YANKEES 5, TWINS 4
Sometimes the difference between good pitchers and great pitchers is how great pitchers deal with the fact that they do not have their best stuff that given day. Masahiro Tanaka proved on Saturday he can succeed on a day when he does not have command of his pitches.
Tanaka (1-0) yielded three runs on five hits and a walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth inning to back him up as New York won its seven straight Grapefruit League game by edging Minnesota in front of a record crowd of 9.298 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
The Twins got to Tanaka in the bottom of the first when Brian Dozier led off with a double, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a RBI groundout by Joe Mauer.
Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Twins scored two more runs off Tanaka when Kurt Suzuki singled, Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch, Jason Kubel stroked an RBI double to score Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe scored Willingham on a groundout.
That ended Tanaka’s afternoon and relievers Fred Lewis, David Herndon, Shane Greene and Yoshinori Tateyama held the Twins to one hit and one run the rest of the way.
Despite giving up a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth inning, Tateyama was credited with a save.
The Yankees managed only one hit in the first three innings off Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (1-2). But they sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs off him in the fourth.
After loading the bases with one out by hitting Francisco Cervelli with a pitch, Correia unloaded a wild pitch allowing Eduardo Nunez to score the tying run. Scott Sizemore, in the same at-bat, followed with a two-run single to score Kelly Johnson and Cervelli.
Zelous Wheeler capped the inning one out later by drilling an RBI double that scored Sizemore.
The Yankees added what was an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Anthony Swarzak. But it ended up being the game-deciding run.
Zoilo Almonte led off the frame with a double and Wheeler followed with a single. One batter later, Raybell Herrera, a catcher who was added to the traveling squad and was making his first plate appearance of the spring, slapped an RBI single that scored Almonte.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-9-2. The Twins are 7-12.
- Though Tanaka was far from dominant, he did show that he could pitch his way out of trouble and limit the damage. He held the Twins to just the one run in the first after the leadoff double. With the bases loaded and two out in the third inning, he retired Willingham on a fly ball to left. There were stretches in his outing where he retired six and seven batters in a row, respectively. The bottom line is held the lead when he got it and he got credit for the victory.
- Sizemore, 29, is trying to make the Yankees’ roster after suffering two straight seasons in which he had to undergo surgery to repair ligament tears in the same right knee. He also is not likely to make the roster as a backup infielder because he needs to more reps in the minors. But he did come through a clutch two-run single in the fourth. Sizemore is 4-for-5 (.267) on the spring.
- Wheeler, 27, is also trying to make the team as a backup infielder and he also can play the corner outfield spots. He was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI. Wheeler is now 11-for-32 (.344) with seven doubles and six RBIs in 20 games. But Wheeler also is not likely to make the team because Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte are playing well and are ahead of him.
Considering the Yankees brought only two starters (Brett Gardner and Johnson), the fact that Tanaka was not at his best and the Twins were a determined bunch, the Yankees found a way to win. Every team has days like this and the Yankees proved they could adapt. There is nothing wrong with that.
Cervelli took an absolute beating in the game. The 28-year-old backup took two foul tips to the groin and was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Correia in the fourth inning. Cervelli, however, remained in the game until he was replaced by Jose Gil in the seventh inning. . . . The Yankees won a crucial replay challenge in the third inning that ended up helping them win the game. With Aaron Hicks on first after a leadoff single, Pedro Florimon at the plate and no outs, Hicks attempted to steal second. As Florimon swung at strike three, Cervelli threw a perfect strike to Sizemore at second. Hicks, however, stopped his right foot in the baseline and swung his left foot onto the base as Sizemore swept his right leg with the tag. Umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Hicks was safe. Manager Joe Girardi got word that Hicks was tagged on the right shin by Sizemore and he challenged the call. Within two minutes the call was reversed. Had the call stood the play would have changed the outcome because the Twins ended up loading the bases.
The Yankees will come back to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has a chance to nail down the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Pineda (2-0) has not allowed a run in nine innings in three starts, giving up just eight hits and walk while striking out 14.
The Blue Jays will counter with veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle (0-1, 3.60 ERA), who will be celebrating his 35th birthday.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TWINS 3
With his job as a starter on the line in his last outing, Phil Hughes gave up just two runs in eight strong innings against the Texas Rangers and was “rewarded” with a loss because the Yankees managed just two singles in nine innings to Derek Holland.
On Tuesday, Hughes yielded just a run in seven strong innings but he finally got the run support he needed to win his first game since June 6.
Robinson Cano hit his fourth home run in his past four games – a three-run shot in the seventh inning – and Alberto Gonzalez drove in his first three runs as a Yankee to back Hughes’ strong outing as New York continued its uncanny mastery over Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 29,019 at Target Field.
