Tyler Austin’s two-run homer in the 7th gave the Yankees a win over the Red Sox

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Tyler Austin – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 6-4, at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night for their second win in a row. The win also ended Boston’s 11-game winning streak.

The win kept them mathematically alive for the second wild card spot as they are four games behind the Baltimore Orioles with five games left in the season. Their chance is virtually impossible but it is positive to see that the players are still fighting as Joe Girardi has been saying.

To lead off the scoring for the Yankees in the bottom of the first inning, Gary Sanchez hit a two-run homer off of David Price for his 20th blast of the season. He matched Wally Berger of the 1930 Boston Braves as the fastest players in major league history to reach the 20-homer milestone. The have both hit 20 home runs in 51 games played. Sanchez or the Tigers Michael Fulmer are the two contenders for AL Rookie of the Year.

Another rookie, Tyler Austin, hit a two-run homer off of Price in the seventh inning when the score was tied at four. That was his fourth homer and after hitting a homer in his first career at-bat his other homers this season have all come in clutch situations. He 3-3 game raised his average from .197 to .230. He along with others on the team expect greatness when Sanchez steps to the plate.

“Everybody on the team calls home run when he steps up there,” Austin said.

Price has a 1-3 record with a 7.89 ERA against the Yankees this season. He struggled once again as he allowed six runs on 12 hits, one walk and three homers against the Yankees. He has been an ace for much of his career but the Yankees have basically always had his number from when he was a Tampa Bay Ray, to when he was a Toronto Blue Jay to now with the Red Sox.

“I was trying to stay with my approach and go from there,” Austin said. “I just try to do the same work I have been doing all year and go from there. It is unbelievable to see these guys doing well up here.”

This is David Ortiz‘s last series of his career against the Yankees, and the longtime star designated hitter for the Red Sox finished the game by going 0-5. He has 37 homers and 124 RBI this season, which is the best for a player in his age 40 season, but he struck out with a chance to tie the game in the 9th inning.

The third homer that the Yankees hit was a solo homer by Didi Gregorius in the sixth inning. That homer came after the Red Sox scored their first two runs of the game in the top of the sixth. Gregorius’s 20th homer of the season proves he has greatly improved offensively this year as he only hit nine homers in all of 2015, which was his previous career-high.

Gregorius’s homer also made history because he and Starlin Castro are now the first Yankees middle infielders to each hit 20 or more homers in a season. Castro, who is in his first season with the Yankees after being traded from the Chicago Cubs, has hit 21 homers. Castro’s previous career-high was 14 homers back in 2014.

Castro and Gregorius are also only the third second base and shortstop combination 26 or younger (they are both 26) to hit 20 or more homers in a season. The other two are Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa (Astros) this season and David Bell and Alex Rodriguez in 1999 (Mariners). This is a middle infield that should be productive for the Yankees for years to come and Gregorius has been better offensively this season than anyone expected.

Luis Cessa pitched very well as he had his first start where he didn’t allow a home run and that helped him only allow two runs in six innings. He had two big strikeouts in the sixth inning. He struck out Ortiz swining with runners on second and third, and then struck out Hanley Ramirez swinging to end the inning after the second run of the inning scored on Mookie Betts’s ground out.

In eight games as a starter his ERA is a very solid 3.72. His slider was excellent, which helped keep the Red Sox guessing and off balance. It appears that Cessa can be a solid No. 4 or No. 5 option in the rotation next season since he has four pitches and can be relied upon to throw a quality start or better.

Tyler Clippard struck out two batters in the ninth inning for his second save of the season. The Yankees have two more games in the series against the Red Sox and they will honor Ortiz before Thursday’s game. His 52 homers with the Red Sox against the Yankees are tied with Carl Yastrzemski for second all-time behind Ted Williams’s 62.

Sanchez hit his 17th homer in 42 games in the Yankees win over the Tampa Bay Rays

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Gary Sanchez – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night, 5-3, to keep their hopes of getting the second wild card spot alive. They have a very small chance as they are 3.5 games out with 12 games left in the season. They have two more games left in the series against the last place Rays and then end the season playing the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Orioles.

Michael Pineda proved his potential once again and showed that he has the ability to have an ERA a good bit lower than the 4.89 ERA that he has. He threw 5.1 innings, allowed only two earned runs on five hits and a walk, and added 11 more strikeouts to his season total. This means that 11 of the 16 outs that he recorded were via the strikeout.

“The last couple of games I have used my change up more,” Pineda said. “I have a good feel for it so I have used it.” He also used his slider very well against the Rays.

