Luis Severino, Greg Bird help Yankees keep pace in AL East

091615_severino_swings_med_resLuis Severino bounced back from the roughest outing of his brief Major League career, Greg Bird homered and drove in two runs and the Yankees defeated the Rays, 3-1, on Wednesday at Tropicana Field.

The Yankees took two of three games from the Rays in the series, remaining three games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East chase. The 21-year-old Severino limited Tampa Bay to a run on six hits over 5 2/3 innings, striking out seven.

“It’s been great. We want to win,” said Severino, who had allowed a career-high six runs to the Blue Jays in his last start. “We want to help the team win every time we go out there and have a good outing for the team.” MORE

Clubhouse report

— The Yankees planned on having Greg Bird appear in some September games, but they never imagined he would be playing a role of this magnitude. Mark Teixeira’s season-ending injury has created an opportunity for the 22-year-old Bird, who hit a tape-measure ninth-inning homer off Andrew Bellati that struck the ‘D’ ring at the Trop — the first ball to do so this season.

“He’s done a really nice job in Mark’s absence,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. 

— The bullpen worked 3 1/3 scoreless innings behind Severino, but Dellin Betances did his best to make it interesting. With two outs and no one on in the seventh inning, the All-Star loaded the bases with three consecutive walks. That brought up James Loney, who had hits in each of his first three at-bats, but Betances recovered to strike out the first baseman and end the inning. 

“I felt like I was rushing, so my breaking ball was breaking too much and not over the plate,” Betances said. “It was more side to side. The fastball as well; just one of those things. I’ve got to slow myself down, try to stay back. The good thing is that we won.”

— Jacoby Ellsbury still wasn’t sure exactly what happened on that sixth-inning Steven Souza Jr. drive that fooled him in center field. He guessed that it might have clipped a catwalk, but a crew chief review ruled the call on the field – RBI double – to stand because the video was inconclusive. If it had been shown to clip a catwalk, it would’ve been a two-run homer for Souza Jr.

“I was hoping I was going to be able to pick it up at the last second and be able to catch the ball,” Ellsbury said. “I guess I was just glad it wasn’t a home run.”

— Ivan Nova (6-8, 5.11) said that he was disappointed by the Yankees’ decision to place him in the bullpen, but he understood the reasoning.

“It’s not what I want, I don’t want to be in the bullpen, but you’ve got to be honest with yourself,” Nova said. “I’m not pitching the way I’m supposed to be pitching. We’re in a tight race. We want to win the division. If that’s the best choice, then I’m going to go to the bullpen.”

Playoff picture

The Yankees remained three games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East race. Toronto defeated the Braves, 9-1, at Turner Field. The Yankees now lead the Astros by 3 1/2 games for the first Wild Card spot.

Stat so?

Severino has made five starts of five-plus innings and one run or fewer, joining Tiny Bonham (1940) as the only Yankees to have five such starts within their first eight career games, according to available data.

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Parting words

“It’s been a lot of fun to watch. Severino was electric tonight. His stuff, his breaking balls, he just keeps hitters off balance. 98 on the radar gun, Can’t say enough about him, his poise. And Bird, the same way. Big at-bats each and every time. Big home runs the last two nights, playing a very good first base, he’s really been impressive.” — Ellsbury

Yankees “curious” to see how Luis Severino answers challenge

New York Yankees starting pitcher Luis Severino winds up in a baseball game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium in New York, Friday, Sept. 11, 2015. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

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

Luis Severino tries to bounce back from the first rough outing of his big league career, drawing the start against Chris Archer. The Yankees are 2-6 in their last eight games, and Girardi wants to see how Severino responds to the challenge.

“I’m a little curious,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The other thing he’s going through is, he’s seeing teams pretty quickly back to back. Teams can make some slight adjustments and pitchers have to as well.”

Playoff picture: The Yankees (79-65) trail the Blue Jays (82-62) by three games in the American League East. Toronto has David Price on the mound tonight at Turner Field.

The Yankees lead the Astros (77-68) by 2 1/2 games for the first Wild Card spot. Baseball Prospectus has the Yankees with a 96.7 percent chance of making the postseason and a 13.4 percent chance of winning the division.


Clubhouse report

The Yankees have set their rotation for the upcoming Subway Series against the Mets, and it will not include struggling right-hander Ivan Nova, who has been told to pitch out of the bullpen until further notice.

Girardi said that he would not rule out having Nova start again this year, but he confirmed that the decision was performance-based. Nova has gone 6-8 with a 5.11 ERA in 14 starts after returning from Tommy John surgery.

“We’re trying to get the guys that are throwing the best right now,” Girardi said. “Part of it could be what he’s coming off of. Sometimes you don’t have the command. They say that’s the last thing that comes, is the command. His curveball at times has not been as sharp as we’ve seen in the past.”

The Yankees have aligned Masahiro Tanaka to pitch on Friday, Michael Pineda for Saturday and CC Sabathia on Sunday. Adam Warren is also expected to make another start.

