On Thursday, the Yankees traded veteran catcher Brian McCann to the Houston Astros for right-handed pitching prospects Albert Abreu, 21, and Jorge Guzman, 20. The opening day roster will look much different and younger than it did last July as the Yankees now not have veterans Carlos Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and McCann. (The Yankees have interest in reacquiring Beltran to be their designated hitter.)
The Yankees traded McCann because Gary Sanchez will now be the starting catcher next season as a result of his historic beginning of his career when he hit 20 homers in the last two months of the season and play very good defense. That would have left McCann as the DH, which could have worked, but the Yankees will now likely be able to have a DH with a higher average with possibly as many homers as McCann would have had. The defensive shifts have really lowered his average because he basically always pulls the ball to the left side.
Abreu is the more well known prospect who could be in the Bronx sooner than Guzman. Before the trade, Abreu was the Astros’ No. 7 ranked prospect after spending 2015 at Single-A Quad Cities and High-A Lancaster. The 6-2, 175 pound right hander pitched in 24 games last season and made 16 starts, but 21 of those games and 14 of the starts were with Quad Cities.
He had a 3.72 ERA overall with 115 strikeouts and 58 walks with a 1.298 WHIP but his two starts and one relief appearance at the end of the season with High-A brought up his ERA and WHIP. In 90 innings with Quad Cities, he pitched out of the bullpen and as a starter. He had two wins, four saves, a 3.50 ERA, a solid 1.233 WHIP, 104 strikeouts and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings.
Abreu’s ERA was a little high for a top prospect like him, but he has shown signs of developing into a reliable starter. His fastball topped out at 99 mph last season, which is a real improvement from the 87 – 91 that he threw when he first signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2013.
He has three pitches besides his fastball and once he can consistently improve those secondary pitches he will improve even more. Abreu is still young and might be able to have more success developing his off speed pitches with the pitching coaches that the Yankees have in their minor league system than the ones that the Astros had.
Guzman is a year younger than Abreu and is a 6-2, 182-pound righty who was born in Las Matas de Santa Cruz, Dominican Republic. In his second pro season, he threw in seven games in the Gulf Coast League and six games with Greenville of the Appalachian League, which is one level below Single-A.
He is a flame-thrower just like Abreu as his fastball tops out at 101-103 mph, but he has better control when his fastball is between 97 and 99, according to JJ Cooper. With the Astros Gulf Coast League affiliate he had a 3.12 ERA in seven games (four starts) with 25 strikeouts, 10 walks and an excellent 0.808 WHIP.
His ERA was higher in the Appalachian League, but ERA doesn’t tell that much in rookie level. With Greenville, he had a 4.76 ERA in six games (four starts) after striking out 29, walking seven and allowing 25 hits. The 25 hits that he surrendered in 22.2 innings are far too many, but on the other hand he did really improve his control from 2015.
In 2015, Guzman walked 30 batters in 55.1 innings pitched in his first season as a pro and had a very high 1.681 WHIP. However, this past season, he walked 17 batters in 40 innings pitched and had a much improved 1.150 WHIP.
He might be a better relief pitcher than starter since his two best pitches are his fastball and slider and his change is only developing. He has time to improve his change, but since he has two plus pitches and wasn’t able to throw more than five innings in a game last season he will likely be more effective in the bullpen.
In the 2017 season, he will probably either begin in the Appalachian League with the Pulaski Yankees or step up a level with the Low-A short season Staten Island Yankees. In 2017, Abreu will likely be sent to the High-A Tampa Yankees after proving that he can pitch well against Single-A competition last season.
It already makes that the Yankees made this trade based on the emergence of Sanchez, but the one downside is that McCann has hit 20 homers or more in nine consecutive seasons, and it is possible that being the DH would have helped him improve on his power numbers. However, his caught stealing percentage last season was very low and his decline in average and RBIs from earlier in his career is likely due to how baseball has changed with shifts in recent years.
If the two prospects that the Yankees received can blossom into one member of the rotation in Abreu and one seventh or eighth inning reliever in Guzman then this trade will be a win for the Yankees in many ways.
The Yankees will also now not have to pay the $23 million that is left of McCann’s contract over the next two years. McCann would have been an expensive back up catcher and part-time designated hitter.
