YANKEES 4, ASTROS 2
There was a popular TV game show in the 1950s and 1960s called “To Tell the Truth” in which two impostors would join a real guest to try an fool a panel. At the end of some probing questions the host Bud Collyer would say “Would the real (name) please stand up.”
After the first two games of the season where they looked like impostors, the real New York Yankees decided to stand up on Thursday.
Rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte, who was making his first major-league start, sparked the victory by going 3-for-3 and Ivan Nova and the Yankees bullpen held the Astros without a hit after the fifth inning as New York finally defeated Houston in front of a paid crowd of 26,348 at Minute Maid Park.
Solarte, 26, had a hit in all three innings in which the Yankees scored.
With one out in the third inning and the Yankees trailing 1-0, Solarte followed an Ichiro Suzki single with his first major-league hit – a single – to advance Suzuki to third. Brett Gardner then tied the game with an RBI single.
After Derek Jeter walked to load the bases, the Yankees took their first lead of the game and the three-game series when Carlos Beltran scored Solarte on a sacrifice fly.
The Yankees padded their lead in the fifth when Solarte delivered a one-out double and Jeter scored him on a two-out single to right in which Astros first baseman Marc Krauss chose to cut off a throw from Alex Presley in right that appeared it might get Solarte at the plate in order to tag out Jeter rounding first base too far.
The Yankees took a 3-2 lead into the seventh when with two out Suzuki doubled to the wall in left-center off right-hander Brad Peacock and Solarte lofted a towering popup between the mound and home plate. Astros catcher Carlos Corporan allowed the ball to drop to score Suzuki and give Solarte his first major-league RBI.
Nova (1-0) was credited with the victory, although he did not have much command of any of his pitches.
The Astros scored a run in the first inning off Nova on a back-to-back singles by Dexter Fowler and Robbie Grossman and Nova hit Jason Castro with an 0-2 pitch to load the bases with no outs.
Jose Altuve then plated Fowler on a groundout.
After the Yankees took a 3-1 lead off left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (0-1) in the fifth, the Astros added another run off Nova after a leadoff double by Jonathan Villar and an RBI single by Fowler, who was 6-for-12 with a home run, five runs scored and two RBIs in the series.
Fowler’s RBI single would end up as the Astros’ final hit of the evening, however.
Nova left in the sixth having been charged with two runs on six hits and five walks while he struck out one in 5 2/3 innings. He also hit two batters.
Nova managed to limit the damage by recording 12 groundball outs, including four double plays.
Obervoltaer also pitched 5 2/3 innings, yielding three runs on five hits and one walk. He fanned five batters.
The Yankees’ bullpen trio of Adam Warren, Shawn Kelley and David Robertson preserved the victory by retiring all 10 hitters they faced, five of them on strikeouts.
Robertson pitched a perfect ninth inning to earn his first save of the season as the new Yankees closer replacing the legendary Mariano Rivera.
- The legend of Solarte was already the talk of the spring after he was 18-for-42 (.429) with two homers and nine RBIs. The 26-year-old Venezuelan claimed the final roster spot over veteran Eduardo Nunez and he very quickly made an impression in his first start. I would say that he can relax now that he has his first hit and RBI out of the way but the kid has shown no nerves at all. Can we call him “Never Nervous” Yangervis?
- Suzuki drew a start in right-field despite the fact there was a left-hander starting and he took advantage by going 2-for-4 and scored a pair of runs. Suzuki got hot at the tail end of the spring, going 9-for-26 (.346) in his final nine starts. It seems like it is carrying over to the regular season.
- Jeter’s RBI single in the fifth gave him 3,318 hits of this career, which puts him just one behind Paul Molitor in eighth place on the all-time hits list.
- Nova was erratic all evening with his command. His fastball was riding up in the strike zone and his curve had catcher Francisco Cervelli diving all over for it. He threw only 47 of his 88 pitches for strikes. But Nova survived with his ability to induce ground balls and the four double plays behind him really saved his victory.
- Gardner, Jeter, Suzuki and Solarte combined for all of the Yankees seven hits. That means the batters hitting in the No. 3 spot through the No. 7 spot (Beltran, Mark Teixeira, Alfonso Soriano, Cervelli and Brian Roberts) were a combined 0-for-18 in the game.
