CC Sabathia feels the best that he has felt in three years


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CC Sabathia – Andrew Theodorakis – NY Daily News

CC Sabathia, who at 35 will likely be the Yankees No. 5 starter after struggling the last two seasons, recently said “I feel the best I have in three years.” That could be a sign that the former ace will produce much closer to how he did in 2012, when he finished with a 3.38 ERA, a 1.140 WHIP, 197 strikeouts and 15 wins, than he did last season.

Sabathia, who went on the disabled list on August 23 with right knee soreness and then had to miss the team’s wild-card playoff game due to checking himself into alcohol rehab, finished the 2015 season with a 4.73 and a 1.422 WHIP in his 29 starts. However, he pitched much better after returning from the DL than he did before and a factor that led to his improved results was that he started wearing a knee brace on September 9.

In his five starts while wearing the brace, the former Cy Young winner had an outstanding 2.17 ERA, which included winning the game that clinched the team a birth in the wild-card playoff game. Sabathia allowed one earned run or less in four of his five starts after coming off of the disabled list and the opposition only hit two homers off of him in those five games.

If he can stay healthy like he did in 2013 and have an ERA mid way between the ERA he had in 2012 (3.38) and in 2013 (4.78) then he will be a valuable pitcher at the backend of the rotation. The brace combined with being out of rehab could lead to him allowing fewer homers and having a much more respectable ERA this season. The 28 homers that he allowed last season were the second most in the American League.

Sabathia also said in a text to the NY Post that he is excited to get to Tampa with a clear head and a healthy body. Sabathia said in December that he had been sober since his stay in rehab when he checked in the day before the wild-card game, but also added that he is in the early stages of his recovery from alcohol abuse.

“I’m definitely in a good place,” Sabathia said in an interview with the Daily News. “You’ve never got this think beat; it’s always there and I’m always going to be a recovering alcoholic, but I’m in a good place. I’m excited about what’s coming ahead, not only in the season, but personally. I’m ready to go.”

Another positive development is that the big lefty said that his knee feels much better and his upper body feels stronger than it was when he had a 4.73 ERA last season. Sabathia was an All-Star in 2012 and then his velocity decline began in 2013. However, his struggles the last three seasons might have been due alcohol issues, undergoing arthroscopic surgery in his left elbow to remove a bone spur in lat October of 2012, losing 40 pounds in 2013 and then being put on the DL on May 12 of 2014 due to right knee inflammation, which ended up leading to a stem-cell shot in his knee.

Sabathia experienced swelling in his right knee in a rehab appearance for Double-A Trenton and ended up only making eight starts in the 2014 season. His renewed health in his elbow and knee combined with his stay in rehab could lead to him being a reliable workhorse similar to what he was a few seasons ago. He was able to locate his pitches where he wanted them, which included using his changeup very effectively, after coming off of the DL last season, and that could be a preview of what is to come in 2016.

The Yankees will need Sabathia, who has the PitCChIn Foundation that supports inner city youth, to be a better pitcher than he was in the 2013, 2014 and 2015 seasons if they are going to make the playoffs again this season.

The Yankees have announced that Aaron Judge, Jorge Mateo and James Kaprielian will be in big-league camp


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Aaron Judge – Corey Sipkin – NY Daily News

The Yankees play their first game of spring training on March 2 against the Detroit Tigers in Tampa, which is in only 22 days. About three weeks before spring training officially begins, the Yankees announced on Friday that outfielder Aaron Judge, shortstop Jorge Mateo and starting pitcher James Kaprielian will be in big-league camp.

Mateo (20) and Kaprielian (21) are young highly rated prospects but still both need at least one more year in the minors, with Kaprielian needing at least two since he was drafted last season. They are worth keeping an eye on based on what Kaprielian did in college at UCLA and with the Staten Island Yankees during his few appearances with them and based on what Mateo did last season with Single-A Charleston and Single-A Advanced Tampa.

