YANKEES 4, REDS 0
It took 39-year-old Andy Pettitte to figure out what a starting pitcher with the New York Yankees has to do win a game when his team’s hitters are incapable of hitting with the runners in scoring position and are spending most of the month in the baseball equivalent of the Heimlech Maneuver: You pitch your freaking butt off and throw a shutout.
In his second major-league start since coming out of retirement, that is pretty much what it took as Pettitte twirled eight innings of scoreless and surgical baseball, giving up four singles, walking one and striking nine to win his first game since a July 8, 2010 victory over the Seattle Mariners.
Pettitte (1-1) flashed vintage form on Friday to navigate his way though a Reds lineup that has been struggling just as much as the Yankees have lately as New York blanked Cincinnati in an interleague game at Yankee Stadium.
Pettitte’s lone run of early support came in the fourth inning when Curtis Granderson led off the frame with a lined single to center. Robinson Cano followed with a hard bouncing single to right that momentarily bounced of the glove of Jay Bruce. Granderson reached third base easily, however, in a scene all to familiar to Yankee fans, Cano was cut down trying to stretch the hit on a throw from Bruce to shortstop Zack Cozart.
Alex Rodriguez was able to score Granderson with a slow roller to Cozart at short.
At the precise moment Granderson touched home plate, I thought it appropriate for the game to be halted so the Yankees could actually savor a moment where they actually No. 1 scored a run and No. 2 actually held a lead in a major-league game. At the very least, the mayor should have presented the team with a trophy or something.
But, the Yankees’ problem with scoring reared its ugly head again in the sixth inning and they actually made right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-2) look a whole lot better than he actually is.
Derek Jeter led off the inning with a lined single to center. Granderson followed with a ground single up the middle and Arroyo walked Cano to load the bases with nobody out. The majority of the 42,015 in attendance who were Yankee fans knew it was not a time to celebrate yet. The Yankees showed them just why.
Rodriguez hit a ball that smashed off the glove of third baseman Todd Frazier but Frazier was able to recover in time to cut down Jeter with a throw to catcher Ryan Hanigam at the plate for the first out. Raul Ibanez followed with a bouncer to first baseman Joey Votto, who fired home to easily force Granderson before he could reach the plate. Nick Swisher then hit a lazy pop fly to Cozart in shallow center to end the threat.
The Yankees did manage to tack on three runs off Arroyo with two out in the bottom of the ninth.
Cano launched a long blast into the right-field bleachers for his fourth home run of the season. Rodriguez followed with a single to left and Ibanez closed out the scoring with lined home run into the short porch in right for his eighth home run of the season.
So even though the Yankees did score four runs after losing their previous three games scoring a total of four runs, they were still 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth to close out the victory for Pettitte.
With the victory, the Yankees ended a three-game skid and improved their season record to 21-18. The Reds are 19-19.
- Pettitte was absolutely brilliant and manager Joe Girardi – with Mariano Rivera out for the season and David Robertson on the disabled list – rolled the dice and allowed his veteran left-hander pitch eight innings. Pettitte threw 115 pitches and 78 were strikes (68 percent). His toughest challenge was the first inning when Cozart reached second on a passed ball on a strikeout and a throwing error by catcher Chris Stewart. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Stubbs. However, Pettitte struck out Votto and Brandon Phillips swinging to strand Cozart. No other runner reached second base on him the rest of night.
- Cano had a walk and two hits, including his big solo home run in the eighth. That raised his batting average to .310 on the season. He and Jeter are the only two regulars who are hitting above .300 on the season. Despite the fact the Yankees are struggling as a team to score runs, Cano is hitting a sizzling .459 in his last 10 games.
- Ibanez continues to provide the team with some dramatic big hits. His two-run shot in the eighth bounced Arroyo out of the game and provided the Yankees with a four-run cushion heading into the ninth. Ibanez has 26 hits and 24 RBIs on the season. The 39-year-old outfielder/designated hitter is hitting .273 with runners in scoring position, one of the few Yankees who is actually doing well in that category.
- In their last six games the team is 6-for-48 (.125) with runners in scoring position, including their 0-for-7 on Friday. On the season this is what six of the main regulars are doing with runners in scoring position: Granderson, .226; Swisher, .209; Teixeira, 205; Cano, .176; Rodriguez, .167; and Russell Martin, .167. Jeter is hitting an even .300 with RISP. You want to know why the offense is misfiring and it is these six guys who are the reason.
- Swisher was 1-for-4, struck out twice and hit that weak popup that ended the sixth inning and left the bases loaded. Swisher ended April hitting .284 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. But he is hitting .196 with a home run and three RBIs in May, which has dragged his season average down 32 points to .252.
- Girradi chose to rest Teixeira and Martin and Brett Gardner is still on the disabled list. As a result, the No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters were DH Chavez, LF Dewayne Wise and C Stewart. Against Arroyo they were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts, three weak groundouts, a weak popup and three routine flyouts. This is another reason the team is slumping at the plate.
Teixeira was rested on Friday because he still has a hacking cough related to an illness Teixeira picked up during the team’s first homestand. Girardi elected to play Swisher at first base and shift Ibanez into right-field on Friday. Teixeira has seen a specialist about the persistent cough and seemed encouraged with he heard. But, though the cough is not getting worse, it has persisted for more than a month. The veteran first baseman is hitting an anemic .228 with five home runs and 20 RBIs this season.
The Yankees will continue their first interleague series of the season on Saturday against the Reds.
Despite suffering a right foot contusion and a slightly sprained right ankle in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles last Monday, right-hander Ivan Nova (4-1, 5.44 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Yankees. Nova gave up five runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision in a game the Yankees eventually won. Nove is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his career against the Reds.
The Reds will counter with right-hander Homer Bailey (1-3, 4.35 ERA). Bailey held the Braves to six hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision on Monday. Bailey has not pitched against the Yankees in his career, which usually spells trouble for the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:-5 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.