CC Wins No. 17 As Yankees Power Past Twins

GAME 122

YANKEES 8, TWINS 4

CC Sabathia came to Target Field on Thursday to get his pitches back on target.

After the first two innings it looked as if he hadn’t. But the ace left-hander settled down and he left the game after seven innings with a lead to pick up his 17th victory as New York defeated Minnesota.

Sabathia, who entered the game having given up 12 runs over 14 innings in his last two starts, was handed an early 1-0 lead in the second inning on a Brett Gardner sacrifice fly. However, Sabathia handed it right back to the Twins by giving up two runs in the second.

Up to that point Sabathia had been tagged for four hits and a walk. It could have been even worse if a first-inning home run call in favor of Justin Morneau had not been reversed by the umpiring crew on replay as a foul ball. Joe Mauer was on first and it would have been a two-run home run if the call had stood.

But home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora reviewed the call, determined the ball was foul and sent Mauer back to first. Twins manager Ron Gardnehire immediately argued the reversal and O’Nora ejected him from the game. It is the second straight night the Yankees have been involved in controversial home run reviewed by the umpires.

Sabathia (17-7) settled down to retire the last two batters in the second and then 12 of the next 15 batters he faced before he was touched for two runs in the seventh inning. Sabathia ended up surrendering four runs (three earned) on nine hits and a walk and he fanned nine batters.

The Yankees, meanwhile, were much more effective in roughing up Twins left-hander Brian Duensing (8-12).

They reclaimed the 1-0 lead Sabthia gave up in the second when Curtis Granderson led off the third inning with a triple to left-center. He scored when Mark Teixeira blasted his 33rd home run of the season into the left-field bleachers.

The Yankees then again used the long ball to extend their lead in the fifth. Teixera opened the inning with a double down the left-field line. One out later, Nick Swisher blasted his 15th home run of the season into the left-field seats. Andruw Jones followed that with a titanic solo shot, his eighth of the season, into the second deck in the left-field bleachers to give the Yankees a 6-2 edge.

Duensing gave up six runs on 10 hits and a walk and fanned one over five innings.

Sabathia opened the seventh by giving up a single Tsuyoshi Nishioka and Drew Butera moved Nishioka to third with a single to left. Ben Revere plated Nishioka with a single to right and then Eduardo Nunez botched an infield grounder by Trevor Plouffe to load the bases with no outs.

Sabathia gave up a sac fly to Mauer that scored Butera and drew the Twins to within two runs. However, Morneau flew out to right and Robinson Cano saved Sabathia a run — and possibly the game — by making a diving stop of Jim Thome’s hard-hit grounder. Cano was playing deep but had to dive headlong to stop the ball. He got up and threw out Thome to end the Twins’ threat.

The Yankees tacked on two runs in the ninth off reliever Matt Capps. Capps entered the game with two outs in the inning and walked Jones. Nunez doubled to left-center to advance Jones to third. Francisco Cervelli then hit a 2-2 pitch down the line and off third baseman Danny Valencia’s glove to score Jones and Nunez to pad the Yankees’ lead to four.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 75-47 and they maintained their half-game lead in the American League East over the Boston Red Sox. The Twins fell to 54-69.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira reached base four times with a home run, a double and two walks. His home run drew him to within one of teammate Curtis Granderson for second place in the major leagues at 34. Teixeira’s two RBIs on the night give him 91 for the season. Teixeira has not failed to hit 30 home runs and drive in 100 runs in a season since his rookie season in 2003. With nine more RBIs he will have eight straight seasons of hitting those benchmarks.
  • Swisher’s home run was his first since he hit a home run in each part of a day-night doubleheader against the Orioles on July 30. Though Swisher hit a robust .323 in July, He has cooled off considerably in August, hitting .263 with one home run and five RBIs.
  • Granderson was 3-for-5 in the game with a triple and two singles. He also scored his major-league-leading 112th run. He also leads the American League in triples with 10. But Granderson also displayed some fielding prowess with two outfield assists in the first two innings. In the first he cut off a drive in left-center by Plouffe and threw Plouffe out at second base trying to stretch a single into a double. The next inning Granderson had a line drive off the bat of Butera hit off the bottom of his glove, which scored the Twins’ second run of the inning. But, Granderson picked up the ball and fired to Derek Jeter to retire Nishioka, who ran back to first thinking Granderson had caught the ball. Butera was robbed of a hit because the play was scored a fielder’s choice.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Despite Sabathia’s victory, he did not pitch well for the third straight game. In his last three starts, Sabathia has given up 16 runs (15 earned) on 29 hits and two walks in 22 innings. That is an ERA of 6.14 and a walks-to-innings-pitched ratio (WHIP) of 1.41. Command of the fastball seems to be biggest issue. Sabathia is leaving pitches up in the strike zone or missing altogether. It is a concern because the Yankees have just 40 games left in the regular season.
  • Gardner was the only starter without a hit in the game but he did contribute the sac fly in the second that started the scoring for the Yankees. Though he is hitting .295 for the month, Gardner is suddenly hitless in his last nine at-bats.
  • Nunez made yet another error. This one was pretty inexplicable. He caught the bouncer off the bat of Plouffe but dropped the ball as he moved to third to force out Butera. It is his 16th error of the season and he leads the Yankees by far in that category.

BOMBER BANTER

Former Yankee manager and current executive vice president of baseball operations Joe Torre said Thursday that an umpire misinterpreted the ground rules at Kauffman Stadium in awarding a home run to Billy Butler of the Royals the previous nigh in a game against the Yankees. Butler lined a ball that hit off the left-field wall and was ruled a home run. Girardi disputed the home run and the umpires reviewed the call by use of instant replay. But crew chief Dana DeMuth misunderstood the ground rules in awarding the home run to Kansas City, who ended up winning the game 5-4. Girardi did not protest the game before a pitch was made to the next batter and therefore the call will stand, Torre said. Of course, had Girardi protested the game it still would be a moot point and the Yankees would have just received an apology letter from Major League Baseball.  . . .   Freddy Garcia had his bullpen session pushed back a day to Friday. Garcia, who has a cut on a finger of his right hand, will throw on Friday and it is looking unlikely he will be able to start in the series against the Twins this weekend.  . . .  Alex Rodriguez rejoined the Yankees on Thursday but he was not activated and looks as if he will not play until at least Saturday. Rodriguez has been sidelined since having surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees continue their four-game series with the Twins on Friday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (3-4, 6.55 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes pitched his best game of the season against the Rays last week, allowing two runs in six innings. He is 3-3 with a 4.28 ERA since returning from the disabled list in July. He is 0-0 with a 3.68 ERA in his career against the Twins.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Kevin Slowey (0-0, 4.91 ERA). Slowey will be making his first start of season because his scheduled start Sunday against the Indians was rained out. He is 1-1 with a 4.56 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be at 8:10 p.m EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

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