- Teixeira and Soriano followed up on their combined 0-for-8 game on Wednesday with another 0-for-8 night on Thursday. Soriano was 0-for-12 in the series with four strikeouts.
With a left-hander on the mound in Oberholtzer, manager Joe Girardi elected to sit left-handed hitters Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Kelly Johnson and shift Gardner to center and the leadoff spot. He inserted Suzuki in right, made Beltran the designated hitter and played Soriano in left. He also used Cervelli behind the plate and put Solarte in at third. Girardi said the day off for Ellsbury was planned because of his abbreviated spring nursing a sore right calf. . . . The Yankees announced on Thursday that the “Core Four” will take part in the ceremonial first pitch for the team’s home opener on Monday against the Baltimore Orioles. Pitchers Andy Pettitte and Rivera will throw the opening pitches to catcher Jorge Posada and Jeter.
The Yankees travel to Toronto to open a three-game weekend series with the Blue Jays at the Rogers Centre beginning on Friday.
There also will be a bevy of Japanese media on hand as Masahiro Tanaka (2-0, 2.14 ERA) will be making his major-league debut with the Yankees. Tanaka, 25, struck out 26 batters in 21 innings this spring, most of them with his world-class split-finger fastball.
The Blue Jays will start right-hander Dustin McGowan (0-0, 3.86 ERA), who will be making his first major-league start since Sept. 26, 2011. McGowan, 32, missed all of the 2012 season and he pitched in 25 games in relief for the Blue Jays last season.
Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, ASTROS 4
On the final day of April, a day in which the Yankees placed their ninth player on the disabled list, they did pretty much what they have been doing most of the month: Finding a way to win.
Hiroki Kuroda recovered from a shaky first three innings to complete the best April of his career and Travis Hafner continued his hot month with three RBI singles as New York downed Houston on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 34,401 at Yankee Stadium.
Kuroda (4-1) surrendered three hits and four walks in throwing 67 pitches in the first three innings but he stranded all seven base-runners. With Kuroda struggling with his command, pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggested the 38-year-old right-hander try pitching only from the stretch.
Over the next four innings, Kuroda gave up only a leadoff single by Jose Altuve in the fifth inning. Kuroda retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced to earn the victory. He shut out the Astros on four hits and four walks while striking out a season-high eight batters.
Meanwhile, the Yankees wasted no time getting to Astros right-hander Philip Humber (0-6).
Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a infield single off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki. One out later Hafner delivered the first of his three run-scoring singles, a line drive to the opposite field that left-fielder Brandon Barners trapped in his glove to allow Gardner to score.
Hafner delivered again in the third inning after Suzuki reached first on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike. Suzuki advanced to second on a stolen base and scored on Hafner’s single up the middle against an exaggerated Astros’ shift on the left-handed slugger.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth after back-to-back one-out singles by Suzuki and Robinson Cano. After Humber uncorked his second of his three wild pitches of the night, Hafner was walked intentionally and Gardner scored when Brennan Boesch beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Jayson Nix followed with an RBI single to score Cano.
Humber was touched for four runs on nine hits and two walks while he fanned two in six innings.
The Astros cut the lead in half against reliever David Robertson in the eighth inning when Carlos Pena drew a two-out walk and Chris Carter followed with an opposite field two-run home run to right-center.
The Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning when Lyle Overbay led off the inning with his third home run of the season off reliever Brad Peacock. Eduardo Nunez followed with his third hit of the game – a double to center – and Chris Stewart slapped an RBI single up the middle to chase Peacock.
After one out, Suzuki singled to right off reliever Rhiner Cruz and with two out Hafner closed out the scoring on a bloop single to the opposite field in left that scored Stewart.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Shawn Kelley could not hold the team’s five-run cushion in the ninth.
With two out and a Marwin Gonzalez on first, Robbie Grossman singled to right-center and Altuve followed a two-run double.
Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kelley with Mariano Rivera and Rivera struck out Jason Castro swinging to earn his 10th save in 10 chances.
The Yankees have now won five of their last six games and they completed April with a 16-10 record, which puts them in second place in the American League East. The Astros fell to 8-19.
- Give Kuroda a lot of credit for shutting down the Astros despite the fact he did not initially have his best stuff. With his seven shutout innings, Kuroda lowered his season ERA to 2.25 and he is tied with CC Sabathia for the team lead in victories with four. His career ERA of 3.38 is the lowest of any Japanese pitcher in history.