Pineda came into the game 7th in the American League in strikeouts with 184, but the 195 that he currently has puts him in 6th place in the league. His ERA should be lower based on the quality of pitches that he throws and that all of the pitchers with more strikeouts than he has have ERAs of 4.05 or lower. The only runs that the Rays scored off of him came off of a two-run triple by Brad Miller.

Pineda already had 98 pitches after 5.1 innings, so it was time for Joe Girardi to take him out of the game. He has been one of the worst pitchers in the first inning this season but has been a little better pitching in the beginning of the game recently. He was not able to get the win because the Yankees were losing 2-1 when he left the game.

Mark Teixeira hit a 407-foot homer to left in the fourth inning to give the Yankees their first run of the game. That was his 13th homer of the season and only his 38th RBI of his final campaign.

The more important homer of the game came in the 7th inning after Brett Gardner’s RBI single scored Ronald Torreyes. Gary Sanchez hit a hanging slider to left center for a 3-run homer off of Brad Boxberger to make the score 5-2. That homer gave the Yankees the runs they needed to win the game and end their five-game losing streak.

Teixeira, who has seen a lot as he has been in the majors since 2003, was very impressed with Sanchez after the game.

“Amazing, incredible, impressive,” Teixeira said. “He’s carried us. We’re not even close to talking about a playoff berth if Gary doesn’t come up and do what he does.”

Sanchez’s homer was significant in a few other ways.

That was Sanchez’s 17th homer of the season and his 17 homers tie the Boston Braves’ Wally Berger in 1930 for most homers hit in the first 44 games of a career. Sanchez has also homered in three consecutive games, which is the second time he has done that since being called up in the beginning of August. His next homer will match Alfonso Soriano’s 18 homers (2001) for most as a Yankees rookie. Soriano hit his 18 homers in 574 at-bats and Sanchez has hit his 17 homers in only 162 at-bats.

“He’s meant a lot,” manager Joe Girardi said. “Offensively and defensively. It’s kind of fitting that he got the big hit.” Sanchez has thrown out nine runners attempting to steal and has allowed 16 stolen bases, which equals a solid 36 percent caught stealing percentage.

Sanchez is currently on a five-game hitting streak and has at least one hit in six of his last seven games. He deserves to be the AL Rookie of the Year based on the impact that he has had on the Yankees since the beginning of August. The other player who might deserve to win Rookie of the Year is the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer, but he has struggled in his last few starts.

Sanchez is leading all rookies in an advanced metric stat called fWAR that evaluates the overall statistics. Sanchez is 2.9, Chris Devenski is 2.7, Fulmer is 2.5 and Tyler Naquin is 2.1.

Tyler Clippard allowed his second earned run in his last two games in the eighth inning to make the score 5-3, but he was able to pick up his 10th hold since rejoining the Yankees on August 1. He has a 1.29 ERA in 21 innings, which is better than anyone could have expected.

The Yankees will look to sweep the remaining two games against the Rays to not lose any ground. The remaining games will be valuable for the young players on the team since they will continue to play in meaningful games with a playoff like atmosphere.

 

The Yankees lost leads of three, four and four runs when they were swept by the Red Sox in Boston

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Dellin Betances – ESPN

The Yankees were swept by the Boston Red Sox in a four-game series over the weekend and basically saw their hopes of making the postseason fade away. They are now eight games behind the Red Sox for first place in the AL East and four games behind Toronto for the second wild card, but four games ago, before the Red Sox series, they were four games behind the Red Sox and only two games out of the second wild card.

If the Yankees had a .500 record on the road this season then they would be in position for a playoff spot right now. As of now, they have a 44-31 record at Yankee Stadium but are only 33-41 in away games. The Yankees have lost six of their last seven games on the road but have won seven of their last 10 games in the Bronx. This five-game losing streak that the Yankees are on, that has brought them from 77-67 to 77-72 is a result of the team running out of steam and having the inability to hold onto leads in games.

The first loss in the losing streak was to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who are 84-65 and have a four game lead for first place in the NL West. Pineda and the first three pitchers in the bullpen did not allow any runs in the 2-0 loss to the Dodgers but in the ninth inning the previously normally reliable Dellin Betances allowed two unearned runs to lead to the loss. Starlin Castro made an error on the first batter of the inning and Betances made an error when throwing home to lead to the second run.

In the series against the Red Sox, the Yankees blew a 5-1 lead in Game One and ended up losing 7-5, they blew a 5-2 lead in Game Three and ended up losing 6-5 and then in Game Four the Yankees had a 4-0 lead and ended up losing to the Red Sox 5-4. It is rare that a team will lose leads of four, three and four runs in one series.