Girardi said that the team has not set its rotation past that point, but the decision could allow Tanaka to pitch next Wednesday against the division-leading Blue Jays in Toronto. Tanaka is 12-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 22 starts.

MLB Network’s three to watch

Yankees Rays BaseballJacoby Ellsbury is 14-21 AB (.667) with two extra-base hits (1 HR) in his career against Archer, but Ellsbury has gone hitless in his last 25 at-bats, spanning six games. Since returning from the DL (right knee sprain) on July 8th, Ellsbury is slashing .207/.247/.322 with a .569 OPS over 58 games.

Alex Rodriguez is batting .295 AVG (18-61 AB) with eight HR, and 13 RBI in 17 games against the Rays this year.

In his last start against the Yankees, Archer allowed five runs (four earned) over 6 1/3 innings, taking the loss in the 6-4 defeat at Yankee Stadium. The loss was the first of Archer’s career against the Yankees, after going 5-0 with a 1.78 ERA in his first eight starts against the Bombers.

Stat so?

For the season, the Yankees’ bullpen has thrown the second most innings in the American League (473.2), trailing only the Rays (484.1).

On this date

1979: The Yankees held “Catfish” Hunter Day for the future Hall of Famer, who had announced that he planned to retire after the following season.

1998: Derek Jeter singled off Chicago’s Gavin Floyd in the first inning for his 1,270th career hit at the original Yankee Stadium, surpassing Lou Gehrig for the most all-time hits at the ballpark.

Quote to note

“I was part of the Wild Card when I was in St. Louis. It’s a tough situation, honestly. You’re playing one game; anything can happen. Anything can go right and anything can go wrong. When we played in Atlanta, there was a call made on an infield fly; people started throwing bottles in the game and went crazy. It worked for our benefit and we were able to move up to the next series, but it’s tough. At the same time, it’s also a chance.” — Carlos Beltran

Yanks miss chance to gain in East

Nick RumbelowNick Franklin hit a two-run homer and Jake Odorizzi worked six solid innings, helping to lead the Rays to a 6-3 victory over the Yankees on Tuesday at Tropicana Field.

Franklin’s go-ahead blast came in the sixth inning off rookie right-hander Nick Rumbelow, the second reliever to follow Adam Warren, who completed four innings in his first start since June. J.P. Arencibia drove home two insurance runs in the eighth with a flare single to right field off Bryan Mitchell.

The defeat, coupled with the Blue Jays’ 3-2 loss to the Braves at Turner Field, kept the Yankees three games behind Toronto in the American League East race. MORE

Clubhouse report

Adam Warren made his first start since June and held Tampa Bay to two runs and six hits over four innings, walking none and striking out four. Warren threw 42 of 66 pitches for strikes and said that he should be in the neighborhood of 80 to 85 pitches in his next outing, which will feel a lot more like a regular start.

There’s always a transition phase, but I’ve done both roles this year, so I know what I need to do, the routines to get prepared, and I think that helps out,” Warren said. “Once I got into the third inning, got on a roll a little bit, it all started to come back. I got stronger as it went on, which is a good sign for me stamina-wise.”

Jacoby Ellsbury went hitless in four at-bats, extending his slump to 0-for-29, but Girardi said he still wants Ellsbury to fight out of it. They need him to, and as such, Girardi said that he has no plans to dislodge Ellsbury from the leadoff spot.

“I feel I’m an everyday player. You just find a way to have success,” Ellsbury said. “That’s what I’ve been throughout my career. You go through spells but you continue to work hard and put the time in. The guys that do that typically have results.”

Playoff picture

The Yankees remained three games behind the Blue Jays in the American League East race. Toronto lost, 3-2, to the Braves at Turner Field, on Andrelton Simmons’ walk-off single.

In Arlington, the Rangers defeated the Astros, 6-5, to take over the American League West lead. The Astros now trail the Yankees by 2 1/2 games for the first Wild Card spot.

Stat so?

Greg Bird homered on the 10th pitch of his fourth inning at-bat. All 10 pitches were fastballs, according to PITCHf/x. Only once since the start of the 2013 season had a Yankee homered to end an at-bat of 10 pitches or more: Brian McCann, on June 18, 2014 vs. Toronto.

“It’s a really good at-bat,” Girardi said. “He fouled off a number of pitches, got a fastball down and worked the count, hit it out to center field. We were hoping that would stick, but we weren’t able to hold them down.”

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Parting words

“It’s tough. It’s tough that we’re not able to hold them down. I thought Adam did a pretty good job, especially after those first couple innings. He started to mix all his pitches in and he pitched pretty well. You kind of wish he was built up more and he could have went deeper, but it is what it is.” — Girardi.

Adam Warren returning to Yankees’ rotation tonight

Adam Warren

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.


Clubhouse report

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

Yankees Rays Baseball

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. 

Stat so?

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

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


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