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).
In Saturday’s column for the Boston Globe, Nick Cafardo suggests that free agent Cliff Lee is seeking a guaranteed major league deal between $6 and $8 million plus incentives. That is turning some otherwise interested teams away, as the lefty is still recovering from a torn flexor tendon in his left elbow. Lee hasn’t pitched since July 31, 2014.
Last month, Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker said the pitcher would need “a perfect fit” to pitch in 2016. He also noted that Lee has begun a full offseason throwing program.
In his most recent season, Lee compiled a 3.65 ERA with 72 strikeouts and 12 walks in 81 1/3 innings for the Phillies. The Phillies had signed him to a five-year, $120 million contract in December 2010 but declined a club option for the 2016 season, instead buying him out for $12.5 million.
In an article for MASN on Friday, Steve Melewski noted that the Orioles were reluctant to forfeit their first round draft pick (14th overall) in order to sign free agent starter Yovani Gallardo. The club is now reconsidering its stance and rechecking the right-handers medicals, MASN’s Roch Kubatko reports.
Gallardo, who turns 30 on February 27, posted a 3.42 ERA with 121 strikeouts and 68 walks over 184 1/3 innings for the Rangers last season. The Rangers had acquired him in a trade with the Brewers, sending Luis Sardinas, Corey Knebel, and minor leaguer Marcos Diplan to Milwaukee.
Gallardo has posted an ERA below 4.00 in six of his last seven seasons. He remains unsigned into February, however, because his strikeout rate has rapidly decreased with each year since 2012. Per FanGraphs, that rate was 23.7 percent in 2012, then went to 18.6 percent, 17.9 percent, and 15.3 percent progressively. Some of that may have to do with diminishing fastball velocity, as Gallardo’s 90.4 MPH average marked a career low among his eight full seasons with at least 100 innings pitched.
The Orioles lost starter Wei-Yin Chen, who signed with the Marlins, and the back end of their rotation is highly speculative with Kevin Gausman, Mike Wright, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Tyler Wilson. Adding a veteran like Gallardo, even if he is apparently declining, may be stabilizing.
MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez passes along word from the Dominican Republic that right-hander Freddy Garcia will hang up his cleats for good after Sunday’s Caribbean Series championship game.
Garcia will start that game for the Tigres de Aragua out of Venezuela. He’s taking on Mexico’s Venados de Mazatlan.
“Venezuelan fans are expecting something good from Freddy and so is everybody,” said Tigres de Aragua manager Eddie Perez, who also serves as the bullpen coach for the Atlanta Braves. “Knowing that it’s his last game is going to make it very special. We all hope he pitches a really good game so he can retire in a good way and bring the title for Venezuela. Everybody who is rooting for Venezuela expects him to do well.”
Garcia’s last major league game was in the 2013 postseason. The 39-year-0ld will finish with a 4.15 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 6.4 K/9 in 2,264 career regular-season innings. He had a 3.26 ERA in 11 playoff starts, winning a World Series title with the White Sox in 2005.
MLB.com put together this very cool video montage reviewing the 2015 season and setting us up for what should be a wild 2016. Young stars, veterans chasing milestones, unpredictable divisional races.
It’s so close to spring training. Let’s do this.