A major reason that the Yankees lost the series was that they were not able to contain the dangerous Hanley Ramirez. The Red Sox scored 25 runs in the series and Ramirez had seven Runs Batted In. Ramirez was 9-18 in the series and in Game Four he hit two homers and drove in four of the team’s five runs.

Ramirez hit a three-run homer Sunday night in the fifth inning off of CC Sabathia that landed right above the Green Monster to make the score 4-3. In the seventh inning, Ramirez’s solo homer to left off of Tyler Clippard ended up being the game winner for the Red Sox. That was only the second earned run that Clippard has allowed in his 22 games (20 innings) with the Yankees this season since being traded from the Diamondbacks.

Gary Sanchez continued his remarkable month and a half since being called up from Triple-A by hitting a solo homer in the second to make the score 2-0. That was his 16th homer and 30th RBI in only his 41st game this season. Only four catchers have more homers than he does in the American League.

In Game One of the series, when the Yankees had a 5-1 lead going into the bottom of the 8th inning, the Yankees bullpen totally fell apart in the last two innings. After Masahiro Tanaka only allowed one run in seven innings to lower his ERA to 2.97, which is the best ERA in the AL, Adam Warren gave up a solo homer in the 8th to make the scored 5-2.

The Red Sox scored five runs in the 9th inning off of Blake Parker and Betances. Parker walked the only batter he faced and that runner would later score and be charged to him. After Betances walked Dustin Pedroia and got Zander Bogaerts to hit into a fielder’s choice, five runs would score with two outs.

David Ortiz hit an RBI single to make the score 5-3, Mookie Betts hit an RBI single to left to make the score 5-4 and then Ramirez hit his first homer of the series, a three-run walk-off homer to make the score 7-5. That was a heartbreaking loss by the Yankees because it was a game that it appeared that they would win going into the 8th and 9th.

The Yankees have been relying on many young players like Luis Cessa, Tyler Austin, Rob Refsnyder and Ronald Torreyes among others. Aaron Judge is another rookie that was starting but he is out for the season due to injury. Jacoby Ellsbury is now listed as day-to-day with a right bone bruise after his knee hit the wall when he was making a catch on Saturday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Girardi said. “With a bone bruise, we’ll try to get him back as quick as we can, but  being a center fielder, you’ve got to be able to run. That’s the bottom line.”

Second baseman Starlin Castro was also injured during Saturday’s game as he hurt his hamstring when running to second during a double. His diagnosis is a Grade 1 hamstring strain and he could be done for the year.

It appeared that the Yankees would have a chance at getting to first place before their five-game losing streak began, since they had a four-game deficit with four games against the first place Red Sox, but now the Yankees can only play to try to stay close to the second wild card spot. It is not likely, but if the Yankees go 10-3 the rest of the season they will tie their record from last season when they finished 87-76. After the the trades the Yankees made at the trade deadline, Joe Girardi had the Yankees playing very well up until the series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

If the Yankees can finish the season 8-5 and three games out of the second wild card that will be a successful end to the season.

 

The Yankees lost to the Dodgers, 8-2, after allowing four unearned runs

In the first game of their series against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees (76-67) lost 8-2 and were losing 6-1 after the third inning. The Bronx Bombers have now lost two games in a row and are five games behind the Boston Red Sox for first in the AL East and still only two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot.

The Yankees have scored two runs in each of their last two losses. Also, leading to their two straight losses, has been that their starting pitching has not been as good as it was during their seven-game winning streak. In Sunday’s loss to the Rays, Luis Cessa allowed four runs in 5.2 innings for his first loss, and in Monday’s loss to the Dodgers, Bryan Mitchell, who didn’t allow a run in five innings in his first game of the year last week, allowed six runs (two earned) in 2.1 innings pitched.

Mitchell only allowed two earned runs, which makes it seem like he pitched a lot better than the box score shows, but the Dodgers also had eight hits against him in only 2.1 innings. It took him 47 pitches to get four outs, which proves how ineffective he was. The three runs that the Dodgers scored in the second inning were unearned because with runners on first and third Aaron Judge made an error on a ball hit by Chase Utley causing him to advance to third and Howie Kendrick and Andrew Toles to score. Corey Seager was the next batter and he singled to right to score Utley.

In the third inning, the Dodgers scored on earned run and on unearned run off of Mitchell. He was taken out of the game after allowing a single, a double and then an infield single that scored Yasmani Grandal. Josh Reddick scored later in the inning but that run was unearned because of Gary Sanchez’s throwing error.

