A must-win in July? Yeah, sounds that way

Masahiro Tanaka

You don’t often hear managers talk about must-win games in the middle of July, but to hear the urgency in Joe Girardi’s voice, it appears that the Yankees are about to take the field for one.

Coming out of the All-Star break, the Yankees dropped the first two games to the Red Sox and will try to salvage the finale tonight behind Masahiro Tanaka, who takes on David Price in a nationally-televised matchup.

“It’s got to turn around [tonight],” Girardi said. “This is probably as important a game as we’ve had in July in a long time.”

The Yankees are 44-46 and sit nine games back of the division-leading Orioles.

YESTERDAY’S NEWS

CC, offense struggle against rival Red Sox
Good fortune eluding CC in five-start swoon
Teixeira’s foot OK after being hit by foul ball
As trade rumors swirl, Eovaldi back in rotation

“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

The Yankees are waiting on the results of a CT scan on Mark Teixeira, who fouled a ball off his left foot in last night’s 5-2 loss. Girardi said that X-rays were negative, which encourages him that it might just be a bruise, but we all remember what happened last year when Teixeira fouled a ball off himself.

Rob Refsnyder is playing first base tonight, and if they need someone to replace him, Girardi suggested that he’d use Brian McCann or Austin Romine. They said Alex Rodriguez looked more comfortable taking grounders, but apparently he’s still not game-ready. Besides, A-Rod is DHing tonight.

“It’s difficult, because you need that big bat in the middle,” Girardi said. “Carlos (Beltran) has provided one of them, but last year we had four of them. Mac has hit his home runs, but the other two guys have struggled. When we lost him last year for the last two months, Greg Bird came in and did a tremendous job. … We’ve (gone) through some first basemen, so we don’t really have that in the wings.”

THEY SAID IT

AP_16174002521615“The biggest thing is getting game reps. I’m sure there are a bunch of plays I haven’t even experienced yet, so just playing as many games as possible. This is going to sound crazy, but when you make mistakes, that’s when you learn the most. You try not to do that, just like when you’re hitting. But that all comes with time and experience. I’m just trying to get as much work in before the games, as many game reps as I can.” – Rob Refsnyder, on playing first base.

STAT SO?

The Yankees are 13-5 (.722) when Tanaka starts this season. They are just 31-41 (.431) with all other starters in 2016.

ON THIS DATE

This is the 75th anniversary of the end of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, and with the Red Sox here, we asked players around the league which would be more difficult to replicate – Joe D’s 56 or Ted Williams’ .406 batting average. The responses might surprise you.

CC looks for a turnaround vs. Red Sox

CC Sabathia

The Yankees and Red Sox will play the second game of this three-game series today, with CC Sabathia taking on Eduardo Rodriguez in a match-up of left-handed pitchers.

Sabathia is looking to turn around a stretch that has seen him surrender at least five runs in each of his previous four starts.

“I know what’s inside of him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “I’m sure that a couple of extra days helped him, and I look forward to his start today.”

Boston took the series opener, 5-3, on Friday behind a trio of home runs off Michael Pineda and a solid effort from knuckleballer Steven Wright.

At 44-45, the Yankees are under .500 following the All-Star break for the first time since Sept. 5, 1995 – the day that Cal Ripken Jr. tied Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played.

YESTERDAY’S NEWS

Pineda gives up 3 HRs during loss to Boston
Beltran 4th switch-hitter to reach 1,500 RBIs
A-Rod practicing to become first-base option
Yanks stumble to open crucial homestand

“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

A-Rod returns to the cleanup spot this afternoon, as Girardi hopes that he will be able to take advantage of the left-hander on the hill for Boston. Rodriguez has a .791 OPS against lefties this year, compared to .568 against righties. With A-Rod also expected to play Sunday against David Price, it will mark three games in a row for him.

“I hope it gets him going,” Girardi said. “Obviously that’s your hope. I’ve been playing him against left-handers. Against right-handers, we had the issue with Carlos (Beltran) and I was choosing to do it that way. I’ll make some decisions next week what I’m going to do, but you hope that he has two big days for us here.”

THEY SAID IT

“First base is a lot more challenging than I think people give it credit to. For me, it’s the most underrated part of a defensive team. If you look at the work that (Mark) Teixeira has done for over a decade … you affect every infielder. You affect the outfielders. Sometimes the catcher too. It’s an important position.” – Alex Rodriguez

STAT SO?

