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Heathcott, Yankees stun Rays in 9th to close gap in East

Alex Rodriguez delivered a game-tying, two-out double and Slade Heathcott launched a three-run homer off Brad Boxberger as the Yankees rallied for four ninth-inning runs and stunned the Rays, 4-1, on Monday at Tropicana Field. MORE

Clubhouse report

New York Yankees' Slade Heathcott, center, celebrates his three-run home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Brad Boxberger with Chris Young, left, and Brian McCann, right, during the ninth inning of a baseball game Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Heathcott fires up Yanks with huge home run

“Cloud Nine. Just awesome,” Heathcott said. “I got a good pitch to hit and put a pretty good barrel on it. I don’t think there was much of anyone left in the dugout, so that’s awesome.”

Throwback CC start has Yanks encouraged

“To me, maybe the most encouraging part of the whole night,” A-Rod said. “CC threw the ball as well as he’s thrown it all year. Four pitches for strikes, and it’s not just about speed, it’s throwing the ball with conviction. Tremendous performance by CC. Very encouraging.”

Playoff picture

The Yankees closed within three games of the idle Blue Jays in the American League East race. Toronto opens a series tonight with the Braves at Turner Field. The Yankees lead the Rangers by three games for the first Wild Card.

Stat so?

The 6 2/3 innings marked Sabathia’s first scoreless start since April 7, 2013, at Detroit, with 63 starts in between.

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Parting words

“That’s probably the most excited we’ve been all year. Every game from here on out is important. We were getting shut down for eight innings, and came through there in the ninth, all with two outs. Alex obviously with a big hit, couple of guys get on base, and Slade goes oppo. He’s a strong kid, and he’s fresh, he hasn’t been playing much. Put a great swing on it against a real good pitcher, and we came through.” — Brett Gardner

Yanks counting on CC Sabathia to take another step forward

New York Yankees starting pitcher CC Sabathia delivers to Tampa Bay Rays' Logan Forsythe during first inning of a baseball game on Thursday, April 17, 2014, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Hello from Tropicana Field, where the Yankees will open a three-game series with the Rays tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET.

CC Sabathia is on the mound for the Yankees; Erasmo Ramirez is getting the starting nod for Tampa Bay.

The Yankees have won eight of their last 10 road games, and have won four of seven games this year at Tropicana Field. The Rays have lost 12 of their last 19 games. 

Playoff picture: The Yankees (78-64) trail the Blue Jays (82-61) by 3 1/2 games in the American League East. Toronto has the night off. The Yankees lead the Rangers (75-67) by three games for the first Wild Card spot. Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 96.6 percent chance of making the postseason, but just a 8.8 percent chance of winning the division.


Clubhouse report

Joe Girardi said that he expects about 100 pitches tonight from Sabathia, who is coming off 4 2/3 innings of three-run (one earned), four hit ball vs. the Orioles in his return from the disabled list. Girardi said that he thought Sabathia’s changeup and slider seemed effective against Baltimore, and he showed decent location with his fastball. They’ll be looking for him to keep that consistency going tonight. Sabathia is once again wearing a brace on his right knee.

Adam Warren is listed as tomorrow’s probable starter. There’s a chance that he could be used tonight in an emergency, and if that were to happen, the Yankees would roll with a bullpen game. Warren is expected to throw about 65 pitches tomorrow if he does start. Luis Severino is a definite to start on Wednesday.

Jacoby Ellsbury is hitless in his last 17 at-bats and has one hit in his last 25. Girardi said that Ellsbury “feels pretty good, he’s been just a little bit off. He’s doing everything he can to get back on track.” Girardi also said there is no temptation to dislodge Ellsbury from the leadoff spot. 

MLB Network’s three to watch

Evan LongoriaEvan Longoria is slashing .393/.507/.820 (24-for-61) with six homers against Sabathia; his 75 plate appearances against Sabathia are his most against any pitcher in his career.

Logan Forsythe is hitting .299/.373/.625 against left-handed pitching this season. He ranks third in the AL in slugging percentage against southpaws behind Josh Donaldson and Nelson Cruz (minimum 100 plate appearances).

Carlos Beltran is hitting .310 (9-for-29) during a seven-game hitting streak, and is slashing .305/.377/.527 since the All-Star break. 

