Tagged: Brad Lidge

Nationals Feeling ‘Hughesed’ By Red-Hot Yankees

GAME 63

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez’s RBI single in the third inning was the 1,924th RBI of his career, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list.  . . . Girardi made it clear to reporters that Cano did not start on Friday because he wanted to give him two days off, including Thursday’s off day. Cano was spiked on the left ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Braves but he was not seriously injured. Cano did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and he drew an intentional walk. He stayed in the game as the second baseman and singled in the ninth inning.  . . .  Robertson gave up two hits and a run in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. David Phelps was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre  to make room on the roster for Robertson.
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ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.

Birthday boy Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees after he turned 40 on Friday. Pettitte gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out eight in six innings against the Mets on Sunday before leaving the game with a bruised left hand he sustained fielding a hard-hit comebacker in the sixth. But the hand is fine and Pettitte declared himself ready to go. He is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in his career against the Nationals.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA). Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park against the Red Sox in his last start. Zimmermann has never faced the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
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Five Reasons Why the Yankees Won and the Phillies Lost

I hate to say I told you so but I did tell you so. In my World Series preview post on Oct.28 I predicted the Yankees would win in six games. I also said they would win with their superior pitching. That prediction was an honest one and now let’s look a little deeper for the main reasons why the Yankees beat the Phillies.


No. 1: STARTING PITCHING

In my preview I wrote this:
“Neither the Rockies or the Dodgers have a pitcher of the caliber of CC Sabathia or can boast of a more experienced postseason pitcher than Andy Pettitte.  In contrast, the Yankees might struggle some with Cliff Lee but they could feast on Pedro Martinez, Cole Hamels and Joe Blanton.”

This is exactly what happened. Lee was 2-0 with a 2.81 ERA in the series. Hamels, Martinez and Blanton were a combined 0-3 with a 7.08 ERA. I don’t think I have seen such a great team like the Phillies get this far in the postseason with basically one competent pitcher. But they did.
The Yankees’ trio of CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte were 3-2 with an ERA of 4.46. Those numbers may not seem dominant but in the games Lee did not pitch, the Yankee starters were better than the pitcher they faced.
I also wrote this about Pedro Martinez:
Pedro Martinez did pitch well in his only start in the postseason. He went seven innings in a no-decision the Phillies eventually lost to the Dodgers in Game 2. He has the ability to shut down the Yankees. But he also has been beaten many times by the Yankees in the past. Hideki Matsui, Pedro? Remember him?

I don’t think Pedro wants to see Hideki Matsui in the batter’s box ever again after Wednesday night.
Starting pitching is a key in any series and, though none of the three Yankees’ starters pitched  great on short rest, they pitched well enough to expose the weakness in the depth of the Phillies’ starters.
No. 2: RYAN HOWARD

Someone told me there was this huge first baseman for the Phillies who hit mammoth home runs and was an MVP. I wonder what happened to him because I did not see him. I did see a big guy who hit one home run, drove in three runs and hit .174 with 13 strikeouts in 23 at-bats. But that could not have been Howard. Could it?
Unfortunately, for the Phillies, it was Howard. Though Pettitte gave up an “Oh, by the way” two-run home run to Howard in Game 6, he was MIA throughout this series because the Yankee lefties pitched him consistently outside and made Howard chase pitches out of the strike zone.
Of course, Howard was not the only problem with the Phillies’ offense. Jimmy Rollins and Shane Victorino combined to go 9-for-45 (.200). That is why Chase Utley hit five home but only had eight RBIs. 
No. 3: THE BULLPEN

I wrote the following in my preview:
By miles. Not inches but miles, the Yankees bullpen is better than the Phillies. It could be the one key reason, the Yankees are favored to win the series. The fact that only Cliff Lee can possibly give the enough length in his starts to cover up the Phillies deficiencies in the bullpen is quite telling. The Yankees simply feast off middle relievers and shaky closers. Just ask Joe Nathan of the Twins and Brian Fuentes of the Angels. I would not want to be Brad Lidge in this World Series.

The Phillies’ bullpen gave up three earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 3 and Brad Lidge absolutely imploded as I predicted in the ninth inning of Game 4. Chad Durbin did not help Martinez much by giving up three runs in one-third of an inning in Game 6. So in three of the four defeats, the Phillies’ bullpen did not get the job done.
The Yankees on the other hand got 5 1/3 scoreless innings and two saves from Mariano Rivera. Lefty specialist Damaso Marte retired all eight batters he faced. The rest of the bullpen pitched 10 2/3 innings and that was not to expose the weakness here with Phil Hughes struggling. Give manager Joe Girardi credit. He used his bullpen wisely and it was far superior to the Phillies.