Hughes (4-7) was only touched for a run in the bottom of the third inning on a leadoff double by Aaron Hicks and a two-out RBI single by Joe Mauer.
He gave up six hits and two walks while he struck out three as he won his first game in four starts since he defeated the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field just less than a month ago.
The key inning for Hughes was the bottom of the fourth when Trevor Plouffe drew a leadoff walk and Oswaldo Arcia laced an opposite-field double to left. Hughes responded by fanning both Chris Parmelee and Hicks looking and retired Pedro Florimon on a routine groundout to escape the jam.
Meanwhile, the Yankees finally solved right-hander Samuel Deduno in the fifth inning after managing just one hit and a walk and being retired on 10 groundouts over the first four frames.
Lyle Overbay led off with a swinging bunt single and David Adams followed one out later with a single up the middle. Gonzalez, who was 0-for-13 since he was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 26, delivered an opposite-field double down the right-field line to score Overbay and Adams.
After Gonzalez advanced to third on a groundout off the bat of Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki rolled a dribbler down the first-base line that Deduno was unable to field that was scored as a single that allowed Gonzalez to make it 4-1.
Deduno (4-3) left after having given up three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out one in five innings.
But just as the Yankees were able to score seven runs off the Twins’ bullpen on Monday, they added four runs off their relievers on Tuesday.
Adams, who had been mired in a dreadful slump since May 20, collected his second hit of the game with a one-out double off right-hander Anthony Swarzak that the right-fielder Parmelee misplayed to allow him to reach third. Gonzalez then slapped a opposite-field roller into right-field that scored Adams.
Suzuki then added a two-out single into left-field that tipped off the glove of the shortstop Florimon and Cano then launched an 0-1 fastball deep into the upper deck in right-field for his 20th home run of the season.
The Twins added a pair of runs off reliever Preston Claiborne in the ninth inning on a two-out, two-run double by Brian Dozier before Mariano Rivera came on with two on and two out to retire Ryan Doumit on a groundout to earn his 27th save in 28 chances this season.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season ledger to 44-39 and they were able to remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in fourth place in the American League East. The Twins dropped to 36-44.
- Cano has stopped swinging at pitches out the strike zone and it has paid off in that in his past five games he is 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs. Cano now holds the team’s Triple Crown, leading the team in average (.295), home runs (20) and RBIs (54). His resurgence also has helped the Yankees score 17 runs in the past two games after scoring just 13 in losing their previous five games.
- Gonzalez and Adams finally came through for the Yankees in a big way in the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the order, which have been unproductive all season. The pair combined to go 4-for-8, scored four runs and drove in three. Gonzalez also contributed with his glove by making a sensational diving catch in shallow left to rob Mauer of a base-hit in the fifth inning.
- Hughes has now put together two very good starts and he seems to have put aside any talk of shifting him to the bullpen for now. Hughes has given up just three runs on 11 hits and three walks while striking out eight batters in 15 innings. That is an ERA of 1.80, which has lowered his season ERA to 4.55.
- Travis Hafner was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he is struggling to produce anything behind Cano in the cleanup spot. Hafner hit .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in April. Since then he is hitting .174 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. It is beginning to look as if the 36-year-old designated hitter may not even get close to his career average of .275. He is hitting an anemic .219.
- Chris Stewart was 0-for-4 in the game as his slide at the plate continues. Stewart was hitting .284 on June 11 but is just 9-for-45 (.200) since then, which has dropped his season average to .245. Because Austin Romine is hitting only .145 the Yankees could sure use a return from starting catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was hitting .269 when he broke his right hand on June 26.
- It may seem like Claiborne pitched poorly in allowing two runs on three hits in the ninth inning but it actually was manager Joe Girardi’s fault for using him in the ninth after he had pitched the eighth. Claiborne three 30 pitches in the ninth and simply wore down because he is more of a one-inning pitcher like David Robertson.
First baseman Mark Teixeira had the tendon sheath in his right wrist repaired successfully on Tuesday at New York University Hospital and he is expected to be ready for spring training. Teixeira, 33, played in only 15 games this season, hitting .151 with three homers and 12 RBIs. Teixeira originally injured his wrist in March preparing to play in the World Baseball Classic. . . . Third baseman Alex Rodriguez made his long-awaited debut in a rehab game on Tuesday with Class-A Charleston (SC) and he went 0-for-2 and played three innings at third base. Rodriguez is on a 20-day assignment as part of his rehab from left hip surgery in January. He could return to the Yankees on July 22 at the latest. . . . Gonzalez subbed at shortstop for Jayson Nix, who was held out of Tuesday’s game with a sore right hamstring. Nix, 30, strained his hamstring legging out a double in Monday’s game and is listed as day-to-day. . . . Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda flew back to New York on Tuesday to have an MRI performed on his left hip flexor. The MRI was negative but Kuroda’s spot in the rotation will be filled by right-hander Ivan Nova on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees can clinch the four-game series against Minnesota with a victory as the series continues on Wednesday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (8-6, 4.15 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia was sailing along in his start on Friday until the Orioles scored four runs late to hang him with a loss after he held a 3-0 lead entering the sixth and he was pitching a no-hitter. Sabathia has dominated the Twins in his career. He is 16-8 with 2.97 ERA.