Mateo, who was ranked the team’s No. 3 prospect after the 2014 season and has been labeled untouchable by the organization, had a .278 average with two homers, 40 RBIs, 82 steals, 98 strikeouts and 43 walks in his 117 games across two levels. He also made 30 errors in his 99 starts at shortstop last season. He will be valuable if he can continue to steal bases at the rate that he is, cut down on his strikeouts and not commit errors as frequently.

Mateo is the prospect in the Yankees organization with the best ability to steal bases, which is something that either the Yankees will benefit from or another team will benefit from in a trade. It is a positive that he was able to have a .321 average in 84 at-bats with Single-A Advanced Tampa, which is the highest average he has had in his four seasons in the minors.

His defense needs improvement, but it is not unfixable, according to a report on Fangraphs. The report said that Mateo “isn’t the super-smooth Gold Glove type, so he’ll need to continue to hone his instinct and footwork, but the tools are there to be a solid defender.” Mateo will likely improve defensively with repetition, and not to compare Mateo to Derek Jeter, but when Jeter was in Single-A Greensboro he made 56 errors in 1993.

Kaprielian, who the Yankees drafted with the 16th pick of the first round in 2015, pitched in seven games in the rookie league in 2015 and then was called up towards the end of the season to pitch with the short season Single-A Staten Island Yankees. In his three starts with Staten Island he dominated the New York Penn League competition as he had a 2.00 ERA in 9 innings pitched with a 1.111 WHIP, 12 strikeouts and only two walks. The possible future No. 3 starter for the Yankees will likely begin the season with Staten Island.

The 6’4″ righty was drafted after his junior season at UCLA, and in his three seasons as a Bruin he went 16-10 with an outstanding 2.06 ERA over 66 appearances (31 starts). He was named to the All Pac-12 first team in his sophomore and junior seasons. In his stellar junior campaign, he was named a second team All-American by Collegiate Baseball, he led the Pac-12 in strikeouts (114) and wins (10), pitched seven or more innings in seven of his 15 starts and to top it off he impressively threw nine no-hit innings while striking out 10 against Arizona.

Judge is the player out of the three who is most likely to have an impact in the Bronx during the 2016 season. Judge, who at 6’7″ and 275 pounds looks like a defensive lineman and has been compared to Giancarlo Stanton, was drafted with the 32nd pick of the first round out of California State University Fresno in 2013.

The outfielder hit .255 with 20 homers, 72 RBIs, 63 runs scored and a .448 slugging percentage combined in 63 games with Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton. He struggled once being called up to Scranton since his stats at that level were a .224 average with eight homers, 28 RBIs and a low .373 slugging percentage. This proves that he needs more time at Triple-A to figure out the pitching that is close to major league caliber. However, he has a lot of upside and should be ready to be called up as an injury replacement or to give Carlos Beltran or Alex Rodriguez a few days off in June or July.

This is what MLB.COM said about Aaron Judge: “He scuffled (in Triple-A), but even though he profiles as a potential slugging run producer, he’s also shown an ability in the past to make adjustments. Once Judge does that, he should be ready for his New York debut,” said the write-up. “Built along the lines of Giancarlo Stanton, Judge has similar strength, leverage and huge raw power. He focused on working counts and the middle of the field during his 2014 pro debut, but he started to turn his right-handed swing loose more often last season … An excellent athlete for his size, Judge has average speed and a strong arm.”

He will need to figure out the improved off speed pitchers that the starters throw at Triple-A, and once he does that he should be ready to contribute. He has so much power from his massive frame that he should be able to help the Yankees win some games this year. Judge is currently the eighth best outfield prospect in baseball and he will get to prove that lofty ranking starting on March 2.

Judge is one of the prospects that Brian Cashman has deemed untouchable as the Yankees have valued their minor league system more recently, and the others were Mateo, Luis Severino and Greg Bird. Judge could play an important role at some point with his bat and Severino will be significant as he will be one of the starters in the pitching staff to begin the season. Judge, Mateo and Kaprielian will get valuable experience with the Yankees veterans as well as against major league competition during spring training.

Dustin Ackley’s role will be even more important with the loss of Greg Bird


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Dustin Ackley

The Yankees depth took a hit since Greg Bird will miss the season due to a torn labrum in his right shoulder. This will mean that back-up first baseman, second baseman and outfielder Dustin Ackley will be more important than the Yankees initially thought he would be.