The Dodgers (81-62) scored two more runs at the end of the game on solo homers by Yasiel Puig and Justin Turner. Puig hit a pinch-hit homer and that was his third homer in his last 10 at-bats.

Dodgers rookie Jose De Leon limited the Yankees to two runs in five innings and four LA relievers held the Yankees scoreless over the final four innings while only allowing two hits. The only runs the Bronx Bomber scored came off of solo homers by Starlin Castro and Judge.

CC Sabathia will get the start for the Yankees in Game 2 of the series and Dodgers rookie Julio Urias will make his 14th career start. The Yankees will look to even the series and have the fans at Yankee Stadium make more noise than the Dodgers fans as Game One felt like a Dodgers home game.

The seven-game winning streak that the Yankees were on ended as they lost to the Rays in the series finale

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Luis Severino – ESPN

The Yankees (76-66) lost to the Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2, on Sunday, September 11, and ended their seven-game winning streak. They are now four games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the American League East and tied with the Detroit Tigers for two games behind the Baltimore Orioles for the second wild card spot.

“Every loss at this point stings just because of how few games are left,” manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees have won seven of their last 10 games but could have really benefited from winning on Sunday because their schedule is about to get much more challenging than the 60-82 Rays. In their next three games, they will closeout their home stand with the Dodgers, who are 80-62 and in first place in the NL West and then will play the rest of their games against teams ahead of them in the AL East, except for three games in Tampa Bay from September 20-22. This will give them opportunity to directly gain ground in the division and wildcard but will also automatically lose ground with any losses.

Rookie Luis Cessa, who had allowed three runs or less in his four starts this season before Sunday, was hurt by the home run as the Rays slugged three round trippers against him in 5.2 innings. He ended up allowing four runs on five hits while striking out five in 78 pitches. Cessa has been a reliable starter so far as his array of pitches helped him have a 4.07 ERA going into yesterday’s game, but he needs to prevent so many homers since the opposition has hit eight homers in his 29 innings as a starter, and in his 47.2 innings overall the opposition has hit 13 homers.

A positive to yesterday’s start is that Logan Forsythe and Brad Miller both hit solo homers in the sixth. If they would have hit two or three-run homers then the game would have been out of reach and much more difficult to make a comeback.

Chase Headley hit his 14th homer of the season in the fifth inning, but the Yankees were only able to score one more run after that. In the seventh inning, Brett Gardner singled to right to drive in Headley for the team’s second and final run. During Sunday’s afternoon game, the Yankee had a total of seven hits but were only 1-5 with runners in scoring position (RISP). Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-2 with RISP, Mark Teixeira was 0-1 with RISP and Gary Sanchez was 0-1 with RISP.

Ellsbury flied out with Gardner on second to end the seventh inning and he also flied out to left after Gardner doubled to deep left in the third inning. To end the third, Sanchez struck out with Gardner still on second. The Yankees were not able to do anything in the last two innings since the Rays retired the side in order in the 8th and 9th innings with Brad Boxberger and Alex Colome pitching. The Rays closer, Colome, picked up his 32nd save of the season and lowered his ERA to an impressive 2.01.

Luis Severino pitched well once again but will unfortunately likely not be available for two or three days because he threw 2.1 innings in the loss. He held the Rays scoreless while allowing only two his and a walk while striking out three. Severino, who was sent to Triple-A earlier in the season due to ineffectiveness as a starting pitcher, has now not allowed an earned run in his 16.2 innings pitched as a reliever this season and has only given up four hits in those seven games out of the bullpen.

The Yankees will now play three important games against the Los Angeles Dodgers. LA is coming off of a series where they lost two of three to the Marlins in Miami and former manager Don Mattingly. The Dodgers will send out rookies Jose De Leon and then Julio Urias in the first two games and then 2014 Cy Young winner and likely the best lefty in baseball, Clayton Kershaw, will make his second start since coming off of the disabled list on Wednesday.

It’s important that the Yankees win two out of three games to keep pace or possibly gain ground on the teams ahead of them in the standings.

 

 

The Yankees beat the Rays 5-4 after Tyler Austin’s walk-off blast and Brian McCann’s multiple solo homers

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Tyler Austin – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Tampa Bay Rays, 5-4, at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night for their fifth win in a row. After the win they gained half a game on the Baltimore Orioles to improve to only two games behind them for the second wild card spot. They also are still four games behind the Boston Red Sox for first place in the AL East.