“Getting the additional money to play with on our end gives us a lot of choices in the trade and free agent market,” Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman said. Cashman will now concentrate on improving the rotation, adding a designated hitter who can also play another position and getting an impact relief pitcher.
Gary Sanchez had an outstanding two months in the majors this season and should finish first or second in the Rookie of the Year voting. In 53 games this season (201 at-bats), Sanchez hit .299 with 20 homers, 42 RBI, 12 doubles, an outstanding 1.032 on-base plus slugging percentage and had a solid 41 percent caught stealing percentage.
He will rightfully go into spring training as the everyday catcher and the league will get to see what kind of power numbers Sanchez will be able to produce after playing the whole season. Even though Sanchez, who has greatly improved defensively this season than in the last few in the minors, is now the starting catcher and not Brian McCann, the Yankees still should not trade away McCann in the offseason.
“Listen,” McCann said. “Gary is the starting catcher here. He’s going to be that for a long, long time. Just have to kind of see where my role fits in; see where everything fits.”
McCann can have value for the Yankees next season as a mentor for Sanchez, as the designated hitter since he still has power and as the backup catcher. He could be CC Sabathia‘s primary catcher.
Sabathia credits McCann for helping him adjust as a pitcher. He really improved this season with his improved cutter (with some help from Andy Pettitte) as he had a solid 3.91 ERA, made an impressive 30 starts for the 12th time in his career and had 152 strikeouts. The last time before this season that the six-time All-Star and 2007 Cy Young winner had an ERA below 4.00 was in 2012 when it was 3.38. In 2015, Sabathia made 29 starts, but had a much higher 4.73 ERA and a 1.422 WHIP.
Defensive shifts have caused McCann’s average to be lower than it was earlier in his career when he hit .270 or above ever season from 2005-2011, but McCann still hits for power as this season was his ninth consecutive season that he has slugged at least 20 homers. In 2016, he had a .242 average with 13 doubles, 20 homers, 58 RBI, a .413 slugging percentage and a .335 on-base percentage. He also had a .995 fielding percentage and had a 23 percent caught stealing percentage.
In 2015, the seven-time All-Star, won his sixth Silver Slugger award as he hits 26 homers and tied his career-high with 94 Runs Batted In. If he is primarily the designated hitter that could help him have similar power numbers as he did in 2015.
McCann, who will be 33 in February, is capable of throwing out a greater percentage of base stealers since in 2015 he threw out 36 percent and in 2014 he threw out an even better 37 percent of base stealers. He still has value behind the plate because he knows the pitchers and what they like to throw, which means that he should catch occasionally.
He has two more years left on his contract at $17 million per year, which means that Brian Cashman might not get that much in return for him. He might be due for even better power numbers next year based on how well he hit at the end of the season. McCann had a .266 average in September, which was better than any average he had in any previous month of the season. In September combined with two games in October, he hit four of his 20 homers, drove in seven of his 58 runs and finished the season with five hits in 12 at-bats with a homer.
The 32-year-old from Georgia is one of only four players to ever hit 20 homers in 10 different seasons in which his primary position was catcher. The others were Yogi Berra, Johnny Bench and Mike Piazza. Pizza is regarded as the best hitting catcher of all time. His left-handed swing is made for Yankee Stadium, and since he wants to return it would make sense for him to spend 2017 playing his home games in the Bronx again. There were rumors about McCann being traded back to the Braves in July but the Yankees would really have to be blown away with major league ready talent to trade him in the offseason.
“I hope I’m back,” McCann said. “I’m not sure how it’s all going to play out, but the future is extremely bright here. … I love it here. I love everything about it. Bright future. And I hope I’m a part of it.”
The Yankees could even trade him before the trade deadline if they are in they are in the race for the division or wild card, which they should be, and he could help them improve at another position of need.
The Yankees lost to the Seattle Mariners, 4-3, at Yankee Stadium on Saturday afternoon after getting the win in the first game of the series on Friday. Former Yankee Robinson Cano drove in all four of Seattle’s runs.