No. 4: THE DH FACTOR

This is not just because Hideki Matsui was named the Series MVP and was 8-for-12 with three home runs and 12 RBIs despite not starting in half the games. Nope. This is also because Matsui was a factor in this series and Matt Stairs was not.
Stairs is another Phillies power threat from the left side. But because lefthanders Sabathia and Pettitte started four of the six games, Stairs only started Game 2 as a DH. He singled in a run in his first at-bat. But he was 0-for-7 after that and was not a factor the rest of the way.
Ben Francisco started two games and was 0-for-7. So the Phillies got absolutely nothing from their bench and Stairs was neutralized by the fact he could not hit lefties well enough to allow manager Charlie Manuel to start him.
No. 5: INTANGIBLES

I warned Manuel about this in my preview:
As long as they have Derek Jeter, they have a chance to turn one slight mistake into a play that can turn a series. You know the Twins and Angels came into the playoffs as two of the most fundamentally sound teams in baseball. Look what happened to them. The Yankees just have a way of waiting for a team to make a mistake and jumping all over it.

Well, even if Manuel had read this, it would not have mattered. But the game-changing and series-changing play was the great at-bat Johnny Damon put on poor Brad Lidge in the ninth inning of Game 4 and the decision to swipe third on Pedro Feliz because the Phillies had no one covering third.
OK, quibble that it took A-Rod’s hit to score him. But, remember this: Damon’s presence at third made Lidge throw fastballs, which is his second best pitch. A-Rod got a fastball to hit because Damon’s daring dash, which could go down in history as the smartest play in World Series history, made Lidge ditch his devastating slider.
You just did not see the Yankees beating themselves at all this postseason but you sure as heck have seen them take advantage of a litany of blunders by the Twins, Angels and now the Phillies. That is no accident either. Good teams do this.
That is just five reasons why the Yankees are the 2009 world champions.