Everything is clicking right now as the Yankees are playing well on offense and defense. They have scored five runs or more in four of the last five games and have allowed four runs or less in five of the last six games. Also, since the Yankees traded lockdown relievers Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller before the trade deadline, the team is an outstanding 7-0 in one-run games and 3-0 in extra-inning games.

After the win, the Yankees improved the 41-28 at Yankee Stadium and are now a season-high nine games above .500 (74-65). Tyler Austin was the star of the game as he had two hits and his third career homer won the game for the the Bronx Bombers.

Austin hit the walk-off homer on a 3-2 two-seamer after he was up 3-0 in the count. It was an inside out swing for an opposite field homer to left field. He rewarded Joe Girardi’s faith in him since he could have sent in Mark Teixeira to pinch hit in the bottom of the ninth with the score tied at four.

The walk-off homer was the first by a Yankee rookie since Melky Cabrera had one on July 18, 2006. Austin hit his first homer in his first career at-bat on August 3. He thinks his walk-off was a more significant homer.

“That might top the first game up here,” Austin said. “It was a huge team win for us and a special moment.”

“I like the way Austin is swinging the bat,” Girardi said. “He is in the game. A lot of times it is a lot easier if your are in the game. It’s amazing what these kids have been able to do for us. A couple of hits tonight. It is hard to explain.”

Austin has a .245 average this season (13-53 in 17 games) but he has found a lot of success hitting in the Bronx. He has nine hits in 26 at-bats at Yankee Stadium (.346) with three homers, four runs scored and six RBI. He hit his second homer of the season, a two-run blast, in the team’s big 7-6 win over the Blue Jays on Tuesday. In the last five games (all at Yankee Stadium), Austin has been in the zone at the plate as he is 7-16 (.438) with two homers, two doubles and five RBI.

The previous two runs that the Yankees scored were on solo homers by Brian McCann, and one of his homers was a 412-foot round tripper into the suite level. He has found his stroke since the end of August and has improved on offense. In the last 10 games the veteran catcher, who has mainly been the DH since the trade deadline, is 11-37 (.297) with three homers, four runs scored and five RBI.

In the first inning, Didi Gregorius hit a single to score Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury scored after an error by Rays starter Alex Cobb.

CC Sabathia was only able to pitch four innings after being taken out of the game after throwing 87 pitches and allowing three runs on three solo homers. Tampa Bay had seven hits against him in seven innings but the positive was that nobody was on base when the Rays hit their three homers. Two of the three solo blasts were by Kevin Kiermaier with one going to the upper deck. He is 20 for 50 in his last 12 games.

“He made some mistakes,” Girardi said about Sabathia. “Hopefully the shorter outing will refresh him and we will get him going for his next start. He didn’t have his best stuff.”

However, the Yankees bullpen bailed out Sabathia even though Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard and Luis Severino were not available. Jonathan Holder gave the Yankees two solid innings in the fifth and sixth as he allowed one run on two hits and left the game with the score tied at four.

Chasen Shreve, Blake Parker, Kirby Yates and Tommy Layne prevented the Rays from scoring over the final three innings. Everybody on the roster has really stepped up during this stretch and that includes the bullpen. Brian Cashman got Parker and Layne off of waivers and Shreve and Yates have been up and down from Triple-A. Shreve hasn’t allowed an earned run in five of his last six appearances and is pitching with more confidence.

“It is a sign that the moment is not too big for them,” Girardi said in reference to the young players on the team. “You get more faith in them and you understand they can handle the situation.”

The Yankees are a remarkable 52-9 when scoring five or more runs this season. They will look to continue scoring five or more runs during their next three games against the Rays. Sweeping the series will help them gain more ground in the wild card and in the division. They will need help from other teams to make the playoffs, but they are giving themselves a chance with they way they have been playing recently, and it will be possible with all of the games left that they have against teams ahead of them in the standings.

“We have a shot (at the playoffs) and in this game that is what you look forward to,” Girarid said. “I feel better than I did a few weeks ago.”

 

Starlin Castro hit his 20th homer of the season to help the Yankees sweep the Blue Jays

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Starlin Castro – ESPN

The Yankees beat the Toronto Blue Jays in a nail bitter of a game, 2-0, and were remarkably able to sweep the Blue Jays. The Blue Jays, who were in first place when the series started, are now a game behind the Red Sox in the AL East. The Yankees are now 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East and 2.5 games out of the second wild card spot.

The Bronx Bombers got just enough on offense to finish off the sweep of their rivals to the north. Toronto has the deeper lineup, but the Yankees were able to out hit them nine to five. The nine hits would have led to more runs if they were better than one for six with runners in scoring position.