Bird was slated to begin the season at Triple-A Scranton even before his torn labrum, but he would have been a valuable bat to bring up in the likely scenario of a Mark Teixeira or Alex Rodriguez injury, or to give Teixeira a few days off against a right-handed pitching. The Yankees will now not have a proven offensive and defensive first baseman (and DH) who they can call-up when Teixeira or Rodriguez go through a slump.

Bird hit very well once he made his major league debut on August 13 as he had a .261 average with 11 homers, 31 RBIs and a .529 slugging percentage in 46 games (147 at-bats). He also had a .343 on-base percentage and hit .270 with nine homers against righties vs. .238 with two homers against lefties. He came through in the clutch a number of times to win a game for the Yankees and played very reliable defense at first base.

Ackley, who has the ability to play second base, left field and first base, will be the primary back-up to Teixeira and the Yankees will now not have a player with a lot of offensive ability to bring up at first base. Brian Cashman has said that he will not sign a notable free agent who can play first and will continue the trend of only adding players through trade. If this holds true, the Yankees will be able to bring up a player like Tyler Austin in case of an injury.

If Ackley can stay healthy the whole season and produce like he did while he was with the Yankees last season then the Yankees might not need to acquire another first baseman. However, it isn’t known if that will happen based on how he performed while with the Mariners last season.

In 85 games with the Mariners last season (207 at-bats), he had a .215 average with a .270 on-base percentage, six homers and only 19 RBIs. After being traded to the Yankees, he had a .288 average in 23 games (57 at-bats) with four homers, 11 RBIs, two triples and a .654 slugging percentage. His 57 at-bats were obviously a small sample size, but he obviously showed that he can be productive while giving the team versatility. Ackley missed 33 games after his second game with the team due to a lumbar strain.

The 27-year-old Winston-Salem, North Carolina native who played on the University of North Carolina baseball team with former Yankee Adam Warren was the second overall selection of the 2009 draft by the Mariners. In his last season in the minors with Triple-A Tacoma in 2011, Ackley had a .303 average in 66 games (331 at-bats) with nine homers, 35 RBIs, 17 doubles, seven steals and .421 on-base percentage. After he was called up to the Mariners that season he had a solid .273 average in 376 at-bats.

He has the potential to hit above .270 in the at-bats that he gets and to have a solid on-base percentage. He should also be able to hit for more power than he did at Safeco Field because his swing is built for Yankee Stadium, which is much more hitter friendly than Safeco is.

Ackley, who is signed through this season on a one-year, $3.2 million contract, has made one error in his 22 games at first in his career. He played four games including three starts at first while with the Yankees last season and made 28 put outs and had two assists. He has primarily played the outfield and second base in his five-year career, but he should be reliable enough while improving with increased opportunity at first base.

Ackley proved that he can be a productive offensive player while with the Yankees last season, but Cashman will need to sign a player or make a trade in June if he produces like he did while with the Mariners last season.

Ivan Nova could be a valuable piece of the bullpen after Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Dellin Betances


Ivan Nova Spring

Ivan Nova in spring training.

Unless there is an injury during spring training the starting rotation is pretty much set for the Yankees. It’s not known what order the rotation will be, but the five starters in the rotation will most likely be Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda, Nate Eovaldi, CC Sabathia and Luis Severino. There are some injury question marks with three of those five starters, but that rotation has the potential to be a very reliable one if they all stay healthy and pitch how they are capable of.

Severino is the wild card of the five and the one who might have the most upside. The 21-year-old Dominican, who was the team’s #1 prospect after the 2014 season according to Baseball America, made his major-league debut on August 5 and in his 11 starts he had a 2.89 ERA, a 1.20 WHIP and 56 strikeouts. He only allowed more than two earned runs in three of his 11 starts and if he can pitch with that kind of effectiveness for the majority of the 2016 season, after other teams have more of a scouting report on him, the rotation could be better than it was last season.