Cano hit a homer above the Stanley sign in right center to drive in Kyle Seager in the first inning and then hit another two-run homer over the Fox Business sign in the sixth off of Michael Pineda to give the Mariners a lead they would not lose. Both of Cano’s homers came off of fastballs up in the zone, and that was a pitch that Cano was always able to do damage on as a Yankee.
One hitter hurt us really bad today,” Joe Girardi said. “Today it was Robbie. We know he is a really good player.”
That was Cano’s first multi-homer game since joining the Mariners. Pineda pitched six innings and he would want those two pitches to Cano back. Besides Cano’s homers, Pineda allowed four hits and two walks to the Mariners. He struggled once again on extra rest, which is something that he will have to get better at because the Yankees will have to limit his innings the rest of the season.
“I feel OK today,” Pineda said. “I tried to do my best on the mound. My fastball was not as sharp as it usual is. This is the game. Cano is a pretty good hitter and he had a good day today.” Cano hit his homers early in the at-bats, and Pineda had to be fastball reliant because he didn’t have command of his slider.
Brian McCann tied the game at two on a deep homer to right-center in the fourth inning that scored Mark Teixeira. That was his 15th homer of the season, and McCann is just the 3rd catcher in MLB history with 15+ HR in 10 of his 1st 11 seasons.
In the sixth inning, the Yankees didn’t score any runs after having Brett Gardner and Jacoby Ellsbury on second with no outs. Gardner extended his hitting streak to eight games but Alex Rodriguez was not able to drive him home.
Didi Gregorius hit a double down the right field line with two outs in the seventh for his first and only hit of the game. However, Rob Refsnyder, who was 0-3 and only has two hits in 12 at-bats since being called up, grounded out to first to strand Gregorius at second. The Yankees did not make the most of their scoring chances as they were 0-8 with runners in scoring position.
Mark Teixeira leadoff the bottom of the ninth with a double to the wall in right-center for his second hit of the game. With one out in the inning, Chase Headley advanced to first on a missed third strike that went all the way back to the backstop. Teixeira advanced to third on the wild pitch. With the score 4-3 after Garrett Jones’s RBI groundout, Gregorius grounded out to Cano at second to end the game.
Marines starter Hisashi Iwakuma picked up five strikeouts in his 5.2 innings and kept the Yankees off balance with his hesitation in his delivery. “He changes speeds really well,” Girardi said. “He has got four different pitches that he can use and that’s what he did.”
As a result of Tampa’s win over Toronto this afternoon, the Yankees now have a 3.5 game lead of the Rays for first place in the AL East. Felix Hernandez will pitch for the Mariners and CC Sabathia will pitch for the Yankees in the series finale at 1:05 p.m. EST on Sunday.
Brian McCann’s walk-off homer in the 12th inning to the bleachers in right field gave the Yankees a 7-5 win over the Tampa Bay Rays. It was the first walk-off hit of the season for the Yankees and McCann’s homer drove in Gregorio Petit and Mark Teixeira.
“It’s one of the best feelings that you could possibly have,” McCann said. “A big spot like that against a team in our division, it’s a great feeling.”
Earlier in the bottom of the 12th, to make the score 5-4, Teixeira singled to right to score Gardner and advance Petit to second. Petit pinch-hit for Alex Rodriguez, who had singled for his second hit of the game.
The Yankees were forced to come from behind in the 12th because Kevin Kiermaier and Rene Rivera both hit RBI singles in the top of the 12th. The first run was charged to Adam Warren, who allowed a walk and a sacrifice to begin the inning, and the second was charged to Chasen Shreve, who allowed both RBI singles and got Joey Butler to hit into a inning ending double play.
Shreve, whose 15-game (16 innings) scoreless streak ended, picked up his sixth win of the season, which only trails Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi on the team.
The Yankees came from behind for the first time in the eighth inning when they scored three runs to tie the score at three. Mark Teixeira blasted a 3-run homer to right for his 20th homer of the season.
Dellin Betances threw a 99 mph high fastball to strike out Brandon Guyer for the second out of the ninth. Brett Gardner then made a great throw to nail Asdrubal Cabrera at second for the third out of the inning. The challenge that Rays manager Kevin Cash made was unsuccessful.
Didi Gregorius was on base in all four plate appearances as he had two singles and had his second walk of the game in the ninth. He was sacrificed to second with Jose Pirela’s bunt in the ninth. He reached base safely four teimes for the fhird time in his career.