Starlin Castro hit a homer over the State Farm scoreboard in left field in the third inning against Blue Jays starter Marcus Stroman to give the Yankees a 1-0 lead. Castro now has 20 homers and he is only the fourth Yankee second baseman in franchise history with 20 or more homers in a season. The others were Robinson Cano (from 2009-2013), Alfonso Soriano (2002-2003) and Joe Gordon (1938-1941).

Later in the third, Brian McCann singled to right to score Didi Gregorius. McCann, who has become the regular DH with the emergence of Gary Sanchez, has three hits in his last 12 at-bats (.250) with a homer and two RBI. Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury both had two hits.

Bryan Mitchell was stellar in his first start this season for the Yankees. He missed the first five months of the campaign after suffering a fractured sesamoid bone and Grade 3 turf toe during a spring training game against the Braves on March 30. He would need surgery the next week. He would have been an important part of the pitching staff if not for the freak injury and he appears ready to be fulfill that potential down the stretch.

Mitchell pitched five innings while not allowing a run, giving up only four hits, two walks and striking out two. He threw 49 of his 80 pitches for strikes and was able to get Edwin Encarnacion to hit into a double play in the first and got Devon Travis to hit into a double play in the third inning.

“After the whole season, what I went through, tonight’s very rewarding,” Mitchell said. “It’s been my goal all year to get back here.”

Luis Severino, who has been virtually un-hittable as a reliever this season, pitched the sixth through eighth innings while allowing a hit, a walk and striking out three. Severino has faced 50 batters as a relief pitcher and has only allowed two hits. Also, in 14.1 innings pitching out of the bullpen this season, he has not allowed an earned run and has 16 strikeouts and six walks. They likely would not have gotten the win without his three dominant innings as Dellin Betances and Adam Warren were both not available.

To close out the game, Tyler Clippard picked up his first save of the season while not allowing a hit and striking out two. The former Yankee was a starter for the team in his rookie season in 2007 and was reacquired from the Diamondbacks before the trade deadline. He has a 0.56 ERA as the run the Mets scored off of him on August 3 was the only earned run he has allowed in his 16 innings with the Yankees. He has been a valuable trade deadline acquisition after the trades of Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.

The Yankees are 65-51 since May 1, which is the fifth best record in the American League. The only teams with better records since then are the Blue Jays (66-48), Astros (67-48), Indians (70-47) and Rangers (69-46). They are also 21-13 since the trade deadline.

“We’ll get there (the postseason) if we continue playing the way we’re playing. If we continue to win series…we’ll be all right,” Castro said.

The Yankees begin a four-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium on Thursday night. It’s important that the Yankees sweep the 59-79 Rays to have a chance at a playoff spot because their schedule will be more challenging after Sunday’s game.

Jacoby Ellsbury and Tyler Austin led the Yankees to a big win over the Blue Jays

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Jacoby Ellsbury – ESPN

During a matinee game on Labor Day, the Yankees got a big 5-3 win over the first place Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. They have now won two games in a row and they started off the home stand playing well as Monday’s game was the first of 10 consecutive games in the Bronx. After two more games against the Blue Jays the Yankees will play the Tampa Bay Rays and then the Los Angeles Dodgers.

To the surprise of many around the league as of now and after the Yankees traded away Aroldis Chapman, Andrew Miller and Carlos Beltran before the trade deadline, the Yankees are still very much in contention for the second wild card spot. The Yankees are now 71-65 and 5.5 games behind the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East. Yesterday’s win allowed them to keep pace with the teams ahead of them in the wild card race because they all won their previous game.

The Bronx Bombers are 3.5 games behind the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers for the second wild card spot and 1.5 games behind the Houston Astros. After this series against the Blue Jays, the Yankees will still play Toronto four more times and will closeout out with three games against the Orioles. If the Yankees can play in September slightly better than the did in August when they were 17-11 then that series against the Orioles could be very important.

Masahiro Tanaka didn’t have his best command of his pitches but but was still able to limit the Blue Jays to only two runs in 6.1 innings. This was his fourth consecutive start that he has allowed two runs or less, which proves how dominant he has been recently. He struggled as his pitches were not on par compared to recent starts as he allowed seven hits and three walks, after not walking more than one since July 27.

“I felt like I was all over the place,” Tanaka said through his translator.