- Hafner finished the month with a flourish. With his 3-for-4 night, Hafner is hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. His three-RBI game drew him into a tie with Cano for the team lead in RBIs. That is not bad for a player who has not played a full major-league season since 2007. The Yankees have needed his power with so many players injured and Hafner has delivered.
- Two players who have been scuffling most of the month are suddenly getting hot. Suzuki was 3-for-5 and scored two runs. In his last seven games, Suzuki is 11-for-27 (.407) with three runs scored and two RBIs. His hot streak has raised his batting average to .268. Meanwhile, Nunez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and run scored. Since hitting coach Kevin Long tweaked his batting stance, Nunez is 5-for-14 (.357), which has raised his season average to .203.
- The usually reliable Robertson let the Astros back into the contest by giving up the two-run home run to Carter. Robertson had a uncharacteristically poor month in which he was touched for five runs on nine hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings over 11 games. His 4.22 ERA is a product of giving up two homers.
- Kelley may have an excellent slider but he is really having trouble getting ahead in counts to use it. He has surrendered nine runs on 12 hits (four them home runs) and four walks in 10 1/3 innings. He has been scored upon in four of his eight appearances and he soon may be punching his own ticket to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- In his three at-bats in the game, Boesch came up to the plate with six runners on base and he managed to score just one of them. He bounced into an inning-ending double play in the first and then two fielders’ choices. He did drive in a run by beating out a double-play relay in the fifth. The lefty swinging Boesch was 0-for-3 and he is now batting .200 on the season. He is hitting just .167 against righties and .273 against lefties, which is very odd.
The Yankees placed corner infielder Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday after an MRI indicated a lumbar spine sprain. He is the ninth player the Yankees have placed on the DL. Infielder Corban Joseph was recalled from Scranton to take Youkilis’ spot on the roster. Youkilis had missed six games before playing in a game on Saturday. However, Youkilis re-aggravated his back injury in the game and now he can’t be activated until May 13. General manager Brian Cashman and Girardi both admitted playing Youkilis on Saturday was a big mistake. The 34-year-old veteran was hitting .266 with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 games. Joseph, 24, was hitting .273 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 22 games. . . . Injured outfielder Curtis Granderson may soon progress to playing in some minor-league rehab games. Granderson has been sidelined with a fractured right forearm suffered in his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24. Meanwhile, first baseman Mark Teixeira has not advanced past taking some dry swings and his return is looking more likely in June. Teixeira is on the disabled list with a partially torn sheath in his right wrist.
The Yankees can take the three-game series against Houston with a victory in the rubber game on Wednesday.
Right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.29 ERA) will make his first start of the season as a replacement for injured right-hander Ivan Nova. Phelps, 26, was brilliant in four innings of relief after Nova left Friday’s game with an inflamed right triceps. Phelps gave up one run and struck out a career-high nine. Phelps has never faced the Astros.
The Astros will start veteran left-hander Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.98 ERA). Bedard has not pitched more than four innings in any of his four starts. He has allowed 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last three starts. He is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, ASTROS 4 (10 Innings)
TAMPA – Chris Stewart’s two-out RBI single scored Travis Hafner to key a three-run rally in the sixth that drew the Yankees into a 4-4 tie as New York and Houston played 10 innings to a draw on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 10,631 at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees trailed 4-0 after the Astros scored three runs in the first inning and a single tally in the fourth off a less-than-sharp CC Sabathia. The ace left-hander was touched for four runs on six hits and three walks in five innings of work.
Meanwhile, Astros right-hander Brad Peacock held the Yankees scoreless until Brett Gardner delivered a two-out, three-run triple to score Eduardo Nunez in the fifth inning. Peacock only surrendered the one run on two hits and two walks in his five innings of work.
The Yankees rallied for the tie against Astros left-hander Wesley Wright and right-hander C.J. Fick in the sixth. Kevin Youkilis followed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano with an RBI double that halved the Astros’ lead to 4-2.
After a Hafner single and an error by Astros right-fielder Brandon Barnes that allowed Hafner to take second, newly acquired outfielder Vernon Wells scored Youkilis on an infield groundout. Stewart then followed three batters later with his RBI single that scored Hafner, however, Astros left-fielder Chris Carter threw out Wells at home plate attempting to score the tie-breaking run.