Chase Headley grounded into a double play to third to prevent the Yankees from getting the win in the bottom of the ninth.
Justin Wilson had two strikeouts in the 10th inning and then Adam Warren came into the game and struck out Steven Souza Jr., who now doesn’t have a hit in his last 25 at-bats, to end the inning. With the win, the Yankees are now one game ahead of of the Orioles and two ahead of the Rays and Blue Jays for first place in he AL East.
The Yankees beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-1, in the second game of the series on Wednesday night. With their win and the loss by the Detroit Tigers they are now four games behind them for the second wild card.
A key reason that they won the game was that Hiroki Kuroda was able to pitch seven innings and allow allow one run. He had eight strikeouts, which included striking out the side in the second, only allowed four hits and didn’t walk a batter. It was his 10th win of the season, third win in his last four starts and the first time he has won a game this season when pitching seven innings and allowing two runs or less. He had previously done so five times without a win.
This was the second straight start that the veteran had pitched seven innings and allowed two runs or less. 16 of his outs that he recorded didn’t reach the outfield as had had eight strikeouts and eight ground ball outs. The only extra-base hit that he allowed was in the sixth-inning, when Brock Holt slugged a double to left that scored Jemile Weeks, for Boston’s only run.
“The split and my sinker were OK, and the slider wasn’t as good, but I think I was able to pitch well today,” Kuroda said. “Looking at the Boston hitters last night, they were swinging really well, so I tried to make sure that I pounded the zone from early in the game. Every game we play from now on is going to be a must win game for us, so I just wanted to shift the momentum for our team.”
Offensively, the Yankees had not scored more than four runs since their last win on August 29 against the Toronto Blue Jays. They struggled with runners in scoring position during their three-game losing streak. In Wednesday’s win, they were an improved 4-7 with runners in scoring position and didn’t hit into any double plays. Brian McCann led the Yankees on offense as he was 4-4 with three RBIs and a homer. This comes after Tuesday’s game when he was 2-4 with a homer and two runs scored.
“I just found the holes when I hit them,” McCann said. “I felt good tonight, have been feeling good for a while now and just want to build off this. As a team we just want to keep winning. It’s about getting the win, this last month it is about getting as many wins as we possibly can.”
Brett Gardner hit the first of his two hits in the first inning after being thrown out of Tuesday’s game, but was caught stealing on a base running mistake. McCann’s homer to right off of Anthony Renaudo that scored Mark Teixeira in the second gave the Yankees all the runs that they would need.
In the fifth inning, after Ichiro Suzuki singled to load the bases, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a sacrifice fly to score Chase Headley. Derek Jeter lined out to right to end the inning, and luckily not getting a hit with the bases loaded and one out did not end up costing the Yankees in this game.
They scored their fourth and fifth runs in the seventh inning as Ellsbury hit a triple and then was sent home on a Gardner single, and then McCann’s single to right scored Jeter with the bases loaded.
Dellin Betances recorded two swinging strikeouts in the eighth lowering his ERA to 1.44. He has only allowed one run in his last nine appearances and his 122 strikeouts are second on the team. McCann 17th homer put him in second place on the team to Teixeira’s 20.
Martin Prado, who suffered a mildly strained left hamstring during Tuesday’s game and didn’t play on Wednesday, hopes to be cleared to play on Thursday. He is a key part of the offense since in his last 16 game he has hit .381 with four homers and 11 RBIs.
The rubber game of the series will be at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday. Chris Capuano will start his eighth game for the Yankees after previously pitching for the Red Sox, and Brandon Workman, who allowed seven runs in 3.1 innings on August 23, will get pitch for the Red Sox.
The Yankees beat the Chicago White Sox, 7-5, on Sunday afternoon for their fourth in a row. The crowd came alive in the 10th inning after Brian McCann hit a walk-off three-run homer to drive in Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley. His pinch hit homer landed about five rows deep near the foul pole in right.
Joe Girardi was impressed with how McCann was able to come in off of the bench and win the game. “It just shows that he had stayed ready all day,” Girardi said. “And mentally he was ready. He came in and got a huge hit for us. He worked the count, saw a lot of pitches and that is a huge hit.
