YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 2
For nearly three hours on Friday Yankee fans saw their injury-riddled heroes play an exhibition game against a team that some believe might win the world championship in 2013 and what they learned is that this Yankee team just might measure up.
Andy Pettitte threw six strong innings, Kevin Youkilis homered and Mariano Rivera recorded the last three outs as New York defeated a powerful Washington team in front of a paid crowd of 38,161 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C.
Pettitte (2-0) was touched for two runs (one earned) on five hits and no walks while he struck out six batters.
Meanwhile the Yankees scored all of their four runs in the fourth inning off Nationals right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (1-2).
Youkilis opened the frame with his sixth home run of the exhibition season. Travis Hafner followed with single and Vernon Wells doubled to left-center to move Hafner to third. One out later, Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run single.
The Yankees then added a run on a base-running mistake by Chris Stewart. The veteran catcher singled sharply to right, rounded first base too far and was caught in a rundown as Nunez reached third. When Nunez broke for home, Nationals second baseman Danny Espinosa threw home to catcher Wilson Ramos. But the throw was too late and bounced off Ramos’ glove as Nunez scored.
The Nationals scored an unearned run in the bottom of the fourth when Youkilis committed a two-base throwing error on a ground ball off the bat of Ryan Zimmerman. One out later, Ian Desmond drove in Zimmerman on a single to center-field.
They added a run in the sixth when Zimmerman slapped a two-out double down the left-field line and Adam LaRoche slapped an RBI single to center.
Rivera, 43, followed Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson to the mound in the ninth and he needed only 10 pitches to dispatch the Nationals for his first spring save.
The Yankees exhibition season record improved to 14-18. The Nationals ended the season with the same mark.
- Pettitte, 40, was masterful and totally in command throughout his six innings of work. What is more impressive was it came against what largely was the Nationals 2013 starting lineup and they led the majors last season with 98 victories. Anyone still want to make a case that Pettitte and the rest of the Yankee starting rotation is too old and battered to be effective?
- Nunez, 25, shone like a bright diamond in this game. Batting eighth, Nunez was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and two RBIs. His two-run single in the fourth proved to be game-winning hit. Though the Yankees seem to be at a disadvantage without their starting shortstop and captain, Derek Jeter, Nunez is proving to be capable replacement. He hit .293 on the spring and he looked much better in the field.
- Teams can’t win division championships or go far in the playoffs without an excellent bullpen. The Yankees’ bullpen on Friday looked to be formidable with Chamberlain, Robertson and Rivera not surrendering a hit or walk in the final three innings.
- Sloppy defense has been a problem for the Yankees all spring. Youkilis’ throwing error in the fourth cost the Yankees a run and was his fourth error of the spring, all of them coming at third base. I have said this before and it bears repeating: Youkilis is more skilled at first base than he is at third.
- Lyle Overbay made the team after a short three-day audition but he was not so helpful at the plate in this game. He was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Overbay did, however, have a pretty good game in the field. Though Overbay is not in Mark Teixeira’s class as a fielder, he is above average.
- Ichiro Suzuki’s slump at the tail-end of the spring continues. He was 0-for-4 and grounded out weakly all four times. Suzuki’s spring batting average has fallen from a high of .462 on March 13 to .286. Over that span, Suzuki was 6-for-30 (.200). I don’t think fans have to worry about him too much. He is a career .322 hitter after all.
Teixeira, who is rehabbing a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, told reporters on Friday that he is determined to return to the Yankees by early May. Teixeira was expected to miss eight to 10 weeks after he sustained the injury preparing for the World Baseball Classic in March. But Teixeira said he hopes to be back closer to eight weeks. . . . The Yankees officially confirmed on Friday that Overbay made the 25-man roster. In addition, veteran reliever David Aardsma was designated for assignment and right-hander Shawn Kelley was chosen to round out the bullpen.
