Rapid Reaction: Rays 11, Yankees 5

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- After a one-night respite, the Curse of the Trop reared its ugly head against the Yankees once again tonight, transforming what looked like a routine victory into a humiliating, ugly, and disheartening 11-5 defeat.

Hiroki Kuroda wasn't very good, but he was Cy Young compared to what followed. Four Yankee relievers allowed eight runs, all with two out, in a total of two nightmarish innings before Shawn Kelley came on to end a horrific eighth. In fact, the pen was so bad it overshadowed the fact that after one big inning (the second) the Yankees bats pretty much took the rest of the night off.

Months from now, we'll either laugh about this one, or look back on it with a shudder as an omen of things to come. But for now, it's one to forget as quickly as possible.

Seventh hell: Even with the help of a horrendous Tampa Bay baserunning blunder, neither David Phelps, Matt Thornton nor Adam Warren could get a key out against the Rays in the seventh, allowing them to score three times with two out and take a 6-5 lead in a game the Yankees had led 4-0 after three innings. The big hit was a two-run single by James Loney, who had four RBIs on the night, off Warren, who faced four hitters and allowed two singles and a walk before striking out Wil Myers to finally end the inning. And it could have been worse if not for the ...

Esco-boo-boo: Rays SS Yunel Escobar nearly ran them out of the three-run seventh before it had hardly began when, after singling and reaching second on a groundout, he tried to advance to third on a grounder to shortstop. But he was easily thrown out by Derek Jeter. At the time, it looked like a costly mistake.

Wheels come off: Things spun out of control in the eighth when Warren allowed a two-out double to Ryan Hanigan followed by a long home run by Sean Rodriguez that made it 8-5 Rays. At that point, Girardi went to Cesar Cabral, who allowed a run on two singles, and then plunked Longoria and Loney in succession to load the bases. Of Cabral's first 20 pitches -- that's right, 20! -- 14 were balls. That's right. 14. When he finally threw a strike, Myers rocketed it off the third-base bag for two more runs and an 11-5 Rays lead. But Cabral wasn't done yet ...

Et tu, Cesar?: When Cabral's next pitch hit Logan Forsythe in the back, home plate ump Joe West had seen enough. Cabral faced six batters, hit three of them and allowed three hits. And threw a wild pitch.

Hiroki Eroding: Kuroda sailed along for three innings, allowing two baserunners (single, walk), both of whom were erased in double plays. But he labored through a 35-pitch fourth inning, in which the Rays scored twice, and couldn't get out of the sixth, in which he allowed another run on three hits. His final line was a mediocre 5 2/3, seven hits, three earned runs, two walks and two strikeouts.

Center of attention: Jacoby Ellsbury leaped high at the wall to take an extra-base hit away from Ben Zobrist with one out in the fourth inning. Even Ellsbury seemed impressed by the play, flipping the ball high in the air out of his glove to his bare hand before firing it back in.

Thigh-sore: Phelps left the game after being hit, apparently in the right thigh, by a line drive off the bat of Hanigan in the seventh inning. Phelps recovered in time to throw Hanigan out at first but was clearly in pain. He was replaced by Thornton.

What's next: Game 3 of this four-game series matches RHP Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94) against RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50), first pitch at 7:10 p.m.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- James Loney drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays overcame a four-run deficit to beat the New York Yankees 11-5 on Friday night.

Pinch-hitter Desmond Jennings had an RBI single before Loney's two-run single off Adam Warren (0-1) in the seventh inning that gave Tampa Bay a 6-5 lead.

Sean Rodriguez hit a two-run homer during a five-run eighth that made it 11-5. Wil Myers, who finished with three RBIs, added a two-run single.

Yankees reliever Cesar Cabral was thrown out of the game by plate umpire Joe West after hitting his third batter, Logan Forsythe, in the eighth after Myers' hit. The left-hander earlier plunked Evan Longoria and Loney.

Longoria reached base in all five plate appearances. He had three hits, a walk and was hit near the left knee by Cabral's pitch.

(Read full post)

Beltran 'all over the place'

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
St. PETERSBURG -- All things considered, Carlos Beltran sees himself as one lucky guy after losing a collision with a right-field side wall in the third inning of Thursday's 10-2 Yankees win over the Rays.

