NEW YORK -- "Ballgame over, the Yankees win. Thu-uuuuuuugh Yankees win!"

It had been nine days and seven games since longtime play-by-play man John Sterling had put his unique exclamation point on a New York Yankees victory. At the end of Wednesday's 8-4 triumph over the Los Angeles Angels, Sterling could have amended his call and belted out, "Thu-uuuuuuugh Yankees finally win!"

The Yankees had lost seven games in a row, so they were due for a little success. They got it, and with the Boston Red Sox's meltdown in Kansas City, the Yankees, even after winning just their first game since June 12 in Anaheim, are atop the AL East.

"It is nice," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It's been a frustrating week."

It appears as if it will be a dogfight in the East, because just five games separate first from last, meaning that winning the division will be difficult, but it also might result in the clubs knocking each other around so much that their wild-card spots are put in jeopardy.

Didi GregoriusJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesDidi Gregorius' two-run homer in the second inning got the Yankees off to a needed good start.

The Tampa Bay Rays are playing above .500 ball. The Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, who have alternated between hot and cold, sit around that mark. The Yankees had been so good that they were able to have winning amnesia for a week's worth of games and still maintain their perch just a half-game above the Red Sox, who probably have the most ready-to-win roster.

Girardi revealed his hand about the importance of Wednesday’s game when he had Dellin Betances warming up for what would have been a two-inning outing. The Yankees, though, scored three runs in the sixth to break open the game, allowing Girardi to save Betances for just the eighth.

The Yankees still have issues that need to be resolved. The bullpen, save for Betances and Aroldis Chapman, is a mess. Tyler Clippard is supposed to be the team's seventh-inning man, but he couldn't even mop up Wednesday.

Girardi was just trying to get a clean inning from Clippard in the ninth to restore his confidence, but instead Clippard faced two batters, allowing a double and a homer, before Girardi summoned Chapman for the final three outs in a non-save situation.

First base is also an issue. Matt Holliday played it Wednesday and hit the go-ahead homer in the fifth. However, Girardi is hesitant to play him there consistently, because Holliday, 37, stiffens up if he stands on the infield all day.

During the pregame, Girardi all but declared that he has zero confidence in Chris Carter anymore. Carter, batting .201, is the regular first baseman as the Yankees wait for Greg Bird to finally heal. Bird had a cortisone shot in his bruised ankle, which the Yankees hope will allow him to resume rehab in hopes he can be the answer at first. The Yankees do not see reason to bring up prospect Tyler Austin in the interim.

Wednesday was not a night to dwell on all the issues, though. Rookie Jordan Montgomery pitched well enough to hand the lead to the bullpen. The offense, which received a two-run home run from Didi Gregorius in the second and an Austin Romine two-run double in the sixth, did enough to allow the Yankees to feel good about themselves again.

The Yankees won. They finally won!video

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NEW YORK -- Didi Gregorius and Matt Holliday each hit a go-ahead homer and New York piled on from there, lifting the Yankees over the Los Angeles Angels 8-4 on Wednesday night to snap a season-high seven-game losing streak.

New York's skid was its longest since 2007. The Yankees haven't lost eight straight since August 1995. They moved back ahead of Boston for first place in the AL East a night after losing the division lead for the first time since mid-May.

Jordan Montgomery (5-4) pitched two-run ball over 5 2/3 innings. Relievers Chad Green and Dellin Betances got the ball to Tyler Clippard in the ninth, but Clippard allowed a two-run homer to Martin Maldonado, his second of the game. Aroldis Chapman came on to close out.

Ricky Nolasco (2-9) lost his seventh consecutive start to match George Brunet's franchise record from 1967. The right-hander allowed the homers to Holliday and Gregorius, and has given up 23 long balls this season, tied for the major league lead with Cincinnati's Bronson Arroyo.


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Matt Holliday hits a go-ahead solo home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead over the Angels.
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Didi Gregorius smacks a 2-run home run in the bottom of the second inning that lands in the second deck in right field.

