The Yankees (16-10) lost to the Toronto Blue Jays, 3-1, at the Rogers Centre in the series opener. The Yankees swept the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park in their previous three games and got yet another solid pitching performance but this time their offense didn’t produce.
R.A. Dickey, who had an impressive 2.87 ERA in seven starts against the Yankees from the 2012 season through the 2014 season, only allowed one run and three hits in eight innings pitched. The Yankees have not had any success against the veteran knuckleballer and that continued on Monday night as he didn’t allow a hit in the first, third, fourth, fifth and eighth innings.
Chase Headley had the team’s first hit of the game in the second inning. However, Garrett Jones’s ground out to shortstop stranded him at first. In the sixth inning the Yankees had runners on first and second with two outs, after a double by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk by Brett Gardner, but Alex Rodriguez flied out to right to strand both runners.
Rodriguez’s next homer will give him 561 and put him in sole possession of fourth place on the all-time homers list. He is currently tied for fourth with Willie Mays.
The Yankees scored their only run in the seventh inning. Jones’s ground out to first scored Carlos Beltran after he had doubled and been advanced to third on Stephen Drew’s ground out to first. Beltran is now on a modest four-game hitting streak and is hitting more extra-base hits than he did earlier in the season.
Four different players were 0-3 or 0-4 and the offensive’s ineptitude prevented Chase Whitley from getting his second win of his season in his second start. Whitely had six strikeouts, no walks and only allowed seven hits in his seven scoreless innings while only throwing 90 pitches. The Yankees could not have asked for a better performance from the 25-year-old right hander.
It’s unfortunate that we didn’t score some runs to get Whitley the win,” Joe Girardi said. “His location has continued to improve as a starter. His strikeouts came in key spots.” His changeup has also improved from last year, which gives him another way to keep hitters off balance. It appears that Whitley will be a reliable fill-in while Masahiro Tanaka is on the disabled list.
The Yankees had a 1-0 lead going into the bottom of the eighth but the bullpen, which has dominated this season and has rarely given up runs, allowed two earned runs and one unearned run in the eighth. Chris Marin came in to start the inning and allowed two consecutive singles after recording one out. Dellin Betances allowed a double to Edwin Encarnacion that scored Josh Donaldson but that run and the second run scored in the inning were both charged to Martin.
The third run that Toronto scored was unearned because of a throwing error by Chase Headley. Russell Martin hit a hard grounder down the line that Headley made an outstanding play on and if Mark Teixeira was playing first instead of Jones he likely would have been able to catch the short hop.
As a result of the error that was called on Headley, Betances still has a 0.00 ERA on the season. He has 26 strikeouts in his 15.1 innings pitched and has only walked two batters in his last 10 appearances after struggling with his control in the first week of the campaign.
The Yankees will look to score more runs on Tuesday night when they will not be facing a knuckleball pitcher.
The Yankees won their first game of the season on Wednesday night, 4-3, against the Toronto Blue Jays. Michael Pineda pitched six strong innings while only allowing two runs, but he wasn’t able to get the win because the Yankees were only able to score one run while he was pitching. However, he did use his changeup more than in the past and was able to get out of trouble in the third and fifth innings as he limited the Blue Jays to only one run in each inning.
The Yankees offense finally came alive in the sixth inning after they were not able to figure out R.A. Dickey’s knuckleball in the first five. Brett Gardner hit a sacrifice fly to drive in Jacoby Ellsbury for their first run, and those two will have to be productive while the middle of the order tries to figure out how to hit like they did a few years ago. They added three more runs in the eighth inning as Chris Young, who hit a double to leadoff the inning, scored on a wild pitch, Ellsbury scored after McCann was hit by a wild pitch and Gardner scored on a Chase Headley single.
They didn’t hit for much power but they were able to take what the Blue Jays gave them. They were helped by an intentional walk, two hit by pitches and a wild pitch, but that tends to happen more in the beginning of the season. A positive sign to take out of this game is that Chris Martin is emerging as a reliable arm in the bullpen as he pitched the seventh inning and didn’t allow a base runner for the second consecutive game.