Ivan Nova, who had a below average 5.07 ERA and 1.40 WHIP in his 17 starts last season, recently avoided salary arbitration by signing a one-year, $4.1 million contract. The 29-year-old righthander will be headed to the bullpen due to the emergence of Severino. He is an intriguing option as a long-reliever and sixth inning option before the flame-throwing trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

Nova made four starts in April of 2014 before having to leave his start on April 19 with an elbow injury that led to him needing Tommy John surgery. He had a 8.27 ERA in those four starts and hasn’t been able to perform like he did in the 2013 season. In the 2013 season, Nova showed what he is capable of as he had an impressive 3.10 ERA in 23 games (20 starts) to go along with two shutouts and a career-low 1.28 WHIP.

Last season Nova proved that he can still be productive since he had six starts where he pitched five innings or more and allowed less than three runs. He is far too inconsistent to start games consistently this season, but based on the ability he showed at times last season it would make sense for him to be the top candidate to make a spot start.

Relievers only need two pitches that they can count on to be successful, which makes Nova an ideal candidate for the bullpen. Nova has 12-6 curveball that can be un-hittable at times and a slider that he throws between 85-89mph that can be also be a strikeout pitch for him when it is on. If Nova is restricted to one or two innings besides occasional spot starts then his pitches should be more reliable than they have been the last two seasons as a starter.

The Yankees bullpen likely will be the most dominant backend of a bullpen of all-time because of the last two seasons that Chapman, Betances and Miller have had. However, the bullpen will need depth and Nova can provide another quality pitcher with experience that Joe Girardi can have pitch in the sixth or seventh inning when one of the “Big Three” need a day off.

Chapman, who has been an All-Star in each of the last four seasons and throws the fastest fastball in baseball, will likely be suspended to begin the season because of his serious domestic abuse allegations. The league could suspend him under its new domestic violence policy. According to John Heyman, the league might not have enough evidence to give him a long suspension.

Other pitchers who will likely come north with the Yankees after spring training are Branden Pinder, Chasen Shreve, James Pazos and Bryan Mitchell. Pazos, Shreve and Pinder are all pitchers who had success last season and are used to pitching in the bullpen but they don’t nearly have the experience of pitching in the big leagues that Nova does.

The Yankees need Masahiro Tanaka to be a Hiro during tonight’s wild card game against the Houston Astros


Masahiro Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka.

The Yankees will play their wild card playoff game tonight at 8:00 p.m. against the Astros at Yankee Stadium. If the Yankees win then they will play the Kansas City Royals (95-67) in the American League Division Series since the Royals had the best record in the American League.

Masahiro Tanaka (12-7, 3.51 ERA, 0.99 WHIP), who allowed four runs in five innings against the Red Sox in his last start on September 30, will take the mound for the Yankees to begin tonight’s crucial game. Tanaka’s sub-par performance during his previous start might have been because he was rusty after not having pitched in the previous 12 days. Tanaka will have to keep the ball down in the zone and have his plus splitter tonight against the Astros.

Tanaka is the team’s ace and in his three starts before September 30, he allowed three runs combined while striking out 21 and only walking one batter. On September 13 against the powerful Toronto Blue Jays lineup, who scored the most runs in all of baseball, he threw a shutout in seven innings while recording seven strikeouts and no walks. The Yankees will need Tanaka to pitch with that kind of effectiveness tonight and not pitch like he did during his previous start against the Astros when Houston scored six runs (three homers) off of him in five innings.

The Yankees need a solid start from Tanaka because the Astros starter, Dallas Keuchel, has had a Cy Young caliber campaign. Keuchel, who finished the regular season with 20 wins and an outstanding 2.48 ERA, a 1.02 WHIP and 216 strikeouts, dominated the Yankees in his two starts against them during the season. In two starts against the Bronx Bombers, he did not allow a run in 16 innings while striking out 19 batters.

Keuchel throws a sinker (90 mph), slider (80 mph), change (80 mph), cutter (87 mph) and a four-seam fastball (90 mph). He can command all of his pitches for strikes, which makes him hard to hit. Keuchel is coming into tonight’s start with momentum as he gave up four runs combined in his previous three starts and on September 27 he allowed one run in seven innings while recording 10 strikeouts. That was the fifth time this season that he struck out 10 or more batters.

