Yankees win, A-Rod disappoints in home debut

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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).

Blue Jays release John Axford

John Axford
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The Blue Jays have released right-handed reliever John Axford from his minor league contract, per an announcement on Saturday. Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi speculates that the move could provide an avenue for the club to rework Axford’s contract, but the Blue Jays have yet to confirm or deny the report.

Axford, 35, was dealt a blow on Thursday after getting diagnosed with a stress reaction in the olecranon bone of his right elbow. Elbow soreness dogged the right-hander through much of his time in camp, and although he was scheduled for a follow-up examination later this spring, a definite return date had not been established.

Prior to the diagnosis, Axford was tabbed for a setup role with the team in 2019. He pitched to mixed results in 2018 (thanks in part to a late-season fracture of his right fibula) with a 5.27 ERA, 4.9 BB/9, and 9.8 SO/9 through 54 2/3 innings with the Blue Jays and Dodgers. Now, however, it’s not certain that he’ll return to the mound this season in any capacity.

Axford isn’t the only reliever the Blue Jays have lost to injury lately, either, as right-handers Ryan Tepera and Bud Norris have been sidelined with right elbow inflammation and forearm fatigue, respectively. Per Davidi, the Blue Jays offered Norris a $100,000 retention bonus to prevent him from opting out of the minor league contract he signed in February.