The Yankees remain 12-17 this spring. The Astros are 13-14.
- After a bit of slump in the middle of spring training, Gardner lately has been much better at the plate. He was 2-for-3 in the game and he is now hitting a solid .310 on the spring. As long as Derek Jeter is recovering from his fractured left ankle, Gardner likely will remain the team’s leadoff hitter.
- Youkilis is proving to be a valuable run producer in the cleanup spot. His RBI single on Tuesday gives him a team-leading 13 RBIs this spring. Discounting his 0-for-9 start, Youkilis is hitting .333 (12-for-36) with five home runs and 13 RBIs. Though Yankee fans were loathe to cheer him earlier there have been a lot of “Youk” cheers being heard around the stadium these past few weeks.
- Five relievers, including Marino Rivera, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain, Boone Logan and Vidal Nuno, held Houston scoreless on four hits and one walk in the final five innings. Although the Yankees have struggled to score runs this spring, the core the bullpen has been excellent and looks to be ready for the regular season.
- It would seem alarming that Sabathia would be knocked around by a team made up of mostly Triple-A players. But temperatures at game-time were in the mid-50s with a 15 mile-per-hour breeze that made it seem much cooler. Most Yankee fans realize that Sabathia is a warm-weather pitcher and I would not be too concerned about this poor tuneup for his Opening Day start on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium.
- Though he is still hitting .306 on the spring, Ichiro Suzuki was 0-for-4 on Tuesday and he has not been as productive at the plate lately. Pitchers are feeding him a steady diet of breaking pitches and Suzuki has been popping up and rolling out weakly on them. I would not be too concerned about the 39-year-old former Most Valuable Player either.
- Hafner must have read the tea leaves about the Yankees’ latest signings and decided he better get busy with the bat. He was 3-for-4 on Tuesday but his batting average is at .195. The Yankees might very well release him early in the regular season if he fails to produce some power and run production.
The Wells trade rumors proved to be true and he played in his first game on Tuesday, going 0-for-3 with an RBI. He was acquired from the Los Angeles Angels for low-level prospects Exicardo Cayones and Kramer Sneed and cash considerations. Wells, 34, is now expected to be the team’s starting left-fielder to begin the season. The Yankees agreed to paid $13 million of his $42 million contract, all of it coming this season. Wells hit .230 with 11 home runs and 29 RBIs in only 77 games last season with the Angels. He is a career .273 hitter with 259 major-league home runs and he won three Gold Glove awards as a center-fielder with the Toronto Blue Jays. . . . The Yankees also signed veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay to a minor-league contract on Tuesday and they plan to give him a three-day audition to win the first base job. Overbay was released by the Boston Red Sox earlier on Tuesday. Overbay, 36, hit .214 with the Bosox with no home runs and seven RBIs this spring. With starting first baseman Mark Teixeira expected to miss at least a month and a half with a partially torn tendon sheath in his right wrist, the Yankees have looked at outfielder Juan Rivera and corner infielder Dan Johnson as possible replacements. However, Johnson is hitting .063 (2-for-32). . . . Jeter said Tuesday he is disappointed that he will not open the season as the team’s starting shortstop for the first time since the 2001 season. Jeter will be placed on the 15-day disabled list retroactively so that he could return as early as April 6. However, he has been idle since encountering recurring soreness in his surgically repaired left ankle. He will receive more treatment at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, but it is unclear when he will be able to resume workouts. . . . Manager Joe Girardi confirmed on Wednesday that right-hander Phil Hughes will open the season on the 15-day disabled list. Hughes, 26, has not pitched in a single Grapefruit League because of a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes could be activated as soon as April 6, however, a more realistic date for his return would be April 11. Hughes did pitch three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class-A West Virginia team last week and the Yankees will keep him in Tampa until he builds up his arm in order to be able to make a start.
The Yankees travel to Sarasota, FL, to face the Baltimore Orioles in their final road game of the Grapefruit League season.
Right-hander David Phelps (2-3, 3.97 ERA) will be making his seventh start of the spring. Right-hander Jair Jurrjens will start for the Orioles.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast live by the MLB Network.