Every win is important the rest of the season as there are only 34 more games left. The Yankees are 3.5 games behind the Seattle Mariners for the second wild-card. The Bronx Bombers have only gained a game on the Mariners during their winning streak since Seattle is on a three-game winning streak.
Chris Capuano recorded his third quality start in his six starts since being acquired from the Boston Red Sox. He allowed three runs in six innings and had five strikeouts. It did not seem promising that Alexei Ramirez led off the game with a homer, but Capuano was able to get seven of the next nine batters out that he faced. The White Sox scored their second and third runs off of Capuano in the sixth inning when Conor Gillaspie hit a two-run homer to right.
The home crowd got really into the game for the first time in the bottom of the sixth inning because the Yankees were able to put four runs on the scoreboard. They did so on only two hits. Martin Prado was able to reach second on Dayan Viciedo’s error and then was driven in on a double by Mark Teixeira. Beltran and Francisco Cervelli both walked and then Zelous Wheeler’s hit by pitch sent Teixeira home for the team’s second run. The standing ovation from the crowd got even louder when Ichiro Suzuki’s single to deep right center scored Beltran and Cervelli.
The Yankees impressively scored four runs off of White Sox starter Chris Sale, whose 2.03 ERA is first in the American League. However, all of those runs were unearned as a result of Viciedo’s error.
David Robertson, who had previously only blown two saves all season, gave up a home run to Avisail Garcia in the ninth inning to tie the score at four. He had previously converted 22 straight saves before his last blown save. His ERA is now 3.06, and he was relieved after the game that the team got the win in extra innings.
“I think the whole team was happy,” Robertson said. “It’s obviously a pitch I want back. I tried to throw a curve ball for a strike. I didn’t mean to hang it as bad as I did. I didn’t see that outcome coming. It is easier to shake that one off when the team wins the ballgame, that is for sure.”
McCann’s homer with two outs in the 10th was his 15th of the season. The Yankees won their fifth walk-off game of the season and their fourth in the Bronx. This was also their sixth series sweep of the season. Their offensive has also recently improved since they have scored more than four runs in their last two games after scoring four or fewer in their previous 11 games.
The Yankees will look to extend their winning streak to five games when they play a game in Kansas City against the surging Royals on Monday night. This game was previously rained out earlier in the season. Michael Pineda will pitch for the Yankees and James Shields will pitch for the Royals. Both starters allowed two runs in their previous start.
The 3-0 win by the Yankees over the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday afternoon ended their two-game losing streak. Shane Greene has now picked up a win in each of his first two major league starts, and he appears to be able give the team more starts like this because of his dominating stuff.
Greene was aggressive against the dangerous Orioles lineup, which helped him leave his second start with an outstanding 1.32 ERA. He has only allowed two earned runs in his 13.1 innings pitched and hasn’t allowed a hit in his first 4.2 innings in each of his first two starts.
He threw 7.1 shutout innings against the Orioles, had an impressive nine strikeouts while only giving up four hits. In an interview on the field after the game, Greene said that he feels that all of his pitches were working.
“I felt pretty confident in everything today,” Greene said. “More than anything I just trusted Cervelli and threw everything with conviction. It is definitely an opportunity and I’m trying to make the best of it. I like where I am at.”
The Orioles had runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth but Greene got a big strikeout against Nick Hundley. Cervelli said that he was throwing his sinker and slider very well.
In the third inning, the Yankees scored their first run off of a double to deep right that scored Brett Gardner. Teixeira drove in his team-leading 48th run.
In the seventh inning, the Yankees scored their second and third runs off of Orioles starter Chris Tillman. Kelly Johnson advanced to second with one out after a wild pitch by Tillman. Derek Jeter’s single to left drove in Jeter, and Jeter advanced to second on the throw. Jacoby Ellsbury hit a double near the line in right to score Jeter to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead. He leads the team with 20 doubles.
The Yankees had nine hits in the win, highlighted by three by Brian McCann and two by Jeter. McCann is improving at the plate as he now has two multi-hit games in a row.