After watching the video of himself running full speed into the wall and then tumbling -- and quite acrobatically, I might add -- head over heels into the narrow alley between the wall and the seats, Beltran said "I was pretty over the top. I laughed after but I was like man, you know what, this could have been pretty bad. Thank god, I was able to walk and play the game. Honestly, I was lucky."

Beltran was chasing down a foul fly by Desmond Jennings and, because of the poor visibility against the white backdrop of the Tropicana Field roof, resisted the urge to take his eye off the baseball as he ran. As a result, he had no idea of what was about to happen -- a full-speed collision with the three-foot wall that caused a succession of events that left him battered and bruised. As Beltran recalls it, his left knee hit first, followed by -- after his head-first tumble into the pit -- his right hand, bracing to take the impact, and finally his left shoulder.

"All of a sudden, I was all over the place," he said.

Although he stayed in the game, it was increasing soreness in his wrist and shoulder that prompted the Yankees to send Beltran for an MRI today, which came back negative. still, the 36-year-old outfielder was too banged up to play tonight. And according to Joe Girardi, is not available in any capacity. The hope is Beltran will be available to play tomorrow night.

"If I had the chance to do it again, I wish I would have looked," said Beltran, last week's AL Player of the Week who is batting .298 and is tied for the team lead in home runs (4) with Alfonso Soriano and in RBI (9) with rookie Yangervis Solarte. "But when that ball was hit, I thought I had a chance to make a catch. I didn’t want to take my eyes off the baseball, because of the roof."

"The wall got to him quicker than he thought," Girardi said. "Considering how bad it could've been, the news we got today, we're pretty lucky. In fact, we're thrilled."

Better winning through chemistry?

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sometimes players say things in the course of a postgame interview that fly over your head at that moment, but jump out at you when you listen back to the tape.

So it was with CC Sabathia after Thursday night's 10-2 Yankees win over the Rays. Near the end of his postgame chat, in response to an innocuous question about the current state of the Yankees, Sabathia said something that could be interpreted as significant, or even borderline explosive.

“It’s been good so far," Sabathia said. "I think the chemistry on this team is really good as opposed to the past couple of years. We’re having fun playing and the starting pitching has been great. You don't want to be that guy that messes it up. Just try to keep it going."

The operative phrase, of course, is "as opposed to the past couple of years." It raised the specter of a clubhouse cancer infecting the Yankees in previous seasons, and since four big names are no longer with the club -- Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano -- it even suggested that perhaps one of them could have been the reason. (I think we would all agree on the most obvious candidate in that list.)

So I circled back on CC this afternoon to ask him exactly what he meant.

"It just seems like the team is having more fun this year than last year," he said. "We added a lot of good guys, Mac [Brian McCann], Jacoby [Ellsbury], Carlos [Beltran]. It's just a good group of guys this year."

So then I cornered Joe Girardi and asked if he thought he had a chemistry problem in his clubhouse last year. "I wouldn't say we had a chemistry problem," he said. "But there were a lot of moving parts, with all the injuries. There was no consistency on the roster, so it was tough for guys to get to know one another. Guys were here for a while and then they were gone. This group has been together since the beginning of spring training, and it makes a difference."

Last year, the Yankees used a franchise record 56 players over the course of an injury-decimated season, including guys such as Chris Nelson, Brent Lillibridge, Reid Brignac and Alberto Gonzalez, who were Yankees for less that two weeks. Then there were guys such as Travis Ishikawa and Chris Bootcheck, who were with the club for virtually one day.

This year, the Yankees have used 29 players so far. And with the exception of Mark Teixeira, they have had their regulars pretty much intact for the first 17 games of the season.

However, the improved continuity has yet to show itself in the record. To this point in the season, the patchwork 2013 Yankees and the (so far) consistent 2014 Yankees have exactly the same record: 10-6.

Game 17: Yankees (10-6) @ Rays (7-9)

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
TAMPA -- Carlos Beltran's close encounter with a wall in Friday night's 10-2 win over the Rays turned out not to be as bad as it looked, although it was bad enough to keep him out of the lineup tonight. Beltran went for MRIs on his left shoulder and right wrist, which took the brunt of the impact when he flipped over the wall chasing down a third-inning foul ball, and to the Yankees', and his, relief, they came back negative. But the soon-to-be 37 Beltran was pretty sore today, so Girardi is holding him out tonight. He hopes to be able to play tomorrow.

