Monday, June 29, 2015

Yankees weekend news wrap: Series split, Gardner, Ellsbury and Miller

The New York Yankees were probably happy to leave Houston with a split of their four-game series with the first-place Astros, but the feeling that they could have gained a series victory might sit in their minds as well.

In reality, the Astros could be the ones kicking themselves. They actually had the second game of the series in hand as well, leading 2-0 after six innings. If it wasn’t for Chris Young’s three-run homer in the seventh inning the Yanks might have dropped the series.

In Sunday’s finale, Michael Pineda was locked into a duel with Collin McHugh. The Yankees had a slight 1-0 lead and then their defense let them down again as Brett Gardner and Garrett Jones allowed an easy fly ball to drop in front of them. The ball was then kicked by Gardner, rolled to the wall and allowed Carlos Correa to round the bases and tie the score. This fed McHugh, who became virtually untouchable from that point on.

Now the whole game cannot be blamed on the one play as Pineda was hit hard in the seventh and eighth in which he allowed a run in each frame. The offense was the culprit here and besides the Young homer Friday and the nine runs scored in the third game of the series, the bats were relatively quiet.

It's not Gardner’s fault

The sleeping offense was not due to Brett Gardner’s play. He has been absolutely on fire over his last 10 games (22-for-45 with 15 runs, five doubles, four homers and 11 RBI) and went 6-for-13 with three doubles and three runs scored in the series. Gardner has a 1.026 OPS for the month of June. Hopefully, he can continue to produce close to these results when Jacoby Ellsbury returns.

Speaking of Ellsbury…

The Yankees’ center fielder passed his tests while with the team this past weekend and was headed for Tampa to begin a rehab assignment. The club hopes he can be ready for the Yankees’ homestand which begins Friday.

Ellsbury, who has been on the disabled list since May 19, was firing on all cylinders before injuring his knee. He was hitting .324 with 29 runs scored and 14 stolen bases.

While Gardner has proven (yet again) that he can handle the role of leadoff hitter, the pair was performing wonderfully at the top of the Yankees’ order. It seemed at least one of the two of them was getting on base or even both of them were doing so on a regular basis providing the Yankees with plenty of run-scoring opportunities.

Getting Ellsbury back should also solidify the outfield defense.

Another player on the mend

Finally, the Yankees are hoping to get closer Andrew Miller back into the bullpen soon. Wednesday, Miller threw for the first time since hitting the DL. The next step would be getting onto the mound before starting a rehab assignment of his own.

Losing Miller has left the Yankees bullpen feeling short in tight games. It might have played a role in Sunday’s game as Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances were all unavailable because they pitched in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.

Once Miller comes back the four pitchers form a top-flight back-end of the bullpen and gives Yankees manager Joe Girardi an easier time of mixing up their workload.

What’s next?

The Yankees (41-35) head to Anaheim to face the Los Angeles Angels (39-37) for a three-game set.

The pitching matchups:

Monday – CC Sabathia (3-7, 5.65 ERA) versus C.J. Wilson (5-6, 3.92 ERA)
Tuesday – Ivan Nova (1-0, 0.00 ERA) versus Andrew Heaney (0-0, 1.50 ERA)
Wednesday – Adam Warren (5-5, 3.59 ERA) versus Matt Shoemaker (4-6, 5.06 ERA)

The Yankees swept the Angels earlier this month (Sabathia and Warren earned wins), but they have had a rough time at Angel Stadium in seasons’ past. The Yankees will look to pick up at least a couple of wins to stay close in the American League East standings. They begin play Monday in third place, but just one-half game back of the first-place Baltimore Orioles.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.