Dellin Betances struggled with his command by allowing two walks, but he was able to rebound by getting Dalton Pompey and Kevin Pillar to ground out to him to end the inning and prevent more than one run from scoring. Andrew Miller picked up his first save and strikeout as a Yankee in the ninth inning.
CC Sabathia will look to give the Yankees their first winning streak of the season when he gets the start for the Yankees on Thursday night in the Bronx. It will be his first start since May 10 of last season after missing the final four months as a result of getting a stem-cell shot in his knee. He finished last season with a 5.28 ERA in eight starts.
Even though his stats were not impressive during spring training, his velocity was much better than it was last season and he said that he felt much better command wise than he did last season. The Yankees need him to pitch like a No. 3 starter this season and not a No. 5 starter. He will be able to do that if he can locate his changeup and consistently throw in the low 90s and occasionally the mid 90s.
Besides last season, Sabathia had made 30 or more starts in six of his previous seven seasons and he is looking forward to doing so again in 2015. He can’t wait to hear the Yankee Stadium crowd again after not pitching in a game since last May.
“I’m excited. Especially getting the chance to pitch at home, first start. It’ll be fun,” Sabathia said before the Yankees’ 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays. “It’s similar, just having a year off and not pitching since May, it’s going to be fun, especially to be home and have that energy.”
“Just playing catch and getting out there throwing the ball out in front. Playing catch these last couple games and throwing a bullpen,” Sabathia said. “I really made sure I could get a feel for my fastball and make sure I can put it in good spots.”
If Sabathia gets lit up in the cold on Thursday night it does not mean that he will not be able to have a bounce back season, but if he can simply allow three runs in six innings that will really help his confidence going forward. A key for him will be locating the inside fastball that Andy Pettitte used to rely on throughout his career.
The Yankees, who are currently 2.5 games behind the Texas Rangers for the second wild-card spot, play the first of three games in Toronto against the last place Blue Jays tonight at 7:07 p.m. The Yankees are 13-3 against the Blue Jays this season.
The Tampa Bay Rays, who currently have the first wild-card spot, and the Rangers are seemingly doing all they can do allow Mariano Rivera to have a chance of pitching in the postseason during his final season as they are limping to the finish line. This can especially be said for the Rangers who have lost seven games in a row while not holding a lead in any of those games. Since August 29, the Rays have won seven games and lost a grand total of 11 games.
It obviously would have helped the Yankees if they would not have been swept by the Red Sox over the weekend, but Cleveland and Texas both lost last night while they were idle, which helped them gain ground without playing. To have a chance of making up the 2.5 games in the final 12 games they will have to sweep the Blue Jays and have help from the teams ahead. They will have to go 10-2 or better, which is possible because besides the Rays, they play two last place teams (Toronto and Houston) and a team that is half-a-game ahead of last place (San Francisco).
Some of the help they need is for the Rays to sweep the Rangers, which is possible because of the rapid downward spiral that the Rangers are on, because the Yankees play the Rays for three games in their second to last series of the season. The Red Sox will start a series against the Orioles tonight and the Yankees will be rooting for Boston once again because the Orioles half-a-game ahead of them in the standings.
Andy Pettitte, who has been the team’s most reliable starter of last, and has pitched in many must win games over the course of his great career, will get the start for the Yankees tonight at the Rogers Centre. He has a 3.55 ERA in away games this season and against the Blue Jays his ERA is 1.77 in 20.1 innings. The Blue Jays, who have underperformed based on many preseason predictions, have lost five of their last six games.
R.A. Dickey, who won the N.L. Cy Young last season, has pitched well against the Yankees this season. He has struggled in his last two starts, but Dickey does have a 3.38 ERA in 21.1 innings against the Bronx Bombers this season. This will be Dickey’s fourth start against the Yanks this season, so it is crucial that the offense is able to figure out his knuckleball this time.
The offense struggled during the weekend series in Boston, as they scored a combine seven runs, but Alfonso Soriano does come into the series hitting .363 in his past three games. Also, the Yankees have some good news as Alex Rodriguez is back in the lineup after having to leave Sunday’s game because of tightness in his right calf. He will DH for the foreseeable future.
The Yankees will have to overcome the injuries to Derek Jeter and Brett Gardner, which will likely keep both of them out for the rest of the season.
