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
Yankees could have used a rain out tonight. Here’s David Ginsburg from The Associated Press to wrap up the latest Yankees disappointment. By the way, I have to agree with Girardi on the call at first base. Not sure Stephen Drew should have been called out on that one.
BALTIMORE (AP) — Maybe Yankees manager Joe Girardi got lucky with his 26th career ejection: He didn’t have to watch from the dugout as New York blew a late lead in a painful defeat.
Jonathan Schoop and Adam Jones homered in a four-run eighth inning that carried the AL East-leading Orioles to a 5-3 win Wednesday night.
It was the fourth straight loss for the Yankees, who fell eight games out in the division with 43 to play. At this juncture, winning the AL East just might be too formidable a task.
“I think we’re looking more at the second wild-card spot. That’s a little bit better number, it’s a little more achievable at this point,” said reliever Shawn Kelley, who gave up Jones’ game-winning shot.
Girardi missed the finish after being ejected in the seventh inning by home plate umpire Gerry Davis. Girardi was furious after Davis called New York’s Stephen Drew out for running in the baseline on his way to first base.
“Yeah, well, Gerry was wrong,” Girardi said.
Girardi’s second ejection of the year came with New York ahead 2-1 on the strength of Francisco Cervelli’s second home run of the year, a two-run drive in the third inning off Chris Tillman.
The lead didn’t stand up, and now the Yankees are scrambling to stay in the playoff hunt.
“We’ve got to start winning series again,” Girardi said. “We have not won the last two series and we put ourselves in a little bit of a hole.”
Cervelli said, “We can do it. This is not done yet.”
After Schoop tied it with a drive off Dellin Betances, Kelley (2-4) gave up a single and a walk before Jones hit a shot into the bullpen area beyond the center-field wall.
“We had a lead late, and that’s one thing we’ve done well as a whole as a bullpen,” Kelley said. “A lot of that’s on me tonight.”
Darren O’Day (4-1) worked the eighth and Zach Britton gave up a run in the ninth en route to his 25th save.
“It’s tough right now because they are hitting very good,” Cervelli said. “They’ve got a couple of hitters who are really hot right now.”
Making his first appearance in the big leagues since April 23, New York starter Michael Pineda retired the first 12 batters he faced before Nelson Cruz doubled to open the fifth.
Pineda allowed one run and two hits over five innings. After being suspended for 10 games for using a foreign substance on the mound in April, the right-hander went on the disabled list with a shoulder muscle injury. He left after throwing 67 pitches.
“We thought he started getting the ball up a little bit,” Girardi said.
Baltimore played without its two starters on the left side of the infield. Third baseman Manny Machado was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained right knee ligament and shortstop J.J. Hardy missed a third straight game with a sprained left thumb.
Tillman gave up two runs and five hits in seven innings.
Associated Press photos
Game 119: Yankees at Orioles • 08.13.14
Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Mark Teixeira 1B
Carlos Beltran DH
Chase Headley 3B
Stephen Drew 2B
Martin Prado RF
Francisco Cervelli C
RHP Michael Pineda (2-2, 1.83)
Pineda vs. Orioles
Nick Markakis RF
Chris Davis 3B
Adam Jones CF
Nelson Cruz DH
Delmon Young LF
Steve Pearce 1B
Ryan Flaherty SS
Jonathan Schoop 2B
Nick Hundley C
RHP Chris Tillman (9-5, 3.73)
Tillman vs. Yankees
TIME/TV: 7:05 p.m., YES Network and ESPN
WEATHER: Temperatures in the high to mid 70s with basically no chance of rain. So, better than last night.
UMPIRES: HP Gerry Davis, 1B Greg Gibson, 2B Phil Cuzzi, 3B Will Little
GOOD KOMPANY: In just 373.2 innings, David Robertson has 499 career strikeouts. If he gets another strikeout within his next 1.1 innings, Elias notes that he will become the fifth pitcher in Major League history to reach 500 K within his first 375 career innings, joining Billy Wagner (341.0), Brad Lidge (354.2), Armando Benitez (355.2) and Rob Dibble (368.1).
JUST TOSSING IT OUT THERE: The Yankees have had 31 players pitch this season, setting the single-season franchise high. Of the nine MLB teams that have used at least 24 pitchers this season only the Angels and Tigers are also above .500. The others are the Rangers, Rockies, Astros, White Sox, Marlins and Phillies.