PROJECTED 2013 YANKEE LINEUP (Not including players currently on the disabled list)
- Brett Gardner CF
- Ichiro Suzuki RF
- Robinson Cano 2B
- Kevin Youkilis 3B
- Travis Hafner DH
- Vernon Wells LF
- Lyle Overbay 1B
- Eduardo Nunez SS
- Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C
- Brett Gardner CF
- Ichiro Suzuki RF
- Robinson Cano 2B
- Kevin Youkilis 1B
- Vernon Wells LF
- Ben Francisco DH
- Eduardo Nunez SS
- Jayson Nix 3B
- Chris Stewart/Francisco Cervelli C
The Yankees will travel to West Point, NY, on Saturday as the team will end its exhibition schedule with a game against the Black Knights of Army.
Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees. Warren will open the 2013 season at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Game-time will be at 2 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
RIGHTFIELD – ICHIRO SUZUKI (28 Rs, 5 HRs, 27 RBIs, .322 BA, 14 SB)
When the Yankees made the trade to bring Ichiro Suzuki to The Bronx it was looked at initially as a temporary fix to the Yankees’ injury to top base-stealing threat Brett Gardner. After all, Suzuki’s contract with the Seattle Mariners expired after the 2012 season and the Yankees were unsure if the 39-year-old All-Star had very much left in the tank.
Suzuki seemed to fall off the proverbial cliff after he hit .315 with six home runs and 43 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 2010. In 2011, the career .322 hitter batted only .272 with five home runs and 47 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.
In addition, Suzuki was hitting .261 with four homers and 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for the Mariners at the time of the trade.
But Suzuki took to New York quicker than anyone would have expected and he seemed to be rejuvenated being part of a pennant chase for the first time since his early seasons with the Mariners.
As a result of Suzuki’s renewed bounce in his step and the fact the Yankees allowed rightfielder Nick Swisher to sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians this winter, Suzuki was granted a two-year, $12 million deal to take over for him. General manager Brian Cashman was pleased Suzuki settled for much less than perhaps he was worth to stay with the Yankees.
Suzuki had made it clear that he did want to remain in New York. So it seems both sides are very happy with the deal.
Suzuki will never be able to replace Swisher’s power and production but he is an upgrade in terms of hitting, speed and defense. That is all part of the tradeoff the Yankees had to accept in order to rebuild a team that lost 94 home runs when Swisher (24), Russell Martin (21), Raul Ibanez (19), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14) signed elsewhere this offseason.
Suzuki will join with Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson as part of the group that is expected to be stealing a lot of bases in 2013 because of what the Yankees lost in terms of power. The Yankees will not be able to play station-to-station baseball while waiting for home runs.
Suzuki’s two-year deal signals the Yankees are committed to him and what he can provide at the top of the lineup by getting on base and running the bases.
Last season, Suzuki approved the trade with some conditions laid down by the Yankees. He agreed to hit lower in the batting order, to a platoon that would sit him against left-handers and agree to switch to leftfield. Suzuki accepted the stipulations and never complained about where he hit, where he played and when he was benched.
However, when Suzuki got red hot in September manager Joe Girardi stopped platooning him against lefties, moved him up in the batting order and shifted him to rightfield so Swisher could replace an injured Mark Teixeira at first base.
So expect Suzuki to be playing every day, hitting second and playing rightfield in 2013. Suzuki basically changed the manager’s mind the old-fashioned way: He played so well that Girardi had no choice but to play him and those conditions Suzuki was signed under have been tossed out the window – for good.
Suzuki’s calling card has always been his magical bat. Despite an unusual batting style, Suzuki seems to be able to know when it is best to pull the ball and when to go with a pitch. He confounds pitchers with his ability to spray the ball all over the field.
He may no longer have blazing speed as he did when he won his Most Valuable Player and Rookie of Year awards in 2001, but Suzuki can still leg out infield grounders for hits, take an extra base on napping outfielders and he can even steal a base or two when necessary.
Suzuki stole 29 bases last season between the Mariners and Yankees and he led the Yankees with 14 steals despite playing in only 67 games.
