Hello from Tropicana Field, where the Yankees will continue their three-game series with the Rays tonight at 7:10 p.m. ET.
Adam Warren is on the mound for the Yankees, making his first start since late June as he returns to the rotation and takes the spot of the injured Nathan Eovaldi.
Jake Odorizzi — also known as Brian McCann’s personal punching bag … we’ll get to that — is getting the starting nod for Tampa Bay. The Yankees have won nine of their last 11 road games, and five of eight games this year at Tropicana Field. The Rays have lost 13 of their last 20 games.
Playoff picture: The Yankees (79-64) trail the Blue Jays (82-61) by three games in the American League East. Toronto opens a series tonight against the Braves at Turner Field. The Yankees lead the Rangers (76-67) by three games for the first Wild Card spot.
Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 97.6 percent chance of making the postseason and a 12.4 percent chance of winning the division.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 15, 2015
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 15, 2015
Alex Rodriguez has been diagnosed with a bone bruise in his left knee, but he is playing through it. MORE
Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Warren should be able throw 65 to 70 pitches today, and the entire back end of the Yankees bullpen (Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances and Justin Wilson) should be available with Dellin Betances getting the day off Monday.
Jacoby Ellsbury remains at the top of the lineup despite his 0-for-21 skid. Girardi said that he saw some encouraging signs from Ellsbury’s swings last night, and wasn’t tempted to dislodge Ellsbury from the leadoff spot.
The Yankees haven’t set their rotation beyond tomorrow, when Luis Severino will pitch. Girardi said there are no health concerns that they are waiting on.
Jake LaMotta is here! The ‘Raging Bull’ watched batting practice from the field in front of the Rays dugout.
MLB Network’s three to watch
Brian McCann has hit .647 (11-for-17) with three doubles, a triple, three homers and two walks in his career against RHP Jake Odorizzi. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, McCann’s 1.471 slugging percentage vs. Odorizzi is the highest of any current AL hitter vs. any current AL pitcher (min. 15 at-bats).
Alex Rodriguez is slugging .735 with five home runs and nine RBIs over his last 10 games.
Evan Longoria, who was batting .394 (13-for-33) with four homers over the first nine games in September, is batting .083 (1-for-12) over his last three games.
Left-handed hitters have an OPS of .614 against Odorizzi compared to right-handed hitters, who have an OPS of .714.
On this date
Bob Meusel tied a still-standing Major League record with three sacrifice flies in the Yankees’ 6-4 win at Cleveland’s League Park. Don Mattingly is the most recent Yankee to accomplish the feat, doing so on May 3, 1986 vs. Texas.
Quote to note
“I mean, you could think about [sitting Ellsbury], but it’s a pretty hard guy to take out of your lineup. Because hitting, it turns around pretty quickly. We have 19 games to go. He’s extremely important to our lineup. So it’s hard to sit Ells.” — Girardi
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
“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.”
“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.”
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.
The 6 2/3 innings marked Sabathia’s first scoreless start since April 7, 2013, at Detroit, with 63 starts in between.
The Slade Heathcott Game.
— Bryan Hoch (@BryanHoch) September 15, 2015
“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
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.
— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 14, 2015
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) September 14, 2015
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 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.“
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.”
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.”
“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.”