All aboard! First-place Yanks, Mets ride Subway tonight

Alex Rodriguez, Terry CollinsThis Subway Series is a battle of winners: this marks the first time that the Mets and Yankees have gone head-to-head with each club owning at least a share of first place in their respective divisions, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

“Definitely, I think it’s great for the city,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “You look at the Mets and they’ve won 11 in a row and had a perfect homestand. Obviously it’s very exciting over there. And then the way we’ve played the last seven games to go out on this road trip, we’re excited about what we’re doing. I think it’s really good for the city.”

This showdown will come with a new generation of players. For the first time, neither roster will include a player who was active for that first Yankees-Mets game in 1997. These teams split four games in 2014, with each team winning two games in the opponents’ ballpark.

Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00) will try for his third consecutive victory tonight, taking on the Mets’ Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93). It’s going to be a chilly night in the Bronx, with game-time temperatures expected to be in the high 30s. Here are some quick hits as we get ready for the first of three:

  • Bernie Williams, Jean AftermanBernie Williams announced his retirement (finally!) in a press conference tonight. Accompanied by GM Brian Cashman and assistant GM Jean Afterman, Williams signed a Minor League contract with the Class-A Staten Island Yankees, paused for a few seconds, then put pen to paper on his MLB retirement papers. Williams’ last game was in October 2006, and his next stop is enshrinement in Monument Park on May 24.
  • Looking at the top five hitters in the Mets lineup, which has lefties in Curtis Granderson, Lucas Duda and Daniel Murphy, Girardi said that it is possible he could reverse his eighth and ninth inning bullpen alignment. Thus far, Andrew Miller is 6-for-6 in save chances, while Dellin Betances has been working in the seventh and eighth innings. Miller and Betances have combined to throw 16 2/3 innings without allowing an earned run.
  • Chris Young isn’t in the lineup tonight, but he was among the most popular people on the field during batting practice. Young’s time with the Mets was a disappointment, as much for him as for the team, but he has found a new home here in the Bronx. “It was a fresh start and that’s all you can attribute it to,” he said. “A few balls dropped my way and I got some opportunities to play on a consistent basis. I was able to find my way a little bit.”
  • Happy 38th birthday, Carlos Beltran. He’s a .241 hitter with two homers in 13 games on his birthday.
  • The meaning of the Subway Series, according to Girardi: “I think it’s bragging rights for an evening and then it’s bragging rights for an entire offseason. I know fans for both clubs. I know people who are friends of mine are Mets fans, and I have to listen to them, so it’s really important to me, too.”

Here are the lineups:

METS (13-3)
Curtis Granderson rf
Juan Lagares cf
Lucas Duda 1b
Michael Cuddyer dh
Daniel Murphy 2b
Eric Campbell 3b
Wilmer Flores ss
Kevin Plawecki c
Kirk Nieuwenhuis lf

Jacob deGrom rhp

YANKEES (9-7)
Jacoby Ellsbury cf
Brett Gardner lf
Alex Rodriguez dh
Mark Teixeira 1b
Brian McCann c
Carlos Beltran rf
Chase Headley 3b
Stephen Drew 2b
Didi Gregorius ss

Michael Pineda rhp

Next stop for Yankees: The Subway Series

When the schedule first was released last season, I will admit to circling this weekend’s Yankees-Mets tilt and thinking, ‘Really? April is much too early for the Subway Series.’ Shows what I know: it turns out, this is actually the perfect time for the Yankees and the Mets to meet head to head. Good job, schedule-makers!

If a few of these past Subway showdowns are any indication, we could be in for some wild fun this weekend:

The Yankees are hot, coming back off a long road trip having won six of their last seven games, including taking three of four from a very strong Tigers club in Detroit. The Mets are even hotter, having tied a franchise record with 11 consecutive victories — something they haven’t done 1990, the days of Straw & Doc.

You’re going to hear a lot this weekend about the Yankees trying to maintain their hold on the city, the Mets trying to rip it away. There might be some truth to that. You can make the case that, with their own expectations now sky-high, the Mets have more to lose this weekend than the Yankees do. Anthony DiComo has more on MLB.com.