The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.03 ERA). Walters coughed up six runs on six hits and a walk in only three innings in his shortest start of the season against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 8, TWINS 2
It is bad enough that the Minnesota Twins have struggled to beat the Yankees during Ron Gardenhire’s reign as manager. But when you add in the fact they have been unable to beat CC Sabathia while he has sported a Yankee uniform then you can just imagine how things went for the Twins on Wednesday.
The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate as they erupted for six runs in the third inning and Sabathia tossed eight dominant innings to collect his 14th victory as New York clinched both the season series and three-game road series against Minnesota in front of 33,251 at Target Field.
Sabathia (14-6) gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck 10 to run his record against the Twins since he joined the Yankees in 2009, including playoff games, to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA . The victory also was Sabathia’s first victory since Aug. 24 and broke a personal three-game losing streak.
The Yankees also maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East with only seven games left to play.
The Twins led the Yankees 1-0 on a one-out single by Matt Carson that scored Ryan Doumit from second in the second inning.
That lead was short-lived, however, when Chris Dickerson slapped a one-out single up the middle off Twins reliever Brian Duensing in the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki added a single to center of his own and Derek Jeter drew a walk to load the bases.
Robinson Cano then smacked a scorching line-drive double over the head of right-fielder Ben Revere in right-field to score Dickerson and Suzuki as Jeter advanced to third.
Nick Swisher blooped a single into right-field to score Jeter and Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple off the right-field wall.
Duensing then threw a pitch to Eric Chavez in the dirt that eluded Doumit and Granderson scored easily to give Sabathia and the Yankees a comfortable 6-1 cushion.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez off reliever Anthony Swarzak and a one-out, two-run home run off the bat of Dickerson for his second home run of the season.
Duensing (4-11) was pressed into service with two out in the second inning because starting pitcher Samuel Deduno was forced to leave the game with severe irritation in his left eye that impaired his vision.
Duensing gave up six runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out one in one inning of work.
The Twins scored a run in the seventh when Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla strung together a pair of two-out singles and rookie Pedro Florimon scored Carroll when he hit a ball that caromed off Sabathia’s left shin and rolled into right-field.
But, Sabathia was firmly in control of the game. Among his 10 strikeouts, the last five were called and he also struck out Joe Mauer, who entered the contest the second-leading hitter in the American League at .326, the first three times he faced him on just nine pitches. Mauer finished the game 0-for-4.
The Yankees won their 90th game of the season – versus 65 losses – and its the 11th season in the past 12 years the Yankees have won at least 90 games. They also have won the last six season series against the Twins, whose season record fell to 65-91.
- Don’t take my word for how good Sabathia was, let Mauer tell it: “That’s the best I’ve seen him, and I’ve been watching him for a long time.” Sabathia threw 108 pitches – his third highest pitch count of the season – and 89 of them were strikes. That is a 75% strike percentage. Sabathia not only registered 94 mph on his fastball but he had superior command of it through out the contest.
- Despite the fact that Gardenhire brought in a left-hander to replace the right-handed Deduno, lefty sluggers Cano and Granderson came through with a pair of two-run extra-base hits to give Sabathia all the run support he really needed. Though neither Cano or Granderson are having career years, Granderson has 97 RBIs and Cano has 82.
- Dickerson got a rare start in left-field and took advantage of it by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Because of the Yankees overload at the outfield position, Dickerson does not figure in the team’s plans with its postseason roster. But it is good to see someone from the September call-ups contribute at a crucial point of the season.
In a game where Sabathia was in total command and the offense scored eight runs despite the fact Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were not in the lineup you really can’t find fault with anything in this one. The Yankees’ best defense against losing the A.l. East title is just to keep winning and they have won 12 of their last 16 games.
Rodriguez was held out of the lineup and did not play on Wednesday due to a sore left foot after he fouled a ball of the foot in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game. Rodriguez stayed in the game but he said the foot stiffened up overnight. Though no X-rays were ordered, manager Joe Girardi believes Rodriguez will be available to play on Thursday. . . . Brett Gardner was used as a ninth inning defensive replacement in left-field, marking his first game action since he suffered a strained right elbow making a diving catch in a game ironically against the Twins on April 17. Both Gardner and veteran reliever David Aardsma were activated off the disabled on Tuesday and the team designated for assignment infielder Steve Pearce and left-handed reliever Justin Thomas to make room for them on the roster.