Damon’s Daring Dash Puts Yanks Up 3-1 On Phils

WORLD SERIES GAME 4
YANKEES 7, PHILLIES 4


Years ago the public address system operator at Yankee Stadium would play Chuck Rivers’ “Johnny B. Goode” every time time Johnny Damon stepped to the plate. In the ninth inning on Sunday night Damon proved why Johnny be good.
Damon fought off eight of the best pitches Phillies closer Brad Lidge could muster before singling with two outs and stealing both second and third base to key a three-run inning that gave the Yankees a 7-4 victory over a demoralized Philadelphia squad.
The victory puts the Yankees within one game of the 27th world championship and their first since 2000. The defeat leaves the Phillies shaking their heads on how they could have let a chance to tie the series at two games apiece slip away.
The Phillies entered the ninth inning on a huge high and the crowd of 46,145 at Citizens Bank Park was rocking because Pedro Feliz’s two-out solo home run off Joba Chamberlain on a 3-2 count had prevented the Yankees from handing the ball to closer Mariano Rivera with a 4-3 lead.
By the time Damon had scored from third and two more Yankee runners crossed the plate in the ninth the Phillies then faced the daunting task of rallying from a 7-4 deficit against Rivera anyway.
After Rivera retired them in the ninth on eight pitches the Phillies now know they can’t afford to lose another game in this Fall Classic if they want to repeat at world champions themselves.
Manuel turned to Lidge, his team’s closer, in the ninth inning to preserve the 4-all tie. Lidge, who was woeful 0-8 with a 7.21 ERA this season with 11 blown saves, started the inning like the same pitcher who converted all 48 of his save opportunities during the regular year and the postseason in 2008.
He induced pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui to hit a weak infield popup and struck out Jeter on a 3-2 slider. But then Damon came to the plate and he battled Lidge by fouling off five pitches before lining a single to left.
With Mark Teixeira up next, the Phillies shifted their infield to have second baseman Chase Utley in shallow rightfield and shortstop Jimmy Rollins way over on the second base side of the bag and third baseman Pedro Feliz moved over to essentially play shortstop.
That shift, common when Teixeira hits lefthanded, would figure in what would happen next. 
Damon elected to steal second base to get into scoring position on the first pitch. He picked a good pitch, too, because Lidge’s slider to Teixeira went straight into the dirt at home plate and catcher Carlos Ruiz attempted to throw out Damon from his knees.
With Feliz covering, Ruiz’s throw pulled Feliz to the second base side of the bag. When Damon slid in safely he realized there was no one to covering third base and he outran Feliz and Lidge to steal third.
“I knew Feliz covered the bag, and I knew how he caught the ball,” Damon said to MLB.com. “When I saw him right behind me, I thought, ‘Man, I hope I’m still the Johnny Damon of 21 years old and not the 35-year-old guy.'”
Lidge threw his best pitch to Teixeira, a nasty slider, for a called strike to even the count at one. That pitch would be significant because for the rest of the inning, Lidge only threw one more slider.
He hit Teixeira with an inside fastball to put him at first. 
He then had to face Alex Rodriguez and Rodriguez, knowing with Damon at third base Lidge would be unlikely to throw a slider, made Lidge pay for throwing his second best pitch by lining a 0-1 fastball to the wall in leftfield scoring Damon and moving Teixeira to third.
“There’s no question, I have never had a bigger hit,” Rodriguez said. “When I get good pitches to hit and I put a good swing on it, good things usually happen.”
Jorge Posada polished off the inning by fighting back from an 0-2 count to hit soft liner on a 2-2 fastball into left-center to score Teixeira and Rodriguez to make it 7-4. Posada was thrown out by Raul Ibanez trying to stretch the hit into a double but the damage had been done. 
Citizens Bank Park fell silent and a forlorn sigh filtered through the misty 50-degree night.
After falling behind to the Yankees 2-0 in the first inning on a Teixeira ground out RBI scored Jeter and a Posada sacrifice fly to score Damon, Phiilies starter Joe Blanton settled down to pitch three perfect innings to keep the game close.
But Blanton would be victimized in the fourth by a leadoff walk to Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera followed with a infield chopper up the middle that Utley could not handle. After one out, Jeter and Damon would victimize Blanton again.
Jeter rolled a single between Feliz and Rollins into left to score Swisher and Damon followed with a bloop single to right that fell in front of Jayson Werth in right and Cabrera just beat Werth’s throw home.
Blanton went six innings and gave up four runs on five hits and two walks and fanned seven batters besides hitting one very controversial batter. With Jeter, who had a leadoff single, and Damon at second with a double he plunked Alex Rodriguez with one out in the first inning.
It was the third time Rodriguez had been hit with a pitch in the past two games and home plate umpire Mike Everitt decided to issue warnings to both teams that purposeful inside pitches would mean an immediate ejection.
CC Sabathia, who started the game on three days’ rest, did not have his usual dominant stuff but he battled the Phillies into the seventh inning. 
If it had not been for Utley, he may have actually won his first career World Series game. 
Utley touched him in the first inning with a double that just missed being a home run and it scored Shane Victorino, who had singled, with the Phillies’ first run.
In the fourth inning, Ryan Howard, who had spent most of this series looking like the statute of Ben Franklin watching pitches be called strike three, led off the inning with a single and stole second base. After Sabathia retired the next two batters, Feliz singled to left and Howard beat the throw from Damon in left by dislodging the ball from Posada to make the score 4-2.
Actually it was 4-1 because television replays showed Howard actually never touched home plate but the Yankees never tested Everitt’s observation skills by tagging Howard.
The game stayed that that way until there were two outs in the seventh and Utley strode to the plate. He blasted a 1-2 fastball into the rightfield bleachers for his third home run of the series, all of them off Sabathia.
In fact, in the series, Utley is 4-for-6 off Sabathia with a walk, a double, three home runs and four RBIs. Against Sabathia, the rest of the Phillies hitters are 7-for-45 (.156).
Sabathia was removed from the game after the Utley home run. He pitched 6 2/3 innings, gave up seven hits and three walks and fanned six batters.
“They’re a good team,” Sabathia said to MLB.com. “You know, they’re the defending champs. They have an American League lineup, and you have to battle.”

“He was outstanding,” Posada said. “He really gave us a chance to win. If we can take one pitch back, I would take the pitch that Utley hit. Everything else, you really have to give credit to the hitters. He was on.”
Damaso Marte retired Howard on a flyout to end the inning to set the stage for Chamberlain’s fateful eighth inning that cost Sabathia a victory.
But Damon’s hard-earned single, his steal and dash to third and Rodriguez’s clutch double had erased all those negative thoughts.
“That’s this team,” Chamberlain said to MLB.com. “We just go out and pick each other up. In the bullpen, you get to go back out there tomorrow. I can’t say enough of these guys for picking me up.”
Once Rivera was handed the game ball by Teixeira after his 11th World Series save the Yankees walked off the field knowing they are just nine innings away from the goal they shoot for every season.
“I’ve said all along that I’ve felt this club has been extremely resilient all year,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “We’ve been through some up-and-down times, and our guys have gotten back up and played extremely well. All I think about is playing a good game tomorrow.”

The Yankees will send Game 2 winning pitcher A.J. Burnett to the mound on three days’ rest no Monday night. He will be opposed by Game 1 winner Cliff Lee of the Phillies. But the Yankees will not thinking about the championship just yet.

“We won’t think about that now until it’s done,” Damon said. “They’re a great team. We’re not going to count anything until our job is finished.”

Gametime will be 7:57 p.m. EST and it will be televised nationally by FOX.