However, Tanaka was able to step up and make quality pitches when he needed to since the Blue Jays were 2-9 with runners in scoring position (RISP) against him. The two hits the Blue Jays had with RISP came in the first inning but Tanaka held Toronto to only one run in the first. Tanaka was taken out of the game after walking Ezequiel Carrera and then allowing Dioner Navarro to fly out to Aaron Judge in right, who made a great catch at the top of the wall.

The bullpen wasn’t very effective in the seventh as Jonathan Holder allowed two straight walks with two outs and then Edwin Encarnacion hit a 2 RBI single off of Ben Heller to make the score 5-3, which is how the inning would end (and  would be the final score).

Tyler Clippard and Dellin Betances, who are the two most reliable members of the bullpen, pitched the eighth and ninth innings and did not allow a hit or walk while striking out a combined three batters.

R.A. Dickey, who only allowed one run in five innings in his previous start against the Yankees on August 15, did not have the same command of his knuckleball as the Yankees scored five runs on seven hits in four innings against him.

Jacoby Ellsbury gave the momentum back to the Yankees in the first inning as he hit a two-run homer to right for his 7th homer of the season. His single to right in the third inning that scored rookie Tyler Austin made the score 3-1 and was his second of three hits during the game. Ellsbury has played well in his last six  games as he is 9-23 (.391) with one double, one homer, two runs scored and six RBI.

In the fourth inning, Austin gave the Yankees all the runs that they would need for the win with his double to deep left that scored Starlin Castro and Austin Romine. Tyler Austin only has a .205 average in 44 at-bats since being called up with Judge in the beginning of August, but in 17 at-bats at Yankee Stadium he has a solid .294 average (5-17) with one homer, two runs scored, two doubles and three RBI.

Judge is the rookie out of the two who has struggled a little more offensively. He had been the higher rated prospect of the two but has had trouble making adjustments and avoiding the strikeout. Judge’s average is only .169 and he struck out in all three of his plate appearances on Monday.

Judge, who is 6-7 and 275 pounds, has struck out in an alarming 35 of his 65 at-bats this season, which is more than half of his at-bats. He got off to a bang with a home run in his first major league at-bat but has struggled since then. However, the Yankees have been able to win without offensive production from Judge and it does take some rookies longer to make the adjustment from Triple-A pitching. He has played a very good right field as he has been able to make catches going back to the wall as well as diving for shallow line drives.

Rookie Luis Cessa will get the start for the Yankees and Aaron Sanchez will get the start for the Blue Jays in the middle game of the series on Tuesday night. Cessa has given up three runs in six innings in each of his last two starts and Sanchez leads the league American League with his 2.88 ERA.

 

 

The Yankees beat the Orioles 5-2 in the series finale to prevent being swept

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Michael Pineda – Yankees

The 5-2 win that the Yankees had on Sunday afternoon in Baltimore over the Orioles was their most important win of the season. Their win prevented them from being swept by the Orioles, who have the second wild card spot, and improved the Yankees deficit to 3.5 games.

The Yankees have a 70-65 record before Monday’s game are are half a game up on Kansas City Royals, who are 70-66. The Houston Astros are currently two games behind the Orioles and the Detroit Tigers are tied with the Orioles for the second wild card spot.  An offensive outburst was needed since the team had not scored a run in the first two games of the series against the Orioles.

“You can’t afford to lose three in a row to these guys,” Girardi said. “We know they play really well in this building. We lost a tough one (Saturday) night. To be able to bounce back is important. It keeps us alive.”

The starting lineup had five rookies in it but the veterans were the ones who drove in all five of the team’s runs.

In the first inning, Chase Headley’s single to left scored Brett Gardner and then backup catcher Austin Romine hit a single to left that scored Headley and Rob Refsnyder. In the third inning, Headley’s infield single to third scored Refsnyder and then the Yankees added an insurance run with Brett Gardner’s sacrifice fly in the ninth inning. The Yankees had six hits in this game, which equals the amount of hits that they had in the previous two games combined.

Refsnyder was 1-2 with two runs scored after getting into his first game since rosters expanded on September 1. He spent the last few weeks with the Triple-A RailRiders, but he now has five hits in his last 10 at-bats with four runs scored.

Chase Headley, who had two big RBI in the first inning, is now 9-24 (.375) with one homer and six RBI in his last seven games. He has performed very well for the Yankees since the first month and a half of the season.

The bullpen really stepped up for the Yankees since the didn’t allow any runs after Michael Pineda was taken out of the game after four innings. In his four innings pitched he threw 87 pitches and allowed five hits, two walks and two runs. Throwing 87 pitches in only four innings is much more than normal.

