The Cincinnati Reds opened their second half of the season with a rare trip to Yankee Stadium and were unable to rally against the Yankees who went on to win Friday night 4-3.
The Reds (51-45) loss got them off on the wrong foot in the race for the division crown as Milwaukee (54-43), St. Louis (53-44) and Pittsburgh (50-46) all won. For the Yankees (48-47), the win was overshadowed by the news that pitcher C.C. Sabathia will be done for the season as he is set to undergo knee surgery. Out of the original five starters in the Yankees rotation, only Hiroki Kuroda has managed to avoid the disabled list.
One of the men called upon to fill the starting rotation voids is David Phelps (4-4) who was able to keep the Reds offense off balanced, with the exception of Brayan Pena. Phelps was also aided by early run support against Mike Leake (7-8) who was roughed up for four runs in seven innings. The Yankees also took advantage of the combo of Leake and Devin Mesoraco as they swiped three bases.
Leake's control and those stolen bases set up the first run for the Bronx Bombers. Brett Gardner was hit by a pitch, and then he stole second before being doubled in by Brian McCann. The Reds tried a similar formula against Phelps as Jay Bruce walked, but he was thrown out by McCann attempting to steal second.
While Phelps was able to handle the bulk of the Reds order, the bottom three collected five of the seven hits, the first of which was a solo homer by Pena to tie the game in the third. That tie was brief as Derek Jeter started the rally with a leadoff single and then moved to second on a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. Carlos Beltran drove in Jeter and then he and Ellsbury pulled off a double steal, but Ichiro was unable to do any damage to end the inning.
Cincinnati tied the game in the fourth thanks to some poor defense from the Yankees. Of the three errors New York committed, two of them came in the fourth. Zack Cozart singled to start the inning and then reached safely to second on an error by Brian Roberts. Cozart would score after advancing to third on ground ball and then coming home on a ground ball by Mesoraco, who reached safely after an error by Jeter.
The Reds had a chance to take the lead in the fifth with two men on for Todd Frazier, but instead, the All-Star third baseman struck out looking. That proved costly as the Yankees quickly struck for two as Jeter singled and then trotted home on a two-run blast by Ellsbury for a 4-2 lead.
That score remained until Pena struck again with his second solo homer. Chris Heisey added a single before Phelps retired Ramon Santiago, prompting a pitching change for Joe Girardi. Enter Dellin Bentaces who made his presence known with a failed pick-off attempt of Heisey allowing him to advance to second with one out. Bentaces recovered as Jeter made a fine running catch to retire Billy Hamilton and then Bentaces struck out Cozart to end the threat.
Sam LeCure came on in the eighth to work a 1-2-3 inning of relief to keep the game within reach against Yankee closer David Robertson. Since inheriting the role from Mariano Rivera, Robertson has been equally effective converting 24 of his 26 save chances while allowing just one run in his last 15 appearances. Cincinnati was able to get one runner aboard as Heisey singled with two outs, but Santiago popped out to Jeter to end the game.
The series continues on Saturday as All-Star Alfredo Simon (12-3, 2.70 ERA) takes on Brandon McCarthy (3-10, 4.80 ERA). McCarthy faced the Reds once already this year when he took the loss on May 31 while he was with the Diamondbacks. He was brought over earlier this month to help fill the void at starting pitcher.