Yankees begin final homestand of the regular season

Obit Berra Baseball Photo GalleryThe Yankees have arrived home to begin their final homestand of the season, welcoming the Chicago White Sox to town for a four-game series. Right-hander Michael Pineda (11-8, 4.10) draws the start for the Yankees, who have stacked their lineup with right-handed hitters against left-hander Chris Sale (12-10, 3.47).

There will be a pregame ceremony to honor Yogi Berra tonight at 6:50 p.m. ET. The Yankees will wear the No. 8 on their left uniform sleeve for the remainder of the season.

“It’s been a tough couple of days for us,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Yogi meant so much to the organization, to the city, to all of us. For me, personally, I miss him. I had a chance to talk to him on Saturday before the game, and you never think that’s going to be the last time you’re going to talk to someone.

“I miss him. I miss having him around here. The laughs that we had. The knowledge that he gave me. How he always made you feel comfortable. It’s just not going to be the same.”

Playoff picture: Losing two of three in Toronto didn’t help the Yankees’ fading division chances much. The Yankees (83-68) now trail the Blue Jays (87-65) by 3 1/2 games in the American League East, but still lead the Astros (80-73) by four games for the first Wild Card spot.

Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 99.8 percent chance of making the postseason, and a 7.8 percent chance of winning the division. FULL STANDINGS

Lineups

Clubhouse report

— What’s up with this lineup? We’ll let Joe Girardi explain:

“Well, just the physical grind and the lefty that we’re facing today. Trying to get as many right-handed hitters in there as possible. Think about, we got back from Tampa at 4 in the morning. Get back, to, Toronto at 4 in the morning, get here at 3, 3:30 in the morning and it’s a physical grind and we still have 11 games to go and a long ways to go. Need to make sure these guys are healthy and being productive.”

— It would likely be in the Yankees’ best interest to line up Masahiro Tanaka to pitch the Oct. 6 one-game Wild Card playoff, but Girardi said that no decisions have been made on that front yet. All indications are that Tanaka’s hamstring is healing well, and he should be able to pitch early next week.

— The Yankees magic number to clinch a postseason spot is seven games.

MLB Network’s three to watch

Michael PinedaMichael Pineda pitched 5.1 scoreless innings in a win vs the Mets his last time out. Pineda is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in five starts since returning from the disabled list (forearm). He is yet to throw over six innings or 100 pitches in any of those five starts.

Chris Sale gave up seven runs (one earned) over seven innings in a loss to the Indians in his last start. Sale is 0-3 with a 5.40 ERA over his last four starts. He has given up 33 hits over 23.1 innings during that stretch.

Ex-Yankee Melky Cabrera, who hit his 100th career homer on Wednesday, is batting .400 (18-45 AB) with three homers and 13 RBI over his last eleven games.

Stat so?

The Yankees are 21-13 against the three teams that remain on their schedule (2-1 vs the White Sox, 10-5 vs the Red Sox and 9-7 vs the Orioles.

Alex Rodriguez needs one run scored to become the eighth player in Major League history with at least 2,000 runs scored.

On this date

1929: Yankees pitcher Tom Zachary improves to 12-0 with a 5-3 victory over the Red Sox. His mark remains the Major League record for most wins in a single season without a loss.

Quote to note

“I have one of the best jobs in the world. I get to come here every day and spend a lot of time learning from guys like Mac (Brian McCann), Alex (Rodriguez) and CC (Sabathia), sit on the bench with them and get some knowledge from them. They’re great at what they do and they’ve been around. It’s been a privilege, honestly, to be here and learn from them.” — Refsnyder.

Yankees remember Yogi Berra, take heavy hearts to field

Yogi Berra was riding in the passenger’s seat of Joe Girardi’s rental car one March morning, muttering to himself as the vehicle crawled toward the Astros’ Spring Training facility in Kissimmee, Fla. They were going the wrong way to the game, the Hall of Famer insisted, because there was a shorter route to the ballpark.