However, one advantage that the Yankees could have against Keuchel is that he will be pitching on short rest for the first time in tonight’s game. Also, Keuchel and all of the Astros position players except Carlos Gomez, Jed Lowrie and Colby Rasmus will be playing in the postseason for the first time.

“I play with a chip on my shoulder,” Keuchel said Monday at Yankee Stadium. “I think a lot of the guys do in there as well. And we’ll always carry that.”

The Yankees will need the same kind of offensive production from rookies Rob Refnsyder and Greg Bird that they received during the last few weeks of the season. In Bird’s last 13 games of the season, he had 14 hits in 48 at-bats (.292) with three doubles, four homers, eight runs scored and 10 RBIs. That is very good production from a rookie who is playing in place of the injured Mark Teixeira.

In Refsnyder’s eight starts at second base in the last 11 games of the season, he had 11 hits in 28 at-bats (.393) with three doubles, one homer and three RBIs. He has had the majority of his starts against lefties and has hit them very well.

The Astros, who were 53-28 at home this season, were only 33-48 in away games. That has to do with Houston being a young team. Keuchel has also been much better at Minute Maid Park than in away games this season since he had a 1.46 ERA at home and a much higher 3.77 ERA away from Houston. Keuchel pitching on short rest and the game being at Yankee Stadium could be factors in this wild card game.

Here is the roster that the Yankees will use for tonight’s game against Houston:

Pitchers:

Dellin Betances

Bryan Mitchell

Andrew Miller

Ivan Nova

James Pazos

Luis Severino

Masahiro Tanaka

Adam Warren

Justin Wilson

Catchers: 

Brian McCann

John Ryan Murphy

Gary Sanchez

Infielders:

Greg Bird

Dustin Ackley

Didi Gregorius

Chase Headley

Rob Refsnyder

Brendan Ryan

Alex Rodriguez

Outfielders:

Carlos Beltran

Jacoby Ellsbury

Brett Gardner

Slade Heathcott

Rico Noel

Chris Young

The Yankees will play a double header today in Baltimore after Friday’s game was rained out


Ivan Nova.

Ivan Nova.

After clinching a spot in the wild card game on Thursday against the Red Sox and having their game against the Orioles rained out on Friday, the Yankees will play a double header in Baltimore today. The Yankees beat the Red Sox 4-1 on Thursday night at Yankee Stadium and with the win they snapped their two-year postseason drought. The Yankees also won their 10,000th game in franchise history after previously losing three games in a row.

The Yankees were an underdog coming into the season since some predicted them to finish in last place, which makes this postseason appearance especially meaningful.

“This was really rewarding because I’ve had a chance to be on a lot of teams that have made the postseason fortunately and this one was probably as much of a grind as any one,” Joe Girardi said. “This one, there was probably as much uncertainty even on a daily basis. There were a lot, a lot of moving parts, so I think this was probably as rewarding as any club that I’ve been on that made the playoffs.”

Thursday’s postseason clinching win was made more significant because it was at home and it came over the Red Sox. The Yankees had lost four of their previous six home games and it was great for the players on the team that they were able to get this win in front of their home fans and be able to celebrate in their stadium.

The Yankees currently have a 2.5 game lead over the Houston Astros for the first wild card spot with three games to play, which means that it is almost a guarantee that the wild card game will be played at Yankee Stadium. Houston has a one-game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card and the Minnesota Twins are a game behind the Angels. It will be a better matchup for the Yankees if they play the Angels in the wild card game because the Astros ace, Dallas Keuchel, has a 2.48 ERA this season and did not allow a run in his two starts against the Yankees.

Joe Girardi is prioritizing resting his regulars during today’s double header over putting his best players on the field in Game 1 to try to clinch home-field in the wild card game. However, if the Yankees do get a win against the Orioles, who are not playing for anything, they will clinch home-field in the wild card game.

Austin Romine will make his first career start at first base, Jose Pirela will play right field giving Carlos Beltran the game off, John Ryan Murphy will get his second consecutive start at catcher and Brendan Ryan will play shortstop instead of Didi Gregorius.

