A five-game losing streak snapped tonight in Cleveland at the last game of their mid-week series. And I think it’s just the energy boost the Yankees need to head to Toronto this weekend. With the Blue Jays on quite the winnings streak (the sole reason they’re in first in the AL East), the Yankees needed to break their losing streak and need to break the Jays winning streak in order to reclaim the top of the division once again.
But tonight, the Yankees fought off the Indians and deserved the win, especially tonight’s starter Nathan Eovaldi, who earned his 12th win of the season. His pitch count continues to be a little high, 104 in 5.1 innings, and tonight wasn’t really sharp enough to call him “Nasty Nate”. But he (and the great Yankee defense) kept the Indians from ever taking the lead. Eovaldi gave up 7 hits, 3 walks, and 4 runs, striking out 4 batters. In the 3rd, runners were in scoring position with a walk, a single, and a sacrifice bunt before they scored on a sacrifice fly and a single. And in the 6th, consecutive doubles scored one run, and a single scored another. And that’s when Adam Warren come on for relief and promptly got his only batter to ground into a double play to end the inning.
Justin Wilson’s 7th inning wasn’t quite as sharp as is Wilson’s usual outing — two outs and two singles forced the bullpen to open again and put Wilson on the hook for those runners. Dellin Betances wasn’t as sharp as he usually is either and proceeded to walk his first batter to load the bases. A wild pitch scored another run before Betances finally got a really nice strike out. Betances’ 8th inning was a bit better, with 2 more strikeouts.
And then, to continue to less-than-sharp Yankees pitching (save Warren), Andrew Miller was up for his 25th save, which he did but with struggles of his own. A lead-off single advanced to 2nd on defensive indifference after 2 outs; they would pay for that when he would score on a single. Miller got a strikeout to end the inning and the game and earn that save, almost a redemption for the mess that was Tuesday night.
Now, with the Indians scoring 6 runs that might be an issue, but the Yankees were back to scoring runs again. (And the world is righting itself once again.) In the 1st, Ellsbury led-off with a single and Gardner walked, and two outs later, Brian McCann hit a big 3-run home run into the right field seats. That would be his 20th home run and make him part of a unique elite group; only 5 catchers in MLB history have at least 9 seasons with 20 or more home runs — Johnny Bench, Yogi Berra, Gary Carter, Mike Piazza, and now Brian McCann.
Stephen Drew hit his 15th home run of the season in the 2nd inning to add another run to the Yankees’ early lead. And with the Yankees leading 4-2 going into the 4th, the Yankees added even more runs. Gregorius led-off the 4th with a single and then scored on Drew’s double. Drew then scored on Brett Gardner’s 1-out double. This forced the Indians’ starter out of the game after 70 pitches in less than four innings. Not a great night for him, though Yankee Universe isn’t really complaining.
In the 6th, Drew reached on a throwing error, moved to 2nd on a passed ball, and then scored on Gardner’s single for an additional Yankee run. Even after the Indians rallied a bit in the bottom of that inning and the next, the Yankees still maintained a firm lead thanks to the newly sparked offense. In the 8th, with 1 out, Drew walked, moved to 2nd on Ellsbury’s single, and then scored (again) on Gardner’s single.
Final score in Cleveland: 8-6 Yankees, Cleveland wins series 2-1.
While the Yankees’ pitching tonight was less than stellar (though more than adequate), the Yankees offense was quite good with two great examples. Brett Gardner went 3-for-4, with a run scored, 3 RBIs, and a walk; and Stephen Drew went 2-for-3, with 4 runs scored, 2 RBIs, and a walk. And while Gardner’s average still hovers at the top of the team statistics (at .286), Drew’s improved to .195.
There have been lots of “message board managers” that don’t understand the value of Drew because all they see is that final number — .195. They don’t see the 15 home runs or the consistent defense at 2nd or the positive impact he has within the clubhouse, instead focusing on the rare misses and the low overall batting average. (And we thought “Jeter’s replacement” would have the most issues from those “message board managers”!)
(Game show host voice:) And it’s time for… ROSTER MOVES! Before the game, the injured pitcher Diego Moreno was transferred to 60-day DL. The Yankees called up Greg Bird from AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Bird came on to sub for Teixeira tonight and did a pretty good job defensively. His offensive contribution wasn’t quite as good as anticipated, going 0-for-5 with 2 strikeouts. He was the only starter to not make it on base tonight. Though not exactly the greatest start for an MLB debut, I was reminded that a certain recently retired shortstop had the same outcome in his MLB debut some 20 years ago.
Interesting note: Bird is the 15th player to make his MLB debut with the Yankees this season — pitchers Matt Tracy, Jose De Paula, Diego Moreno, Nick Goody, Branden Pinder, Jacob Lindgren, Danny Burawa, Nick Rumbelow, Caleb Cotham, and Luis Severino; outfielders Slade Heathcott, Ramon Flores, and Mason Williams; and infielders Rob Refsnyder and Greg Bird. It’s been interesting to watch the guys that made a great impression in Spring Training make their debut and make an impact on the Yankees’ drive toward the post season. Every little piece matters.
Also, the ceremonial first pitch tonight was thrown out by the twin daughters of Indians’ infielder Mike Aviles — Maya and Adriana. Adriana, age 4, was diagnosed with leukemia in May and is currently undergoing chemotherapy at the Cleveland Clinic. The Indians have been supportive of the entire Aviles family, even refusing to trade him so that he doesn’t have to move his family from the Clinic. The entire team (coaches and the team owner) shaved their heads in honor of little Adriana. She and the entire Aviles family are in our prayers.