The Yankees make their final road stop of the season in Toronto to begin a four-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Nova could not make it out of the third inning in his last start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. But the Yankees won the game 10-9 in the 14th inning. Nova is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in his career against the Jays.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA) will get the start for the Blue Jays. Morrow was tagged for four runs in five innings and he walked a season-high four in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TWINS 6
When he stepped to the plate in the first inning on Thursday, Curtis Granderson was hitting .208 with three home runs and six RBIs and the fans at Yankee Stadium were wondering if he was headed for a fall after his magical 2011 season.
Three hours later, Granderson was walking off to a loud ovation after going 5-for-5 with three home runs and four RBIs as he led New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota to salvage a split of the four-game series.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the first, Granderson hit the first of his three home runs into the right-center stands beyond the bullpen off Twins starter Anthony Swarzak (0-3). Mark Teixeira added a two-run, two-out home run – his first of the season – in virtually the same spot Granderson hit his to bring the Yankees to within a run at 4-3, just as the Yankees had done in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss.
However, unlike Wednesday night, the Yankees claimed the lead in the second inning starting with a two-out double by Eduardo Nunez, whose error in the first inning led to four unearned runs being scored off Yankees starter Phil Hughes (1-2).
Derek Jeter, who is off to the best start of his major-league career, followed with a slashing single to right to score Nunez. That hit gave him 3,11o hits in his career and tied him for 18th place on the all-time hit list with his boyhood idol Dave Winfield.
Granderson then stepped to the plate and he planted a 3-1 Swarzak fastball into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a lead they never would relinquish.
Granderson made it 7-4 with his third round-tripper of the night with one out in the fourth inning off reliever Jeff Gray. It was a lined shot three rows back in right-field. Most of the 40,327 fans in attendance came to their feet and exhorted Granderson to a take a curtain call, which he did.
The 31-year-old center-fielder added a one-out single to right in the sixth inning off Alex Burnett and a two-out infield single off Glen Perkins in the ninth to become the first Yankee player in history to have a 5-for-5 game with three home runs.
With the three home runs, Granderson became the first Yankee player to hit three in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.
Hughes did not pitch his best but he did survive a nightmarish first inning in which Nunez threw high and up the first-base line on a routine grounder off the bat of Joe Mauer after Jamey Carroll slapped a one-out single. That led later to a base-loaded single by Ryan Doumit and a two-run double by Danny Valencia.
Hughes actually pitched well after that until Doumit blasted a 1-0 change-up into the right-centerfield bleachers for a two-run home run that brought the Twins to within a run at 7-6.
But, as they have done all season, the bullpen of Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow a run in the last 3 2/3 innings to provide a much-needed victory to the Yankees in advance of their six-game road trip to Boston and Texas before coming home to play three games against Detroit.
Rivera needed only seven pitches to notch his third save of the season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 7-6 on the season. The Twins dropped to 4-9.
- Seeing Granderson come alive at the plate on Thursday was pure magic to watch. Granderson’s three home runs put him in the lead in the American League in that category. His 5-for-5 night raised his batting average from .208 to .283. The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 14, 2010 against the Royals in Kansas City.
- Jeter was 1-for-5 with a runs scored and an RBI and it was considered an off night. He has been that hot. Jeter was robbed of a single in the first inning on a diving stop by Carroll at shortstop and he laced a line drive to right in the fourth that was hit right at Doumit. In his two other at-bats he bounced out to the pitcher. OK, so he is human.
- Despite not pitching since April 11, Rivera looked very sharp in recording a well-earned save. Carroll, Mauer and Josh Willingham failed to get a ball out the infield. The bullpen entered play with a 1.99 ERA on the season and that is the best mark in baseball.
- Teixeira is showing signs of life with the bat for once in April. Since April 15, he is 8-for-17 (.471) with a home run and four RBIs. He is now hitting .286 and that is encouraging for Yankee fans who are accustomed to watching Tex struggle through April for the past three seasons.
- I now have the perfect nickname for Nunez: Eduardo Scissorhands. When you see him make careless errors in the field it makes you wonder what would happen if he played every day. Manager Joe Girardi opted to DH Robinson Cano and use Nunez at second base and it cost the Yankees four runs in the first inning. Nunez looks to be stiff and unsure of himself in the field and I just don’t know why because he is a great athlete.
- Hughes is still a work in progress. He gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks and he fanned four in 5 1/3 innings. But, look at it this way: He was two outs away from what is considered a quality start and minus the Doumit two-run homer we would be singing his praises for not giving up any earned runs.