FACE OF THE YANKEES: After last night, Derek Jeter has played 2,707 games with the Yankees, tying the Royals’ George Brett for ninth place on the all-time list of players who have played all of their games with one team. Next on the list is the Giants’ Mel Ott with 2,730 games.
This is a big day for the Yankees rotation.
At least, it might be a big day for the Yankees rotation.
Not only is Michael Pineda making his first big league start in more than three months, but even before tonight’s first pitch, Masahiro Tanaka went into the outfield and threw 10 flat-ground fastballs. That’s a pretty small step, but it’s the most significant step yet in his return from a partially torn elbow ligament.
“Pain’s gone,” is the phrase Wally Matthews heard.
At this stage, it’s basically impossible for Tanaka to do anything that proves he’s in the clear and will definitely return to the Yankees rotation without needing Tommy John surgery. For now, the best the Yankees can hope for is that he doesn’t suffer a setback. And so far he hasn’t. We’re squarely into no news is good news territory, and right now it seems that Tanaka has no real news to report.
He’s a Major League pitcher who’s playing catch and throwing a few pitches off flat ground. As long as it goes well, none of this is a particularly big deal. It’s all just a series of steps in the right direction. It becomes a big deal when he either progresses to game action or suffers some sort of setback that shuts down the whole process.
• Although the Yankees originally announced a rotation that had Chris Capuano starting on Sunday, Hiroki Kuroda told reporters in Baltimore that he’s actually taking the ball that day. The Yankees seem to be clearly — and understandably — trying to give Kuroda a little bit of a rest in hopes of avoiding a late-season crash like they’ve seen in recent years.
• Joe Girardi told reporters that he expects Brian McCann to come off the disabled list on Saturday. McCann has been on the seven-day concussion DL.
• Pineda returns to the rotation tonight. He hasn’t pitched in the big leagues since April 23, the day he was ejected for using pine tar. Most pitches he threw during his minor league rehab assignment was 72 on Friday, so there’s basically no chance he’ll be cleared for anything particularly close to 100 pitches tonight.
• To open a roster spot for Pineda, Chris Leroux has been designated for assignment. What is this, three big league call-ups for Leroux this season? He’s been one of several guys shuttling back and forth to give the Yankees a long man when they need it. And the Yankees have needed it quite a bit because they’ve struggled to get much distance out of their starting pitchers.
• The Orioles have put third baseman Manny Machado on the disabled list with a knee injury. He hurt himself during Monday’s game against the Yankees. Chris Davis is back at third base for Baltimore.
• Speaking of Baltimore, from our friend Marly Rivera, here’s Orioles manager Buck Showalter on whether Pineda will be using pine tar tonight: “I’m hoping he’s got a little (pine tar) in the right place, YOU try gripping the ball in some of this weather.” It’s been said over and over again, but the problem with Pineda in Boston wasn’t so much that he was using pine tar, it was the fact he was being so blatant about it after the Red Sox had already looked the other way once.
• Clubhouse good guy Shawn Kelley did the Ice Bucket Challenge today and challenged Tanaka, CC Sabathia and Felix Hernandez to do the same. Dan Barbarisi pointed out yesterday that Kelley lost his grandfather to ALS, so it’s pretty cool that he’s jumping into the recent trend.
• At the owner’s meeting to discuss the next commissioner, Hal Steinbrenner told Michael O’Keeffe that he expects to have Alex Rodriguez back in the Yankees lineup next season. That’s settled. I’m sure we won’t hear another word about it.
Associated Press photo
Big Mike is back tonight. Here’s David Ginsburg reporting for The Associated Press.
Pineda last pitched on April 23, when he was ejected from a game against Boston. He received a 10-game suspension from Major League Baseball for “possessing a foreign substance on his person.”
Pineda has been on the DL since May 6 with a right shoulder muscle injury. He returns to face the Orioles after making two rehabilitation starts for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre.
Pineda declared himself healthy and expressed an eagerness to put the suspension behind him.
“I know I made a mistake, so I learned from that,” he said in the New York clubhouse Monday. “Everything is in the past right now. I want to continue my career. I’m focused on my game and I’m focused on pitching. I said sorry to my team, sorry to everybody.”