Zelous Wheeler, who came into the game as a defense replacement, made an outstanding leaping catch at third for the first out of the ninth inning. David Robertson struck out Chris David and J.J. Hardy to record his 23rd save in 25 chances. He has a 2.76 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only 10 walks. He has recorded multiple strikeouts in seven of his last 10 appearances.
Joe Girardi was impressed that Greene was able to step up with runners on base. “His innings were pretty short and he got some big outs when he had to,” Girardi said. “He didn’t walk people. He was ahead in the count and didn’t beat himself.”
So far this season, the Yankees are in impressive 32 and 12 when they score first. They are also 6-4 on their current road trip, which ends tomorrow, and after going 4-11 in Saturday’s game, have hit an impressive .304 with runners in scoring position.
They are now four games behind the first place Orioles, and Chase Whitley will look to help them decrease the deficit on Sunday, which will be the last game before the All-Star break. It is important that they go into the break with momentum, and being three games out with all of the injuries to the rotation and offensive underperformance would be impressive.
The Yankees lost 4-3 in 12 innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Monday night at Yankee Stadium. The Rays (36-49) currently have the worst record in the American League.
The Yankees have lost seven of their last nine games, but they have managed to only lose one game in the standings over those nine games based on how much the other teams in the American League East have also been struggling. The Rays continued their recent winning ways as they won their third consecutive game and have won seven of their past 10 games.
Joe Girardi thinks that the first half of the season could have been better, but he will take only being 2.5 games out at the midway point considering all of the injuries. “It’s been up and down,” Girardi said. “We have had out issues like a lot of teams in the division. You wouldn’t think we would be right in it at 41-40, but we are.”
David Phelps only allowed two runs in his 5.2 innings pitched, which was much better than his last start when the Toronto Blue Jays scored six runs off of him in five innings pitched. Phelps give up four hits and three walks while striking out four. However, the Yankees lost because the offense did not come through for the team once again.
The offense had nine hits in 11 innings, but they were 0-7 with runners in scoring position, including Brian McCann who was 0-2, and the team left eight runners on base. When asked how he would describe the first half of his season McCann said it was, “horrible.”
Tampa Bay scored their first two runs off of homers. Matt Joyce hit a solo homer to right center in the first, and Kevin Kiermaier hit a solo home run to right center in the third.
In the bottom of the third inning, the Yankees answered back with two runs of their own. Brett Gardner hit a triple to right that scored Ichiro Suzuki for the first run. Derek Jeter’s ground out to second scored Gardner from third to tie the score. After Jacoby Ellsbury stole second, Tampa starter Chris Archer got both Mark Teixeira and McCann out to prevent another run from scoring. Gardner already has 31 RBIs, which is only 21 less than his career-high of 52.
Archer limited the Yankees to only those two runs in his seven innings pitched. He struck out four, and the 25-year-old righty now has a 1.98 ERA in two starts against the Yankees this season.
Dellin Betances came in to pitch in the eighth inning and he proceeded to allow a run for his first time in his last seven appearances. Ryan Hanigan’s single to left that scored Brandon Guyer off of David Robertson was charged to Betances since Betances left the game with Guyer on second and Logan Forsythe on first.
Brian Roberts, the struggling veteran second baseman who could be replaced at some point by Rob Refsnyder, hit a homer in the ninth that forced extra innings. That was Roberts’s fourth homer of the season while his average is only .236. Shawn Kelley pitched the 10th and 11th innings without allowing a run and struck out Ben Zobrist and Joyce with the bases loaded in the 11th to keep the score tied.
Jose Ramirez lost the game for the Yankees as Guyer scored after a shallow single to center by Forsythe. The Yankees were retired in order by Brad Boxberger in the bottom of the 12th to end the game.
The middle game of the series will start at 7:05 p.m. on Tuesday. Hiroki Kuroda will get the start for the Yankees to try and end their losing streak. He is coming off of two quality starts in a row. David Price, who could be traded before the trade deadline, will get the start for Tampa Bay.
The Yankees evened up their record at 6-6 after Saturday afternoon’s 7-4 win over the Boston Red Sox. This was their second win in three games against Boston.
Hiroki Kuroda picked up his second win of the season after allowing four earned runs in 6.1 innings. He would have only been charged with two earned runs but Jackie Bradley Jr. and Daniel Nava scored on Mike Carp’s single after Matt Thornton came into the game.