Murphy gave an epic interview during the Yankees post game celebration on Thursday. He has hit very well for a back-up catcher this season and in his last four games he is 4-13 (.308) with one run scored and one double. It can be hard for back-up catchers to hit for a high average because they usually get inconsistent at-bats.

Rookie Rob Refsnyder has also hit very well recently while getting increased playing time at second. In his six starts during the home-stand, Refsnyder had eight hits in 20 at-bats (.400) with one runs scored, one homer, one steal, two RBIs and two doubles. He will likely get the start in the wild card game, against Keuchel if they play the Astros, based on his performance in those six games.

Girardi announced that Ivan Nova will start today’s game at 12:05 p.m. and that Luis Severino will start the second game, but that could change if the Yankees secure home field advantage before the second game starts. Michael Pineda will get the start on Sunday.

Here is today’s lineup against the Baltimore Orioles, who have a 78-81 record:

Brett Gardner CF
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Chris Young LF
Chase Headley 3B
John Ryan Murphy C
Jose Pirela RF
Austin Romine 1B
Brendan Ryan SS

Lineup for the third game of the series against the Red Sox


Masahiro Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka.

Masahiro Tanaka will get the start for the Yankees (86-71) tonight in Game 3 of their four-game series against the Boston Red Sox (77-80). In three starts against the Red Sox this year, Tanaka has gone 3-0 and held Boston to a .234 average. However, Tanaka will look for better results tonight since he has allowed four, three and three runs in his starts this season against Boston.

Tanaka is currently lined up to start the wild card game for the Yankees. He is the logical choice because he has allowed three runs combined in his last three starts while not giving up more than two runs in any of them and besides Luis Severino is the most reliable pitcher in the rotation right now. He held the powerful Blue Jays lineup to zero runs in seven innings on September 13, which proves that he is capable of shutting down the Los Angeles Angels, Houston Astros or Minnesota Twins.

The Yankees have a three-game lead with five games left to play for the right to have home field in the wild card game. The Angels are currently in sole possession of the second wild card spot and the Astros are half a game behind. The Twins are only half a game behind the Astros after their win today over the Cleveland Indians, and Minnesota would be the best matchup for the Yankees in the one-game playoff.

If the Angels stay in second that would be better for the Yankees because they have really struggled against Houston’s ace Dallas Keuchel this season. However, if they are going to keep the top spot and win the wild card game their offense will have to improve. The Yankees have gone 3-4 in their last seven games and have averaged only 2.57 runs per game. They have scored less than three runs in four of those games.

One player who has been hitting very well recently has been Jacoby Ellsbury. In Ellsbury’s last 13 games, he has a .347 average (17-49), a .429 slugging percentage, three steals, four doubles and eight runs scored. The Yankees need him to continue to hit well at the top of the lineup.

The Yankees can clinch a wild card spot if they win tonight and if they get help from the teams below them. The Yankees will also have won their 10,000th game in franchise history with a victory tonight over their rivals. Wade Miley, who has a high 4.39 ERA and 1.34 WHIP, will take the mound for the Red Sox and he allowed four runs on eight hits and a walk in his last start.

The lineup that the Joe Girardi is sending out tonight is the one that will likely be on the field for the wild card game if a lefty is pitching. Rob Refsnyder is getting another start at second against a lefty and he has a .417 average (5-12) in his four starts against lefties this month. Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Red Sox.

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Brian McCann C
Chris Young LF
Greg Bird 1B
Rob Refsnyder 2B
Didi Gregorius SS

The Yankees were 0-7 with runners in scoring position in their loss to the Red Sox


Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees, who remained at 9,999 wins in franchise history after last night’s game against the Red Sox, lost a 5-1 game to the Boston Red Sox in the first game of their series at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees are 3.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros for the first wild-card spot with six games left to play, and their playoff probability is currently 99.9 percent.

The Yankees trail the Toronto Blue Jays by five games, and the reason the Yankees will not win the division is that since the start of play on July 29th, the Blue Jays are 41-14 and have a run differential of an outstanding +129.