Nothing of the sort for Brian Roberts, who says he is fine and was taking swings in the cage just before the game. Girardi said Roberts, who has a history of injury and just missed three game with back spasms, was scheduled to have off for one of the four games on the turf here, will have that off-day tonight.

So here's the lineup for tonight's game against the Rays and LHP Erik Bedard, first pitch at 7:10 p.m.:

Brett Gardner LF
Derek Jeter SS
Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 2B
Kelly Johnson 1B
Scott Sizemore 3B
Ichiro Suzuki RF

Hiroki Kuroda RHP

Mark Teixeira played five innings over at the Himes Complex today and got five at-bats. Girardi said the plan is for him to play seven innings on Saturday and hopefully rejoin the team for the series finale against the Rays Sunday afternoon ... David Robertson took fielding practice today for the first time since suffering a groin pull on April 7 and Girardi said he came through it without any issues. The plan is for Robertson to pitch in an extended-spring game on Saturday -- the same one Teixeira will play in -- and to be reactivated for the opener of the three-game series against the Red Sox in Boston on Tuesday ... Girardi said he is "leaning towards" starting Vidal Nuno against the Rays on Sunday ... As of now, the Yankees rotation for the Red Sox series is Masahiro Tanaka on Tuesday, Michael Pineda on Wednesday and CC Sabathia on Thursday ... the pitchers took batting practice today in preparation for the interleague series at Milwaukee in early May, and Pineda put on quite a show, crushing at least on BP serve into the left-field seats at the Trop, much to the delight of his fellow pitchers.

ICYMI: SweetSpot hits of the week

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
While driving home from work Thursday night, I was listening to the Rays' feed of the Yankees-Rays game when Derek Jeter made a "diving" play. The broadcasters chuckled at Jeter's lack of range and his natural succumbing to Father Time, saying something along the lines of "That's Jeter's range; however he can fall to his right and however he can fall to his left." An inning or so later, the maligned Yanks infield turned a triple play, so there you go. Without further ado, the best from around the SweetSpot Network, week 3:

Boston RedSox: FireBrand of the AL
A large cup of coffee: Jeff Polman catches up with former Red Sox starting pitcher Dana Kiecker. Who’s Dana Kiecker, you ask? He’s just the pitcher who followed Roger Clemens in the 1990 ALCS by starting Game 2. Follow on Twitter: @jpballnut.

Chicago Cubs: View From The Bleachers
Which pitchers have nasty stuff? If you missed the 10-strikeout performance put up on Wednesday afternoon by Masahiro Tanaka, it showed off his nasty stuff. Joe Aiello takes a look at what other pitchers have "nasty" stuff. Follow on Twitter: @vftb

Chicago White Sox: The Catbird Seat
The art of patience: Collin Whitchurch examines the White Sox offense's hot start as a product of a new organizational emphasis on plate discipline. Follow on Twitter: @cowhitchurch

Colorado Rockies: Rockies Zingers
What are the keys for pitching at Coors? and ¿Cuáles son la claves para lanzar en Coors Field? The debut of Sabermetrics in Spanish, Juan Pablo Zubillaga compares Rockies pitchers with non-Rockies pitchers and analyzes which metrics can indicate success for Rockies pitchers.

Milwaukee Brewers: Disciples of Uecker
The Brewers' line-driving frenzy: Jonathan Judge looks at the value and sustainability of the Brewers' high line-drive rate so far. Follow on Twitter: @bachlaw

New York Yankees: It's About The Money
How good could the 2015 infield really be? Matt Seybold wonders how the Yankees will go about filling the holes they will have in the 2015 infield. Follow on Twitter: @Sport_Hippeaux

How did the "pine tar" affect Pineda's performance? Michael Eder takes a look at what affects, if any, that mysterious blob of goo on Michael Pineda's hand had during his start against Boston. Follow on Twitter: @edermik

Philadelphia Phillies: Crashburn Alley
Phillies showing tremendous plate discipline: The Phillies are drawing plenty of walks, something they haven't done in a few years.