Girardi shrugged and promised Berra that he would ask the Astros’ visiting clubhouse manager for the best way to avoid traffic lights on the way back. Before Berra buckled his seat belt nine innings later, he made sure to ask if Girardi had gotten the proper directions toward the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, Fla.

“We proceeded on the drive home, and I knew the directions were the same way we had came,” Girardi said. “We make all these turns and I said, ‘Yogi, it’s the same way we came. I didn’t take the long way.’ And he said, ‘I told you my way was faster.’ It was just another Yogi-ism, and it really made me laugh. That was Yogi being Yogi.”

The Yankees will miss Berra’s presence for countless reasons, but it is his general warmth and deep love for the organization that stands out most. Berra could not attend Spring Training this year for health reasons, but he had long been a mainstay in camp, shipping his golf clubs to Girardi’s office and enlisting Ron Guidry as his personal chauffeur.

Seeing Berra shuffle around the corner from the manager’s office always seemed to be a thrill for the players, who genuinely enjoyed the chance to interact with the legend. Berra did his homework and knew the players on the roster, even telling Girardi each year that he was keeping his eye on a new hot prospect.

“He always called me ‘Shorty,'” said Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner. “It’s Yogi Berra. He can call me whatever he wants. It’s something I’ll always cherish.”

Alex Rodriguez said that one of the highlights of any spring was the opportunity to sit down for a meal with Berra, which he guessed that he had the opportunity to do a half-dozen times.

“Every room he’d walk into, the room would light up, and everyone would be a better person for it,” Rodriguez said.

Girardi said that Berra had a knack for instantly making everyone in a room feel comfortable, telling stories in a humble way. Though Girardi was always in awe of Berra, he said that Berra never made him feel like he should have been.

“When you were in his presence, I always felt like I was talking to my grandfather,” Girardi said. “I just felt comfortable. I always felt he was going to pull something out of his pocket, a piece of licorice, and give it to you. It was a joy to be around him, and that’s who Yogi was.”

Obit Berra Baseball Photo Gallery“He was like walking into a family Italian restaurant and all of a sudden the kitchen and bar opens up to you and, it’s, ‘Have a seat,'” general manager Brian Cashman said. “He was just very warm, welcoming and kind. He was very special.”

Rodriguez described Berra as consistently supportive, while offering moments of wit and humor. He often marveled at Berra’s stature, wondering how he had produced such eye-popping statistics during his playing career.

“To see him, and how small he was — and what a big impact he made,” Rodriguez said. “The other thing is, if Yogi was here today, I don’t think he would want us all to mourn in this day. He’d want us to play with joy, to celebrate his 90 years, and to be happy going about our day celebrating his great life.”

Berra was fiercely proud of the Yankees and their winning tradition, and as the Yankees prepare to wear the No. 8 on their left uniform sleeves, Gardner said that the best way to pay tribute would be to put a victory on the scoreboard.

“Yogi probably played as big of a part in the Yankees organization being what it is today as any other person on the field,” Gardner said. “I think that he’ll be pulling for us. He always has. He’s always kept up with us, so I think he’ll pull for us and root for us. I know that if we can not just play well today, but finish strong and accomplish some of our goals that we want to accomplish, I think it will make him proud.”

MLB.com’s coverage for Yogi Berra (1925-2015):

Berra passes away; HOF legend was 90
Most memorable sayings
Justice: Yogi remembered for kindness, wisdom
Baseball mourns passing of Berra
Commissioner Manfred’s statement
Yogi’s greatness as player underappreciated
Yogi was military hero before baseball star
Yogi’s one true love was his wife
Reactions pour in from around world
Fellow No. 8 Ripken reflects on Berra
8 memorable moments
Statement from Yogi Berra Museum
A few of Yogi’s favorite things
Larsen’s perfect game had Yogi’s touch
City loses a big favorite, but it’ll be OK
Left indelible mark on 1956 Series
Yogi’s Mets years remembered fondly
8 significant achievements
Jeter: Yogi was ‘dear friend, mentor’
Yogi hit World Series’ 1st pinch homer

“It’s very exciting. These are big games here.”

