide a boost if some of the go-to guys need it, but the bullpen is starting to feel a little shaky beyond the two big guys at the end.
How much difference can three guys make?
Before the trade deadline, the Yankees completely rebuilt the bottom third of their lineup. Brian Roberts was released, Kelly Johnson and Yangervis Solare were shipped away, and Ichiro Suzuki was relegated to the bench. They were replaced by Chase Headley, Stephen Drew and Martin Prado, three pretty good hitters having pretty bad years. Headley and Drew have significantly upgraded the infield defense, but the Yankees need those three to hit, and their offensive impact has been pretty minimal so far.
When will Mark Teixeira break down again?
I suppose it’s not quite a given that Teixeira is going to get hurt again, but it seems entirely possible if not likely that he’s going to have some sort of nagging problem pop up again. This guy has already spent time on the disabled list with a hamstring injury, gotten injections in his wrist and his back, had his knee drained, gotten stitches for his pinky, and been taken out of the lineup because of fatigue and light-headedness (two separate issues). The way the roster is structured right now, a Teixeira injury would mean additional at-bats for either Francisco Cervelli, Ichiro Suzuki or Brendan Ryan. Those are hardly offensive replacements for what Teixeira brings to the lineup.
Who is the true left-handed specialist?
The Yankees saw an opportunity to get out of an uninspiring contract, and so they let Matt Thornton slip away on waivers earlier this month. Thornton had been alright — not a single extra-base hit to a left-handed hitter — but he seems infinitely replaceable. Problem is, the Yankees haven’t really replaced him yet. They’ve tried Rich Hill and David Huff in key at-bats against lefties, but those two are hardly typical left-handed specialists. Eventually the Yankees are surely going to try one of their in-house young lefties in the role. Will it be Tyler Webb, Jacob Lindgren or maybe even Manny Banuelos? And more importantly, will they be up to the challenge?
Which teams are fading and which are charging?
The Red Sox and Rays have pretty much thrown in the towel, and the Angels and A’s seem to be locked into playoff spots — they’re simply fighting for which one wins the West and which is the top wild card — but that still leaves plenty of other playoff contenders for the Yankees to keep an eye on. The Orioles and Blue Jays are obviously ahead of the Yankees in the division, and the second wild-card race also includes Detroit, Kansas City, Seattle and Cleveland. That’s seven teams in the mix for one of the two playoff spots that could let the Yankees move on.
Associated Press photos
Three nights in Baltimore • 08.11.14
This is a big series coming for the Yankees, three in Baltimore against the first-place Orioles.
The Yankees still have dreams of winning the AL East, even with their sporatic offense. But they will show up tonight trailing by six games.
“We can’t afford to lose any more ground,” Mark Teixeira said. “It’s getting late for that.”
The Yankees still have 10 games left against Baltimore, including seven in September. They are at 61-56 after Sunday’s 4-1 loss to Cleveland that capped a 4-3 homestand. They scored just one run in their final 20 innings in the series. (Here’s my Lohud.com/Journal News story on the Yankees’ lack of offense the past two days and Hiroki Kuroda’s struggle Sunday.)
The Orioles lost to St. Louis 8-3 on Sunday, but they are still 17 over .500, at 67-50. The Yankees are 14-9 since the All-Star break, including 6-4 in August. Baltimore is 15-8, including 7-3 in August. The Orioles won 12-2 and 10-3 in the first two games against the Cardinals.
“This is the team we’re chasing,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s very important that we win a series at the least. We have to play extremely well because they’re playing well. … They’ve been hot lately and they’ve been scoring runs, so we’re going to have to hold them down.”
Chris Capuano, Shane Greene and Esmil Rogers or Michael Pineda will start for the Yankees, who are also 2 1/2 behind the Royals for the second wild card.
So do you think the Yankees can catch Baltimore?
Nick Markakis photo by The Associated Press.