Game 2,747: Yankees at Red Sox • 09.28.14
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Derek Jeter DH
Brett Gardner CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew SS
Francisco Cervelli C
Chris Young LF
Jose Pirela 2B
RHP Michael Pineda (4-5, 1.93)
Pineda vs. Red Sox
RED SOX (71-90)
Mookie Betts 2B
Daniel Nava RF
Yoenis Cespedes DH
Allen Craig 1B
Garin Cecchini 3B
Rusney Castillo CF
Bryce Brentz LF
David Ross C
Jemile Weeks SS
RHP Clay Buchholz (8-10, 5.31)
Buchholz vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:35 p.m., YES Network and TBS
WEATHER: Absolutely could not be a nicer day.
UMPIRES: HP Larry Vanover, 1B Angel Hernandez, 2B Paul Nauert, 3B Vic Carapazza
END OF AN ERA: This is Derek Jeter’s final game. He’s a five-time World Series champion and 14-time All-Star. He ranks sixth on baseball’s all-time list with 3,464 hits. According to Elias, with the Yankees going 1,627-1,117-2 in games in which he has appeared, Jeter owns the highest personal winning percentage (.593) among all active players with at least 1,000 games.
ALL HE DOES IS WIN, WIN, WIN: Of the 2,746 career regular-season games Jeter has played in, there have been just three in which the Yankees have been mathematically eliminated from postseason contention (Saturday, Thursday and September 26, 2008).
ONE AND DONE: Today marks the 46th anniversary of Mickey Mantle’s final career game in 1968, which also took place at Fenway Park. Mantle was the Yankees’ starting first baseman and popped out to shortstop in the top of the first inning, but was removed defensively (for Andy Kosco) before taking the field in the bottom of the first inning of the Yankees’ 4-3 win.
UPDATE, 1:44 p.m.: Line drive to the shortstop in Jeter’s first at-bat. Hit it hard. Hit it right to Weeks.
UPDATE, 2:27 p.m.: There’s your final moment of Derek Jeter’s career. High chop to the third baseman for an infield single, and he’s immediately lifted for a pinch runner (Brian McCann). Jeter hugged McCann, shook hands with Buchholz, then tipped his helmet as he walked off the field as an active player for the last time.
You know, this was a really good day for the Yankees. It might very well be too little too late, but taken in a vacuum, this was a really good day.
Jose Pirela’s mad-dash triple in his first career at-bat. Michael Pineda flat-out dominant next-to-last start of the year. Derek Jeter’s continued resurgence in his final home stand. Fifth win in six games, and this one coming against a first-place team. There’s a reason the Yankees were smiling a whole lot when this one was finished.
“I am so excited today,” Pirela said. “So I come here, and I’m looking to see if I play. When I see the lineup, I feel so excited. I try to enjoy this moment, enjoy for the rest of my life and play in the big leagues.”
That’s the kid talking. Here’s the soon-to-be-retired icon.
“You continue to play hard and you continue to fight until you’re out of games,” Jeter said. “That’s all you can do. I’m well aware of the situation that we’re in, but the only thing we can control is the games that we’re playing. It was a good win for us today, and we need to come out and win tomorrow.”
I don’t think anyone is really expecting the Yankees to advance to the postseason at this point, but this game was impressive because of Pineda, and it was fun because of Pirela and Jeter. There was something interesting about seeing a guy like Pirela have a debut like this on the same day that Jeter continued to swing the bat so well.
“It’s exciting to watch (Pirela),” Jeter said. “You see how excited he was to get his first hit, then his second hit. It never gets old. We’re all happy for him. He got an opportunity to play and I’m pretty sure he didn’t think he was going to get called up this year. For him to come up and get his first hit, that’s a fun thing to watch.”
As for Jeter, today’s double was the ninth hit during the first five games of this home stand. And the crowd was into his every at-bat.