Luis Severino came in next and continued his dominance as a relief pitcher. He pitched two innings while walking two batters, striking out two, and not allowing a hit. He has really performed well since he has been able to concentrate on his plus fastball and slider while not having to worry about throwing a third pitch (change-up).

Severino has surrendered only one hit in the 40 batters he has faced in relief this season. He has thrown 11.1 innings as a relief pitcher this season and has not allowed an earned run while striking out 13 batters and walking five. That is outstanding and could be a sign that his best role going forward could be as a relief pitcher and not as a starter since he does not really trust his third pitch.

The four other Yankee relief pitchers combined to allow one hit and strike out four. Dellin Betances pitched the final 1.1 innings, after not having appeared in a game since August 31, and picked up his 8th save. He is firing on all cylinders right now since he has pitched in 10 games since August 10, 11.2 innings, and has allowed only one earned run while limiting the opposition to four hits. He has also struck out 18 batters and only walked four in that 10 game span.

The Yankees play a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays from Monday to Wednesday at Yankee Stadium. The Yankees need to at least win two out of three to stay in the race. It will be a challenging series as Toronto is in first place in the AL East with a 77-59 record.

Tanaka has been the best Yankees starting pitcher and could be in contention for the Cy Young

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Masahiro Tanaka – ESPN 

Masahiro Tanaka pitched very well in five of his six starts in August and there is a chance that he could win the Cy Young if the can continue pitching like he has recently.

In Tanaka’s last three starts of August he allowed two, zero and zero runs, which lowered his ERA from 3.40 to 3.12. In his two starts before that outstanding three game stretch, he gave up one run in six innings and then four runs in seven innings. He was hurt by the long ball as the Rays hit two homers off of him leading to his four runs, but the Rays only had five hits against him and Tanaka recorded eight strikeouts and no walks, which is a great strikeout to walk ratio.

His ERA during August would have been even better if not for the Mets scoring six earned runs against him on August 2 but his ERA for the month was still a very good 3.00. He had a 3.40 ERA after that start at Citi Field against the Mets and it’s now a much improved 3.12. Also, showing his dominance during the month is that he had 38 strikeouts and only one walk. Only allowing one walk in the span of six starts is outstanding control and rarely seen in major league baseball.

Overall this season, Tanaka is seventh in the American League in ERA (3.12), sixth in the AL in WHIP (1.06) and third in the league in K/BB ratio (5.21). His 4.5 WAR (Wins Above Replacement) is the seventh highest among qualified starters in the league, the .268 on-base percentage that opponents have against him is the second best in the league and the .360 slugging percentage that opponents have against him is fifth best in the league.

After the All-Star break this season, Tanaka has really excelled as he allowed two runs or less in six of his nine starts. He allowed zero runs in three of those starts and one run twice.

He will definitely be considered for the Cy Young if he can continue pitching at the success rate that he has after the All-Star break. (He will have to not have another start where he allows six runs.) Tanaka currently is not far from being first in ERA in the AL as Aaron Sanchez, who has made 25 starts this season to Tanaka’s 27, has a 2.88 ERA. Tanaka is also close to the pitchers immediately ahead of him as Chris Sale has a 3.10 ERA and Corey Klueber is in 5th place with a 3.09 ERA.

Tanaka has been by far the Yankees best starting pitcher this season. His 11 wins are most on the team by three, his 3.12 ERA is much lower than any other starting pitcher, his 1.06 WHIP is much better than the other starting pitchers, his 16 quality starts are four more than CC Sabathia who is in second place and he has been able to throw 29 more innings that any other pitcher on the team.

Tanaka, who is 27 and in his third season since coming over from Japan, is also on his way to having his best season in pinstripes since he is on track to pitch the whole campaign. In 2014, his rookie season, he had an excellent 2.77 ERA but that was after pitching only 136.1 innings and 20 starts. He has already made 27 starts this season and thrown 173.0 innings, which makes his performance up until now in this season more impressive than 2014.

He signed a 7-year, $155 million contract with the Yankees before the 2014 season and he is pitching this season like he deserved that contract and is beyond the injury he suffered in 2014. In his rookie season, Tanaka was placed on the disabled list in the beginning of July due to right elbow inflammation and an MRI revealed a partially torn UCL. He ended up returning at the end of September after multiple doctors said that Tommy John surgery was not necessary.

The rookie campaign was very impressive for Tanaka and he has been able to dominate even more this season based on the array of plus pitches that he has. He relies primarily on his sinker (90mph), slider (84mph) and splitter (87mph) while also throwing a four-seam fastball, cutter and curve.

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