Power arms, anyone? Michael Pineda and Jacob DeGrom will be on the mound tonight, CC Sabathia and Matt Harvey go at it on Saturday afternoon and the Sunday night matchup pits Nathan Eovaldi against Jonathan Niese. See you at the ballpark.

Call it a career: Bernie Williams to formally retire

Bernie WilliamsEven though he played his final Major League game in 2006, having jumped into a successful music career and twice appeared on Hall of Fame ballots, Bernie Williams always enjoyed ribbing his former teammates with the running joke that he had still not officially retired from baseball.  

Now, as the Yankees embrace their post-‘Core Four’ era — a group that should properly include Williams, if only someone had coined a catchy nickname that rhymed with ‘five’ — Williams is ready to formally sign his retirement papers. The ceremony will take place on Friday evening at Yankee Stadium.

Williams will be joined by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and assistant general manager Jean Afterman at the event. The Yankees will unveil a logo related to the retirement of Williams’ No. 51 and his Monument Park plaque dedication, which will take place on May 24 prior to the Yankees’ game against the Rangers.

Additionally on Friday ─ in an on-field ceremony at approximately 6:45 p.m. ─ the Hard Rock Cafe will debut a souvenir pin that honors Williams. Fifteen percent of net sales from the pins will go to Hillside Food Outreach (www.hillsidefoodoutreach.org).

A four-time World Series winner, five-time American League All-Star and four-time Gold Glove Award winner who is the Yankees’ all-time postseason leader in home runs (22) and RBI (80), Williams will also throw out the ceremonial first pitch prior to Friday’s 7:05 p.m. game vs. the Mets.

Williams played his entire 16-year Major League career with the Yankees (1991-2006), batting .297 in 2,076 games. In franchise history, the former centerfielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257).

In franchise history, the former centerfielder ranks third in doubles (449), fifth in hits (2,336), sixth in games played and runs scored (1,366) and seventh in home runs (287) and RBI (1,257).  

Pineda, Yankees try for the sweep

Michael PinedaHaving clinched their first series victory of the season in last night’s 9-0 blowout, the Yankees will try for the sweep this afternoon as they send right-hander Michael Pineda (1-0, 5.11) to the mound against the Rays at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay will counter with right-hander Matt Andriese (0-0, 3.86). First pitch is scheduled for 1:10 p.m. ET and the game will be televised on WPIX.

“Within our division, I think it’s really important, and to try to get on a roll here,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We have a lot of games in the next 30 days. That’s important as well. To get back to .500 would be good.”

Here are some of the quick hits from a rather quiet Yankees clubhouse:

  • Girardi’s take on Pineda: “We all feel good when Michael is on the mound. He works quickly, he gets quick outs, he has pitched extremely well. He’s got outstanding stuff and hopefully he gets deep into the game today.”
  • Carlos Beltran “feels weak,” Girardi said, as he continues to deal with a bad cold. The Yanks hope to have him back tomorrow in Detroit. He may be able to pinch-hit today.
  • There has been no decision on whether Tanaka will start Thursday in Detroit or Friday against the Mets. Part of the equation is seeing how the weather holds up tomorrow in Detroit, where rain is expected. That would set up a split doubleheader later in the week, since this is the Yanks’ only trip to the Motor City.
  • Girardi’s reaction to Grant Balfour being designated for assignment by Tampa Bay: “He’s been a good pitcher for a long time. I know he had a rough outing and I know he’s went through kind of a difficult spring with his father, but it’s the nature of the game. It’s hard. When you’re going through tough times, it’s difficult.”
  • Since joining the Yankees last Sept. 2, 17 of Chris Young’s 28 hits have gone for extra bases, including last night’s grand slam.
  • Alex Rodriguez might have sat today if Beltran was healthy, but Girardi said that “his at-bats are good, so there’s nothing that tells me he’s physically tired. If I see something, I’ll make an adjustment.”