- It is official: Russell Martin is in a full-blown funk at the plate and it seems to be getting worse. He was 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, including hitting into a 1-4-3 double play with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Martin is hitting an anemic .133 with no home runs and one RBI.
The Yankees are very happy to playing in Boston on Friday as part of the 100th birthday for Fenway Park. As part of the festivities, the Yankees and Red Sox will don throwback uniforms without numbers to commemorate the event on Friday. The players feel it is only fitting that the Red Sox play their longtime rivals on the special occasion.
Well, it is Red Sox versus Yankees on Friday on Fenway’s 100th birthday. How perfect!
The Yankees are scheduled to start right-hander Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.50 ERA). Nova has won 14 consecutive decisions dating back to his rookie season in 2011. In his last start against the Angels on Sunday he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and fanned eight batters in six innings in an 11-5 thrashing on ESPN. He is 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in his career against the Bosox.
Boston will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0, 9.00 ERA). Buchholz went seven subpar innings with a high pitch count in his last start. He is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA lifetime against the Bombers.
Game-time will be 3:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
TWINS 6, YANKEES 5
Justin Morneau hit a pair of solo home runs – his second and third of the series – and Minnesota pounded Hiroki Kuroda for six earned runs to hold off New York on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.
Jason Marquis (1-0), making his first American League start, gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out three in five innings but still was able to hold on to win. Matt Capps surrendered Derek Jeter’s fourth home run of the season in the ninth but got credit for his third save.
Kuroda (1-2), coming off eight innings of shutout baseball against the Angels on Friday, gave up 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. He was tagged for four runs in the first inning and the Yankee offense was never able to overtake the Twins the rest of the way.
The loss evens the Yankees’ season record to 6-6. The Twins, who won only two games coming into the four-game series, have now won two games in the Bronx and are 4-8.
- Jeter was 3-for-5 in the game and he hit the ball hard in the two at-bats he was retired. He is hitting .389 with four home runs and 10 RBIs on the season. OK, Yankee fans who were calling for Eduardo Nunez to replace Jeter at shortstop, what do you have to say now? Hmm, those fans are suddenly silent.
- Robinson Cano was 2-for-4 with his first home run of the season and drove in two runs, showing signs he is coming around with the bat after a brief cold spell. Cano’s two RBIs from the cleanup spot were the first two RBIs from a No. 4 hitter for the Yankees this season. The Yankees were the only team in baseball without an RBI from their cleanup hitter.
- Nick Swisher smacked a two-run single in the first inning to give him 13 RBIs on the season, which leads the American League. Swisher is in the final year of his contract with the Yankees and he is trying to make a push to remain with the Yankees for the rest of his career.
- After shutting down the Albert Pujols and the Angels on five hits in eight innings, Kuroda reverted back to the form in which he gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings against the Rays on April 7. By the time Kuroda gave up a two-run home run to Morneau, the fifth hitter in the lineup, he already had the Yankees down 4-0 before they got to bat. Very simply this inconsistent starting pitching is going to have to stop to give the Yankees any chance to win games.
- The offense does bear some of the blame also. They were able to score three runs on Marquis in the first inning and then they went to sleep. Cano’s solo home run in the third and Jeter’s solo shot in the ninth was the extent of the offense after that. A pattern is developing where they score some runs early and, after the pitcher makes adjustments, they can’t kick-start the offense back up again.
- The at-bat that turned the game happened in the bottom of the first. The Yankees had scored three runs and Marquis was on the ropes with the bases loaded and one out with Eric Chavez at the plate. Chavez hit the ball hard – real hard. Unfortunately for the Yankees and him, the one-hop smash was right at second baseman Alexi Casilla and it was turned into a double play. The Yankees have been plagued by their share of “at ’em balls.”
In the “How worse can things get department?” the Yankees were forced into placing left-fielder Brett Gardner on the 15-day disabled list with a bruised right elbow and a muscle strain. Gardner was injured making a diving catch in Tuesday’s game against the Twins. Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees will use a combination of Raul Ibanez, Andruw Jones and Nunez in left to replace Gardner. The team is expected to fill Gardner’s roster spot with right-handed relief pitcher Cody Eppley, who was claimed off waivers from the Rangers on April 5 and has pitched 6 1/3 scoreless innings at Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre this season.
The Yankees need a victory on Thursday to prevent the Twins from winning the four-game series.
To do that the Yankees will need a good start from right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 9.00 ERA). Hughes gave up six runs in just 3 1/3 innings in his last start on Saturday against the Angels. Hughes is fighting to remain in the rotation in the wake of the return of Andy Pettitte. He is 1-0 with a 2.40 ERA against the Twins in his career.