Offense is key for any team to win games and the Yankees offense struggled for the fifth time in their last six games. They have now scored three runs or less in five of their last six games and have scored two runs or less in four of those games. They are 3-3 in those six games.

“You’re going to have hot streaks and cold streaks. Right now we feel like we are battling. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to put good innings together,” Carlos Beltran said. “Today was a day where we faced a guy who was pitching well.”

The Yankees were 0-7 with runners in scoring position, which makes it hard to win a game. Their only run came off of an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly that scored Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning. Greg Bird struck out with runners on first and second to end the first inning, Brett Gardner flied out to right with Rob Refsnyder on second to end the fourth inning and Gardner struck out on a 94 mph fastball with Refsnyder on second and John Ryan Murphy on third to end the game.

The one positive offensively was that Refsnyder was 1-4 and now has one or more hits in every game that he has started this month (four). He has recently been playing second against lefties and Dustin Ackley has been the second baseman against righties. Refsnyder has five hits in his last 13 at-bats (.385) with one double, which is a sign that he is showing his skills on offense.

“I think we need to do a better job against left handers,” Joe Girardi said. “It’s something we need to do a better job at. We struggled offensively this weekend against lefties. It’s is a kid that has swung well against left handers in the past (Refsnyder).”

Ivan Nova allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks in seven innings pitched, but looked about as good as he has this season in the first five innings of the game. He did not allow a run before the sixth inning and only allowed three hits in that span. However, Nova was yet another Yankee pitcher whose effectiveness got worse in the sixth inning.

Nova had a good breaking ball but the homers off of him came on fastballs that didn’t sink. Travis Shaw blasted a homer to right that drove in Xander Bogaerts in the sixth inning. Jackie Bradley Jr. hit a homer just above the Canon sign in left field that bounced back into the field in the seventh inning.

After taking Nova out of the game after the seventh inning, Girardi used five relief pitchers to get the final six outs of the game. After recording the first two outs of the ninth, Caleb Cathem gave up a solo homer to Deven Marrero, which was Marrero’s first career round tripper. Fellow rookie Nick Rumbelow got Dustin Pedroia to ground out to Didi Gregorius at shortstop to end the top of the ninth.

Michael Pineda will get the start for the Yankees in Game 2 of the series on Tuesday night and will try to make sure the Yankees don’t lose any ground to the Astros. Pineda only allowed one run in six innings and struck out six in his previous start and in his last two starts combined he has pitched 11.1 innings, allowed only one run, recorded 10 strikeouts and only one walk.

Masahiro Tanaka is on track to pitch the wild card game, but either Tanaka or Luis Severino should pitch Game 1 of the American League Division Series if the Yankees win the one-game playoff.

Adam Warren, Chase Headley and A-Rod led the Yankees to a 2-1 win over the White Sox


Adam Warren.

Adam Warren.

The Yankees defeated the Chicago White Sox in a nail-bitter, 2-1, as Alex Rodriguez’s RBI double in the sixth inning that scored Chase Headley ended up being the game-winning run for the home team.

Adam Warren only allowed one run on three hits and three walks in his six innings pitched while helping the Yankees get one win closer to clinching a playoff berth. He only needed 88 pitches to get through his six innings, got an inning ending double play in the first and retired the side in order in the second, third, fourth and sixth innings.

The only run that Warren allowed was a single to right field by Jose Abreu that scored Adam Eaton in the first inning. The White Sox were 0-2 in their other at-bats with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees are currently four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the AL East with eight games left in the season, which means that the Yankees are virtually assured of playing in the one-game wild card playoff. The Yankees are 4.5 games ahead of the Houston Astros for the first wild card spot, which means that there is basically a 99 percent chance that they will host the one-game playoff.

It is not known who they will play for the right to advance to the ALDS because the Astros only have a half a game lead over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for the second wild card spot. The Minnesota Twins still have a slim chance as they are 1.5 games behind the Astros. Minnesota would be the best matchup for the Yankees, but that is not very likely at this point.

