YANKEES 9, BLUE JAYS 6
Through the course of a 162-game season, teams have to go through many difficult tests to prove their worthy of moving on to the playoffs. On Sunday, the Yankees were down 5-1 to Blue Jays after five innings in a game the Yankees desperately needed to win.
Somehow and someway they got off the mat and scored one of their most crucial victories of the season in front of a paid crowd of 31,418 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees benefitted from a wild pitch to tally a run in the sixth, tied it with three runs in the eighth (the tying run scoring on another wild pitch) and Eduardo Nunez hit a sacrifice fly to deep left to score Curtis Granderson with the tie-breaking run in the eighth as New York came back from the brink of despair to down Toronto and clinch their 17th playoff spot over the past 18 seasons.
The victory also allowed the Yankees to maintain a first-place tie in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
The heroic comeback began in the sixth when Robinson Cano led off with a double and he advanced to third on Nick Swisher’s line-drive single to right off Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. With Granderson at the plate, Alvarez tossed 1-2 pitch into the dirt past catcher J.P. Arencibia to allow Cano to score.
The Yankees opened the seventh against lefty reliever Brett Cecil with a lined single by Eric Chavez, who had accounted for the Yankees’ first run of the game in the third with a solo home run, his 16th of the season.
Manager John Farrell replaced Cecil with right-hander Steve Delabar and Derek Jeter greeted him with a ground-rule double down the right-field line to chase Chavez to third. Ichiro Suzuki scored Chavez with a sacrifice fly to center.
Alex Rodriguez then battled back from 0-2 count to draw a walk and Cano laced a double into deep right to score Jeter and advance Rodriguez to third.
Farrell replaced Delabar with left-hander Aaron Loup and, with Swisher at the plate, Loup tossed a slider into the dirt past Arencibia to allow Rodriguez to tack on the tying run.
The Yankees hoped the rally would continue with Cano on third and one out, but Swisher laced a bullet line-drive that Yunel Escobar caught with a dive to his right and he threw to Brett Lawrie at third to double up Cano.
But the Yankees were not through by any stretch.
In the eighth, Granderson drew a leadoff walk from veteran left-hander Darren Oliver (3-4) and Raul Ibanez followed it by lashing a single into right, forcing Farrell to replace Oliver with right-hander Brandon Lyon.
Russell Martin slapped a sacrifice bunt to Lawrie at third to advance Granderson and pinch-runner Brett Gardner and Nunez hit the very next pitch to deep right and right-fielder Moises Sierra made a spectacular grab of the ball before it reached the wall. However, it was plenty deep enough to score Granderson and give the Yankees their first lead in the game.
Jeter provided insurance by dropping a sinking liner into right to score Gardner.
The Yankees even added a pair of runs in the ninth by loading the bases with no outs against veteran right-hander Jason Frasor and Granderson laced a two-run single into right to give the Yankees a seemingly “comfortable” 9-5 lead. The RBIs for Granderson gave him exactly 100 on the season.
While the Yankees did not receive much in the way of pitching from 16-game winner Phil Hughes, the bullpen pitched well enough to allow the Yankees to make their comeback.
Hughes was tagged for five runs on eight hits and two walks while he struck out four batters in 4 2/3 innings.
Veteran sinker specialist Derek Lowe relieved Hughes in the fifth after Hughes gave up three runs on five hits and left the game with runners on first and third and two out. But Lowe ended the inning by getting Arencibia on a flyout.
Lowe then retired the next four batters he faced on groundouts before Boone Logan (7-2) came with one out in the seventh and he retired the side despite issuing a two-out walk to Escobar.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth, which set up the Yankees hoped would be a routine ninth with Rafael Soriano on to close it out.
However, anyone who has followed this tortuous and trying season with the Yankees knows there is no such thing as routine when it comes to the Yankees and their victories.
Lawrie opened the frame with a single and Rajai Davis added his ninth hit of the series with a single to center. Soriano then walked Colby Rasmus to load the bases.
But Soriano was able to induce Escobar to hit into a double-play, which scored Lawrie but left the Yankees with just one out to get. Soriano then retired Adam Lind on a groundout from Cano to Swisher to end the game.
The Yankees collected on the field to celebrate but it was a subdued one. They are waiting to really celebrate when they win the division.
The Yankees are 92-67 – as are the Orioles. But they also are one game behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Blue Jays, who seemed to play this series to a tie as if their lives were on the line, fell to just 70-89, 21 games back in fourth place in the division.
