Luis Severino pitched six shutout innings during the Yankees 3-1 win over the Atlanta Braves

2/21/15 - New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, throwing in the bullpen during practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field, in Tampa, Florida.

2/21/15 – New York Yankees pitcher Luis Severino, throwing in the bullpen during practice at George M. Steinbrenner Field, in Tampa, Florida.

The Yankees beat the Atlanta Braves 3-1 on Saturday night for their second consecutive win at Turner Field. They will try for the sweep against the Braves, who have scored the fewest runs in all of baseball, at 1:35 p.m. EST this afternoon. The Yankees are still 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East because the Blue Jays have also won their last two games.

Luis Severino, who didn’t allow a run in six innings pitched, threw his fifth consecutive quality start since being called up from Triple-A Scranton. He has only allowed more than two earned runs in a start once and the six shutout innings that he threw lowered his ERA from 2.74 to 2.17.

“It doesn’t seem to overwhelm him, the situation here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

Severino, who has a plus changeup, slider and fastball, allowed four hits and three walks in his six innings pitched and struck out Braves catcher Christian Bethancourt with runners on first and second on a 96 mph fastball to end the fourth inning. He was able to get former Yankee Nick Swisher to hit into a double play with runners on first and second to end the first, got Jace Peterson to ground out to Stephen Drew at second with runners on first and second in the sixth and retired the side in order in the third and fifth innings.

The rookie is only the second Yankees pitcher 21 or younger to throw six scoreless innings in a start since 1970. Brian Cashman definitely made the right decision in not trading him and he will be an integral part in the team’s push to get to the playoffs.

The Yankees scored for the first time in the first inning when Jacoby Ellsbury scored on Matt Wisler’s wild pitch with Chase Headley at the plate. Headley would strike out with Brian McCann on third and Greg Bird at second to end the frame. In the seventh inning, Didi Gregorius‘s double to right that scored Headley gave the Yankees all the runs that the would need. Gregorius has a three-game hitting streak and has driven in one or more runs in all three of those games.

In the bottom of the seventh, Bethancourt scored the Braves only run of the game after an error by relief pitcher Justin Wilson. Dellin Betances came in and recorded his 20th hold of the season and added two more strikeouts to push his season total to 106, which is 21 more than Twins starter Phil Hughes who has thrown 77 more innings, and then Andrew Miller pitched the ninth inning and saved his 28th game of the season in his first season as a closer.

The Yankees added an insurance run in the eighth inning when Brian McCann hit a double to deep right that scored Chris Young, who had pinch run for Carlos Beltran. McCann has gone 2-5 with five RBIs in his first two games back at Turner Field after playing his home games at Turner Field for the first nine years of his career.

The Yankees will send out the same lineup in the series finale that they did on Saturday. On August 28 it was reported that Mark Teixeira, who has missed nine of the past 11 games with a deep bone bruise, still couldn’t run and the doctor said that he shouldn’t do so for a few days.

Nathan Eovaldi will get the start in the series finale. Eovaldi’s 13 wins are the most on the team and his 4.00 ERA is the lowest it has been since it was 3.97 on May 7. He had his best start of his season in his previous start as he pitched eight inning, didn’t allow a run and recorded seven strikeouts.

The Yankees need more production from Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez going forward

Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez.

After Thursday’s off day and losing two out of three games at home to the Houston Astros and previously losing three out of four games to the Cleveland Indians, who are six games below .500 and were in last place in the AL Central when they faced off, the Yankees will now play an important three-game inter-league series in Atlanta against the Braves.

The Yankees, who went 5-5 on their home-stand against the Minnesota Twins, Indians and Astros, are now 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. Toronto has gone 7-3 in their last 10 games and their +170 run differential is 40 runs better than the St. Louis Cardinals, who have the second best run differential in Major League Baseball. The Yankees play seven more games left with the Blue Jays before the end of the season, which could go a long way in deciding who wins the AL East, but their upcoming six-game road trip against the Braves and Boston Red Sox will be very important.