“I never said I didn’t think I couldn’t play anymore,” Jeter said. “This is the time for me to call it a career after this season. Sometimes things are difficult, sometimes they come a little bit easier. Not easy, but they come a little easier at times. You have to continue to battle. This is a game of adjustments and I’ll continue to make those adjustments until I’m out of games.”
• Pineda was terrific. One hit and one walk through 7.1 innings. It was the longest scoreless outing of his career, and eight strikeouts was his highest total since September 10, 2011 with Seattle. “I’m very happy for coming back and help my team,” Pineda said. “It’s very important for me to help my team every five days, when I take the mound. And I’m very happy, because I love pitching.”
• When Pineda came to the Yankees, he was mostly a fastball-slider guy with a changeup that needed work. But that changeup has come a long way, and we saw some of them tonight. “Every time I’m feeling more comfortable with my changeup, and I’m happy with that, you know?” Pineda said. “It’s very important. It’s a good pitch for me. Before, I’m not using my changeup. Now, it’s very good for me.”
• First Orioles base runner was a J.J. Hardy single in the fifth inning. It was the furthest into a start that Pineda had ever gone without putting anyone on base.
• Eight starts since coming off the disabled list and Pineda’s walked just four batters while striking out 34. “He really picked up where he left off,” Joe Girardi said. “He was throwing the ball great for us before he got hurt, and he’s just really picked up where he left off. … I think it was important for him to come back and pitch well. He’s done that, and he’s pitched really well. And he’s got another start for us.”
• One other thing to note: It was pretty chilly today, and Pineda got through the start pitching well and without an ejection for using pine tar. That’s not to say that he wasn’t using pine tar, but he’s either found a more acceptable way to use it or learned to pitch without it. “You’ve got to remember, the night that he pitched (in Boston) was miserable,” Girardi said. “I do think it’s important to give him confidence when it’s cooler and it’s windy out. The wind a lot of times is the worst thing for a pitcher when it’s cool. It was windy out there, and I think it was important.”
• In his big league debut, Pirela went 2-for-3 with an energizing RBI triple in his first at-bat. He hadn’t played in about two weeks when the Yankees called him up as a late September addition, so he was given a few days to take batting practice and get ready again, but his debut was awfully memorable. “When I see the outfielder go to get the ball (in the first at-bat), I see that’s a hit,” Pirela said. “I say, I want to hit a homer. I thought the ball is gone but I hit a triple and I enjoy that.”
• This was Jeter’s first three-RBI game since September 9, 2012 at Baltimore. Each of his last three games with at least three RBI have come against the Orioles.
• Ichiro Suzuki got his 2,840th career hit, tying Charlie Gehringer for 47th place on MLB’s all-time hit list.
• The Yankees scored more than three runs against Baltimore for the first time since June 20 at Yankee Stadium. They had not scored at least four runs in any of their past 11 games against the Orioles. According to Elias, that was their third-longest such streak against any team since 1920.
• Final word goes to Girardi: “I really believe we have to pretty much win out is pretty much it, but you never know. Strange things happen in sports. We’ve seen it. We’ve seen people that were 10 games back, come back in a month’s time and find a way to get back into the playoffs on the last day. Crazy things happen, and it’s obviously tougher when you’re chasing more than one team, to happen to a lot of teams, but the teams we’re chasing have had their struggles too. And you never know.”
Associated Press photos
Game 156: Yankees vs. Orioles • 09.22.14
RHP Michael Pineda (3-5, 2.15)
Pineda vs. Blue Jays
Nick Markakis RF
Alejandro De Aza LF
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
J.J. Hardy SS
Christian Walker 1B
Ryan Flaherty 3B
Caleb Joseph C
Jonathan Schoop 2B
LHP Wei-Yin Chen (16-4, 3.58)
Chen vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Temperatures getting into the 60s. Nice night, really.