New York Yankees' Luis Severino pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

They are expecting another sellout crowd this evening at Rogers Centre, where the Yankees will send 21-year-old Luis Severino to the mound in hopes of keeping their divisional aspirations in play. Toronto gives the ball to right-hander Marco Estrada.

For Severino, this will be the third time that he has faced the Blue Jays in just nine big league starts. He limited Toronto to three runs and five hits in an impressive nine-strikeout performance on Aug. 16 at Rogers Centre, but was knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Jays on Sept. 11 in New York.

“I have to do different things,” Severino said. “Last time I was up the whole time; this time, I want to throw the ball down, get my command. … It’s very exciting. These are big games here. I want to try my best to win.”

Playoff picture: The Yankees (82-67) trail the Blue Jays (86-64) by 3 1/2 games in the American League East. The Yankees lead the Astros (80-71) by three games for the first Wild Card spot.

Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 99.6 percent chance of making the postseason, and a 10.6 percent chance of winning the division.

Lineups

Clubhouse report

– Here’s some high praise for you — in terms of temperament and competitiveness, Joe Girardi compared Severino to Andy Pettitte. Obviously there are a lot of differences between the two guys – for starters, they throw with different arms – but it’s never a bad thing to be linked to a guy who’s in Monument Park.

“The situation never seemed to faze Andy,” Girardi said. “I first was around Andy in 1996, he was pretty young, had won 18 or 19 games, had that game in Atlanta that he won 1-0 after getting pounded in his first start in the World Series. Andy probably showed more emotion than Severino, but I think inside, they’re a lot alike.”

– Alex Rodriguez was in the Yankees’ lineup on Tuesday, reporting no issues after fouling a ball off his left ankle in Monday’s loss. Rodriguez crumpled to the ground and was seen on the field by Girardi and head athletic trainer Steve Donohue, but remained in the game.

– Third baseman Chase Headley committed his team-leading 22nd error on a throw in Monday’s loss. It is by far a career-high for Headley, whose next highest total was his 13 errors with the Padres in 2010.

“I think it becomes frustrating for players,” Girardi said. “You think about it a little bit. Chase is strong enough inside that he goes out and plays the game every day, and he’s handled it well.”

MLB Network’s three to watch

New York Yankees' Greg Bird watches his home run off Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Andrew Bellatti during the ninth inning of a baseball game Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla.  (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Greg Bird is batting .333 (7-21 AB) with four home runs and eight RBI during his six-game hitting streak. He’s homered in each of his last two games.

Edwin Encarnacion has reached base safely in 21 straight games against the Yankees, with a .333/.391/.641 line as well as six home runs and 15 RBI.

Marco Estrada ranks sixth in the American League with a 3.14 ERA. Estrada is 1-2 with a 4.09 ERA (22 IP, 10 ER) in four starts against the Yankees this season.

Stat so?

Toronto leads the season series over New York, 12 games to five. It’s the first time in franchise history that the Blue Jays have beaten the Yankees 12 times in a season.

On this date

1946: Yogi Berra makes his Major League debut, going 2-for-4 with a two-run home run in the first game of a doubleheader vs. Philadelphia.

Quote to note

“He seems to have a really good head on his shoulders. I’m sure he learned a lot about what he needs to do. He had a pretty good start against them here, then he struggled. He knew what the difference was. It was his command.” — Girardi, on what Severino might have learned from his last start vs. Toronto.

“They’ve put up some big numbers on us. We have to control that.”