Atlanta and the Red Sox are a combined 30 games under .500, which means that the Yankees need to take advantage of them since they are obviously not going to the playoffs this season. Atlanta has a 54-73 record, has only one win in their last 10 games, is 17 games out of first place in the National League East and has scored the fewest runs out of any team in either the American or National League. Boston has a 58-69 record, is 13 games back in the AL East and their -41 run differential is fourth worst in the AL

Atlanta’s season long ineptitude in the run scoring department could help the Yankees during this series because they have been struggling to score recently. The Yankees have only scored 38 runs in their last 10 games, which equals an average of only 3.8 runs per game. In comparison, in the 10 games from July 25-August 4, the Yankees scored 90 runs, which is an average of a very impressive nine runs per game.

The Yankees offense has had many of their regulars not produce like normal during the month of August. Alex Rodriguez, who has 26 homers and a .255 average, has a very low .138 average in 80 August at-bats with only eight RBIs. Mark Teixeira, who has not played in seven of the previous nine games because of a bone bruise, has a .175 average in 57 at-bats with three homers and only six RBIs.

A-Rod and Teixeira are the two main players that the Yankees need to improve their average and drive in more runs if they are going to get back in first place and win the AL East. Teixeira and A-Rod are first and third on the team in RBIs, with 79 and 69, respectively, and are first and second in homers with 31 and 26, but they have combined to only drive in 14 runs in August and their averages are both below .200.

Also, Brett Gardner has a .193 average with only one double in August, Stephen Drew has a .217 average in 60 August at-bats and Brian McCann has a .219 average in 73 at-bats in August, but McCann has been productive power wise as he has hit six homers and has 15 RBIs during the month. Part of the struggles could be due to age and not being able to continue the same level of production the whole season. The offense needs to bounce back after the off day and with the inferior teams on the schedule.

One player who could help offensively is Rob Refsnyder. It was announced by Brian Cashman that Refsnyder will be one of the September call-ups. In 504 plate appearances with Triple-A Scranton, Refsnyder has hit .269/.360/.396 with nine homers, 11 steals, 24 doubles and 53 RBIs. That is better production than Drew, who only has a .196 average and a .266 on-base percentage and 36 runs scored to the 64 that Refsnyder has. However, Drew does have 15 homers to Refsnyder’s nine and Drew does play better defense at second.

It will be a positive to have Refsnyder’s bat on the bench and to start some games instead of Drew. The Yankees will also be able to call-up a few pitchers who already have experience out of the bullpen this season, which will make it easier to go to a six-man rotation to give the pitching staff more rest.

The Yankees are 6-8 so far this season in inter-league play, so they will look to at least be 8-9 in games against the National League at the end of this series against the Braves in Atlanta. The Braves have rookies pitching in the first two games and then Julio Tehran, who has 15 wins, will get the start in the series finale on Thursday.

Lindor’s homer off of Betances in the 8th led to the Indians win over the Yankees in the series finale

Carlos Beltran.

Carlos Beltran.

The Yankees lost to the Cleveland Indians, 4-3, on Sunday in the series finale at Yankee Stadium. They ended up losing three out of four games in the series and have now lost five out of seven games this season to the last place Indians. The loss combined with the Toronto Blue Jays win over the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim put the Yankees back in second place by half a game.

Dellin Betances allowed the game-winning run to the Indians in the 8th inning as Francisco Lindor blasted a homer to right on a fastball. Lindor went 3-5 and Betances allowed a run for the second straight game after not giving up a run in his previous 18 games. “Every once in a while it is going to happen,” Joe Girardi said. “He got in a 3-2 count, he left a fastball up and Lindor jumped on it.”

