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Breyvic Valera makes mental error, then singles in Yankees debut

Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier, right, steals second

Tampa Bay Rays' Kevin Kiermaier, right, steals second base, beating the throw to New York Yankees' Breyvic Valera, left, during the fifth inning of a baseball game Sunday, July 7, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. Credit: AP/Scott Audette

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Breyvic Valera, called up Sunday to start at second base for the Yankees, made his presence known immediately — and

not in a good way.

The 27-year-old switch hitter, who has consistently beaten up Triple-A pitching since the Yankees claimed him off waivers from the Giants on May 12, failed to cover second on Tommy Pham’s line-drive hit in the first inning, which turned an RBI single into a double. Pham eventually scored to make it 2-0, a crucial run in the Yankees’ 2-1 loss.

“Hard-hit ball through the middle of the diamond, when there’s going to be a play at the plate, obviously the first baseman’s the cut man and the second baseman’s got to go to first, which Valera did,” Boone said. “But once there’s going to be no play, you kind of have to drift back and be on the bag there. It was heads up by Pham, but we obviously have to have that covered up.”

It wasn’t all bad for Valera, who has a .348/.419/.564 slash line, nine homers and 31 RBIs in 50 games with Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He singled in his first at-bat in the third and made a couple of nice plays in the field, including a diving stop of Avisail Garcia’s ground smash up the middle, holding him to an infield single and perhaps saving a run.

“Thought he had some good at-bats, obviously had the hit, almost had another one,” Boone said. “Thought he acquitted himself well at the plate.”

Rough go for Gary

Gary Sanchez, the American League’s starting catcher in Tuesday’s All-Star Game, went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts and enters the break in a 6-for-51 slide that includes 20 strikeouts.

“Missing his pitch a little bit,” Boone said before Sunday’s game. “I feel he’s getting his ‘A’ swing off a lot, but when he has taken a good swing over the last couple of weeks, it’s more been fouled back instead of putting [it] in play with authority.”

Extra bases

The Yankees’ 1-5 hitters were 1-for-19 with 11 strikeouts . . . The Yankees homered in 76 of 88 games in the first half, including 36 of their last 37.

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