Jacoby EllsburyAP Photo/Gail BurtonThe Yankees said they will see how Jacoby Ellsbury responds to Wednesday's workout and proceed from there.

NEW YORK -- Jacoby Ellsbury took batting practice and ran the bases Wednesday, and the New York Yankees are hoping to "turn him loose" soon, according to general manager Brian Cashman.

Ellsbury has been out since May 24 with a concussion. The Yankees planned to see how the center fielder responded to hitting and running Wednesday before determining the next course of action, but the hope is he can resume baseball activities soon.

Ellsbury's first attempt to return from his concussion over two weeks ago was shut down when he began experiencing headaches again, so the Yankees are being cautious.

"First and foremost, we have to see how he responds in the next three to six days," Cashman said Wednesday before a game against the Los Angeles Angels.

The Yankees also announced that first baseman Greg Bird received a cortisone shot to treat a bruised right ankle. Bird's minor league rehab assignment was cut short after he went 3-for-21 with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre from June 1 to 4. He hasn't played for the Yankees since May 1, and is batting .100 with just one homer in 19 major league games this season.


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NEW YORK --- With a seven-game losing streak freshly on his back and his team no longer occupying first place, New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi was not in the endorsement mood. So when he was asked if Chris Carter was still his first baseman, Girardi didn't exactly give it the old college try.

"That's what we have," Girardi said.

Imagine your boss saying that. How's Jim doing in accounting?

"That's what we have."

Or your wife. How is Bob as a husband?

"That's what we have."

Tyler ClippardFrank Franklin II/APTyler Clippard was shelled in the seventh as the Yankees continued their skid.

Girardi was in no mood to defend Carter, who is hitting .201 with eight home runs, 66 strikeouts in 159 at-bats and who made one crucial error Tuesday.

Carter isn't the Yankees' biggest problem, though. It's the pitching. They don't have enough of it, which is going to make outlasting the first-place Boston Red Sox in the AL East quite difficult unless they make some deals or perhaps bring up top prospect Chance Adams.

Boston's lead is just a half-game, so it is nothing to fret over yet. However, if you believe the preseason prognostications about the Red Sox -- "the Golden State Warriors of baseball," according to the Yankees GM Brian Cashman this winter -- are correct and that Boston's roster is deeper, it is an ominous sign.

The Yankees are doing the opposite of what they had done up to about a week ago. They are finding a way to lose. On Tuesday, when they took their seventh straight loss, it was Tyler Clippard who imploded for three runs in the seventh in an 8-3 loss to the Mike Trout-less and .500 Los Angeles Angels.

"It is super frustrating," Clippard said.

Girardi seemed to be considering removing Clippard from the seventh-inning role. He failed to get the ball to Dellin Betances and Aroldis Chapman. With Adam Warren due back soon, Girardi might have Clippard figure himself out in lower-leverage situations.

The problem for the Yankees right now is that Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez can't pitch, as far are we know. They sure can hit though.

Their pure power is something to behold. In the fifth, Judge did that thing where he doesn't get all of the ball but hits it really high. Even going the opposite way, his pure strength is enough to lift the ball over the fence for his major league-best 24th homer.

Sanchez also has special power, so he matched Judge an inning later, going the opposite way for his 12th homer of the season. That tied the score before Clippard's meltdown.

The problems that are emerging can't be ignored. Michael Pineda was OK but not good enough, allowing three runs (one earned) in 5T innings, as his defense -- read the increasingly-unpopular-in-the-Bronx Carter -- let him down.

By the time Clippard entered, the score was tied. Clippard faltered, and the Yankees no longer have the lead in the AL East, though Girardi said he believes.

"I don't think the first 60 games were an accident," Girardi said. "We played pretty well during those games. Every team goes through their down periods. That's the bottom line. It can be for a lot of different reasons. I like that club in there."

He doesn't seem crazy about first base. Greg Bird is hurt again and was seeing a specialist about his leg issues. Tyler Austin could be an option to replace Carter.