Lindor was the first left handed better to hit a round tripper against Betances. “I felt like I was missing glove handed side,” Betances said. “I fell behind again and Lindor hit a home run. I don’t want to walk him there so I am just trying to go after him. It was up and he put a good swing on it.” Lindor hit his homer to right after a great throw by Brian McCann got Jose Ramirez out as he was trying to steal second.

The Yankees scored their first run of the game in the third inning when Jacoby Ellsbury crossed home plate and Brett Gardner was safe at second on throwing error by Indians catcher Yan Gomes. The Yankees tied the score at three in the seventh inning on Carlos Beltran’s ground rule double that bounced into the stands in foul territory in left. Stephen Drew and Ellsbury scored.

In the fifth inning, the Indians almost had their third run, but Mike Aviles was thrown out trying to tag from third after a perfect short hop throw by Gardner and tag by John Ryan Murphy. The Indians would score their third run later in the inning when Branden Pinder walked Abraham Almonte with the bases loaded.

The Yankees pitchers combined to walk 10 batters against the Indians, which included four by CC Sabathia and three by Pinder. “I think there were a lot of walks on both sides,” Girardi said. “You are going to have those days too. You have got some young kids out there. That is not really a concern.”

CC Sabathia threw an 88 mph outside fastball to Carlos Santana in the first inning that he easily hit a home run on. Sabathia has a 5.80 ERA on regular rest this season (12 starts). He had to leave the game after 2.2 innings with a right knee injury after allowing two runs on four hits and four walks.

Brian Cashman said that he assumed that Sabathia will have to go on the disabled list based on how he had to leave the game. If he does go on the disabled list it is possible that he will not rejoin the rotation when he returns based on his 5.27 ERA.

Indians closer Cody Allen came into the game with two outs in the eighth inning and he recorded his sixth save of four or more outs of the season. That is the most of any closer in baseball.

The Yankees were only 1-8 with runners in scoring position and the No. 2-5 hitters combined to go 2-14. Greg Bird’s ground ball up the middle on the first pitch he saw in the sixth was the second hit of the game for the Yankees and Jacoby Ellsbury was the only player on the team with a multi-hit game.

Trevor Bauer, who had allowed 11 earned runs in his previous two starts combined, only allowed one earned run in his 6.1 innings pitched. He was able to repeatedly pitch out of trouble as he walked six batters.

The Yankees will conclude their homestand with a three-game series from Monday-Wednesday against the Houston Astros, who are in first place in the AL Central. Nathan Eovaldi will get the start on Monday night, and he had an excellent splitter and threw 25 pitches that were 100 mph or faster in his previous start.

Masahiro Tanaka will get the start in Game 2 of the series against the Indians

Masahiro Tanaka yells after the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners on June 11, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Masahiro Tanaka yells after the eighth inning against the Seattle Mariners on June 11, 2014, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

After the Yankees lost 3-2 in Game 1 of the series to the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium, Masahiro Tanaka will get the start tonight as the Yankees try to even the series at one. The Yankees offense struggled against Josh Tomlin as they only scored one run on two hits and two walks in seven innings against him. Carlos Carrasco who has a solid 3.63 ERA and 162 strikeouts will get the start for the Indians tonight.

In Tanaka’s previous start, he threw a complete game against Toronto Blue Jays while allowing only one run on five hits and three walks. He was able to give the bullpen a much needed day off and his eight strikeouts were his most he has had in a game since June 3 against the Seattle Mariners. He should be able to have success tonight because the Indians lineup is not nearly as fearsome as the one that the Blue Jays have.

The Yankees, who are 1.5 games ahead of the Blue Jays for first place in the AL East, will be without three of their regulars tonight. Mark Teixeira will be out of the lineup for the fourth straight game as a result of fouling a ball of his leg on Monday.

“It’s day to day,” Girardi said. “I was hopeful we could get him back this weekend. I’m not sure that will happen.”