With the short porch in right-field, Suzuki can also surprise a pitcher or two by turning on an inside pitch and putting it into the seats. Suzuki’s career high in home runs is 15 that he hit in 2005 and he only has reached double digits in three seasons. But it is good bet they he could reach double digits in 2013.
He hit five dingers in only 227 at-bats with the Yankees last season.
Where Suzuki really shines is as a defender. From 2001 through 2010 he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves with the Mariners. Granted, he has lost a step, but Suzuki can still flash some leather in the outfield. He also possesses an excellent arm in rightfield. With Granderson and Gardner, Suzuki forms a rare outfield that boasts three centerfielders.
This is an outfield that is also loaded with speed and skilled fielders. It might be the best defensive outfield the Yankees have fielded in some time.
The only potential negative with Suzuki might be if he regresses as a hitter as he did with in the Mariners in 2011. The Yankees are on the hook for two seasons with Suzuki and they would rather he continue he hit the .322 he did with the Yankees last season.
The Yankees were dealt a serious blow to the 2013 plans when Ibanez opted to sign as a free agent with his old Mariners team. The Yankees made it clear that they wanted to keep Ibanez as their left-hand designated hitter and part-time outfielder.
At the moment the plans behind Gardner, Granderson and Suzuki look a little murky.
The Yankees did claim right-hand hitter Russ Canzler off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Canzler, 26, can play first base, leftfield and DH.
Canzler hit three home runs, drove in 11 runs and hit .269 as a September call-up with the Indians after leading the International League with 36 doubles, 22 home runs and 79 RBIs in 130 games at Triple-A Columbus.
Canzler provides the Yankees primarily with a right-hand bat who can back up Mark Teixeira at first base. But he did play 47 games with Columbus and 11 games with the Indians in the outfield. His range in the outfield is limited and he would be a significant dropoff from Gardner as a defensive outfielder.
Jayson Nix has been invited to spring training again primarily to compete with Nunez as a backup middle infielder but Nix also can play some outfield.
Nix made nine starts in the outfield last season and acquitted himself well. He committed only one error. Though he is much better as infielder, Nix provides Girardi with a lot of options on where to play him.
Nix, 30, hit .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 177 at-bats last season.
Cashman is looking to bolster the outfield before spring training camp opens next month and he has a few targets that could be on his radar.
His first option is former Met outfielder Scott Hairston, who is currently seeking a lucrative two-year deal on the free-agent market.
Hairston, 32, hit 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs and batted .263 with the Mets last season. His main calling card is his power and his ability to crush left-handed pitching.
Hairston hit .286 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs against lefties last season. Though he has played some second base in the past, Hairston is primarily an outfielder and he only committed one error in 108 games there last season.
The Yankees covet him because he has power, which the Yankees need, and he balances out the starting outfield, which is comprised of all left-hand hitters. The Yankees see Hairston as part-time outfielder, a platoon DH and valuable pinch-hitter off the bench.
The only sticking point is the amount of money he is seeking and the Yankees are not real keen on offering him a two-year deal. They are hoping Hairston will lower his demands.
Another potential target could be 6-foot-5 first baseman-outfielder Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals.
Morse, 30, had a breakout season in 2011 in which he hit .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs for the Nationals. But injuries limited him to just 102 games in 2012 in which he batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs.
The Nationals had him scheduled to move from left-field to first base this off-season when they acquired centerfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins and shifted rookie centerfielder Bryce Harper to leftfield. However, the team decided to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche so Morse is currently relegated to the bench.
The Nationals reportedly are looking at trading Morse for a left-handed relief pitcher and some prospects. The Yankees do have a pair of lefties in Boone Logan and Clay Rapada to offer but there is not much depth behind them in the minors. The Yankees could use Morse in the same way they planned to utilize Canzler – at first base, leftfield and DH.
Morse is a right-hand hitter but his power is intriguing.