Pineda is 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA in four starts.
“I’m working hard, I was doing good, and I want to be ready for this situation,” he said. “I’m happy.”
The Yankees considered giving Pineda another rehab start but decided he was ready to go.
“We feel he’s ready now,” manager Joe Girardi said. “His stuff was good. His slider was good, his fastball was good, and his changeup was good. You’re never sure how when a guy’s rehabbing how the arm strength is going to be and how short they’re going to be, but he threw the ball well.”
Pineda returns at a time when the Yankees need a surge to make up a six-game deficit on first-place Baltimore in the AL East.
“This is a guy that threw very well before he went on the DL and it will be nice to have him back,” Girardi said.
Associated Press photo
Pineda to start tomorrow • 08.12.14
Wednesday: Michael Pineda
Thursday: Off day
Friday: Brandon McCarthy
Saturday: Shane Greene
Sunday: Chris Capuano
Yankees pregame: Teixeira watch • 08.10.14
Joe Girardi is really hopeful he can stick with the lineup he put together today for the series finale against the Indians, the one with Mark Teixeira batting cleanup and playing first after missing three games.
Teixeira is testing his left pinkie in batting practice.
“It’s important to us,” Girardi said. “It means we can move some other people around and do some things that would help us, and you get him in the middle of the order where he’s been productive. It would be nice.”
Girardi still had no decision to announce on Wednesday night’s starter in Baltimore, Michael Pineda or Esmil Rogers. It will be the finale of a three-game series. The Yankees are in second, trailing the Orioles by six games at the moment.
“They’re important games because we’re chasing them,” Girardi said. “They have a lead in our division and that’s where we want to be, on top of the division. I think we have 10 more games with them. But the important thing is that we continue to take series, like we have an opportunity to today. And you need to do that if you want to play in October.”
Hiroki Kuroda goes today. The 39-year-old hasn’t shown signs of wearing down like he did last year, at least not yet.
“I’ve been really pleased,” Girardi said. “We’ve been somewhat conscious of his workload. I know the one day in Texas we had to push him (to 115 pitches), but we knew he had an extra day. I think the last start he threw 90 pitches (actually 91). It was seven innings, though. We’ll continue to watch him.”
Girardi seems in no hurry to get Carlos Beltran back in right.
“He’s been throwing,” Girardi said. “He definitely feels better. But … with the flexibility we got with (Martin) Prado, we feel less of a rush, not a rush, but we’re OK. It’s subject to change, but we’ll see what happens.”
Photo by The Associated Press.
Mark Teixeira took some swings off a tee yesterday, testing the left pinkie that took a three-stitch cut on Wednesday. It didn’t go well.
“It’s not the cut,” Teixeira said this morning. “The joint is really, really sore.”
Then Teixeira tested it again after he spoke.
“He took swings and he felt better,” Joe Girardi said. “Hopefully it’s not much longer with him.”
The Yankees just announced that Brian McCann is going on the 7-day concussion DL. He suffered a mild concussion on a foul tip to the face mask in last night’s game. Austin Romine was recalled from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, and Brian Roberts was unconditionally released.
Michael Pineda went 4 1/3 for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Friday night, allowing one run and six hits while striking out seven. He threw 72 pitches.
“Everything is there,” Pineda said, back at his locker this morning. “The velocity is there. I’m feeling good. I’m happy with that.”
That was his second rehab start in his latest comeback from the upper back muscle strain near that right shoulder. Asked if he’s ready to pitch for the Yankees again, Pineda said, “I’m ready for pitching, yeah.”
Esmil Rogers turned in a strong five-inning start last night, filling in for the injured David Phelps. Both Rogers and Pineda are set to throw a bullpen session tomorrow, so both are on line for Wednesday.
But will Pineda make his return that night against the first-place Orioles in Baltimore?
“That’s something we’ll have to talk about,” Girardi said. “Ideally you’d like to get someone to 90 pitches. … We’ll sit down, Brian (Cashman) and the people who saw it, and decide what’s next for him.”
Paul O’Neill is receiving his Monument Park plaque honor before the game.
“The intensity he brought, I used to love to watch,” Girardi said.
Photo by The Associated Press.