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NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 29: Didi Gregorius #18 of the New York Yankees celebrates after hitting a game winning two-run home run in the bottom of the ninth inning against the Texas Rangers at Yankee Stadium on June 29, 2016 in the Bronx borough of New York City. Yankees defeated the Rangers 9-7 (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Late inning shenanigans: Yankees vs Rangers series recap

Back and forth above and below the .500 mark the Yankees go.  So seems the story of the season to this point.  They have played to their competition thus far.  A real test will come this week to see if there is any reason to believe that they can contend the rest of the way as the AL West leading Texas Rangers come to town for four games.  The Rangers are tied with the Cubs and Giants for the most wins in baseball currently.

The long and short of it

The Yankees began the top of the ninth inning Monday night with a one run lead and Aroldis Chapman on the mound and ended it some 3 1/2 hours later with Kirby Yates on the mound and a 9-6 deficit.  That had to be one of the more unusual ways this team has found to lose a game this season.  The Yankees saw leads evaporate three different times in the opening game loss to the first place Rangers.  Once again, can’t get it done against top level competition.

Ivan Nova was pretty meh once again.  It’s pretty obvious that something has to be done to stop the bleeding with him.  Hello Chad Green, next stop Yankee Stadium.  Nova’s ERA has ballooned to 5.32 after giving up six hits and four runs in 5 innings of work.  His command just isn’t there.  For most of the night it seemed the offense was going to pick up Nova.  But after Andrew Miller gave up a solo home run to Rougned Odor in the eighth and Chapman walked the leadoff batter during a downpour to start the ninth, Yates would be called on to try to get the last three outs after the delay.

A strikeout of Shin-Soo Choo would get things off to a good start for Yates, but then he managed to go HBP, HBP, single, HBP, fly out, single and the Rangers suddenly had scored four runs.  Yates is another that should be on his way out of town.  A 5.72 ERA on the season and 12.79 in his last seven outings??  You can’t be a contender with that in your bullpen.

The offense managed 16 hits for the game, but only 2 of them went for extra bases.  Didi Gregorius with a double and Mark Teixeira with a solo home run, both in the seventh inning, were the only power swings of the night.  Plenty of base runners, but nobody to drive them home.

A frustrating loss for the home team dropped them 8.0 games back of the streaking Baltimore Orioles.  C.C. Sabathia will try to get things back on track on Tuesday night against Cole Hamels.

The yo-yo ride continues

The Yankee offense stayed true to its yo-yo ways on Tuesday night as apparently they were out “walking the dog” instead of digging into the batters box at the Stadium.  The lack of offensive support was hardly a surprise with Sabathia on the mound.  He pitched well for seven innings, but probably never should have come out for the eighth.  Ahh, good old hindsight.  Anthony Swarzak made matters worse after relieving Sabathia, allowing both inherited runners to score and one of his own for good measure.  It all added up to an ugly 7-1 loss.

Sabathia struggled a bit in the first couple of innings, a two-run home run from Adrian Beltre supplying the damage for the Rangers.  After that, the big lefthander settled down and pitched very well through the seventh.  Showing a good pitch mix and probably the highest average velocity of his season, he only allowed three baserunners after the first inning.  Unfortunately, the six earned runs in his line didn’t reflect this effort.

A sacrifice fly from Alex Rodriguez in the eighth inning accounted for the lone Yankee run.  Adding insult to injury, Carlos Beltran would leave the game in the first inning after stopping at first base on what would have normally been a double to left field.  Beltran grabbed his hamstring and is listed as day-to-day.  Hamels was too much for the offense as he spread six hits over seven innings of work, while striking out seven.

The season is starting to appear as a dance around mediocrity for the club.  They play well against below .500 teams, not so well against above .500 clubs.  A contender, that is not.  Masahiro Tanaka will try to keep alive any hope of a series split on Wednesday night.

And then a comeback happened

It’s not too often you see a team score six times in the bottom of the ninth for a walk off win, but over the course of 162 games some crazy things happen.  These two teams have been on both sides of the ball in this series as far as weird late inning happenings go.

Tanaka definitely did not have his best stuff on Wednesday night.  After allowing a run in the second, things kind of fell apart in the third as the Rangers plated five.  Tanaka was leaving pitches up in the zone and the Rangers made him pay.  A solo home run from Odor in the sixth would set his final line at 6 IP, 8 hits, 6 runs, and 7 strikeouts.  After Beltre left the yard against Luis Cessa in the eighth to make it 7-2, thoughts of just trying to avoid a sweep on Thursday had to be going through everyone’s mind.  The Yankees would put those thoughts to rest with one of the best half innings of the 2016 season.

Brian McCann would hit a solo home run to pull the club within 7-3 in the eighth.  A bloop single and a walk followed up by an RBI single from Gardner brought home the first run of the ninth.  That would bring up McCann who got a fastball in his wheelhouse and parked it in the right field seats to tie the game.  A walk to Starlin Castro, which is news in itself, would set up Didi to be the ultimate hero.

So, an almost certain loss turned into one of the crazier finishes of the year.  Cessa pitched well for three innings out of the bullpen to get the win and the offense came through at the last minute to bail out Tanaka.  Fun times.  At least for one night.  It always amazes me how difficult getting all 27 outs can be sometimes.  So, instead of trying to avoid a sweep tomorrow, the Yankees will be gunning for a split of the four games with the reinvigorated Michael Pineda on the mound on getaway day.

When one walk off is not enough

Pineda put on quite a show on Thursday and it took that and a shutout performance from the bullpen to give the Yankees a chance in the end.  Pineda would strikeout 12 Rangers batters in 6 innings of 2 hit baseball.  One of the two hits was a leadoff home run to Choo to start the game.  Big Mike seems to have figured out his mechanics issues from earlier in the season.

Pineda had quite a June as he turned in a 2.75 ERA in six starts.  Yesterday, he had the slider going and put to rest his earlier nemesis of getting batters out after having two strikes on them.  His past two starts have both ended up with two hit efforts.  Not too shabby.  Betances, Miller, and Chapman would be up to their usual standard as they would strike out four in 3.0 innings of work.

The offense could get very little going against A.J. Griffin as a Gregorius fifth inning home run would provide the scoring until the ninth.  0-for-5 with runners in scoring position with 8 total left on base.  This would include Gardner grounding out with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.  At least the pitching was up to par on this day.

After Chapman worked around a leadoff single in the ninth, the Yankee heroics were not set up by their bats.  Headley would work a leadoff walk and be sacrificed to second.  Aaron Hicks would also walk and a Castro ground out would put runners at second and third and set up one of the stranger walk offs you will see.  One without a hit.

So the dance continues, as the Yankees find themselves at 39-39 after the split.  Still 8.0 games behind the Orioles.  They will head to the West Coast for a weekend set with the San Diego Padres.