Jacoby Ellsbury is not in the starting lineup tonight because he has played in eight consecutive games and Girardi felt he could use a game off. Ellsbury has five multi-hit games in his previous eight games, but he is 3-14 with no extra-base hits in his career against Carrasco. Didi Gregorius is also getting a healthy game off.

“I don’t know if I’ve given Didi a day off since the All-Star break,” Girardi said. “So I just felt that he could use a day too. These 16-game stretches are tough, and it surely didn’t help with a 16-inning game to start.” Gregorius, who has played in every game since June 25, only has one hit in his last 21 at-bats, which means that not playing tonight could help him.

Here is the batting lineup for tonight’s game against the Indians, who are in last place in the AL Central with a 56-64 record.

Brett Gardner CF
Chase Headley 3B
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran RF
Greg Bird 1B
Chris Young LF
Stephen Drew 2B
Brendan Ryan SS

Greg Bird drove in all four Yankees runs as they beat the Twins 4-3 in the series finale

Greg Bird.

Greg Bird.

Greg Bird was the hero as the Yankees won Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Minnesota Twins, 4-3, to record the sweep. It was their third win in three games against the Twins at Yankee Stadium and it was their sixth win in their last seven games overall. They have turned the corner from losing six of seven games from August 5-12.

Bird, who was playing in his fifth game, drove in all four runs that the Yankees scored against the Twins. In the fourth inning, Bird homered to right above the Fox Business sign in the second deck. In the sixth inning, in what was the game-winning homer, Bird hit a round tripper off of Twins starter Ervin Santana into the Yankees bullpen. Each of Bird’s homers came with two outs and Carlos Beltran on first.

Bird has a .333 average in 18 at-bats with four runs scored and five RBIs since being called up from Triple-A Scranton. When asked what his favorite part about his two homer afternoon was he said that what stood out most was that the team got the win. He credits his teammates with helping him quickly have success.

“My teammates, they are the best in the league,” the 22-year-old Bird said. “They have been very welcoming. They have made it an easy transition.” Bird’s production has made it so that the Yankees have not lost anything with Mark Teixeira out of the lineup due to his deep bone bruise.

Chase Headley (two hits) also had a multi-hit game, Stephen Drew had a hit after going 0-9 coming into the game and Jacoby Ellsbury‘s single to leadoff the game him a seven-game hitting streak. He is hitting 13-32 (.406) in his last seven games with three runs scored, three RBIs and one steal.

Nathan Eovaldi was the other standout performer in this afternoon’s game. He threw seven innings when the Yankees needed length out of him, allowed three runs on only four hits, and recorded eight strikeouts, which was his highest total since his second start of the season on April 15.

He threw a season-high 120 pitches, and Girardi likely let his pitch count escalate because the bullpen had pitched a lot recently and Eovaldi was on an extra day of rest. He allowed all three of his runs in the sixth inning. Joe Mauer hit a two-run single and Brian Dozier scored on Trevor Plouffe’s infield single.

Eovaldi had a perfect game through 5.1 innings. “The biggest thing that has helped Eovaldi has been his split,” Joe Girardi said. Locating his fastball and throwing his cutter, slider and curve is key for Eovaldi and his secondary pitches have been greatly improved in the last two months.

“I was able to locate the fastball,” Eovaldi said. “It is a great feeling. You compete and try to do your best for the team. In between starts I was concentrating on getting the split back on track.” He felt it worked well during the game.

Eovaldi threw 100 mph in four out of five pitches in one stretch. He was able to give the bullpen a break as only Chasen Shreve and Dellin Betances pitched after he came out of the game after the seventh inning.

“He was awesome,” Betances said in reference to Eovaldi. “Electric from the first inning on. He came back on for the seventh, which was huge.” He was impressed that Eovaldi was able to throw 100 mph deep into the game. Betances, who pitched a scoreless ninth while striking out two and recording his eighth save of the season, is now the first Yankees reliever to ever record 100 strikeouts in back-to-back seasons.