Before being taken out of the game, Kuroda had five strikeouts and three walks and allowed a two-run homer to A.J. Pierzynski in the second. It wasn’t his strongest game, but Kuroda was able to impressively get out of trouble in the first, fourth and fifth innings.
The main takeaway from this game was that the offense truly came to life as all seven of their runs were scored via five homers. The Yankees lived up to their Bronx Bombers nickname. Their five homers were nearly as many as they had hit in their previous 11 games combined (seven homers). They had seven before today, but the Yankees now have hit a total of 12 homers.
They were led by Brian McCann, who smashed his first two homers as a Yankee. Carlos Beltran’s second homer of the season, in the first inning, drove in Jacoby Ellsbury. Alfonso Soriano, who now has nine hits in his last 22 at-bats, hit his second homer in the last two games and third of the season. To close out the team’s scoring, Kelly Johnson, who is playing first for the first time in his career as a result of Mark Teixeira’s injury, hit his third homer of the season in the eighth inning. McCann and Soriano hit back-to-back homers in the fourth off of Red Sox starter John Lackey.
Except for Thornton, who allowed Kuroda’s inherited runners to score, the bullpen’s execution was flawless. Dellin Betances pitched to one batter but was not credited with recording an out as a result of McCann throwing out Carp, who was trying to steal second. Adam Warren, who has been pitching with better command and increased velocity out of the bullpen than he did as a starter, and Shawn Kelley combined for two perfect innings. Kelley rebounded well from getting the loss against the Orioles on Wednesday, after allowing two runs, to retire the side in order on 14 pitches.
David Robertson, should be able to return from the disabled list on April 22, which is the day he is eligible to return, but their bullpen should be in good enough shape until then based on the overall effectiveness of Kelley, Warren and Betances.
Except for his shaky outing on Wednesday, Kelley has only allowed one hit in five other appearances. The New York native Betances, who was previously a top starting pitching prospect before flaming out and switching to the bullpen, has struck out eight batters while allowing one hit and zero runs in 4.1 innings. Warren is on a real hot streak as he has allowed zero runs and only two hits in five innings this season (six appearances), and he ended last season not allowing a run in his last 6.2 innings.
The effectiveness of those three relievers could potentially make the bullpen an imposing one after the return of Robertson because they can that fit into defined ninth, eighth and seventh innings roles. Another positive sign is that based on the lineup that the Yankees have, combined with the eventual return of Teixeira, the Yankees should see many more games the rest of the season like Saturday’s with multiple homers than ones with no homers like earlier in the season.
Ivan Nova will get the start for the Yankees on Sunday night and the left-hander Felix Doubront will start for Boston. They both struggled in the previous start. Doubront allowed five runs in 2.2 innings pitched and Nova allowed seven runs in 3.2 innings pitched. Nova will look to regain his form from July, August and September of last season when he located his pitches and ERAs of 2.03, 2.08 and 3.90.
After losing two of their three games in Houston against the Astros, the Yankees rebounded with improved offense and solid pitching to win two out of the three games against the Toronto Blue Jays to finish the road trip.
Yangervis Solarte, who was the last player to make the team, has surprised everyone by being the offensive star so far in his first week in the Major Leagues after eight seasons in the minors with two other organizations. He is playing third base right now as Kelly Johnson is playing first since Mark Teixeira is on the DL with a strained hamstring, and is hitting .471 with five RBIs and three runs scored. Jacoby Ellsbury is also off to a great start to his Yankees career as he has a .333 average, one RBI, three runs scored and three steals. Brett Gardner has two steals so far and has surprisingly hit the team’s only homer. In Sunday’s game against the Blue Jays, Derek Jeter passed Paul Molitor for eighth place on the all-time hits list.
The Yankees are currently in second place with their 3-3 record heading into their home opener against the Baltimore Orioles. Here is how I think the standings will be in the American League East at the end of the season.