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher Mark Buehrle throws against the New York Yankees as the roof of Rogers Centre is open for the first time this season during fifth inning American League baseball action in Toronto, Wednesday, May 6, 2015. (Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press via AP) MANDATORY CREDIT

Rogers Centre will be rocking this evening north of the border, as the Yankees and Blue Jays meet in this highly-anticipated showdown for the division crown. The Yankees have right-hander Adam Warren heading to the mound. Toronto will give the ball to left-hander David Price.

Playoff picture: It’s all right here in front of you. The Yankees (82-66) trail the Blue Jays (85-64) by 2 1/2 games in the American League East. The Yankees lead the Astros (79-71) by four games for the first Wild Card spot.

Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 99.7 percent chance of making the postseason, and a 19.4 percent chance of winning the division. FULL STANDINGS

Lineups

Clubhouse report

New York Yankees' Adam Warren pitches to the Tampa Bay Rays during the first inning of a baseball game Tuesday, Sept. 15, 2015, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

— Warren is tabbed to throw 80 to 85 pitches tonight. Girardi said that if Warren is able to get through six innings, he’d be thrilled.

— It looks like Dustin Ackley is the Yankees’ everyday second baseman, coming off last night’s three-run homer at Citi Field as well as some other big hits. Ackley’s reward is a nod against left-hander David Price tonight, and Girardi said that the Yankees are going to continue to give him opportunities.

Since coming off the DL (lumbar strain) earlier this month, Ackley is batting .409 (9-22 AB) with five extra-base hits (.864 slugging) in eleven games.

— Chris Young is usually in the lineup as the designated lefty masher, but Price has been a tough assignment for him. He’s just 1-for-14 vs. Price, so Young is on the bench.

— Nathan Eovaldi was not able to play catch today in New York, as was scheduled. He is still experiencing inflammation in his right elbow and will rest for another week. That rules out his return during the regular season, and if he is able to come back at all this year, it will be as a reliever in the postseason.

— Masahiro Tanaka had a good day working out at Yankee Stadium, testing that strained right hamstring. Girardi said that their plan is to reinstate him to the rotation the next turn through, sometime next week. There is a chance they would line him up to pitch the potential Wild Card playoff game.

MLB Network’s three to watch

Toronto Blue Jays' Russell Martin (55) celebrates with Ryan Goins (17) after hitting a two-run home run in the ninth inning of a baseball game against the Atlanta Braves Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2015, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Russell Martin is batting .318 (14-44 AB) with seven extra-base hits and 14 RBI in 13 games vs. the Yankees this season. Martin is expected back in the lineup Monday after getting a rest day on Sunday.

Brian McCann is 10-26 AB (.385) with three homers lifetime vs. Price.

Jacoby Ellsbury has seven hits in 16 at-bats over the last four games, following a stretch in which he batted .089 (5-56 AB) in his previous 14 games. Ellsbury is batting .354 (23-65 AB) with eight extra-base hits (.538 slugging) lifetime vs. Price.

Stat so?

Outside of Tanaka (2-2, 2.42 ERA in four starts vs. Toronto), the rest of the Yankees starting rotation is 2-6, 4.97 ERA vs. the Blue Jays this season.

On this date

2008: The Yankees play their final game at the original Yankee Stadium, defeating the Orioles, 7-3. Following the game, Derek Jeter addresses a crowd of more than 54,000, declaring Yankees fans “the greatest fans in the world.”

2014: Brett Gardner hits the 15,000th home run in Yankees history, in a 5-2 win vs. Toronto.

Quote to note

“They’ve hit better than we have. They’ve hit their share of homers off us, they’ve put up some big numbers on us and we have to control that. They’ve pitched very well, too. You look at the guys who are pitching; David Price has pitched very well, [Marco] Estrada has pitched very well against us and [Marcus] Stroman pitched well last year and pitched the one game well. Controlling their bats and keeping them away from big innings.” — Girardi, on the season series vs. Toronto.