UMPIRES: HP Brian O’Nora, 1B D.J. Reyburn, 2B Jeff Kellogg, 3B Adam Hamari
THE HOME STAND: With Sunday’s win, the Yankees now have had 23 consecutive winning seasons at home from 1992-2014 (are 41-36 at home in 2014 with four home games left).?According to the Elias Sports Bureau, their current streak is the third-longest such streak in Major League history, trailing only the Yankees’ 47-year home winning streak from 1918-64 and the Pirates’ 24-year streak from 1892-1915. Worth remembering that the Yankees had a losing record at home in the first half.
THE LAST STAND: Since the start of this home stand, Derek Jeter has recorded a season-high-tying four straight multi-hit games, becoming the first Yankee in franchise history to accomplish the feat at age 40 or older and the first major leaguer to do so at that age since Chipper Jones in 2012 (that’s from Elias). Jeter?is 8-for-17 with three runs, two doubles, one homer and there RBI in four games.
ON THIS DATE: It was on September 22 last season that the Yankees held Mariano Rivera Day, with Rivera unveiling a new Jackie Robinson plaque in Monument Park.
UPDATE, 7:48 p.m.: Yankees bench going bonkers as Pirela gets an RBI triple in his first big league plate appearance. So far, Pineda is perfect through three innings.
UPDATE, 7:53 p.m.: Jeter with an RBI ground out, then hugs Pirela when he gets into the dugout.
UPDATE, 8:42 p.m.: Jeter with a sharp two-run double. Three RBI so far tonight. His strong final home stand continues.
UPDATE, 9:11 p.m.: Pineda simply dominant through seven scoreless. One hit. No walks. Eight strikeouts.
Last night, Chase Headley stood in front of his locker and talked about confidence and momentum. Tonight he stood in that exact same spot and talked about the fact that one hard-hit ground ball was enough to beat this team that he believes in so completely.
“You never are resigned to the fact that that’s going to cost you,” Headley said. “But obviously it did. It’s a tough way to lose a game.”
That one ground ball was a third-inning scorcher that took a late hop just past his glove. He said he played it pretty well, but he didn’t anticipate the kick and so the ball got by him. When the Royals followed with a single, they had all the offense they needed.
One unearned run, that’s the game-by-game margin for error with an offense that tends to disappear on occasion. As for the season’s margin for error — the one that determines whether the Yankees actually make a run toward the playoffs — that seems just as narrow.
“They’re all damaging at this point because it just makes it that much tougher,” manager Joe Girardi said. “… It’s just frustrating because you lose by one run. Whether its 2-1 or 3-2, it’s frustrating. We just really never got anything going.”
There’s little debate that James Shields is an extremely good pitcher. The Yankees were able to get to him two weeks ago in Kansas City, but the guy has a 3.23 ERA for a reason. He’s awfully good, and it was clear pretty early that Shields had his good stuff tonight. In another season, in a different situation, it would be a good night to tip a cap and move on.
But the Yankees don’t have that luxury at this point. Shields was great. The Yankees needed to be better, and they weren’t.
• Definitely Michael Pineda’s best start since coming off the disabled list, and probably his best start of the year. He pitched through the seventh inning for the first time, and that one unearned run was the only damage he allowed. He’s the second Yankees starter in the past 10 years to take a loss despite not allowing an earned run. The other was all-time good guy Dan Giese who did it in 2008.
• Pineda struck out four and walked none. He has 19 strikeouts and only one walk in his past six starts.
• Pineda has allowed two earned runs or less in each of his nine starts with the Yankees. Mike Axisa pointed out on Twitter that Pineda has a 1.80 ERA, but the Yankees at 3-6 in his starts. Brutal. Just brutal.
• Three of the seven times the Yankees have been shutout this season, it’s happened in games started by Pineda. But at least he’s used to it. He has just 18 runs of support in his past 13 major league starts dating back to August 27, 2011.
• What was working for Pineda? “Tonight, my changeup was working pretty good,” he said. “And my fastball too. Everything was working good. And I have control and good command of the ball tonight.” That’s a pretty good combination for him.
• Our friend Sweeny Murti is reporting that Francisco Cervelli is dealing with some severe headache issues. To give the Yankees an extra catcher, Austin Romine is expected to join the team.