But it is not the offense that is the problem long term. It is the pitching -- from Pineda not being good enough to Clippard being really bad. It is what Girardi has, which is not too good at the moment.video

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NEW YORK -- Cameron Maybin hit a tiebreaking home run off struggling reliever Tyler Clippard to spark a three-run seventh inning, and the Los Angeles Angels beat New York 8-3 Tuesday night to extend the Yankees' losing streak to seven games -- their longest in a single season since April 2007.

Aaron Judge hit his major league-leading 24th home run and Gary Sanchez his 12th as New York climbed back from a 3-0 deficit.

But then Cameron drove the second pitch from Clippard (1-4) into the left-field seats, Kole Calhoun doubled to the right-center gap, Albert Pujols flied out to the center-field warning track and Yunel Escobar hit an RBI triple just over the glove of a leaping Brett Gardner at the left-field wall.

Clippard walked off to boos after allowing runs for the third time in four outings.


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Cameron Maybin's solo shot in the seventh puts the Angels up 4-3.
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Aaron Judge hits his 24th home run and cuts the Angels lead to 3-2.

NEW YORK -- Yankees manager Joe Girardi thinks the rule preventing runners from bowling over catchers has led to injuries like the one sustained by top New York prospect Gleyber Torres, who will miss the rest of the season because of a torn elbow ligament.

A 20-year-old infielder, Torres was hurt Saturday on a slide into home plate for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at Buffalo. New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek will operate Wednesday to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament in Torres' non-throwing left arm.

"It just seems like players are forgetting how to slide today," Girardi said Tuesday. "I think slides have become a lot more creative at home plate because catchers don't block the plate, and now I'm starting to rethink the rule, thinking the baserunners are the ones really at risk here because you see more guys slide in headfirst than ever before."

Baseball adopted the anti-collision rule ahead of the 2014 season. Los Angeles Angels star outfielder Mike Trout, the AL MVP, tore a thumb ligament during a headfirst slide into second base on May 28. Yankees rookie star Aaron Judge has slid headfirst into the plate this year.

"They see a corner of the bag. They think can manipulate their body to score the run," Girardi said. "And every time I see a guy slide headfirst, I cringe, just because you worry about the hands, you worry about the shoulders."

Girardi doesn't expect many players to suddenly change and slide feet first.

"The only thing that would work is if baseball came out and said headfirst was illegal," he said, "because you're asking someone to take the competitiveness out of them that helped them to get to that point, and that's not going to happen."

Torres is expected to be ready for spring training. Acquired from the Cubs last July in the trade that sent closer Aroldis Chapman


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Yankees slugger Aaron Judge, who leads the major leagues with 24 home runs, has been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby.Photo by Elsa/Getty ImagesYankees slugger Aaron Judge, who leads the major leagues with 24 home runs, has been invited to participate in the Home Run Derby.

NEW YORK -- Yankees rookie sensation Aaron Judge has been invited to participate in next month's Home Run Derby.

Judge said Tuesday that he received the invitation last week through his agent but had not yet decided whether to accept.

The 25-year-old outfielder, a towering presence at 6-foot-7, tops the major leagues with 24 home runs after connecting Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels. He is second in the American League with a .333 batting average and 54 RBIs.

"I'm going to think about it for a while," Judge said. "Just haven't honestly thought about. I'm more focused on what I can do for the team right now, and we'll see what I decide to do."

The derby will be held at Marlins Park in Miami on July 10. The Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton is the defending champion after winning last year at San Diego's Petco Park.

Judge had thought about what it would be like to swing in the slugger smashathon.

"Never really dreamed that it would actually happen. It was pretty surreal," he said.


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NEW YORK -- New York Yankees right-hander Matt Marsh and Minnesota Twins left-hander Cam Booser have each been suspended for 50 games under baseball's minor league drug program following second positive tests for a drug of abuse.

The 25-year-old Marsh is 2-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 10 relief appearances this season during two stints at Double-A Trenton around five appearances for Class A Tampa, where he went 1-0 while pitching seven scoreless innings.