The bullpen has a 2.90 ERA in 16 games and a .248 average against this month. The relief pitchers have been a key part of the team’s success this season and all of the key pitchers are throwing well right now.

The Yankees, who have the day off on Thursday, currently have 2 game lead over the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the AL East. Toronto lost to the Philadelphia Phillies, who have the worst record in all of baseball.

The lineup for this afternoon’s series finale against the Minnesota Twins

Alex Rodriguez.

Alex Rodriguez.

The Yankees beat the Minnesota Twins, 8-4, on Tuesday night and Alex Rodriguez broke out of his slump with what ended up being the game-winning homer. Rodriguez was 1-23 going into his at-bat in the seventh inning, but he was able to hit his most clutch hit of the season as his grand slam off of J.R. Graham gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

Rodriguez hit his 25th career grand slam, which is the most in baseball history. Chase Headley, Brendan Ryan and Brett Gardner were on base when Rodriguez moved two above Lou Gehrig for most grand slams all-time. That hit that gave the Yankees the lead for good was only his third hit in his last eight games, and it was his first game with more than one RBI since July 25. Part of the reason that he did not have more than one RBI in a game since then was that Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury had been struggling, but Rodriguez had obviously not been hitting as well.

In the fourth inning, Greg Bird singled to right to score Carlos Beltran to give him his first big league RBI. He singled again in the eighth inning, which gave him his first MLB multi-hit game. He now has four hits in 14 at-bats, which is good for a solid .286 average. The Yankees tacked on three more insurance runs in the eighth as Chase Headley’s double scored Bird and Didi Gregorius and Ellsbury’s single to right scored Headley.

CC Sabathia was not as effective as he was in his previous two starts when he allowed three runs combined, but he was able to give the team length after the bullpen had to pitch 8.1 innings on Monday. Sabathia pitched 6.2 innings while allowed four runs on five hits and three walks. He got into trouble in the seventh since he allowed three runs including Miguel Sano’s two-run homer to left.

The bullpen and offense picked him up after he was taken out of the game. Nick Rumbelow, who recorded his sixth consecutive scoreless appearance, recorded the third out of the seventh, and ended up picking up his first win. Andrew Miller, who threw 13 of his 15 pitches for strikes, only allowed one hit and struck out three in 1.1 innings in saving his 27th game of the season. The bullpen as a whole (Justin Wilson pitched between Rumbelow and Miller) threw 2.1 scoreless innings while striking out four and allowing two hits.

The Yankees have won the first two games of the series against the Twins and have won five of their last six games overall. They are one game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays in the AL East. The Blue Jays have also won two games in a row.

Bird will get the start at first base again today and will continue playing as long as Mark Teixeira is out of the lineup with a severe bone bruise in his leg. It is not known when Teixeira will return.

“(He’s) not really a whole lot better,” Girardi said. “We know it’s day to day, and hopefully one day he’ll come in turn the corner. But he’s got a pretty good bone bruise.”

The Yankees will look to sweep the Twins with Nathan Eovaldi pitching. Due to his improved cutter, Eovaldi has been very good the two months. In his last 10 starts, Eovaldi is 7-0 with a 3.22 ERA and has lowered his ERA from 4.95 to 4.26.

“We’ve just seen a growth in him, and he’s a much more complete pitcher than when we got him, and the development of his split, and ability to mix his other pitches has helped,” Girardi said.

Brian McCann will get the day off because it is a day game after a night game. He will be available to pinch hit later in the game. Here is the lineup for today’s afternoon game against the Twins:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Carlos Beltran RF
Greg Bird 1B
Chase Headley 3B
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
John Ryan Murphy C

The lineup for the second game of the series against the Minnesota Twins

Greg Bird.

Greg Bird.

The Yankees will look to win their second consecutive game in the series against the Minnesota Twins. CC Sabathia, who was originally scheduled to start on Monday, will get the start tonight because it was decided that everyone in the rotation would get an extra day of rest.