Sabathia is making his 100th career start at the new Yankee Stadium. He is 47-26 with a 3.62 ERA in the Bronx since joining New York in 2009, the first year of the stadium.

ON THIS DATE

2010: In a moving pre-game ceremony, the Yankees honor the memory of principal owner George M. Steinbrenner and public address announcer Bob Sheppard, both of whom passed away during the preceding week. Derek Jeter refers to the icons as “shining stars in the Yankees universe.”

Pineda on the hill as Yankees open second half

Michael Pineda

Good evening from Yankee Stadium, where the end of the All-Star break is leading us into the resumption of the rivalry between the Yankees and Red Sox. Right-hander Michael Pineda is on the mound for the Yankees, with knuckleballing right-hander Steven Wright going for the Red Sox.

To refresh your memory, the Yankees (44-44) are coming off three wins in a four-game series against the Indians in Cleveland. This is the eighth time this season that the Yankees have sat exactly at the .500 mark, and if they’re serious about making a push for the postseason, it needs to be the last.

They enter play tonight 7 ½ games back in the American League East and haven’t been two games over .500 since (gulp) April 12, when they were 4-2. This 10-game stretch will be crucial to any playoff hopes; they see tough competition in the Red Sox, Orioles, Giants and Astros. 23 of their next 26 games will be played against teams currently over .500.

“I think this is really important,” Joe Girardi said. “You look at the teams that we’re playing, how many division games that we have in the second half, and I think that it’s important that we get off to a good start in the second half to start making up ground as time moves forward here.”

“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

The Alex Rodriguez-first base experiment, abandoned in May of last season, now seems to be back in play. A-Rod has been relegated to a part-time designated hitter, seeing time mostly against left-handed pitching, and so he worked out at first base over the All-Star break and again on Friday afternoon. Remember, the Yankees have been reluctant to play Mark Teixeira more than three or four days in a row because of his balky right knee.

Nathan Eovaldi will return to the rotation on Tuesday against the Orioles, following 6 1/3 innings of scoreless ball in two relief appearances. Eovaldi had posted a 9.20 ERA in six starts before going to the bullpen. Ivan Nova will start Monday’s series opener against Baltimore.

THEY SAID IT

“Last year, we were not able to get him comfortable. … He came to us, and I’m not going to deny a player a chance in that sense. The fact that he wants to try to get comfortable is a good sign.” – Girardi, on A-Rod playing first base.

STAT SO?
Didi Gregorius has an extra-base hit in five straight games. If he gets an extra-base hit, he become just the third Yankees shortstop in the past 100 years to have an extra-base hit in six straight games. He’d join Derek Jeter (1999) and Phil Rizzuto (1951).

ON THIS DATE
July 15, 2008: Yankee Stadium plays host to the All-Star Game, with the AL defeating the NL, 4-3, in 15 innings. The four hour, 50 minute game is the longest Midsummer Classic ever played. (And I was there to write the gamer.)

Greetings from Arizona

Hello from Chase Field, where the Yankees will open a seven-game road trip tonight with three games against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The D-backs have struggled mightily at home this year, posting a 5-16 record here, and that’s something the Yanks will try to take advantage of as they send rookie right-hander Chad Green to the mound for his Major League debut.

It’s not easy being Green? So they say. Acquired in the Justin Wilson trade, Green pitched his way onto the radar by posting a 1.95 ERA at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre while holding opponents to a .559 OPS.

“You hope the experience in spring training helped him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The biggest thing is for him to relax, get him through the first inning and usually guys can settle in a little bit. He’s thrown the ball very well in Triple-A this year. We’ve been pleased with what he’s been doing, and because we didn’t use him the last couple days, we were able to start him today.”

Left-hander Robbie Ray starts tonight for Arizona. He is 0-2 with 7.94 ERA over his last four starts, and control has been an issue all season, as he has walked 19 in 35 1/3 innings.

Things don’t get any easier the rest of the series, as the D-backs will trot out Zack Greinke and Shelby Miller against Michael Pineda and Nathan Eovaldi, respectively.

YESTERDAY’S NEWS

Here’s a quick rundown of some of our coverage from yesterday’s 7-5 Yankees victory:

Beltran slugs 400th home run of his career
Pinch-hit from Headley gets Yanks series win
Headley keeps up surge with late heroics
CC throws sim game, targets Friday return
Green to start Monday for Yanks in debut
Play Ball in the Bronx a thrill for kids
“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

Green had a 1.22 ERA and a team-high 36 strikeouts in seven starts for the RailRiders, and part of the appeal in starting him tonight is that it will give Pineda and Eovaldi an extra day of rest. The Yanks think that can help Pineda in particular, as he comes into tomorrow with a 6.28 ERA and has fallen well short of what they expected as their No. 2 starter.