Booser, who also is 25, has allowed one run over three games and 2 2/3 innings this year at Class A Fort Myers.

Both penalties were announced Monday by Major League Baseball.

There have been 43 suspensions this year under the minor league drug program and two under the big league program: Pittsburgh All-Star outfielder Starling Marte and Philadelphia pitcher Elniery Garcia.


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NEW YORK -- New York Yankees third baseman Chase Headley basically is the same player as Scott Brosius. Brosius is beloved by Yankees fans because he was the third baseman for three of the club's championship teams at the end of the last century. Meanwhile, Headley has played on Yankee teams that have appeared in one playoff game.

Yankees fans do not seem to hold the same admiration for Headley as they did for Brosius. But that is nothing some postseason magic couldn’t change for Headley.

It appears Headley is safe to possibly have that chance now that the Yankees’ top infield prospect, Gleyber Torres, is out for the rest of the year because he needs Tommy John surgery on his left elbow. It is just a minor bump in the 20-year-old Torres' development -- as minor as Tommy John surgery can be.

Chase HeadleyJim McIsaac/Getty ImagesChase Headley hasn't had much of a chance to make a name for himself with the Yankees in the postseason. That may change this year.

The injury is to his non-throwing arm, and it will just slow him down for this season, meaning Gleyber-mania won’t take off on the major league level until perhaps this time next year.

That means Headley continues to have the chance he wants to win a championship and pick up one of those memorable career-changing moments, as Brosius had a few times, or as Aaron Boone famously had when he redeemed his disappointing 2003 season with one swing of the bat to end the American League Championship Series with a walk-off homer against the Boston Red Sox.

Yankees GM Brian Cashman disagreed with the narrative that Torres was being groomed to replace Headley. The Yankees have moved Torres, a natural shortstop, to third and second at times in the minors this season, since Didi Gregorius is blocking Torres at short. Torres, hitting .385 over the past 10 games in Triple-A, was making his case for promotion stronger each day. Yankees officials in and out of uniform told ESPN.com that they thought Torres would be up by the end of July. But Cashman disagreed that Torres was right around the corner.

“Chase Headley is playing third base for us,” Cashman said. “We are not trying to replace Chase Headley.”

During what had turned into Gleyber-mania, Cashman recently went out of his way to say that Tyler Wade -- another top prospect, though not thought of on the same level as Torres -- would be the next infielder brought up, if a need arose.

Cashman has been around New York a long time and knows the best approach is shooting straight, so you have to take his word to heart. However, if Torres had continued to dominate Triple-A pitching and picked up the finer points of third base, it is hard to believe the Yankees would not have reached to Scranton for a jolt of energy over the final months.

The Yankees -- whose minor league depth is among the best in baseball -- promoted Miguel Andujar from Double-A to Triple-A to replace the injured Torres. While anyone at Double-A or Triple-A can be called up if there is an injury or need, Andujar is not on the radar as an upgrade over Headley.

That leaves Headley with a chance to have a special moment or two. Headley, 33, is a likable guy. He was the valedictorian of his high school, a star for the University of Tennessee, and an All-Star with the San Diego Padres. He is very accountable.

His career with the Yankees has been up and down, though his demeanor hasn’t changed. He has maintained he was not thinking about Torres replacing him. He was backed up by Cashman.

We will never know the full truth of what would have happened if Torres hadn’t slid awkwardly into home this past weekend. But this is for certain: Headley, barring an injury of his own, will have the chance to redefine his Yankee career.

Brosius had a .744 OPS in his career, while Headley's is .742. Brosius had the good luck of playing with Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera in their prime. Headley has Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez perhaps leading the way. Third base looks like Headley’s for good in 2017. Now he just needs a little magic.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Aaron Judge
BA HR RBI R
.331 24 54 61
OTHER LEADERS
HRA. Judge 24
RBIA. Judge 54
RA. Judge 61
OPSA. Judge 1.132
WC. Sabathia 7
ERAL. Severino 2.99
SOL. Severino 90