On this date

Sept. 14, 1999: The Yankees defeat the Blue Jays, 10-6, at SkyDome. Bernie Williams’ eighth-inning grand slam ties the game and Paul O’Neill’s grand slam in the ninth puts the Yanks ahead.

Quote to note

Girardi’s explanation for why Rob Refsnyder hasn’t seen the field yet this month:

“The one thing is, he spent the whole year in Triple-A. He doesn’t know the pitching staffs up here. If he would have been up playing the last two months, it probably would have been different. But he wasn’t, so we’re sticking with the guys that have been here and played at this level and have a better understanding of what people are doing to them.

Cashman: Stephen Drew is still Yanks’ “best option” at second base

New York Yankees second baseman Stephen Drew runs to the dugout during the fifth inning of a baseball game against the Detroit Tigers, Monday, April 20, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

TORONTO — Stephen Drew has stopped fretting over his .195 batting average, instead focusing on what he can do to help the Yankees win on a nightly basis, and general manager Brian Cashman rewarded that effort with a strong vote of confidence on Friday afternoon.

Cashman said that while he is always trying to improve the club if possible, he does not anticipate any significant changes at second base. A push to acquire Jose Reyes is unlikely, and so Drew is expected to keep his job as the starter with prospect Rob Refsnyder remaining in the Minors until rosters expand in September.

“There’s a reason that Drew has been getting the significant bulk of the playing time this year. Obviously he’s the best option that we’ve had,” Cashman said. “When you look outside the organization, there hasn’t been anything that we could secure that would change that.”

“Stephen Drew cares about winning, he’s busted his tail, he’s helped us win some games. The batting average isn’t where he or we would hope, but at the same time I appreciate that he’s killing it out there every day for us, trying to do everything he possibly can to help us win. At times he’s helped us do that.”

Drew hit his 15th home run and scored a career-high four runs in Thursday’s 8-6 victory over the Indians in Cleveland, and the Yankees have been satisfied with his defense. Of Drew’s 59 hits this season, 30 have been for extra bases (14 doubles, one triple).

“For me right now, it’s more or less, ‘What can I do to help this team win?'” said Drew, who was out of the lineup Friday against left-hander David Price, with Brendan Ryan making the start at second base. 
”I’m not even worried about numbers anymore. We’re still in the chase, so when it comes down to it, it’s just playing well and playing good defense. Anything I can do to help this team win, that’s what I try to do.”

Asked about the idea of promoting Refsnyder, who played four games earlier this season and is batting .282/.376/.415 in 103 games at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Cashman said that the Yankees would prefer to play Drew.

“More likely in September, I think you’ll see [Refsnyder] again, unless something happens between now and then with an injury,” Cashman said.

CBS Sports reported on Friday that the Yankees have had some contact with the Rockies about Reyes, who has cleared waivers, but Cashman said that the Yankees are fine with Didi Gregorius as their shortstop.
Reyes played some second base with the Mets in 2004, but Cashman said he had “no idea” if Reyes could still handle that position.

“The [second basemen] we’ve got are doing everything they possibly can to help us,” Cashman said. “My job is to always explore if there’s areas that can be improved. We’re at that time of year where if there are any areas that need to be improved, it’s hard to do because of the waiver wire stuff.”

Yankees trying to bust out the bats in Cleveland

The Yankees had no idea that their recent offensive brownout was waiting around the corner, not after enjoying a 90-run romp over a 10-game span, but they also aren’t about to hit the panic button as they begin a six-game road trip.

“It’s baseball,” Yankees infielder Chase Headley said. “You know you’re going to have the swings; obviously that was a huge, huge swing. I don’t really have much of an explanation for it. You know when you’re going really well as a team, probably the last thing you want to run into run into is a knuckleballer. We ran into them (twice in three days).”

The Yanks were indeed stifled by Steven Wright of the Red Sox and R.A. Dickey of the Blue Jays, but it was David Price and Marco Estrada who blanked them in back-to-back contests in the Bronx, putting their American League East lead – 1 1/2 games entering play on Tuesday – in peril. The Yankees hadn’t been shut out in consecutive games since May 12-13, 1999 vs. Anaheim.