• Headley on his costly error: “Hard-hit groundball. Got down. It kicked up over my glove. I watched it a few times. Technique-wise there’s probably not a whole lot I could have done different. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch it. It’s a play that I’d like to make, but it just didn’t happen.”
• Less than two weeks ago, the Yankees had six runs and 10 hits against James Shields. “He pitched way different than the Shields that we faced in Kansas City,” Carlos Beltran said. “Today he was using a lot of cutters and the changeup away so basically he keep us off balanced all game long and we couldn’t do anything until the ninth.”
• Speaking of the ninth, Antoan Richardson got a chance for redemption after being doubled up last night. This time he stole the base he needed — looked to me like he would have been safe even if the ball hadn’t gotten past the catcher — but the Yankees left him stranded.
• Beltran struck out against Wade Davis to end the game. “He tried to throw me some good pitches on the corner on the edges,” Beltran said. “And (he) threw me a 94 (MPH) cutter inside and he stayed away after that with a good fastball. … I guess today is the first time I faced that guy so I was basically looking for a good pitch to hit, and at the end of the day he was able to win the battle.”
• Davis struck out the two batters he faced tonight. He extended his lead-leading scoreless innings streak to 28.2 innings. He hasn’t allowed a run since June 25. This was his first save of the season.
• Dellin Betances pitched a perfect eighth inning and now has 124 strikeouts in 82 innings, passing Goose Gossage for the second-most strikeouts by a Yankees reliever in a single season. Mariano Rivera still has the record — for now — with 130 in 1996.
• Final word to Girardi: “(James) just didn’t make any mistakes. There were no balls in the middle of the plate. It seemd like he used all his stuff effectively, whether it was his fastball early in the count, his cutter, his curveball or his changeup, they were all effective tonight. A jam shot here, just missed a ball there, he was really on.”
Associated Press photos
Game 139: Yankees vs. Royals • 09.05.14
RHP Michael Pineda (3-3, 2.09)
Pineda vs. Royals
Nori Aoki RF
Omar Infante 2B
Alex Gordon LF
Salvador Perez C
Eric Hosmer 1B
Billy Butler DH
Mike Moustakas 3B
Lorenzo Cain CF
Alcides Escobar SS
RHP James Shields (12-7, 3.38)
Shields vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network
WEATHER: Temperatures in the 80s and dipping into the high 70s. Not much chance of rain.
UMPIRES: HP Kerwin Danley, 1B Gary Cederstrom, 2B Chris Segal, 3B Lance Barksdale
ROLL CALL: When Antoan Richardson pinch-ran last night, the Yankees used their 56th player this season matching their single-season franchise-high set in 2013. It is the second-highest total in the majors this season behind Texas, which has used a remarable 63 different players this season. Eight Yankees have made their MLB debuts this season: Dean Anna, Shane Greene, Bryan Mitchell, Jose Ramirez, Yangervis Solarte, Masahiro Tanaka, Zelous Wheeler and Chase Whitley.
LATINO LEGENDS: The Yankees and the Latino Baseball Hall of Fame will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a photo exhibit at Yankee Stadium on Saturday, September 6, at 12:30 p.m. Executives from both organizations will take part in the festivities. The exhibit will be located on the concourse outside of the New York Yankees Museum and will feature images of all Latino Baseball Hall of Famers. It will be available for viewing from Saturday through September 21.
ON THIS DATE: On September 5, 2007, Bob Sheppard worked his final game as the Yankees PA announcer. It was a 10-2 win over Seattle when Alex Rodriguez hit two home runs in the seventh inning.
UPDATE, 7:30 p.m.: The old 3-4-3 putout gets Pineda through the second innings. Still scoreless here in the Bronx.
UPDATE, 7:50 p.m.: Not an easy play, but certainly a play Headley is able to make. Sharp ground ball got past him, Escobar hustled to turn the error into two bases, and Aoki made it hurt with an RBI single. Aoki just slid past the bag to hand the Yankees the last out of the inning, but the Royals have taken a 1-0 lead in the third.