Some fun trivia on Cliff Lee's start against the Braves: Cliff Lee got the tough-luck loss on Wednesday but it made for some interesting trivia. Follow on Twitter: @CrashburnAlley

Tampa Bay Rays: The Process Report
Offense, Myers struggling: Jason Collette shows how 2014 looks a lot like 2011 in the early going for the Tampa Bay offense and why Wil Myers is struggling at the plate. Follow on Twitter: @processreport

Jason Rosenberg is the founder of It's About the Money, a proud charter member of the SweetSpot Network. IIATMS can be found on Twitter here and here as well as on Facebook.

Yankees faster than Red Sox

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
The New York Yankees used to be the champions of the long games. But no longer, the title now belongs to the Boston Red Sox.

The Yankees are actually speeding up their games, making them, to borrow a phrase from a famous Yankee broadcaster, more manageable. The fine folks at FiveThirtyEight explain in more detail.

The New York Yankees haven’t dominated the majors since 2002, winning just one world championship over that period. But they’ve dominated MLB rankings for length of game. From 2002 to 2012, the Yankees’ average length of game was in the top four of the 30 major league teams each season, including five league-leading performances. Yet lately they’ve gotten faster: The average Yankees game has been shorter each year than the year before since 2009, culminating in last year’s 15th-place showing of three hours and five minutes — just half a minute longer than the league-average figure.

The slowest team in baseball is now — wait for it — the Boston Red Sox. New York’s archrivals have ranked in the top three in average game length each year since 2003. Last year, Boston’s fourth straight season as the slowest team in baseball, its average game took three hours and 15 minutes.

As much as we all like baseball, I don't think many will complain about the Yankees being a middle of the pack team in term of length of games.

Mark Teixeira to return Sunday

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
[+] EnlargeTeixeira
AP Photo/Kathy WillensNew York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira hopes to be back in the lineup Sunday after coming off the disabled list.

TAMPA, Fla. -- New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira singled in five at-bats Friday during his second extended spring training game since injuring his right leg.

Teixeira played five innings of defense in an intrasquad game at the Yankees' minor league complex. He said he is ready return Sunday, the first day he is eligible to be activated from the 15-day disabled list.

"Another good day," Teixeira said. "Couldn't be happier with how it's progressing."

Teixeira hurt an adductor muscle that runs alongside the hamstring trying to make a play on a foul grounder during an April 4 game against Toronto. He is to play seven innings in extended spring Saturday.

Closer David Robertson is scheduled to pitch in Saturday's extended spring training game. On the disabled list due to a left groin strain, Robertson is expected to return Tuesday.

Infielder Brendan Ryan, on the disabled list due to a pinched nerve in his upper back, took seven simulated at-bats and is also set to play in Saturday's extended spring game. Ryan hopes to rejoin the Yankees in 10 days to two weeks.

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First Pitch: Yanks-Rays role reversal

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18
Suddenly and swiftly, the Yankees are the ones with the young pitching, while the Rays have question marks in their rotation.

The Yankees have had 25-year-olds Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda become two of the biggest stories of the early going in all of baseball.

The Rays have been hurt by injury after injury to their r, making their favorite status in the AL East a little tenuous.

They have watched as 24-year-old Matt Moore and 27-year-old Jeremy Hellickson have needed elbow surgery. Moore will be gone for the year. Meanwhile, 26-year-old Alex Cobb has a left oblique strain.

On Friday night, they are forced to throw 35-year-old journeyman Erik Bedard.

The Rays supposedly have plenty more young pitchers in the pipeline, but at the moment the Yankees have created some depth in the majors and possibly the minors. Besides Tanaka and Pineda, Ivan Nova is just 27.

Adam Warren is only 26. Warren looks like he could be a dependable setup man and, if given the chance, may be able to become a starter. Other than his disastrous one-start debut in 2012, he has been impressive now for a year-and-a-half.

Joining Warren in the pen is Dellin Betances. Betances, 26, has struck out 11 in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Though he doesn't always have complete control of his pitches, he is becoming a weapon.

David Phelps is a bit up-and-down, but he is only 27.

On the farm, the Yankees have some potential with Manny Banuelos, Jose Campos and Luis Severino.

As we have already seen this year, pitching depth is a fragile thing. But at the moment, there is a role reversal going on with the Yankees' young pitchers thriving and the Rays taking a step back.

On deck: Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86) takes on Bedard (0-0, 0.00) in Game 2 of this four-game series. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m.