“I think the way we’ve seen them hit during the course of the year tells you that it’s not going to be like this the rest of the year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve just had a few bad days. Sometimes you have to give a little credit to the people you’re facing. If you make your pitches, there usually aren’t a lot of hits.”

The recent run has been a head-scratcher for hitting coach Jeff Pentland: over their last 12 games, they have scored 12 or more runs four times, two or more runs seven times and exactly six runs once.

Arriving in Cleveland, where the Indians have played 11 games under .500 at home this season (22-33), they hope to be able to fatten that lead up heading into a weekend showdown that begins Friday at Rogers Centre. They’ll miss Dickey there, but are scheduled to get another crack at Price on Friday.

“Hopefully we’ll get back on track and swing the bats like we’re capable of,” Headley said. “Obviously we’re better than the one run we scored this weekend and we’re probably not as good as the 90 runs we scored in 10 games. But we’re a good offense; I’m confident we’ll bounce back.”

Worth noting

  • Headley was not in the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday, saying that his legs felt “banged up” after a few foul balls and some wear and tear. Brendan Ryan started in Headley’s place at third base, but Headley said he would be available off the bench and expected to be in the lineup on Wednesday.

    “He played every day on that long road trip. He played every day during the home stand, so I thought it probably would be best to give him a couple of days,” Girardi said. “He’s hit a lot of balls (off his legs). He has bruises on his shin. He’s just kind of banged up.”

  • Mark Teixeira, Dellin Betances thrilled to be AL All-Stars

    New York Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira scoops up a ball on a short hop hit by Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier during the seventh inning of a baseball game, Saturday, July 4, 2015, in New York. The Yankees won 3-2. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

    NEW YORK — During his two previous trips to the All-Star Game, Mark Teixeira’s favorite part was the clubhouse chatter prior to the actual exhibition, when the best in the business share anecdotes about their experiences and routines. He wasn’t sure those conversations would ever include him again.

    After two seasons largely lost to injury, Teixeira’s health has returned, with his repaired right wrist permitting him to club doubles and homers with regularity. The Yankees slugger is heading to Cincinnati as a reserve for the July 14 Midsummer Classic, joined by Bombers reliever Dellin Betances and perhaps Final Vote candidate Brett Gardner.

    “I think this is probably my most special of all,” Teixeira said. “I mean, I’ll always remember my first one. I didn’t know if I’d ever make it back to an All-Star Game. But just putting in the work and the dedication of saying, ‘OK, if I get healthy I know I can be the player I was in the past.’ That hard work paying off means a lot.”

    Teixeira, who also represented the American League in 2005 and 2009, entered play on Tuesday leading the AL with 59 RBIs, ranking among the league leaders in slugging percentage (.532, seventh), walks (44, tied for fourth) and isolated power (.289, second). His 20 first-half homers were the most by a Yankee since 2012.

    “I knew what I had to do to get healthy again, get stronger and get back to being physically where I wanted to be,” Teixeira said. “You don’t forget how to play the game. I’ve kind of always remembered how to hit, remembered how to play defense. Those things don’t leave you, but getting strong again was the big thing.”

    Tabbed as an All-Star for the second successive season, Betances said that he might be more chatty in the clubhouse this year. As a first-time representative in 2014 at Minnesota’s Target Field, Betances kept his head down and listened while the AL celebrated Derek Jeter’s final appearance, but Betances might play a more key role for the squad in ’15.

    “Anytime you get picked, especially by your peers, guys you play against, it’s exciting,” Betances said. “I’ve worked hard and just to be here playing with the Yankees is already a great feeling. When you get selected for the second time, it’s kind of surreal, to be honest with you.”

    Royals manager Ned Yost has said that his working plan is to give the ball to Betances for the seventh inning. After not being called upon in the game at Target Field, Betances said that assignment sounds great to him, and that he looks at the selection as just one more rung in his career ladder.

    “I’m never going to be satisfied, and continue to work hard,” Betances said. “It took me a long time to get up here. Obviously, the second time means a lot to me and my family, but I’ve got to continue to work hard. There’s other goals that I want to accomplish as a player. For us to get back to the playoffs is something that I’ve been focusing on more, as a team goal.”


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