UPDATE, 8:11 p.m.: Pineda looks awful good so far. Of course, the Yankees are being no-hit, so…
UPDATE, 8:13 p.m.: There’s the hit. Gardner with a two-out double in the fourth.
UPDATE, 8:16 p.m..: But Gardner’s stranded.
UPDATE, 8:52 p.m.: Pineda’s still out there to start the seventh after Gardner just missed a game-tying home run to right field. Looked like it might go, but it was caught right at the wall.
UPDATE, 8:59 p.m.: Great start from Pineda, who’s gone seven innings with one unearned run. He’s walked none and allowed just three hits.
UPDATE, 9:05 p.m.: Eleven days ago, the Yankees had six runs on 10 hits against Shields. Not so much tonight. Just two hits through seven innings.
Pitching matchups vs. Royals • 09.05.14
RHP Michael Pineda (3-3, 2.09)
RHP James Shields (12-7, 3.38)
7:05 p.m., YES Network
RHP Brandon McCarthy (5-4, 2.80)
LHP Danny Duffy (8-11, 2.42)
4:05 p.m., FOX Sports 1
RHP Shane Greene (4-2, 3.88)
RHP Yordano Ventura (11-9, 3.38)
1:05 p.m., YES Network and TBS
Associated Press photo
Game 134: Yankees at Blue Jays • 08.30.14
RHP Michael Pineda (3-2, 1.95)
Pineda vs. Blue Jays
BLUE JAYS (67-67)
Jose Reyes SS
Munenori Kawasaki 2B
Melky Cabrera LF
Jose Bautista RF
Adam Lind 1B
Edwin Encarnacion DH
Dioner Navarro C
Danny Valencia 3B
Kevin Pillar CF
RHP Drew Hutchison (8-11, 4.68)
Hutchison vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 1:07 p.m., YES Network and MLB Network
WEATHER: Dome sweet dome
UMPIRES: HP Bill Miller, 1B Chad Fairchild, 2B Ben May, 3B Mike Everitt
SAVINGS PLAN: Dave Robertson recorded his 43rd career save last night and is now one save shy of tying Rafael Soriano for eighth place on the Yankees’ all-time saves list. Seventh-place Lindy McDaniel (48) is the only other Yankee that Robertson is in range of this season. Robertson has 35 saves this season, making him the sixth player in franchise history to record at least 35 saves in a single season (also Rivera-12x, Righetti-2x, Soriano-1x, Wetteland-1x and Lyle-1x).
ROLL CALL: With Josh Outman’s appearance last night, the Yankees have now used 53 players this season, the second-highest total in franchise history (they used 56 in 2013). Of those 53 players,?28 made their debut with the team, and eight of those made their MLB debuts (Anna, Greene, Mitchell, Ramirez, Solarte, Tanaka, Wheeler and Whitley).
BIG CITY LIVING: Michael Pineda has allowed two-or-fewer earned runs and five-or-fewer hits in seven consecutive starts, tied for the longest streak by a Yankees pitcher since at least 1914. Ron Guidry also produced seven such starts consecutively in 1981.
Just got into my Detroit hotel after missing Monday’s makeup game in Kansas City, so we’ll start this day with the AP story from last night. Here’s Dave Skretta:
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Michael Pineda kept throwing strikes. The Royals kept taking them, trying in vain to drive his pitch count up. When Yankees catcher Brian McCann looked up in the third inning, his right-hander had still thrown just 35 pitches.
He knew then that Pineda was in a groove.
Pineda wound up pitching into the seventh inning Monday night to win for the first time since April 16, helping New York beat the Kansas City Royals 8-1 for its fifth straight win.
“He’s got so much cut on his fastball,” McCann said. “I feel like he could literally throw it every pitch and be successful. When he’s like that, he’s as good as anybody.”