An infield to remember

April, 18, 2014
Apr 18

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- It may have the mellifluous ring of Tinker to Evers to Chance, or even A-Rod to Jeter to Tex, but on Thursday night at The Trop, Solarte to Roberts to Sizemore became a Yankees trio for the ages.

Or, at least, for the first 16 games of a season that has started about as well as anyone could have expected after the offseason loss of the team's starting second baseman (to free agency), its starting third baseman (to suspension) and, recently, its starting first baseman (to injury).

Instead of Alex Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira, the New York Yankees took the field Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays with a rookie third baseman, an always-injured second baseman and a guy who had never played first base in his life.

Somehow, that makeshift infield combined on that rarest of infield events, a triple play, in the second inning of the Yankees' 10-2 win over the Rays. The play could hardly be called a turning point -- the Yankees were already leading 4-0 and had just four of the 16 hits and one of the three home runs they would wind up hitting -- and yet, it provided an undeniable lift to the team and starting pitcher CC Sabathia, who has somehow now thrown three of them in his six seasons as a Yankee. That is fully 12.5 percent of all the triple plays the Yankees have turned in their entire history (24), which seems like more than coincidence until you realize it can't be anything else.

Because until Sabathia threw the pitch that induced a 5-4-3 triple play on April 22, 2010, against the Athletics in Oakland -- a game better remembered for Oakland's starting pitcher Dallas Braden ordering Alex Rodriguez off his mound -- the Yankees had gone 32 years without one.

This one started the way most ground-ball triple plays do -- with runners at first and second, and a hot smash hit right at a third baseman stationed near the line.

[+] EnlargeBrian Roberts
Brian Blanco/Getty ImagesBrian Roberts finished the Yanks' triple play with a bullet to first.
This hot smash -- a one-hopper -- was hit right at Solarte, a rookie whose big league experience at third base now encompasses all of 13 games, 10 of which he has started. Solarte fielded it cleanly and, without the slightest hesitation, went right to third for the force out. Then he turned and fired to second, where Brian Roberts -- acquired in the offseason to fill the space of, if not take the place of, Cano -- took the throw, stepped on second and threw to first, where Scott Sizemore -- a second baseman by trade forced into his first-ever game at first base due to the hamstring injury suffered by Teixeira -- waited for the ball.

But it wasn't that easy. Roberts' throw skipped on the dirt a couple of feet in front of Sizemore, who looked very much like a real first baseman in making a sweeping scoop to complete the play.

One pitch, three outs. And a lot of laughs in the Yankees' infield, especially since none of the three principles had ever been involved in one before.

"It’s cool," Sizemore said. "Everyone gets so jacked up about it. Everyone was just laughing."

"Everybody was happy. Everybody was pumped. We were celebrating," Solarte said.

"As soon as it happened, I thought, 'I’ve never been a part of one of those,'" Roberts said. "Apparently CC does it all the time, though."

Sabathia was also pitching a year ago when the Orioles' Manny Machado hit into a messier, but no less exciting 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple play. Still, Sabathia said he hasn't come to rely on the triple play as a weapon.

"It was lucky, man," he said. "Unbelievable. I was just trying to make a pitch to get a double play there."

The triple play was the standout play of a bizarre game in which the Yankees nearly lost Carlos Beltran to a collision with a side wall in right field, in which the Rays' first run scored on a passed ball charged to Brian McCann, an All-Star catcher, and a night when David Price, who almost never loses to CC or the Yankees, looked like a guy who could never have beaten either of them.

Sabathia pitched his best game of the year, seven innings of seven-hit, two-run ball, the only earned run coming on a solo homer by Sean Rodriguez in the seventh.

But the real standouts were the interim infielders, who aside from collaborating on the triple play, went a combined 7-for-13 with a home run, a triple, three doubles, four runs scored and four RBIs. The home run was by Solarte -- his first in the major leagues -- and through 16 games this 26-year-old looks like the real deal. After languishing in two farm systems (Texas and Minnesota) for six seasons, Solarte is hitting .373 with a home run, nine RBIs (tied with Beltran for the team lead) and a 1.017 OPS.

“He’s done a lot in two weeks, hasn’t he?" Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "I’m sure he’s probably hoping he doesn’t wake up, in a sense."