Phil Hughes (4-13, 5.07 ERA) will pitch on Wednesday and Hiroki Kuroda (11-11, 3.13 ERA) will get the start on Thursday.
Mariano Rivera will make his final career appearance at the Rogers Centre. They will honor him before Thursday’s game.
In the first inning of the 4-2 win over the Blue Jays, Ichiro Suzuki hit a single to left for his 4,000th combined hit between the Orix Blue Wave in Japan, the Seattle Mariners and the Yankees. He drilled the ball past Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie, which was reminiscent of many hits that he has previously had in has Hall of Fame career.
Ichiro joins Ty Cobb and Pete “Charlie Hustle” Rose as the only players to have 4,000 professional hits. Cobb had 4,189 hits in his career with the Detroit Tigers and Philadelphia Athletics. Rose, who had the most hits in MLB history, had 4,256 hits in his career with the Cincinnati Reds, Philadelphia Phillies and Montreal Expos.
It was great to see all of the players come onto the field after Ichiro achieved the milestone. It makes sense that his 4,000th hit, and 2,722nd hit in Major League Baseball, was a single because his speed and bat control has helped him record so many singles throughout his career.
The Yankees scored their first run of the game after Austin Romine hit a sacrifice fly to deep left that scored Eduardo Nunez. Then, in the third inning, Curtis Granderson’s single to shallow right drove in Robinson Cano. Granderson now has a four-game hitting streak, however, he has one hit in each of those four games.
Overall, the Yankees struggled offensively in this game as they only had six hits against R.A. Dickey, who won the National League CY Young last season. The Yankees had only four hits up until the eighth inning as Dickey had more success early in the game than he had in recent games. He has a 4.49 ERA this season so he has not lived up to his excellent campaign from last season.
However, in the eighth inning Alfonso Soriano hit a two-run homer that drove in Robinson Cano. That turned out to be the game winning homer as Soriano helped the Yankees win yet another game over the past two weeks. He was previously 0-17, but Soriano ended his slide with a clutch homer to deep left that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Yankees Stadium was truly electric after Ichiro hit his 4,000th hit and after Soriano hit his sixth homer in his past nine games. Soriano currently has 398 homers. After hits two more he will become only the 51st player with 400 or more homers. The trade to reacquire Soriano has been outstanding and he has given the Yankees exactly what they needed.
On the pitching side, the combination of Adam Warren and David Huff combined to allow two runs in eight innings as Huff threw very well in relief of Warren, who was making a spot start. I definitely noticed that the fans in the stadium raised the volume level as Mariano Rivera came in from the bullpen to Enter Sandman. This is his last season and he only has a limited amount of appearances left to perform in front of the home fans.
He allowed one hit and struck out two with his pinpoint control to notch his 37th save of the campaign. Rivera’s save means that the Yankees are now only four games behind the Oakland Athletics for the second Wild-Card. The Athletics have lost three of their last five games and the Baltimore Orioles, who are one game ahead of the Yankees, have lost two of their last three games. After each win the likelihood of the Yankees getting a Wild-Card is increasing.
The Yankees will look to sweep the last place Blue Jays behind Andy Pettitte at 1:05. In his last start, he pitched 6.2 shutout innings against Boston.
Here is video of Ichiro’s 4,000th hit and the reaction to it:
The American League East will be one of the most competitive divisions in baseball, but the other teams in the division do have their question marks.
The Toronto Blue Jays had what might be the best off-season in baseball, but, based on last season, the team with the most high profile acquisitions does not necessarily translate to on-field success. Jose Reyes, Mark Buerhle and Josh Johnson were previously on the Miami Marlins, and the team struggled while they were on the roster. Buerhle has been consistently solid throughout his career, but he has pitched more than 200 innings in each of the past 13 seasons, so some regression can be expected. He will also be moving from the NL East to the offensively superior AL East. Josh Johnson and Jose Reyes, who the Blue Jays will be counting on to perform at a high level, have the potential to be All-Stars, but also have a history of being plagued by injuries. They also acquired knuckleballer R.A. Dickey in a blockbuster trade with the Mets during the off-season. It appears that he has mastered the pitch, based on pitching three dominating season for the Mets, and being awarded the CY Young last season, but one never knows when a pitcher will lose command of the knuckleball. It does appear that on paper the Blue Jays will finish in first place, but based on what has happened to previous teams, many factors could prevent that from happening.
