Not enough in the ninth
The Yankees late-game magic disappeared on Friday night as their wild ninth-inning rally fell just short in a 7-6 loss to the Padres. Down 7-2 entering the final frame, they scored four runs and got the tying run on third base before Brett Gardner grounded out to end the game.
It was just the second time in his career that Gardner has made the final out of the game with his team trailing by a run and a man on third base; he also did it in a 2-1 loss to the Royals on June 8, 2014.
Nathan Eovaldi’s June swoon continued into the month of July with the inconsistent right-hander getting tagged for six runs on seven hits, including two homers. Over his last six starts he’s allowed a whopping 31 runs, 45 hits and 12 home runs allowed in 30 1/3 innings (and a bloated 9.20 ERA).
In this stretch he’s allowed at least four earned runs and a homer in each of those six starts, the longest such streak in franchise history. Eovaldi has now surrendered 19 longballs in 91 innings this season, a rate of 1.88 homers per nine innings would be the highest by any Yankee that qualified for the ERA title.
One of Eovaldi’s biggest bugaboos during his free fall over the past month has been a flat and ineffective splitter, a pitch that batters are hitting .311 and slugging .556 against since June 1; opponents were just 6-for-40 (.150) with no extra-base hits in at-bats ending in his splitter in May.
A significant reduction in both the horizontal and vertical movement of the pitch — he’s getting an inch less of arm-side run and it’s also dropping an inch less in June/July compared to May — has made his signature splitter way too hittable over his last several outings.
Just a couple days removed from back-to-back thrilling last at-bat wins at Yankee Stadium, the Yankees were on the wrong side of a walk-off celebration on Saturday night in San Diego. Melvin Upton Jr. hit a solo homer on the first pitch he saw from Andrew Miller in the bottom of the ninth inning to hand the Yankees their second straight loss on the west coast.
It was the fourth time they’ve lost an Interleague game on a game-ending longball: the Nationals’ Ryan Zimmerman has beaten them twice (May 19, 2015 and June 18, 2006) and Todd Zeile also hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in Denver on June 20, 2002.
The loss clinched a losing first-half record for the Yankees for only the second time in the last 20 seasons. The 2007 team was 40-41 at the halfway mark and then rebounded to win two-thirds of their games the rest of the way and clinch a Wild Card berth. That’s the only time in franchise history they managed to make the playoffs after having a sub-.500 record through 81 games.
Thanks to a dormant offense and a rare hiccup by Miller, the Yankees wasted a solid performance from the struggling Ivan Nova. The righty had posted a 6.92 ERA in his previous seven starts entering Saturday night, but rebounded to allow just one run on four hits in 5 1/3 innings in San Diego.
Nova’s curve was a key weapon for him in finishing off the Padres hitters, who whiffed on six of their eight swings against the curve and went 0-for-6 with five strikeouts in at-bats ending in the pitch.
Milestone Tex Message
The Yankees averted what would have been a historically awful sweep, winning the third game of the three-game series in San Diego. Since Interleague play began in 1997, the Yankees have only been swept in series of three or more games twice: June 19-21, 2007 by the Rockies and Sept 1-3, 1997 by the Phillies.
Even with the win the Yankees have some ground to make up in order to avoid their worst ever Interleague mark. They are now 3-7 (.300) halfway through the schedule; their lowest Interleague win percentage in a season is .333, when they went 5-10 in 1997.
Didi Gregorius’ scorching hot bat gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning en route to the 6-3 victory. Each of the past four homers that he’s hit since June 16 have either tied the game or given the Yankees the lead. In that span, no other Yankee has hit more than two go-ahead/game-tying home runs.
Mark Teixeira gave the Yankees an insurance run in the eight inning with a milestone Tex message – the 400th longball of his career – and then added No. 401 in the next frame.
He is the fifth switch-hitter in the 400-homer club (Chipper Jones, Eddie Murray, Mickey Mantle, Carlos Beltran), and the 55th player in MLB history to hit that many homers. He’s also the ninth player to reach the milestone in Yankee pinstripes. The rest of the group are Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Gary Sheffield, A-Rod, Alfonso Soriano, and, of course, Beltran.
Overall, of the 55 players to hit 400 homers, Teixeira is the 27th to do in his 14th season or earlier; but the only other switch-hitter to join the club this early into his career was Mickey Mantle. Among first baseman, he is one of just nine to compile 400 homers in their first 14 seasons: Carlos Delgado, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Jeff Bagwell, Albert Pujols and Mark McGwire are the others.