“We’re hoping for Pineda and all the guys that it helps them a little bit,” Girardi said. “We’re going to get into another long stretch. That’s why we did this today. He really had to grind through a couple starts; he went five innings and threw 114 pitches. Hopefully it helps him.”

The Yankees may not have their power trio of Dellin Betances, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman available tonight, having worked them often in the series against the White Sox.

“It’s not really how you draw it up, but there are the days you have to do that. Guys get a chance to step up and hopefully they can do it,” Girardi said.

Alex Rodriguez jogged on the field and took batting practice. All systems are go for him to return to the lineup as the designated hitter on Thursday at Oakland.

HONORING JOE G.

The Diamondbacks will pay tribute to the late Joe Garagiola on Monday via a special pregame ceremony that includes the unveiling of a “Joe” emblem in left field and a video tribute. Yogi Berra’s granddaughter Lindsay is participating in the ceremonial first pitch, along with Garagiola’s children.

STAT SO?

Chase Headley is batting .333 (9-for-27) with three extra-base hits over his last nine games.

ON THIS DATE

2006: The Yankees tie a franchise record by overcoming a nine-run deficit vs. Texas to win, 14-3, in nine innings. Jorge Posada hits a two-run, walk-off home run off Akinori Otsuka.

Yanks look to keep things rolling vs. White Sox

Luis Severino

The Yankees welcome the White Sox to town tonight for a three-game series, having just taken three of four from the Royals, an impressive follow-up to their series victory over the Red Sox. Dare we say it? They’ve looked pretty good of late; they’ve won six of nine, averaging five runs per game.

Tonight’s starters are Luis Severino for the Yankees and Chris Sale for the White Sox. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. ET from Yankee Stadium. It has been raining all afternoon but the skies are clearing and the tarp has been removed from the field.

Gary Sanchez, the Yanks’ No. 3 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, has been called up and will be batting sixth as the designated hitter. He is also expected to DH tomorrow against Jose Quintana and said that he is ready for the challenge of facing two tough lefties back to back.

“My time here was brief last year, but during the time that I was here I learned how to prepare better for the game and even learned a lot from just watching the guys play,” Sanchez said. “We have a lot of veterans here. It’s a lot of good experience for me.”

YESTERDAY’S NEWS

Here’s a quick rundown of some of our coverage from yesterday’s 7-3 Yankees victory:

Bronx Bombers go deep 3 times to beat Royals

Yankees call up prospect Sanchez, option Olson

Extra! Extra! Headley’s 1st HR latest sign of turnaround

Cashman encouraged by homestand

“NOW BATTING FOR THE YANKEES”

CLUBHOUSE REPORT

Jacoby Ellsbury remained out of the Yankees’ lineup on Friday, though manager Joe Girardi expressed hope that Ellsbury will be able to return on Saturday or Sunday. He has not played since last Friday vs. Boston, when he felt tightness in his right hip after stealing third base.

Duke University head football coach David Cutcliffe will throw out the first pitch. The Blue Devils beat Indiana University 44-41 in OT in last year’s New Era Pinstripe Bowl for their first bowl victory since 1961. He’ll receive a base signed by the Yankees.

STAT SO?

Lots to talk about with Sale, who is 3-1 with a 1.31 ERA and 50 strikeouts in 41.1 innings in six career starts against the Yankees. The lone defeat came last year. Opposing batters are just two-for-20 with no extra-base hits with runners in scoring position against Sale this year … and in case you’ve forgotten, opportunities with RISP haven’t exactly been the Yanks’ strong suit in 2016.

THEY SAID IT

“I’d be somewhat surprised if he’s not (an everyday catcher). I think all the tools are there. He’s still really young. There aren’t a whole lot of 23-year-old everyday catchers in the big leagues, it just doesn’t happen, because there’s so much that goes into the position. But I think he’s going to be really good.” – Girardi, on Sanchez.

ON THIS DATE

1955: Mickey Mantle goes 4-for-4 with three home runs – two left-handed, one right-handed – and five RBIs in a 5-2 win at Detroit. It was Mantle’s only career three-homer game and the first of 10 games where he homered from both sides of the plate.

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