The Twins are countering with right-hander Anthony Swarzak (0-2, 3.75 ERA). Swarzak is replacing Nick Blackburn, who came up with a stiff right shoulder, in his first start at Yankee Stadium. He is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, TWINS 0
For five innings the Twins and Yankees seemed to be not getting the whole ABC offense thing of (A) get them on, (B) get them over and (C) get them in. They each did OK on the A and B part but neither could pull the trigger on C.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, the Twins never did get it and the Yankees found a way to win utilizing some timely offense and geting great pitching from rookie right-hander Ivan Nova and their bullpen.
New York managed to shut out Minnesota at their home in Target Field on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 41,242 and a national television audience watching on TBS.
Nova (13-4) held the Twins hitless through three innings until Joe Mauer stroked a lined single to right with one out in the fourth. He was promptly erased in a double play.
But over the next three innings, the Twins kept mounting threats against Nova only to be stymied.
In the fifth, the Twins got a leadoff single from Jim Thome and Danny Valencia lofted a fly ball that dropped between and rolled past Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher for a double. Using his wicked slider, Nova was able to strike out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and Drew Butera rolled out to end the threat.
In the sixth, Mauer smashed a two-out single and Jason Kubel drew a walk. However, Nova shut the Twins down by striking out slugger Jim Thome.
In the seventh, Valencia opened the inning with a single to center. But Nova retired the next three batters on flyball outs.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could not seem to get a big hit when they needed it off starter Nick Blackburn or reliever Anthony Swarzak.
In the first inning, Jeter led off with an infield single and reached second on a passed ball by Butera. Curtis Granderson then drew a walk. However, Mark Teixeira rolled into a double play and Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game since before the All-Star break due to right knee surgery, bounced out to short.
In he next inning, with one out Blackburn walked Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner in succession to load the bases. On the final pitch to Gardner ,Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins’ trainer sprinted to the mound and Blackburn left the game with what was termed a lateral forearm strain.
Swarzak entered the game and promptly struck out Eduardo Nunez and Jeter lined out to end that threat.
The Yankees then did not get a hit or walk off Swarzak over the next two innings but they did load the bases with two out in the fifth off left-handed reliever Phil Dumatrait. However, Dumatrait was able to get Rodriguez to pop up weakly to end that threat.
Through five innings, the Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they had left seven runners on base, including two innings in which they left the bases loaded.
But the Twins ran out of miracles in the sixth. Robinson Cano lashed an opposite-field double to start the inning. Swisher hit a long fly ball to left that Tosoni caught but Cano was able to tag up and reach third. Cano then scored on a sacrifice line drive smash to center by Russell Martin, his fourth RBI in the three games he played in the series.
The Yankees padded the lead in the next inning by using some fast legs and powerful wrists.
Facing reliever Jose Mijares with one out, Granderson stroked a lined shot off the very top of the wall in right-center and the ball rolled back towards the infield between center-fielder Ben Revere and right-fielder Jason Kubel. By the time Revere got on his horse to retrieve the ball and relayed a throw to Trevor Plouffe, Granderson was heading for home plate. Granderson beat the throw from Plouffe and the tag of Butera for an inside-the-park home run. It was Granderson 35th home run of the season and the third inside-the-park home run of his career.
Teixeira followed with his 34th home run of the season. This one was the traditional over-the-fence kind that landed in the left-field bleachers.
The Yankees protected that 3-0 margin with Nova and bullpen. Nova pitched seven innings and gave up only five hits and one walk and he fanned five batters for his ninth victory in his last 10 starts. He is 9-0 with a 3.48 ERA in those starts. Since his demotion to Triple-A in July, Nova is 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA.
David Robertson continued the Twins’ offensive frustration in the eighth. Robertson gave up singles to Revere and Mauer (Mauer’s third hit of the game) sandwiched by a strikeout. After fanning Kubel for the second out, Robertson walked Thome to load the bases. However, Robertson, who is called “Houdini” by his teammates because of how he escapes bases-loaded jams, got Valencia to hit a routine fly ball that Swisher caught in medium right to end yet another threat.
The Twins left nine runners on and they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the day.
Mariano Rivera was called upon to close out the game out and he did that by pitching a perfect ninth. He fanned the last two batters to collect his 33rd save in 38 chances and No. 592 in his career.
With the victory, the Yankees’ record improved to 77-48 and they also maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Twins lost three of the four games in the series and fell to 55-71 on the season.
- Martin had a good series offensively and defensively. He was 4-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs. He was 1-for-2 on Sunday with walk, a single and his sac fly scored what was the eventual winning run. Martin also played exceptional defense behind the plate. He called good games for Hughes and Nova, deterred the Twins on the bases and blocked balls in the dirt that saved runs from scoring. Martin stopped two balls in the dirt for Nova with a runner on third in the fifth inning on Sunday. Martin won a Gold Glove in the National League with the Dodgers in 2007.
