Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez went 0-for-4 in his season debut at Yankee Stadium and closer Mariano Rivera blew his second save in a row, but the Yankees won anyway thanks to a Brett Gardner walk-off single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the 11th.
In the bottom of the first, Rodriguez strode to the plate for his first at-bat of the season at Yankee Stadium. The crowd of more than 46,000 greeted him with a mixture of cheers and boos. Rodriguez quickly struck out swinging against Tigers starter Rick Porcello, which resulted in a cascade of boos.
Yankees starter Ivan Nova was solid over seven frames, allowing one run on eight hits and two walks while striking out seven. David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth for the hold. Rivera could not work around a one-out Austin Jackson double, surrending a game-tying two-run, two-strike, two-out home run to defending AL MVP Miguel Cabrera, knotting the game at three apiece.
The Yankees went down quietly in the bottom of the ninth. The combination of Boone Logan and Shawn Kelley danced out of trouble in the top of the tenth, giving the offense another opportunity to set things right. Against Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque, the Yankees quickly put two runners on thanks to a Jayson Nix walk and Curtis Granderson single. They would advance to second and third on a wild pitch. With one out, Eduardo Nunez drew an intentional walk, setting up a plethora of RBI opportunities for Chris Stewart. Stewart struck out swinging, a gut-wrenching way to go down in that spot. Brett Gardner picked his teammate up, though, singling up the middle on the second pitch he saw from Alburquerque to help the Yankees walk off winners.
A lot of notable things both did and didn’t happen tonight. The Tigers had their 12-game winning streak snapped, and the Yankees broke their four-game losing streak. Rodriguez missed out on his 1,951st career RBI, which would have tied him with Stan Musial for sixth all-time. Alfonso Soriano entered the night with 1,999 career hits, but went 0-for-5. Rivera failed to convert save #644 of his career, and blew his second consecutive save for the first time since April 5-6, 2005 against the Red Sox (via ESPN Stats & Info).
Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.
Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.
The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.