This is hard to believe but – in the absence of the Yankees making a deal or signing an outfielder – the Yankees will actually be giving long looks to two of their own minor-league outfielders this spring.
Melky Mesa, 25, hit a combined .264 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs and 22 stolen bases between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, Mesa hit only .230 at Scranton after hitting .277 at Trenton so he may require an additional season before he is ready.
Mesa’s combination of power and speed would be a big boost to the Yankees and he does fill a need for right-hand hitting outfielder. Mesa is also a natural centerfielder and he can easily play all three outfield spots if needed.
The downside is the Yankees are unsure of he can hit major-league pitching. They hope to get some more definitive answers this spring. Mesa figures to play a lot after only getting 13 at-bats and hitting .231 last spring.
The Yankees also have a very intriguing young outfield prospect in Zoilo Almonte, who is a power-hitting switch-hitter.
Almonte, 23, impressed Girardi last spring when he hit .286 in only 14 at-bats. Almonte then followed that up by hitting .277 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs in 106 games with Trenton.
Unlike Mesa, Almonte is primarily a corner outfielder and he has just average speed (15 steals in 19 attempts last season). Defensively, he is still a work in progress. His range and fielding are just average but he does have a pretty good arm (10 outfield assists last season).
Almonte does have a slim chance of making the jump from Double A but he will need to have a monster spring training that forces Girardi to keep him on the roster. It is all up to Almonte to see if can handle the rigors of the major leagues. But it will be tough to ask him make the jump because it rarely happens in the major leagues and it even more rarely happens with the Yankees.
The Yankees seem to not even care about a player unless he is 34 with years of major-league experience. Almonte would be in a locker room of players he watched while he was in grade school. That would be a lot of pressure on him but his power potential makes him a very viable prospect to watch this spring.
The Yankees are actually loaded with some very special outfield prospects further down in their minor-league system.
Mason Williams, 21, is the team’s second-ranked prospect behind catcher Gary Sanchez. He hit .298 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 91 games between Class-A Charleston and Class-A Tampa before a torn labrum ended his season early.
Williams is an excellent left-handed hitter who should develop more power as he gains experience. He also looks as if he will be a very good base-runner and he is above average defensively as a centerfielder. Williams is 6-feet tall and weighs just 150 pounds but he should gain weight and strength and may even draw comparisons to another centerfielder Williams by the name of Bernie.
The Yankees are also excited about No. 3 prospect Tyler Austin, 21.
Austin hit a organization-best .354 combined in 2011 and he followed that up by hitting .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in four minor-league stops last season.
After playing first and third base his first two seasons, the Yankees moved him to right field last season and he played very well there. While Sanchez and Williams get most of the attention, Austin is considered a very good prospect and 2013 could propel him into the Yankees’ plans in 2014 and beyond.
The Yankees also have a pair of young slash-and-dash hitters who have a chance to make the parent team down the road in Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores.
Heathcott, 22, was the team’s first draft pick in 2009 but has been hampered by on- and off-the-field problems. But the left-handed hitter got back on track by hitting a combined .302 with five home runs and 29 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in the Yankees team in the Gulf Coast League and with Tampa in the Florida State League.
Heathcott is an aggressive player with excellent speed. If he can be more selective at the plate and on the bases he could turn out to something very special.
Flores, 20, is a left-handed hitting machine who batted a combined .303 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs and 24 stolen bases between Tampa and Trenton. He lacks Heathcott’s speed but still stole more bases. He is primarily a leftfielder but can play all three outfield spots and first base.
Fielding will never be his strong suit because his bat is so good. It will carry him the rest of the way to the majors.
The Yankees seem to be deeper in outfield prospects than any other position and that seems to be a good thing considering the team has already lost Swisher and Granderson seems to be headed out the door soon. That would leave Gardner and an aging Suzuki.
So to say the Yankees could stand to have a few of these prospects make an impact in the next few years would be putting it mildly.
There have been rumors the Yankees have talked about possibly trading Williams and Sanchez. But that would seem to be something Cashman would be leery about since he really did get fleeced badly in the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda deal last winter.
