Yanks on rise entering homestand opener vs. Reds (Jul 25, 2017)
NEW YORK -- Late in the afternoon of July 9, the New York Yankees went their separate ways for a four-day All-Star break following another frustrating loss.
The Yankees stumbled into the break with 17 losses in 25 games but returned with a somewhat successful 11-game trip. They are feeling better about things as they begin a nine-game homestand Tuesday night with the opener of a two-game series against the Cincinnati Reds.
New York was 38-23 following a 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Angels on June 12, but the next night they started their slide out of first place in the American League East. During their 25-game stretch before the break, the Yankees lost 13 times by three runs or fewer mostly due to bullpen struggles.
On the just-completed trip, the Yankees won six times, with five of those victories occurring by three runs or fewer. Among the reasons: a revamped bullpen that now includes David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.
Although the Yankees lost twice on walk-offs during the trip, the bullpen pitched well, posting 1.76 ERA. The bullpen's most notable appearances were nine scoreless innings in a 4-1, 16-inning win at Boston on July 15 and 5 1/3 scoreless innings Sunday during 6-4 win at Seattle.
"I felt like we played pretty good baseball," Yankees first baseman Chase Headley said. "We were struggling up until the All-Star break, so it's nice to get a series win against a (Seattle) team that's right in the swing of it, too. It's a good start to the second half."
Sunday marked the first time the Yankees won a series since their three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium from June 9-11. Despite going over a month without winning a series, the Yankees are in a decent position in the AL East standings and the crowded wild-card race.
"Everybody knows we had the rough few weeks, but we've still got to stay positive and find our way like we are right now to head in the right direction," Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said. "From now on, it should be the right direction."
New York's first home game in more than two weeks also will see a slightly new look to the Yankees lineup involving two players with the same last name.
Clint Frazier has played well enough to remain as the starting left fielder as Brett Gardner starts in center field while Jacoby Ellsbury comes off the bench. Frazier was 11-for-37 (.298) on the trip and is hitting .295 overall.
Todd Frazier, acquired from the Chicago White Sox in a trade last week, is the new everyday third baseman, moving Headley to first base. So far, Frazier is 4-for-17 (.235) with the Yankees and is hitting .203 overall as he faces the team that drafted him in the first round 10 years ago.
"We've got a good team here," Frazier said. "We've got a great team. We've got guys that are just looking to win. I can't get wait to get home and keeping winning these series."
While the Yankees were satisfied about their first 11 games after the All-Star break, the Reds are struggling.
Cincinnati went into the break with nine wins in 15 games, but the Reds allowed 72 runs in a 2-8 homestand, then were handed a 6-2 loss Monday in a makeup game at Cleveland.
Joey Votto stopped an 0-for-14 skid with a single but is 4-for-35 (.114) in his past 11 games, lowering his average from .315 to .298.
After the Reds got five hits Monday, they are batting .227 (82-for-361) since the All-Star break.
"We need to pick it up offensively," Cincinnati manager Bryan Price said. "We're a better team than we've shown in the second half."
The Tuesday pitching matchup will feature rookies with varying degrees of experience as New York's Jordan Montgomery makes his 19th start while Cincinnati's Luis Castillo makes his seventh start.
Montgomery (6-5, 4.09 ERA) is 4-2 with a 3.63 ERA in his past 11 starts, though he will be looking to rebound from a sub-par outing in Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon. Montgomery allowed six runs with two outs in the second inning, including a three-run homer to Miguel Sano, but retired his final 10 hitters to last six innings. He pitched at least six innings for the ninth time.
Castillo pitched twice on the Reds' homestand and produced a 5.25 ERA in losses to the Washington Nationals and Arizona Diamondbacks. He last pitched Thursday in a 12-2 loss to Arizona when he allowed four runs and four hits in six innings in a game in which he retired 18 of his final 20 hitters.
The teams split a pair of meetings May 8-9 in Cincinnati. The Yankees are 9-8 in the all-time series, and they swept a three-game series from the Reds from July 18-20, 2014.
Votto missed the 2014 series in New York with a quadriceps injury and was 1-for-10 when the teams met in 2012 at Yankee Stadium.