Solarte agreed. "This has been incredible for me," he said. "I don't want to wake up. I'm very happy and everything is working out for me."

Beltran OK: The Yankees right fielder took a nasty tumble, vaulting over the short fence in foul territory chasing down Desmond Jennings's fly ball. He stayed in for the rest of the game and said he escaped with only some bruises and expects to be able to play tomorrow, although he did caution, "I gotta see how I wake up tomorrow."

Beltran didn't slow a step as he neared the wall and hit it full speed with his thighs. He confirmed afterward that he had no idea he was about to run into it.

"I didn’t want to take my eyes off the baseball because of the roof," he said. "My left shoulder and my right wrist are a little sore, but other than that, I’m fine.”

Dealin' Betances: The Yankees 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances pitched the last two innings, and aside from control problems in the eighth, in which he walked two batters, looked sharp. Three of the six outs he got came on strikeouts, two of them looking on curveballs to Logan Forsythe and Matt Joyce. Betances has now thrown 6-1/3 scoreless innings and allowed just one hit while striking out 11.

Rapid Reaction: Yankees 10, Rays 2

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- On paper, this one had "Yankee Loss" stamped all over it. CC Sabathia versus David Price, a matchup Price had won six times out of seven decisions. Tropicana Field, where the Yankees had won just 6 of their last 22 games.

And a makeshift infield with a rookie at third, a guy with a bad back at second and a guy playing just his fifth big league game in two years, and first-ever at first base.

But like the man says, you just can't predict baseball. The makeshift infield turned a triple play. Price turned mortal. And Sabathia turned his luck in Tampa and against Price around, pitching seven strong innings to even his record at 2-2.

And with Thursday's 10-2 win, their fifth in a row, the Yankees -- for the fourth straight season -- are off to a 10-6 start.

CC good: Sabathia turned in his best outing of the young season, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits. He was helped by the triple play, of course, and a big double play in the fourth, when the game was still relatively close (4-0), and the Rays had two on and none out. But he got three looking strikeouts on two-seam fastballs that seemed to have much better command than in his previous three starts. Until he allowed a solo home run to Sean Rodriguez in the seventh, Yankees pitchers had not allowed an earned run in 27 innings.

Soli Yanks one: In his brief big league career, Yangervis Solarte had done practically everything. Everything but hit a home run, that is. Solarte sent a hanging slider from Grant Balfour into the right-field seats with a man on in the ninth to make it 10-2 Yankees.

Boom! Boom!: Just as the Rays appeared to be chipping away, the Yankees added two runs in the fifth on back-to-back home runs by Alfonso Soriano, to left, and Brian McCann, to right, to extend the Yankees' lead to 6-1. The same two had hit back-to-back HRs, only in reverse order, in the fourth inning of Saturday's 7-4 win over the Red Sox.

Price is wrong: The Yankees manhandled Price, who had come in with a 9-4 career record and 3.65 ERA against them in 20 career starts. Price was also 6-1 with a 2.41 ERA versus Sabathia in nine previous matchups. But the former AL Cy Young winner did not have it tonight as the Yankees collected 10 hits off him, including two HRs, two triples and a double, putting up six earned runs in just five innings. The Yankees banged out 16 hits overall, matching their early-season high.

Triple insanity: A triple play is an unlikely enough event, but how about a triple play started by a rookie and ended with a sweet pick off a bounced throw by a guy who had never played first base before.

Well, that's what the Yankees pulled off in the second inning when, with runners at first and second, Sean Rodriguez hit a one-hopper fielded by Yangervis Solarte right at third base. Solarte stepped on third, fired to Brian Roberts at second, and Roberts bounced his throw to Scott Sizemore, who scooped the throw to complete the triple play.

The Yankees last executed one of those a year ago almost to the day; it was April 12, 2013, against the Baltimore Orioles, and the beneficiary once again was Sabathia. And previously, they helped the big man out with a triple play in Oakland in 2010, in a game better know for Dallas Braden advising A-Rod to "get off my mound."

Interesting side note: The last time the Rays made three outs on one play was another 5-4-3 triple play -- and the batter was Sean Rodriguez.