The Yankees won Monday’s game 8-7 in 10 innings as Chase Headley’s ground out to the shortstop scored Brendan Ryan for the game-winning run. Carlos Beltran’s homer to left that scored Greg Bird in the sixth inning tied the game at seven. That was Beltran’s third homer in his last four games and Bird’s pinch-hit double was his first hit at Yankee Stadium.

Bryan Mitchell was unfortunately hit in the face by a line drive by Eduardo Nunez in the second inning, which forced the bullpen to pitch the final 8.1 innings. Mitchell walked off the field with the assistance of athletic trainer Steve Donahue, and Mitchell ended up coming away with a nasal fracture, which is better than it could have been given the circumstance. The bullpen will be shorthanded tonight since Chasen Shreve, Justin WIlson, Adam Warren, Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller all pitched during Monday’s game.

The Yankees, who are now a game ahead of the Blue Jays since Toronto didn’t play last night, will send out a different lineup than normal tonight. Chase Headley will get the night off and Ryan will play third base.

“I just felt Head could use a day,” Girardi said. “I gave him that day (in Cleveland) to try to give him two days because his legs were beat up, and I think he played eight innings that day. I just feel that he can use a day.” In 119 plate appearances with runners in scoring position this season, Headley has a line of .324/.370/.543 with 43 RBIs.

Mark Teixeira, who fouled a ball off his right leg just below his knee during last night’s game, had X-rays last night that were negative. However, his further tests did reveal that he had a deep bone bruise. It could take a few days until he is back in the lineup.

Bird, who has a .200 average in 10 at-bats, has been impressive at the plate so far even though he only has two hits. He has found the holes recently since both of his hits have come in his previous two at-bats. He will get the start tonight for Teixeira and is ready to play the next few games in case Teixeira is not able to.

“At least he’s gotten his feet wet, which is helpful,” Girardi said. “It’s not like we had him called up today and said you’re in the lineup. He’s done a good job over there. He may be called into duty for a few days.”

Here is the lineup for tonight’s game against the Twins:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran RF
Greg Bird 1B
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B
Brendan Ryan 3B

The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays 3-1 in the series finale as Beltran’s defense led to all of Toronto’s runs

Jacoby Ellsbury.

Jacoby Ellsbury.

The Yankees lost to the Blue Jays, 3-1, in the series finale at Rogers Centre. They are half a game ahead of the Blue Jays as a result of winning the previous two games in the series.

Luis Severino had his third quality start in a row to begin his career and could have had a better line if not for Carlos Beltran’s miscue. He allowed three earned runs on five hits and three walks in six innings while recording nine strikeouts. All of the runs that the Blue Jays scored came in the third inning.

Severino, who has a very good 3.18 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP in his first three starts, retired Kevin Pillar and Ben Revere to start the third but Troy Tulowitzki hit a high fly ball that Beltran lost in the sun. Tulowitzki fly ball, which was originally ruled an error, was a double because Beltran was trying to defend himself against the sun and didn’t know where the ball was at the end. If Beltran wouldn’t have lost the ball in the sun then Severino might have pitched more than six innings and not allowed any runs.

“That’s as good of an arm as we’ve seen all year,” Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. “Good quick arm, and he’s a strike-thrower.”

After Beltran couldn’t see Tulowitzki’s fly ball, MVP candidate Josh Donaldson hit a single to score Tulowitzki and then Jose Bautista blasted a two-run homer to center. Severino knew after he released the pitch that it was not where he wanted it. “I knew right away it was high and would be a problem,” Severino said after the game.

“I think I’m doing pretty good and I’m working hard so I can do better,” Severino said.

The only run that the Yankees scored was a home run by Jacoby Ellsbury to the second deck above the Pizza Nova sign in right field in the sixth inning. The Yankees only had four hits during the game and Brian McCann’s double was their only extra-base hit besides Ellsbury’s homer. They struggled against Blue Jays starter Drew Hutchison, and Beltran, Chase Headley, Didi Gregorius and Stephen Drew combined to go 0-12.