My guess is the Yankees will be very careful which young players they deal but it would seem to make sense that they could trim some of their outfield depth if they need help with their 25-man roster.
Though the Yankees are lucky to be starting three center-fielders with excellent speed in the outfield in 2013, they all hit left-handed and the Yankees will miss Ibanez.
Cashman likely will make some sort of deal to add depth to the outfield and they need someone who can hit right-handed. Canzler and Nix provide some depth but they are not long-term solutions.
Mesa and Almonte provide Girardi with a pair of young options but both are going to have to produce a lot this spring in order to make the leap to the major leagues.
Hopefully, the puzzle pieces can be put together before the start of the 2013 season.
YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 1
Ask any manager and general manager in baseball to give you the three keys to winning and they all will tell that it is pitching, pitching and more pitching. The New York Yankees suddenly have the market cornered on pitching as they continue their destruction of the National League during interleague play.
Ivan Nova threw 7 1/3 innings of sparkling one-run baseball to become the first American League pitcher to win nine games as New York, on the strength of a pair of solo home runs by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, swept Washington at Nationals Park on Sunday to win their ninth straight contest.
Nova (7-2) only surrendered a solo home run to Adam LaRoche to lead of the second inning. He gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out four batters to record his fifth straight victory and he remains undefeated (12-0) over his last 15 road starts dating back to June 3, 2011.
The Yankees, meanwhile, reverted back to their old ways of failing to hit with runners in scoring position but they still were able to get to Edwin Jackson (3-4) to push across enough runs to win the game.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the first inning on Jackson on an infield single by Derek Jeter, a Granderson double and an intentional walk to Cano with one out. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly that brought Jeter home with the game’s first run.
That run held up until LaRoche tied it with his team-leading 12th home run for the Nationals.
But Granderson broke the tie leading off the fifth inning by crushing a high change-up off Jackson into the bullpen in right-field for his 21st home run of the season.
Even though the Yankees put runners on base in all six innings Jackson worked, they could not come up with the knockout blow. Jackson gave up seven hits and three walks but he kept the Yankees from adding to their lead. The Yankees were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees did manage to run up Jackson’s pitch count to 110 after six innings, which sent him out of the game and allowed the Yankees to tack on some runs against the Nationals’ bullpen.
They added a two runs in the seventh.
The first came on a solo home run by Cano off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for Cano’s 12th home run of the season. Three batters later, Teixeira – who doubled – scored from third with two out when rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus threw a 3-2 pitch to Andruw Jones that catcher Jhonathan Solano could not catch for a passed ball. Teixeira scored easily when Mattheus failed to cover home plate.
The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there.
Boone Logan completed the eighth inning for Nova and Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 13th save, which makes him the Yankees reliever who has saved the second-most games since Mariano Rivera became the team’s closer in 1996. Steve Karsay previously held that mark with 12.
With the victory the Yankees improved their A.L.-best record to 40-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the A.L. East. The Nationals, who came into the series on a six-game winning streak, dropped to 38-26.
- Nova pitched another exceptional game on Sunday. In his last three starts, Nova is 3-0, giving up only two runs on 16 hits and three walks and he has struck out 15 batters over 22 2/3 innings. That has lowered his season ERA from 5.60 to 4.32. He has not lost since a May 19 start at Yankee Stadium against the Reds and his career record is now 25-6. Anyone still think this 25-year-old right-hander is a fluke or his record is just a product of great run support?
- Granderson has been on a full-blown tear in his last eight games, which coincides neatly into the Yankees’ nine-game winning streak. Granderson has an eight-game hitting streak and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. In fact, Granderson has now homered in three of his last four games and his 21 homers trails only Adam Dunn (23) of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton (22) of the Rangers in the major leagues.
- Cano has been on a tear this June. He is hitting .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He has failed to get at least one hit in only two games this month. On May 5, Cano had one home run and four RBIs. Since that time, he has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs and he has raised his batting average from .255 to an even .300.