- Granderson’s fast feet set him apart from the other candidates for A.L. Most Valuable Player and he showed that skill off on Sunday with his inside-the-park home run. That home run ties him with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the major-league lead in homers. Despite going 0-for-4 on Saturday, Granderson was 6-for-16 (.375) in the series with a home run and three RBIs. Granderson is tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder for the major-league lead in RBIs with 98.
- Teixiera’s home run was his second in the series and he also pulled into second place in the American League to Granderson in RBIs with 95. Cano is fourth with 87. Teixiera was 5-for-12 (.417) in the series with two home runs and six RBIs.
- Nova is pitching far beyond what anyone expected from a 24-year-old rookie. To be sure, Nova has received a lot of run support in his starts. But on Sunday he proved he could win games without it. He pitched five innings of a scoreless game, an inning with a one-run cushion and one with a 3-0 lead. Four of his five strikeouts in the game came with runners in scoring position. That tells you all you need to know about Nova. He is very quietly pitching himself into position to start in the playoffs.
- In four previous times in which he played his first game coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez had homered in the game. On three occasions, it came in his first at-bat. But that did not happen on Sunday. A-Rod was 0-for-5 and he committed a misplay in the field, though it was not scored an error. To his credit he did make a great play in scooping a bunt attempt by Revere and barely nipping him at first in the sixth inning.
- Teixeira’s double play grounder in the first and Nunez’ strikeout with the bases loaded in the second really set the early tone in the game. It truly looked as if the Yankees would not score a run because they kept shooting themselves in the foot. They did finish the game 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they left 10 runners on base.
- It is amazing how Robertson is able to load the bases and escape without giving up a run. However, there is nothing wrong with 1-2-3 innings. As it is, Robertson threw 27 pitches in the inning. It is a good thing the Yankees do not play on Monday because Robertson likely would be unavailable to pitch.
Manager Joe Girardi try to play down the incident between A.J. Burnett and himself that occurred when Burnett was removed from Saturday’s game after only 1 2/3 innings. Burnett shouted an obscenity at Girardi as he left the mound and later Girardi and Burnett both disappeared down the dugout tunnel. Girardi insisted there was no riff and he did hear Burnett say anything after he left the mound. He also said the two did not cross paths in the clubhouse. But Burnett appears to be on very thin ice of being the odd sixth man in what will be a five-man rotation. Burnett gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks in his short stint on Saturday. In addition, Burnett has won only one of his his last nine starts dating back to July 4. In those outings, Burnett is 1-4 with a 6.93 ERA. He was 10-15 with a career-high 5.26 ERA in 2010. To say that the Yankees made a mistake giving Burnett an $82 million contract in 2009 is an understatement. . . . When the Yankees activated Rodriguez from the disabled list they sent down left-hander Aaron Laffey to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Laffey made his debut with the Yankees on Saturday and gave up two runs on five hits in three innings.
Off winning three out of four from the Twins and posting a 5-2 road trip, the Yankees will get a day off on Monday. They will host the Oakland Athletics in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium starting on Tuesday.
The Yankees will open the series with right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-7, 3.54 ERA). Colon lost his first start since July 19 as he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings against Kansas City. He is 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA in August. He is 8-4 with a 2.80 ERA against Oakland in his career . Two of those wins came in his two starts against them season, including a May 30 complete-game, four-hit shutout in Oakland.
The A’s will counter with Brandon McCarthy (6-6, 3.74 ERA). McCarthy gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings in a victory against Baltimore in his last start. He is 1-0 with a 7.36 ERA lifetime against the Yankees He has not faced them this season.
Game-time will be at 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by MY9.
YANKEES 8, TWINS 1
Watching the Twins play the Yankees the past few years is like watching the Washington Generals play the Harlem Globetrotters. You just knew Meadowlark Lemon would always get the best of that bald, fat guy trying to grab the basketball from him.
At Target Field, on a picturesque Midwest Friday evening, the same kind of scenario played out.
Phil Hughes (4-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings of dominant one-run and two-hit baseball, Russell Martin hit two home runs and Martin and Mark Teixeira drove in three runs apiece as New York best Minnesota for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings since the beginning of the 2009 season.
Hughes gave up a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe, the second batter he faced, in the first inning and then he silenced the Twins bats so soundly that could you practically hear the crickets over the 41,328 people in attendance. After Hughes issued a leadoff walk to Jason Kubel in the third inning, he retired 14 Twins in a row.