However, the offense was better than the previous three games and the Yankees did exactly what they needed to do in winning the series against Toronto.

Severino allowed the three runs in the third on two hanging sliders. “Outstanding job by him,” Joe Girardi said. “I thought he pitched really well. I thought he gave us a great chance to win the game. It is impressive to watch what he has done. He does a good job in Cleveland after a three-game losing streak. He has rose to the occasion.”

The 21-year-old Severino still had not lost any of his velocity in the sixth inning as he struck out Justin Smoak on a 98 mph fastball for the second out of the frame. Also, eight of Severino’s strikeouts were on fastballs, which is impressive since the Blue Jays strength as a team is hitting the fastball. The reason that Severino has not picked up a win in any of his three starts is that the Yankees have scored a total of two runs in the 17 innings that he has thrown.

Girardi realized after the game that sometimes an offense will flat out not perform against another team’s pitcher.

“It’s baseball,” Girardi said. “We pitched really well, we were just not able to come up with enough runs. I thought we did a good job winning a tough series on the road.” The Yankees (64-52) are now 32-31 on the road and 32-21 at Yankee Stadium. They will start a 10-game homestand on Monday, which is what they want since they play much better at home.

A sweep was what the Yankees wanted, but they bounced back well after being swept by the Blue Jays last weekend, and it appears the race to win the division will be tight the rest of the season. The Yankees will play a three-game series against the Minnesota Twins, who have a 59-58 record and are in second place in the AL Central, and the Blue Jays have a day off before a two-game set against the Philadelphia Phillies, who have the worst record in baseball.

The lineup for today’s series finale against the Toronto Blue Jays

Luis Severino with Double-A Trenton.

Luis Severino with Double-A Trenton.

After losing five consecutive games, the Yankees won their third consecutive game on Saturday. They were able to move 1.5 games ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the AL East with their win on Saturday.

Masahiro Tanaka pitched his most important game in his two seasons with the Yankees as he pitched a complete game while only allowing one run on five hits. Tanaka had eight strikeouts and threw 112 pitches in the Yankees 4-1 win over Toronto. Tanaka was able to give the bullpen a much needed day off, which will mean that everybody will be available in the series finale.

Tanaka has proven in his last two starts that he is still capable of being the ace of the staff after struggling four starts. It appears that the Yankees will be able to rely on him in Game 1 of a postseason series.

“Just an unbelievable job by Masahiro,” manager Joe Girardi said. Tanaka added that he wanted to pitch deep into the game because he knew that Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller had thrown a lot of pitches recently. “My mindset was I wanted to go as deep into the game as possible,” Tanaka said through a translator. “I’m just really satisfied that I was able to do that.”

The Yankees scored four runs on nine hits including a solo homer by Carlos Beltran in the first and a solo blast by Mark Teixeira in the sixth. Teixeira had his second RBI of the game in the eighth inning as his single to center scored pinch-runner Chris Young. That was an important insurance run and this was Teixeira’s first multi RBI game since August 4. He had only one RBI since then.

Luis Severino will get his third start of the season for the Yankees and will look to help the Yankees sweep the Blue Jays. He has allowed three combined runs in his first two starts and has held the opposition to a .214 average. His slider, four-seam fastball and changeup have all been very effective, and he was able to rebound very well in his last start after struggling in the first two innings.

This is the lineup for today’s game against Toronto at Rogers Centre:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Brett Gardner LF
Alex Rodriguez DH
Mark Teixeira 1B
Brian McCann C
Carlos Beltran RF
Chase Headley 3B
Didi Gregorius SS
Stephen Drew 2B

The Yankees snapped their five-game losing streak with their 8-6 win over the Indians

Gardner in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug 25, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Gardner in the dugout against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field on Aug 25, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees ended their five-game losing streak with their 8-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Thursday night at Progressive Field. They scored more than four runs in a game for the first time since their 13-3 win over the Red Sox on August 4.