On this date in 1960: Roger Maris made his Yankees debut on Opening Day at Fenway Park. He set the tone for what would become the first of two consecutive AL MVP seasons, going 4-for-5 with two homers, a double and four RBIs in an 8-4 Yankees win.

Here are the lineups:

YANKEES (5-6)
Jacoby Ellsbury cf
Brett Gardner lf
Alex Rodriguez dh
Mark Teixeira 1b
Chase Headley 3b
Stephen Drew 2b
Garrett Jones rf
John Ryan Murphy c
Didi Gregorius ss

Michael Pineda rhp

RAYS (6-6)
David DeJesus dh
Steven Souza Jr. rf
Asdrubal Cabrera ss
Evan Longoria 3b
Desmond Jennings cf
Allan Dykstra 1b
Brandon Guyer lf
Tim Beckham 2b
Rene Rivera c

Matt Andriese rhp

A-Rod carrying the Yankees’ lineup

Yankees Rays BaseballComing off last night’s two-homer, four-RBI performance, Alex Rodriguez has been promoted to the No. 3 spot in the Yankees lineup as they play the middle game of a three-game set tonight at Tropicana Field.

Masahiro Tanaka (1-1, 7.00 ERA) is on the mound for New York, with right-hander Jake Odorizzi (2-0, 0.61 ERA) getting the call for Tampa Bay. The game will be televised on Fox Sports 1 and can be heard on WFAN.

Here are the quick hits you need to know:

  • Here’s a great stat that showcases just how good A-Rod’s first 10 games have been: He is batting .344 (11-for-32 AB) with four homers and 11 RBIs. The rest of the Yankees are hitting a combined .209 (67-for-320).
  • Rodriguez’s response: “Let’s see if you can do this for six months. Anyone can do it for 10 games. Let’s just see what happens.”
  • Brett Gardner (right wrist) returns to the lineup to make his first start since Monday. Joe Girardi said that he’ll watch Gardner closely on check-swings and swings and misses, but Gardner would have batted last night if his spot had come up. 
  • Carlos Beltran is out of the lineup with chest congestion, and Joe Girardi isn’t sure if Beltran will be available Sunday either. Apparently there has been a bad cold going around the clubhouse; first-base coach Tony Pena has gotten hit worse than anyone. I’m buying some Emergen-C on my way back to the hotel tonight.
  • Reverse split alert: Because Odorizzi is a rare right-hander who is tougher on left-handed hitters, Didi Gregorius is getting the night off. Gregorio Petit is making the start at second base, with Stephen Drew handling the duties at shortstop. Chris Young takes over in right field.
  • Brian McCann is batting .500 (5-for-10) with two homers lifetime vs. Odorizzi.
  • Chris Capuano was in the clubhouse this afternoon and will throw a 45-pitch bullpen session tomorrow. His target date is probably late May, with Ivan Nova right behind him. Girardi confirmed that the Yankees plan to stretch Capuano and Nova out as starters.
  • The Yankees came into today tied with the Orioles for the most homers in the Majors this season, with 16.
  • A-Rod thought it was hilarious that people on social media keep talking about the white gunk on top of his helmet. It’s just rosin, he says.
  • We hardly knew you, Matt Tracy. He was claimed off waivers by the Miami Marlins this afternoon. In addition, Joel De La Cruz was outrighted off the Major League roster and onto the roster of Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

Here are the lineups… first pitch at 7:10 p.m. ET:

Masahiro TanakaYANKEES (4-6)
Jacoby Ellsbury cf
Brett Gardner lf
Alex Rodriguez dh
Mark Teixeira 1b
Brian McCann c
Chris Young rf
Chase Headley 3b
Stephen Drew ss
Gregorio Petit 2b

Masahiro Tanaka rhp

RAYS (6-5)
David DeJesus dh
Stephen Souza Jr. rf
Asdrubal Cabrera ss
Evan Longoria 3b
Desmond Jennings cf
Allan Dykstra 1b
Logan Forsythe 2b
Brandon Guyer lf
Rene Rivera c

Jake Odorizzi rhp

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