1. Tampa Bay Rays
When you take into consideration their overall team, and that Joe Maddon knows how to get the most out of his roster, their talented pitching, hitting and defense should give them the edge. With David Price, Matt Moore, Chris Archer, Alex Cobb and Jake Adorizzi they have the best starting rotation in the division. Each of their starters had an ERA below 3.33 last season except for Adorizzi, who should be replaced by Jeremy Hellickson when he comes off of the 15-day DL. They have established hitters and ones with potential in Wil Myers, who won the Rookie of the Year last season, Matt Joyce, Evan Longoria, Desmond Jennings, James Loney and Ben Zobrist. They have a 36-year-old closer in Grant Balfour who is coming off of a season where he saved 38 games. The Rays also have a reliable setup man in Heath Bell, patience at the plate and one of the best defensive catcher combos in Ryan Hanigan and Jose Molina. Joe Maddon’s ability to mix and match and play the right players should help the Rays finish in first.
2. New York Yankees
The Yankees need to make the playoffs this season after missing out on the postseason last year for only the second time since 1995. They should be able to do that based on their offseason acquisitions. Brian McCann will be a major upgrade over Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart, who were the starters at catcher last season. Masahiro Tanaka, who allowed two earned runs in seven innings in his first start, will make the rotation much better. He will essentially be replacing the retired Andy Pettitte in the rotation. Their rotation of CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda has the potential of being one of the best in baseball, if Kuroda stays consistent the whole season and Sabathia is productive. Jacoby Ellsbury will help the Yankees in their outfield with his ability to steal bases and hit homers at Yankee Stadium, while making the Red Sox less talented. A key for the Yankees to finish in second will be for Shawn Kelley or Dellin Betances to develop into reliable setup men, and Mark Teixeria to return at the end of his 15-day DL stint and be productive and for Brian Roberts to stay healthy and resemble how he played to finish last season with the Baltimore Orioles.
3. Baltimore Orioles
They finished last season in a tie for third place with the Yankees at 85-77. Late in the offseason they added slugger Nelson Cruz to their powerful offense and the 30-year-old Ubaldo Jimenez to their pitching staff. Last season for the Indians, Jimenez won 13 games, had a solid 3.30 ERA, 194 strikeouts and 80 walks. He was one of the best pitchers in baseball during his first three full seasons with the Colorado Rockies earlier in his career. He has the ability to greatly help the rotation for the Orioles, which was their weak spot last season. Chris Tillman is another pitcher that the Orioles will be counting on. Their offense is one of the best in all of baseball. They have five players who hit 20 or more homers last season, in Nelson Cruz, Adam Jones, Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Matt Wieters. Nick Markakis has hit more than 20 homers earlier in his career, and Manny Machado, who is on the 15-day DL right now, is a gold glove caliber third baseman who was second in the majors in doubles last season.
4. Boston Red Sox
All of their offseason signings worked last season, and they stayed away from serious injuries, which lead to them winning the World Series. However, they will likely not have as much luck this season. Their rotation is a question mark after Jon Lester and John Lackey. Lester can be counted on, but Lackey, who is in his 12th season, has had ERAs of 3.52 and 6.41 in his last two seasons. Clay Bucholz has a lot of talent, but he is either Cy Young caliber or below average. Last season he had a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts, but in 2012, he had a 4.56 ERA in 29 starts. Mainstays Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz will continue to make their lineup dangerous, but their outfield is definitely a question mark.
5. Toronto Blue Jays
The 1-4 spots in the division could go in different ways, but the Blue Jays are on track for last place, with not much hope for finishing higher. Toronto was counting on Jose Reyes to be the create havoc at the top of the lineup, but the often injured shortstop is on the DL once again after reinjuring his hamstring on Opening Day. Their offense will once again be led by Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, but they will likely not receive much offensive production at catcher, second base or left field. Their pitching will be by far their weakness this season. R.A. Dickey had 4.21 ERA in his first season in Toronto, Drew Hutchison has a 4.81 career ERA and missed the 2013 season due to injury, Mark Buerhle is at the end of his career and had a subpar 4.15 ERA last season, Brandon Morrow has a career 4.24 ERA and had a 5.63 ERA in 10 starts last year. Their No. 5 starter, Dustin McGowan, allowed four runs in 2.2 innings in his first start, and in 2008, his last season as a starter, he had a 4.37 ERA. The have the weakest rotation in the division and the bullpen is for the most part unproven.