The Yankees offense slugged two homers, a 3-run homer by Brian McCann in the first inning and a solo blast by Stephen Drew (.195) in the second inning. The Yankees are 32-11 when hitting two or more homers this season.

Drew’s homer was his 15th round tripper of the season, which is more than any second baseman in the majors besides Brian Dozier. Nathan Eovaldi, who won his 12th game of the season, allowed two runs in the third inning to make the score 4-2.

The offense continued to find success off of Trevor Bauer as Drew hit a double to left to score Didi Gregorius in the fourth and Brett Gardner doubled to left to score Drew to send Bauer out of the game with the score 6-2 after 3.1 innings.

Eovaldi allowed two more earned runs in the sixth inning including a Lonnie Chisenhall single that scored former Yankee minor leaguer Abraham Almonte. He did not have his usual command of his pitches as he threw 5.1 innings and allowed seven hits, three walks and four earned runs.

“He just missed his spots tonight,” Joe Girardi said. “No real rhyme or reason to it sometimes.”

Eovaldi had previously allowed three runs or less in each of his previous nine starts and two runs or less in seven of his last nine starts. This improved results is partly due to his consistency of his splitter, which he has started to throw a lot more this season.

However, he was not able to throw his splitter where he wanted it to go against the Indians. “My split I felt was inconsistent,” Eovaldi said. “I didn’t feel like my slider was there tonight either. Luckily we got the win.”

The 7.60 runs per game that the Yankees have score during Eovaldi’s starts this season are the second most in the American League. The Yankees needed this offensive outburst against the Indians because they couldn’t go into their important weekend series against the Toronto Blue Jays with a sweep to the last place Indians.

To give the Yankees their seventh run and the lead for good, Gardner hit a single to center to score Drew to give the Yankees 7-2 advantage. Eovaldi left the game with a 7-4 lead, which allowed him to win his third game in his last four starts.

Justin Wilson allowed one run on two hits while recording the first two outs of the seventh inning. Dellin Betances threw a wild pitch that allowed Francisco Lindor to score and that run was charged to Wilson. In his previous nine games, Wilson had only allowed one run while striking out 10 and walking two.

Gardner drove in his third run of the game with his single in the eighth that sent Drew home. Andrew Miller bounced back after blowing his first save of the season in his previous appearance to record his 25th save, but the Indians did score a run on two hits off of him.

Miller has converted 25 out of 26 save chances this season and still has a very good 2.25 ERA and 0.85 WHIP in his first season as a closer. The bullpen has been a strength for the Yankees all season, and the team will need dominance from them the rest of the season to hold off the Blue Jays.

A major factor in the Yankees winning this game was that Ellsbury (2-4) and Gardner (3-4), who are the No. 1 and No. 2 hitters in the lineup, combined to go 5-8 with two runs scored and three RBIs. The Yankees need those two to hit well at the top of the order. Before this game, Ellsbury was 2-27 (.074) in his last six games, and Gardner was 4-20 (.200) with eight strikeouts in his last six games.

The Yankees are now 62-51 and half a game behind the first place Blue Jays. Toronto is the hottest team in baseball as they have won 11 games in a row going back to July 29. They are currently undefeated with Troy Tulowitzki on the team.

The Yankees and Blue Jays will play three games at the Rogers Centre starting tonight at 7:07. The Yankees will look to win games in a hostile environment as the Blue Jays fans will be into it since these are the biggest games at the Rogers Centre since they last made the playoffs in 1993. The two teams are top two in the American League in runs scored and RBIs.

Alysha Tsuji

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Muskat Ramblings's Carrie Muskat has been covering Major League Baseball since 1981 and is the author of "Banks to Sandberg to Grace: Five Decades of Love and Frustration with the Cubs." You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat. Here, she blogs about the Cubs.


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