“You know you have an opportunity to pick up a game”

New York Mets' David Wright, bottom, is tagged out by New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius while trying to steal second base during the fourth inning of a baseball game, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

The Subway Series will conclude this evening at Citi Field, where the early news in the Yankees clubhouse was dominated by the revelation that Masahiro Tanaka sustained a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring on Friday and will not be available to pitch on Wednesday at Toronto.

As far as tonight’s game is concerned, CC Sabathia will take the mound coming off arguably his best start of the season, having pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings in a no-decision on Sept. 14 at Tampa Bay.

Matt Harvey presents a tough customer on the other side; Harvey is making his first start since Sept. 8 but is 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA in two career starts vs. the Yanks. A win Sunday would give the Yanks their first season series win over the Mets since 2012.

Playoff picture: The Yankees (81-66) have an opportunity to make up ground on the Blue Jays (85-64), who lost to the Red Sox again this afternoon. The Yankees lead the Astros (79-71) by 3 1/2 games for the first Wild Card spot; Houston defeated the A’s, 5-1, this afternoon.

Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 99.5 percent chance of qualifying for the postseason, and a 10.0 percent chance of winning the division.

Lineups

Clubhouse report

New York Yankees starter Ivan Nova (47) pitches against the Toronto Blue Jays in the first inning in Game 2 of a doubleheader baseball game at Yankee Stadium, Saturday, Sept. 12, 2015, in New York. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)

— Ivan Nova’s stint in the bullpen didn’t last long. He has been slotted in as the Yankees’ probable starter for Wednesday at Toronto, following Adam Warren and Luis Severino. Nova threw a side session yesterday and said that he did not disagree with the Yanks’ decision to take him out of the rotation, but is excited to get another opportunity.

“It’s an important game, like always, for us,” Nova said. “I’ve got a chance to try to get a win for the team.”

— Tanaka will not travel with the team to Toronto. Part of that is so he can remain in New York and receive treatment for three days, but Girardi said that the process of going through customs between the United States and Canada also factored into the decision.

“You know, in Toronto you have to get your own luggage and you have to do all that going up and down the stairs,” Girardi said. “So he’ll stay here.”

— Despite the Tanaka injury, Girardi said that he does not believe there is any reason to stop American League hitters from batting in Interleague play.

“I actually like the separation in the leagues,” Girardi said. “My complaint, as I mentioned yesterday, is that [AL pitchers] don’t hit in the Minor Leagues, and that makes no sense to me.”

— Dustin Ackley is getting another start at second base tonight, and comes into the contest with seven hits in his last 13 at-bats.

“He’s swung the bat really well, whether we’ve pinch-hit him, played him against knuckleballers, played him against a guy that threw 100 yesterday,” Girardi said. “He’s been productive and that’s why we went and got him.”

MLB Network’s three to watch

CC SabathiaOn April 25 at Yankee Stadium, the Mets defeated the Yankees 8-2 behind Harvey’s season-high 8 2/3-inning, two-run performance. Harvey, who grew up a Yankees fan in Connecticut, is 1-0 with a 1.62 ERA (3 ER, 16.2 IP) in two career starts against the Bombers.

Since Aug. 1, Sabathia has posted a 2.76 ERA (10 ER, 32.2 IP) and .237 BAA in six starts. Sabathia has been wearing a protective brace on his chronic right knee, and he feels it has helped him let go on every pitch without worry of pain.

Yoenis Cespedes is hitless in his last 17 at bats with seven strikeouts. Prior to that stretch, he had nine home runs through his first 54 September at bats.

On this date

1980: In a pregame ceremony, the Yankees dedicate a Monument Park plaque in honor of Thurman Munson.

2010: The Yankees dedicate a monument to George M. Steinbrenner in Monument Park, then defeat the Rays, 8-6.

Quote to note

“You know you have an opportunity to pick up a game. Going in there two behind sounds better than three behind, that’s for sure, when you start talking about the loss column, so it’s encouraging for us.” — Girardi, on Toronto’s loss earlier in the day.

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