Look out!: Carlos Beltran dodged a bullet, but not the wall in right field, chasing a foul ball off the bat of Desmond Jennings in the third inning. Running full speed, Beltran had no idea he was nearing the wall in foul territory until he hit it with his knee and vaulted over it, nearly taking out a security guard in the process. Joe Girardi and trainer Steve Donohue raced out there, but Beltran emerged unhurt, although with a sheepish grin on his face.

Triple double: The Yankees got triples, both scorched into opposite gaps, from Brian Roberts and Jacoby Ellsbury off Price in the three-run second inning. Roberts smoked a changeup into left-center field, sending CF Desmond Jennings sprawling to the warning track, to drive in Scott Sizemore, who had doubled. Two batters later, Ellsbury did the same in the right-center gap, scoring Sizemore. Derek Jeter got into the act with an RBI single up the middle before Price got Beltran to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Bizarre fourth: The same Yankees infield that turned the triple play failed to get a single out on a tailor-made double-play ball in the fourth, when neither Roberts nor Jeter somehow was able to get to second base on Longoria's bouncer up the middle that was fielded by Roberts, allowing Logan Forsythe to get in safely. Roberts then threw wide of first, pulling Sizemore off the bag and giving the Rays runners on first and second with none out. Given a second chance, the Yankees turned two on Wil Myers' grounder to Jeter but couldn't completely escape damage when a Sabathia pitch sailed past Brian McCann for a passed ball, allowing Forsythe to score from third with the Rays' first run.

Shiftless: The Yankees scored their first run when McCann crossed up the shift by pushing a single over the left side of the infield, scoring Ellsbury, who had led off the game with an infield single on a high chopper that eluded Rays first baseman Sean Rodriguez, from second and sent Derek Jeter (walk) to third. But the rally died when Price struck out Yangervis Solarte to end the inning.

What's next: Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86) takes on LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00) in Game 2 of this four-game series. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m.

CC Sabathia pitches Yankees past David Price, Rays

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- CC Sabathia pitched seven innings for a rare win at Tropicana Field, leading the New York Yankees past David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays 10-2 Thursday night in a matchup of former AL Cy Young Award winners.

Sabathia (2-2) allowed two runs and seven hits, improving to 2-7 in 12 starts at Tropicana Field since joining the Yankees in 2009.

Price (2-1) entered 6-1 in nine starts against Sabathia but gave up six runs and 10 hits in five innings. Sean Rodriguez hit into a triple play and had a solo homer for the Rays, who have lost four straight.

Brian Roberts, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Yangervis Solarte drove in two runs each for the Yankees, who have started 10-6 for the fourth consecutive year.

(Read full post)

Yankees turn triple play vs. Rays

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the third time in his tenure with the New York Yankees, CC Sabathia has been the beneficiary of a triple play.

Thursday night's gem was a classic 5-4-3 started by rookie Yangervis Solarte on a one-hopper right over third base by Sean Rodriguez.

Solarte had the presence of mind to step on third before firing to Brian Roberts at second, but the best was yet to come when Roberts' throw skipped in to Scott Sizemore, playing his first game at first base.

Sizemore made a perfect scoop to pick the throw and complete the treble, ending a second-inning threat by the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees went on to win the game 10-2.

"It's cool," Sizemore said. "Everyone gets so jacked up about it. Everyone was just laughing."

A year and five days ago, the Yankees turned another triple play for Sabathia, albeit in a somewhat messier fashion (4-6-5-6-5-3-4) against Baltimore on April 12, 2013.

"As soon as it happened, I thought, 'I've never been a part of one of those,'" Roberts said. "Apparently CC does it all the time, though."

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Three-peat for CC

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For the third time in his tenure as a Yankee, CC Sabathia has been the beneficiary of a triple play.

Tonight's gem was a classic 5-4-3 started by rookie Yangervis Solarte on a one-hopper right over third base by Sean Rodriguez. Solarte had the presence of mind to step on third before firing to Brian Roberts at second, but the best was yet to come when Robert's throw skipped in to Scott Sizemore, playing his first ever game at first base, but Sizemore made a perfect scoop to pick the throw and complete the treble, ending a second-inning threat by the Tampa Bay Rays.

A year and five days ago, the Yankees turned another triple play for Sabathia, albeit in a somewhat messier fashion (4-6-5-6-5-3-4) against Baltimore on April 12, 2013. The Yankees first turned the trick for CC on April 22, 2010 in Oakland, a conventional 5-4-3, in a game that was better remembered for Athletics' pitcher Dallas Braden shouting for Alex Rodriguez to "Get off my mound!"