- The 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position statistic just hangs out there like an albatross on the Yankees. It can be forgotten with the nine-game winning streak but the longer it continues the harder it is going to be for the Yankees to correct it when they play tougher A.L. teams, not to mention in the playoffs.
- Raul Ibanez gets the award for choking in the clutch on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 and he left seven men on base. But, to be fair to Ibanez, he hit the ball hard three times but it just so happened that it found a glove each time. Ibanez is one of the Yankees struggling during their current winning streak. In his last 10 games he is hitting .172 with a home run and three RBIs.
- Alex Rodriguez also failed to contribute anything on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 including a strikeout. Though he has a home run and nine RBIs, he is only hitting .229 over his last 10 games. He is only hitting .222 in June.
As expected, Nick Swisher was held out of the lineup and did not play on Sunday due to a bone bruise in his left quad. Swisher was sliding into home plate when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores’ left shin guard struck Swisher on the left thigh as Flores tagged him out in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game. Swisher received treatment for the injury and he remains day-to-day. . . . Cano’s home run off Gorzelanny in the seventh inning was pretty much a given. In his career, Cano is 6-for-8 off Gorzelanny.
The Yankees completed a 6-0 road trip by sweeping two N.L. teams. They now come home to open a home series on Monday against one of those teams they swept, the Atlanta Braves.
CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia was tagged for four runs on 10 hits over seven innings against the Braves but he won the game when the Yankees came from 4-0 down in the eighth for a 6-4 victory. In his career against the Braves, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.
Lefty Mike Minor (3-4, 6.01 ERA) will face Sabathia and the Yankees for a second straight start. Last Wednesday, Minor pitched his best game of the season, limiting the Yankees to one run in 7 1/3 innings. But his bullpen – led by Jonny Venters – blew the lead and lost the game. This will be only Minor’s second start against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, NATIONALS 3 (14 INNINGS)
As Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate in the 14th inning on Saturday with a runner on third and a runner on first and one out, he was 0-for-5 and he struck out his first three times to the plate. With reliever Brad Lidge on the mound determined to get him out he only thought of one thing: Look for a slider and let it rip.
Fortunately for Teixeira and the Yankees, with a 2-1 count he got a hanging slider from Lidge and he smacked it hard off the wall in the right-field corner of Nationals Park for a double to score two runs and New York held on to take a hard-earned win over Washington, which extended the Yankees’ winning streak to eight games.
Forgotten bullpen long reliever Freddy Garcia (1-2) set the stage for Teixeira’s heroics by pitching two scoreless innings to get credit for his first victory of the season. Rafael Soriano pitched around two hits in the bottom of the 14th to retire Bryce Harper on a routine groundout to get credit for his 12th save in 13 opportunities.
Lidge (0-1) was saddled with the loss.
Jayson Nix started the winning rally by shooting a seeing-eye single in the hole between shortstop and third base. Nix later stole second and Derek Jeter, who was 0-for-6 as he stepped in, also singled to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Nix was held at third.
After Curtis Granderson strrck out, Teixeira then connected for what proved to be the game-winning hit.
The Yankees actually held a 3-2 lead after scoring two runs in the sixth inning that erased a 2-1 deficit to the Nationals.
Raul ibanez tied it with an infield groundout that scored Robinson Cano. After Nick Swisher was cut down at the plate on a comebacker to starter Jordan Zimmermann off the bat of Russell Martin, Eric Chavez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game with a double off the scoreboard in right-center that scored Martin.
The game stayed that way until Cory Wade entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of starter Andy Pettitte. Wade retired Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse on two pitches, however, Ian Desmond smacked a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers to knot the game at 3-3..
Two batters later, Adam LaRoche slapped a single to right-field off Boone Logan and Tyler Moore, who was on second with a walk and a stolen base, attempted to score. But he was cut down at home plate on a throw from Dewayne Wise. The Yankees caught a break, too. Replays showed Moore actually touched the plate with his left hand on a head-first slide just before Martin tagged him on the left hip. But home-plate umpire Tim Timmons called him out.