The Orioles have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter, who was instrumental in getting them to the postseason for the first time since 1997. However, they were lucky last season since had only a +7 run differential, which was last among all playoff qualifiers. Also, they were 29-9 in games decided by one run and 16-2 in extra-inning games. They do have some promising young players in Matt Wieters, Manny Machado, Dylan Bundy, as well as the established trio of Adam Jones, Nick Markakis and Brian Roberts, but I think they will finish with about 85 wins as opposed to 93 wins from last season because the pitching is not very strong and there is no way that they will win as many one run games. The Tampa Bay Rays are without the production of James Shields and B.J. Upton, but the Rays still have one of the best pitching staffs led by David Price and Jeremy Hellickson and a lineup led by Evan Longoria that gets the job done. The Rays, who are managed by the unorthodox, but at the same time highly effective, Joe Maddon, have won 90 or more games in four out of the past five years (three times in the playoffs). They are due for a 90 win season. Finally, after their dismantling of the Yankees this afternoon, the Red Sox are somewhat unknown. They don’t have the star power that they used to have, but Red Sox Nation still has Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jaccoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and an injured David Ortiz. They have an intriguing rookie in Jackie Bradley Jr. to combine with sophomore Will Middlebrooks at third. Their new manager, who used to be their pitching coach, will try to stabilize a rotation without much depth. Boston should win about 88 games.
The Yankees will need to win 90 or more games in order to qualify for the playoffs. The second Wild Card will likely either come out of the Al East or the potent Al West. They will need to hope to sneak in as a Wild Card because it isn’t likely that they will win the division like last season.
1. The Orioles will need to regress to the record that their run differential said they should have been last season. This could very well happen since they did not add any significant off-season additions. The Yankees will need the Blue Jays to win closer to 90 games than 100. It will also be a boost to the Yankees if the new Red Sox manager, John Gibbons, is not able to help the rotation like expected. If the Orioles regress as expected, the Yankees need to win 10 or 11 games against Baltimore.
2. Since the Yankees will not be hitting as many homers as last season, (as a result of the off-season departures, not signing any marquee free agents and the previous injuries) they will need to have a top three defense in the league. They will need to prevent as many runs as possible. Francisco Cervelli and Chris Stewart need to limit the passed balls while throwing out a high percentage of potential base stealers. Since it appears that Eduardo Nunez will be playing more in the field than anticipated (as a result of Jeter’s injury), he will need to make accurate throws while making the challenging and routine plays. He has struggled with his defense the past few seasons. The outfield defense, once Granderson returns, should be one of the best in the league (although Gardner does not have the strongest arm).
3. The Yankees will need to improve their clutch hitting. Just like they will have to have a top three defense, the Yankees will also need to be near the top of the league when there are runners in scoring position, in addition to hitting with two outs and men on base. They will need to hit and run and advance runners when the opportunity arises. They will not really be able to rely on the homer, especially until Granderson and Teixeira return, so they will have to play fundamental baseball to perfection. The Yankees will not come close to the 245 homers that they slugged last season, so they will need to play fast, which means that Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki and Nunez will be important parts of the offense.
4. In terms of the rotation, the Yankees will need CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and David Phelps to perform as good as or better than last season. Hughes will make a start for Triple-A Scranton and should be able rejoin the team next week against the Indians. They should have one of the top rotations and bullpens in baseball, which will be necessary based on the offense. Finally, if all of the above occurs, in addition to Jeter, Granderson, Teixeira and Hughes not having any setbacks and the roster not having to go through another major injury, they could win about 90 games. Optimistically, it seems that the Yankees could finish in second or third place (ahead of Boston and Baltimore) in the division giving them a chance at a Wild Card.
This is a year when everybody who is healthy will have to raise their level of play as a result of injuries and not having as much talent as previous years. In 2013, the Yankees will need to be a team known for their pitching, defense and clutch hitting. Before the 2013 season, the Yankees have made the playoffs in 18 out of the last 19 seasons.