The Twins managed a Plouffe leadoff walk in the seventh and they actually added another runner when Kubel walked with two out in the inning. But Hughes escaped any damage by inducing Danny Valencia to ground into a forceout.
The Twins did manage a second hit by Luke Hughes with one out in the eighth, but Yankee right-hander — with relief help from Boone Logan — left the game having walked three and striking out two. Hughes threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes, a rate of 66 percent. In his last three starts, Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.
He and A.J. Burnett both have been rumored to be candidates to move to the bullpen because the Yankees have six starters and they prefer a five-man rotation. But Hughes served notice on Friday that he not only should stay in the rotation, he might be the Yankees’ best choice for a No. 2 starter.
Meanwhile, after trailing 1-0 early to the Twins, the Yankees began their assault on Twins starter Kevin Slowey (0-1) in the third inning of what was Slowey’s first start of the season.
Martin opened the inning by swatting the first pitch from Slowey down the left-field line and into the first row of the bleachers, the ball avoiding a leaping attempt at the wall by left-fielder Rene Tosoni.
The Yankees added another run in the fourth on a bloop leadoff double by Teixeira and a lined RBI double off the wall in right-center by Robinson Cano.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth on a double by Granderson that drove in Brett Gardner with Granderson’s major-league-leading 96th RBI of the season. Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to left that Derek Jeter scored upon by narrowly evading a good throw by Tosoni and a lunging tag by catcher Joe Mauer.
The Yankees broke the game wide open in the fifth and chased Slowey from the game when Martin followed a Jorge Posada’s two-out single with another home run, this one to deep into the bleachers in straightway left. It was his 15th home run of the season. The two-home run game was the fourth of Martin’s career and his third such game with the Yankees this season.
Slowey ended up giving up six runs on nine hits and one walk and struck out four batters over 5 2/3 innings. In their last two games, the Yankees have scored 12 runs on 19 hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings against the Twins two starters in the series — Brian Duensing and Slowey.
The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth off reliever Anthony Swarzak on leadoff infield single by Jeter, a walk to Granderson and two-run double down the right-field line by Teixeira.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to an American League-best 76-47 and they maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. The hapless Twins stumbled to a mark of 54-70.
- Martin continues to excel after he gets a day off. Nine of his home runs have come in games after he was rested. His 3-for-4 evening (He also singled in the fifth) raised his season average to .232. He now has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs on the season. After hitting .292 in April, Martin slumped to hit .200 in May, .185 in June and .213 in July. But Martin is hitting a solid .269 in August and he seems to have put his toe and back injuries behind him.
- In his two games against the Twins at Target Field, Teixeira is 4-for-7 with a home run and three doubles and he has driven in five runs. The RBI spurt leaves in third place in the majors with 94, two behind Gramderson and one behind Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
- Granderson had another one of his stellar all-around games. He was 2-for-3 with a double, a single, two walks, a run scored and an RBI. He even stole his 23rd base of the season, which puts him in 10th place in the American League. Granderson is by far the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player of 2011. He also might take home league honors if he keeps up his current pace. In his last 10 games, Granderson is hitting an unbelievable .395 with six home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Hughes appears to have kept his spot in the rotation on the basis of what how has pitched in his last three starts. Though it would be nice to have Hughes in a bullpen that already includes David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, he is more valuable as the No. 2 starter on this team with the playoffs looming.
Eric Chavez was 0-for-5 with two srikeouts but that would be nitpicking. This was a good win for the Yankees because it combined great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.
The Yankees decided on Friday to place right-hander Freddy Garcia on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8 and claimed left-hander Aaron Laffey on waivers from the Mariners and he will be activated on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees designated veteran catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia sliced a finger on his right hand at his home last week and he was unable to throw his split-finger fastball effectively enough to make a start this weekend. Instead, Garcia will throw a rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees hope the 34-year-old right-hander will be able to make a start next Saturday in one of the day-night doubleheader games scheduled against the Orioles. . . . Alex Rodriguez is ready to play this weekend but it likely will be on Sunday. Rodriguez ended a minor-league rehab stint and returned to the Yankees on Thursday. However, the Yankees want Rodriguez to continue his workouts to strengthen his knee and improve his conditioning. Rodriguez has been out since undergoing surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The Yankees have already clinched at least a split in their four-game series with the Twins. They can win the series on Saturday.
The Yankees will call on right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.61). The walking enigma actually won his last start, his first August victory in three years with the Yankees. Burnett gave up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings but allowed only three runs while walking one and striking out one. Burnett, howver, has had some success against the Twins. He is 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA in his career.
The Twins are countering with left-hander Francisco Liriano (8-9, 5.12 ERA). He is the Twins’ enigma. Liriano won his last start but he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings. He is 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.