The Yankees have now turned 24 triple plays in their history.

Game 16: Yankees (9-6) @ Rays (7-8)

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
TAMPA -- Tonight begins the Yankees first trip to the annual House of Horrors known as Tropicana Field, where they have lost 16 of their last 22 games dating back to 2011, and a particularly nightmarish destination for CC Sabathia, who is 1-7 here with a 4.75 ERA since he became a Yankee in 2009. In fact, CC has not won here in more than four years; his last victory at the Trop was April 10, 2010.

Here's the Yankees lineup that will face David Price tonight:

Jacoby Ellsbury CF
Derek Jeter SS
Carlos Beltran RF
Alfonso Soriano DH
Brian McCann C
Yangervis Solarte 3B
Scott Sizemore 1B
Brian Roberts 2B
Ichiro Suzuki LF

Sabathia LHP

On the Mark for Sunday: Mark Teixeira, on the disabled list since April 5 with a right hamstring strain, played three innings at first base in an extended spring game this afternoon, walking twice, striking out once, and going from first to third without pain, according to Joe Girardi. The plan is for Teixeira to play five innings tomorrow, and again on Saturday, and to rejoin the team for Sunday's finale here against the Rays, the first day he is eligible to come off the DL.

Trying it on for Sizemore: Before playing both games of Wednesday's doubleheader, Sizemore had played in just two games since 2011. Now, in his third game back, the Yankees decided to have him play a position he has never played before at any professional level: first base. After Kelly Johnson played all 18 innings yesterday, Girardi decided to give him the day off and give Sizemore, a second baseman by trade, Johnson's first-baseman's glove for tonight's game.

"They told me to be ready for anything and here I am," he said.

Girardi said Sizemore had prepared to play first base in one game for Triple-A Scranton, but the game got rained out. So he will make his debut in a real game at The Trop instead.

"Obviously he has not been in a game and done it, but I’m pretty confident he can do it," Girardi said. "It’s not the most comfortable position to be in, but when you go through injuries sometimes you have to be a little bit creative."

Closer closing in: David Robertson, on the DL since April 7 with a left groin strain, threw a bullpen at the minor-league complex this afternoon and is scheduled to pitch in an extended spring game on Saturday here in Tampa. If all goes well, he and Girardi believe he will be reactivated for Tuesday night's opener against the Red Sox at Fenway. In his stead, Yankee interim closers Shawn Kelley (4), Adam Warren and David Phelps have converted six-of-six save opportunities.

Ryan's hope: Girardi said Brendan Ryan, who has been out all season (on the DL retroactive to March 22) with a cervical spine nerve injury, will play in a game for the first time Saturday, but is still not considered close to a return. "He's progressing well," Girardi said. "But he's still going to need a full spring training."

That does not necessarily mean six weeks, but it does mean 40-50 at-bats, a process that can be sped up by sim games and using Ryan as a DH in minor-league games, in which he can bat in every inning if the club desires.

Roberts returns: Brian Roberts returns to the lineup tonight after missing three games with lower back soreness. Roberts last played in Sunday's game against the Red Sox, but left in the eighth inning and underwent an MRI, which came back clean. Girardi said there was still a chance he could be scratched tonight if his back stiffened up after batting practice.

Invisible man: Because of Tuesday's rainout, Girardi still doesn't have a pitcher for Sunday afternoon's series finale -- he called his probable starter "Mr. TBA" -- but said the Yankees would not call anyone up to make the start, which indicates it will be either Phelps, Warren or Vidal Nuno, depending on how he has to use his bullpen over the first three games. The other pitching matchups are Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 3.86) vs. LHP Erik Bedard (0-0, 0.00) tomorrow night; Ivan Nova (2-1, 5.94) vs. RHP Chris Archer (1-1, 4.50) Saturday night; and of course, Mr. TBA vs. LHP Cesar Ramos (0-1, 7.50) on Sunday.



Yangervis Solarte
.370 1 9 6
HRC. Beltran 4
RBIC. Beltran 9
RA. Soriano 9
OPSY. Solarte 1.007
WH. Kuroda 2
ERAM. Pineda 1.00
SOM. Tanaka 28