So the game played on through another six very long innings.
Pettitte, who was in line for his fourth victory in his seventh start of the season, gave up two runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out six batters in seven innings.
His only blemish was giving up a two-run double to left-center by Jesus Flores in the second inning on a pitch that was up and out of the strike zone and broke Flores’ bat.
Zimmermann left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he struck out six.
The victory was the first time this season the Yankees won a game without the benefit of a home run. They were 0-12 in games without hitting a home run coming into the contest.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 39-25 and they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Nationals dropped to 38-25.
- Despite the home run Wade surrendered to Desmond, the bullpen was excellent and the true key to the victory. Wade, Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Garcia and Soriano combined to give up just the one run on four hits and two walks and struck out five in seven innings. Garcia escaped the 13th inning with the winning run on third by retiring Roger Bernadina on a groundout and Soriano got Harper to end the game as he represented the potential game-winning run at the plate. That is great relief pitching.
- Pettitte deserved to have won the game a day after his 40th birthday. He turned in his third straight quality start and he and his deadly cutter set the stage for Harper, a 19-year-old rookie sensation, to endure one of his worst days as a major leaguer. He struck out five times in the game and was 0-for-7 overall. Of the five hits Pettitte surrendered, one was an infield hit and three others – including Flores’ double – were broken bat hits. Pettitte’s ERA was lowered to 2.77.
- A substitution mistake by manager Joe Girardi in the eighth inning probably led to two things that actually allowed the Yankees to overcome the Nationals. When Wade entered the game to pitch in the eighth inning, Wise was brought off the bench to replace Ibanez in left. They were supposed to have been switched in the order so Wade would hit in Ibanez’s sixth spot and Wise would bat ninth. However, that was not communicated to the umpires. So when Logan was brought into the game with two outs in the eighth, Girardi was forced to bring in Jayson Nix to play left and Wise was moved to right-field. That was done so Logan could hit in Jones’ fifth spot and Nix could bat ninth. So when LaRoche singled to right, Wise (and not Jones) threw out Moore at the plate. Nix led of the 14th inning with a single, stole second and scored the lead run on Teixeira’s two-run double. Wise’s outfield assist and Nix’s hit and steal would not have happened had Girardi not made the substitution error. I guess Girardi would rather be lucky than good.
- Going into the 14th inning, the Yankees were 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position. They scored their first run in the fourth inning on a two-out error by Desmond. Ibanez’s infield groundout in the sixth tied the game and, later that same inning, Chavez doubled in Martin from first to score the third run. Jeter’s single in the 14th and Teixeira’s double were the only two hits the Yankees got all day with RISP.
- Although he walked three times, Granderson was 0-for-4 and had his six-game hitting streak stopped.
- After Chavez’s two-out double in the eighth, the Yankees did not get another hit until the 14th inning when Nix led off with a single. They were 0-for 19 while drawing five walks and reaching once on an error.
Swisher was removed from the game in the sixth inning after he sustained a bone bruise in his left quad sliding into the plate and colliding with left shin guard of Flores. Swisher was called out on the play and he immediately limped into the Yankees’ dugout and was replaced in right-field by Jones. Swisher likely will miss Sunday’s finale of the series against the Nationals and he is listed as day-to-day. . . . The Yankees did not start third baseman Alex Rodriguez in order to give him a day off. Rodriguez did pinch-hit in 10th inning for Logan and grounded out.
The Yankees can sweep the series and the entire six-game road trip with a victory against the Nationals on Sunday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64 ERA) will toe the slab for Yankees. Nova shut out the Braves on just five singles and a walk over seven innings on Monday in his last start. He will be starting against the Nationals for the first time.
Right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals. Jackson, who the Yankees have faced many times before, logged his fifth consecutive quality start in a victory over the Blue Jays his last time out. He is 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2
When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.
But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.
Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.
Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.
Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.
Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.
The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.
The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.
Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.
Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.
Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.
Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.
Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.
The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.
The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.
- If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
- Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
- Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.
Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.
The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.
YANKEES 8, NATIONALS 5
During a time when a lot of the starters are struggling with hitting this spring the non-roster and minor-league players who dominated the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday were the ones who came up big.
Bill Hall drove in two runs with a double in the third inning and New York’s spring reserves scored four runs in the seventh inning off Washington’s John Lannan en route to a Grapefruit League victory over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.
Brett Marshall (1-0) got credit for the victory in relief. Lannan (0-1) gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk in four innings and he ended up taking the loss. Adam Warren retired the last batter and picked up a save.
The Yankees mounted a 13-hit attack led two hits by Hall and Justin Maxwell and Hall and Jose Gil each drove in two runs.
There were two significant injuries incurred during the game. Nationals starter and former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang had to leave the game in the third inning with a strained right hamstring after he lost his balance fielding a Russell Martin grounder and stumbled awkwardly over the first-base bag.
In the fourth inning, Yankee shortstop Ramiro Pena left after spraining his right ankle as he slid into second base on an unsuccessful steal attempt.
The Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their spring record to 6-8. The Nationals are 5-6.
- The Yankees were losing 3-2 with Lannan beginning his third inning of work in the sixth when the Yankees greeted him with five consecutive hits. Jayson Nix singled, stole second and scored the tying run on a RBI single by Gil. Doug Bernier advanced Gil to third on a bunt single and Maxwell scored Gil on a single to left. J.R. Murphy followed with a single to right to score Bernier. Maxwell then scored the fourth run of the inning on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Zoilo Almonte. Nix is the only player involved in the rally who had started the game.
- The Yankee reserves turned the game into a rout with two more runs in the seventh. Brandon Laird, who reached base on an error by shortstop Andres Blanco, scored on a passed ball by catcher Jhontan Solano. Dewayne Wise, who doubled in the inning, later scored on a sacrifice fly by Gil, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead.
- Michael Pineda made his third start of the spring and there were some mixed results. Pineda pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while he fanned four batters. The good news was that Pineda was able to throw about 10 change-ups and his slider was virtually unhittable. The velocity on his fastball, however, reached only 91 miles per hour, down considerably from his 2011 average of 94.5, which ranked fifth in the majors. The Yankees refuse to talk about it, but the lack of velocity has to be a concern at this stage of spring training.
- Three of the left-handers competing to become a potential second lefty in the bullpen pitched in the game and none of them were exactly sharp. Clay Rapada did not give up a run in 1 1/3 innings and has a 0.00 ERA this spring. However, he walked two and gave up a hit before inducing Chad Tracy to ground out with the bases loaded in the fifth.
- Juan Cedeno opened the sixth by issuing a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth followed with a double. Then with one out, Steve Lombardozzi hit a sacrifice fly to score LaRoche.
- Michael O’Connor opened the ninth with a 8-5 lead and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Roger Bernadina and one-out single to Mark Teahan to bring the tying run to the plate. After O’Connor retired Tracy on a grounder to advance Bernadina and Teahan, manager Joe Girardi summoned Warren to close out the game.
With Eduardo Nunez still nursing a bruised right hand for the past 10 days, the injury to Pena is not good news. Pena said he hopes to miss only two or three days by Girardi said he is not so sure about that. No tests are planned on the ankle and Pena will be re-evaluated in Tampa, FL., on Friday. . . . It appears doubtful that veteran right-hander Fraddy Garcia will be able to pitch in his next scheduled start because of a bruised right thumb and index finger. Garcia was struck on the hand on a grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays in the fourth inning of a game on Wednesday. The Yankees think Garcia just has a bad bruise and they do not believe the injury is serious.
The Yankees will complete a two-game home-and-away series with the Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees. He will be making his third start of the spring. The Nationals will start former Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who has not given up a run in his two previous appearances spanning seven innings.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally live by the YES Network.