In the makeup of a game rained out in early June, Pineda (3-2) gave up a solo shot to Mike Moustakas leading off the third inning. But that was about it in Pineda’s third game back from the disabled list. He struck out five without a walk.
Jacoby Ellsbury drove in a run in the seventh inning with the 1,000th hit of his career, then added a two-run homer in the ninth. Derek Jeter added a pair of RBIs in his final scheduled trip to Kauffman Stadium, and Stephen Drew and Martin Prado had solo home runs.
“It’s nice when you have a lot of people contribute,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.
James Shields (12-7) allowed six runs over 6 2-3 innings for Kansas City.
“We’ve been playing really, really good baseball the last month or so. We’re definitely not going to let just one little game take care of us,” Shields said. “We’re going to move onto this next series and hopefully we’ll win it.”
If you’re willing to count the makeup against New York as a true series, it was the first time in their last 11 that the Royals have dropped one.
“It’s going to happen,” outfielder Alex Gordon said. “We’ll bounce back. We’ll be OK.”
Moustakas tied the game with his 15th homer in the bottom half.
Drew gave the Yankees the lead back in the fourth with his home run, and they piled on four more runs off Shields in the seventh to put things out of reach.
The last of the runs was scored by Ellsbury, who came home on a sacrifice fly by McCann. Ellsbury initially was ruled out at the plate, but the call was overturned after a 2-minute video review showed his left leg sliding just under catcher Salvador Perez’s tag.
That was plenty of support for Pineda, who had gone through the ringer since his previous win. He served a 10-game suspension for getting caught with pine tar on his neck in a game against Boston, then landed on the DL with shoulder trouble that kept him out until mid-August.
Pineda was stuck with a pair of no-decisions in his first two starts back.
“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I feel like I have good power in my arm.”
BRONX BOMBERS: The Yankees homered at least three times in a game for the seventh time this season, but it was the first time they had done it since July 9 at Cleveland.
CRACKED SHIELDS: Speaking of homers, Shields gave up at least two in a game for the seventh time this season, tied for second-most in the majors behind the Brewers’ Marco Estrada with nine.
TRAINER’S ROOM: 1B Mark Teixeira (left hamstring) and OF Brett Gardner (right ankle) were held out of the starting lineup. Girardi hopes both will be available Tuesday in Detroit.
UP NEXT: RHP Brandon McCarthy makes his ninth start with the Yankees to open a three-game series in Detroit, one of the clubs they’re chasing in the AL wild-card race.
Associated Press photos
Game 129: Yankees at Royals • 08.25.14
RHP Michael Pineda (2-2, 2.05)
Pineda vs. Royals
Jarrod Dyson CF
Omar Infante 2B
Alex Gordon LF
Billy Butler 1B
Salvador Perez C
Raul Ibanez DH
Lorenzo Cain RF
Mike Moustakas 3B
Alcides Escobar SS
RHP James Shields (12-6, 3.28)
Shields vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:10 p.m., MY9 and ESPN
WEATHER: It’s Kansas City in August. It’s hot and feels hotter.
UMPIRES: HP Lance Barrett, 1B Dana DeMuth, 2B Ron Kulpa, 3B Ed Hickox
ABOUT YESTERDAY: A quick note on Sunday’s dramatic win. According to Elias, Brian McCann now has eigth career extra-inning home runs, including at least one in each season since 2009. Over the past 20 years (1995-2014), the only other player with a streak of six-or-more straight seasons with extra-inning home runs is Albert Pujols who went even straight from 2003 to 2009.
HELP FROM THE NEW GUY: In his past eight games, Martin Prado is batting .406 (13-for-32) with seven runs, two home runs, nine RBI and one walk-off hit. Little coincidence that lately he’s been hitting closer to the middle of the order and not so much at the bottom.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Adam Warren turns 27 years old today. He’s looked a lot better lately. Has been working on staying back in his delivery and said he’s felt better on the mound. Said he feels like he’s getting back to the way he felt earlier in the season when he was earning all of those late-inning opportunities.
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