The Yankees bullpen could not have been any better as Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller combined to pitch three innings and not allow any hits. They each pitched one inning and Wilson struck out two while recording his 28th hold, Betances got through the eighth while only having to throw eight pitches and lowering his ERA to an outstanding 1.36 and Miller struck out two to help him pick up his 36th save of the season in his first year as a closer.

“If I go out there and have a clean seventh, Dellin wants to do something better than I did, and the same for Andrew. We feed off each other, and it’s kind of like a brotherhood,” Wilson said. “With Dellin behind me and Andrew behind him, of course it breeds confidence.”

As a result of Wilson’s two strikeouts and Miller’s two strikeouts, the Yankees bullpen has now struck out an AL-record 573 batters, which is two more than the record that the Yankees relievers set last year.

The other run that the Yankees scored also came in the sixth inning when Chase Headley hit a ground rule double to left center to score Jacoby Ellsbury. Earlier in Headley’s at-bat, Ellsbury stole second to allow him to score on that ground rule double.

Luis Severino, who only allowed two runs and three hits in six innings in his previous outing, will get the start during today’s 1:05 p.m. game against the White Sox. He has a very good 3.10 ERA in his nine starts and has only allowed more than two earned runs twice.

Dustin Ackley will get the start at second base after rookie Rob Refsnyder had played the previous three games at second. In those three games, Refsnyder has four hits in eight at-bats with one double. He now has a .273 average in his 22 at-bats this season.

“€œWe’€™ve liked the way he’s swung the bat and defensively he’€™s done a good job, so I’ll continue to give him more opportunities,” Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees lost to the White Sox, 5-2, as Sabathia gave up two solo homers in the 7th


CC Sabathia throws to the Milwaukee Brewers on May 10, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

CC Sabathia throws to the Milwaukee Brewers on May 10, 2014, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps)

The Yankees lost to the Chicago White Sox, 5-2, on Friday night at Yankee Stadium as the Yankees hit into four ground ball double plays and were only 2-8 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees are now four games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East with only nine games left to play.

Joe Girardi realizes how difficult it will be to catch the Blue Jays because of how well Toronto has been playing since the beginning of August.

“I said it was going to be really difficult and my mind hasn’t changed,” manager Joe Girardi said. “They’ve played extremely well since Aug. 1, and you look at what they’ve done, but we’re going to try to win every game and see what happens.”

CC Sabathia pitched very well in the first six innings, as he held the White Sox to two runs in six innings, but Joe Girardi left him in for the seventh and Sabathia would surrender solo homers to Mike Olt and Gordon Beckham to give the White Sox a lead that they would keep. Sabathia ended up allowed six hits and two walks in 6.2 innings pitched and allowed more than two earned runs in a start for the first times since August 18.

“I have to be better, especially late in the game,” Sabathia said.

Andrew Bailey pitched well in relief of Sabathia, but rookie Nick Rumbelow allowed a run on two hits in the ninth inning as Adam Eaton singled to score Tyler Flowers to make the score 5-2. Rumbelow allowed singles to Flowers and Beckham after he got the first two outs of the ninth, and the struggling Chasen Shreve was pitching when Eaton hit his single. Shreve, who allowed only 22 hits in the first four months of the season (40.2 innings), has given up 22 hits in the last two months (17 innings).

The Yankees were not able to capitalize on Carlos Rodon’s inconsistency as he allowed five hits and five walks in his six innings pitched. Six different Yankees recorded a hit for the Yankees but the only one who recorded a hit when it counted was Didi Gregorius, who hit a single to right in the fourth inning to score Brian McCann and Chris Young. Gregorius has five hits in his last 11 at-bats and his average is now a very respectable .267.

In Saturday’s third game of the series Rob Refsnyder will get his third consecutive start at second. He has two hits in five at-bats in the previous two games. Adam Warren will get the start for the Yankees as they try to take a 2-1 lead in the series. This will be his third start since returning to the rotation due to Nathan Eovaldi’s injury. This afternoon’s matinee game will begin at 4:05 EST.

NBA.com | Hang Time Blog

The official news blog of NBA.com with commentary and analysis from NBA.com's staff of writers.

Alysha Tsuji

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