- Nunez’s sacrifice fly was huge and it could not have happened to a more deserving player. Nunez battled his way back from a demotion to Triple-A and a thumb injury to come back with vengeance since his Sept. 1 recall. He has driven in runs in three of his last four games and there is a good possibility that the Yankees might use him as a right-handed designated hitter in the playoffs over outfielder Andruw Jones.
- After slumping much of September, it appears Cano is getting back on track at the plate. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. He now has a six-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-24 (.625) with five RBIs. With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup and Alex Rodriguez scuffling all month, Cano pretty much has had to produce for the Yankees to have a chance to win.
- Lowe stopped the bleeding in the fifth and retired all five batters he faced. Though Lowe got cuffed around pretty good in his first eight appearances (0-1 with a 5.79 ERA), he has pitched much better over his last eight appearances (0-0 with a 1.46 ERA). There is a good chance Lowe could make the postseason roster over Freddy Garcia because he has more value out of the bullpen.
- Hughes did not pitch very well at all. But the Blue Jays are a bad matchup for a flyball pitcher like Hughes. The Blue Jays scored two off Hughes in the first, keyed by a one-out double by Escobar. Lawrie tagged him for a two-run homer in the fifth, the 28th Hughes has given up this season. Sierra chased him with an RBI single later in the fifth. Hughes is 1-1 with a 7.16 ERA in his last three starts. This is not how Hughes wanted to enter the playoffs.
- Soriano’s shaky ninth was a bit of a concern. But you have to chalk that up to the fact that he has only pitched one-third of an inning overt the past week because he has not gotten save opportunities in the games the Yankees have won in that stretch. His last save was on Sept. 19 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays.
- Lost in the excitement over the victory is the fact the Yankees did not take full advantage of their situation in the sixth after Alvarez uncorked a wild pitch to allow Cano to score. Granderson was up with Swisher at second but he grounded out to Alvarez, which was an unproductive out. Ibanez grounded out weakly to Lind at first and Martin struck out swinging. This is a microcosm of the Yankees’ season. They blow a lot of chances to score runs by not delivering with runners in scoring position.
Girardi said Teixeira will start at first base on Monday for the Yankees in his first action since he reinjured his left calf on Sept. 8. Teixiera worked out in Tampa, FL, on Sunday after playing the previous day in an Instructional League game and he reported no issues with his injured calf. Teixeira will see the team physician in New York on Monday and he is expected to be cleared to play. . . . Nunez will make the postseason roster because reserve infielder Jayson Nix is expected to miss the next 10 to 14 days with a strained left hip flexor. Nix sustained the injury during Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays. . . . The Yankees continue to have Ivan Nova penciled in as the starter for Tuesday’s game but no definite word has been issued. Nova is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his three starts since coming off the disabled list.
The division title is on the line and the Yankees will have to beat the “Dead” Sox to win it over the last three games.
Ace lefty CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42 ERA) will open the series. Sabathia is coming off an impressive outing in which he gave up two runs on six hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings against the Minnesota Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22 ERA) will start for the last-place Red Sox. Buchholz gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings in loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. He is 2-4 with 5.84 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 2, BLUE JAYS 1
By the time 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki came up in the eighth inning with the game on the line, he already had a what could be considered a great two games in the day-night doubleheader. He was 6-for-7 with two doubles, two stolen bases and two runs scored plus a game-saving catch in the first game.
Suzuki obviously was not satisfied with it.
With Curtis Granderson at third and two out, Suzuki sliced a bloop single into left off reliever Aaron Loup that broke a 1-1 tie and New York went on to complete a sweep of Toronto in the doubleheader to insure they will remain in first place in the American League East.
Since Suzuki was acquired from the Mariners in July, he is 52-for-164 (.317).
Rafael Soriano was summoned in the ninth and he dispatched the Blue Jays in order to record his second save of the day and his 42nd save in 45 chances on the season.
The Yankees were just happy to carve out a victory at Yankee Stadium in a game when they had repeated chances to score but they could not come through with the big hit until Suzuki did it in the eighth.
The Blue Jays claimed an early 1-0 lead in the second inning by taking advantage of the one inning of the game rookie right-hander David Phelps struggled with his control.
Phelps issued back-to-back one-out walks to J.P. Arencibia and Kelly Johnson before he managed to fan Yan Gomes swinging for the second out. But Adeiny Hechavarria slapped a single under Phelps’ glove and into center-field to score Arencibia.
The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning off Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, who entered the contest with a franchise-tying record of 13 consecutive losing decisions dating back to June 22. The Yankees also took advantage of some wildness by Romero.
Romero issued a one-out free pass to Jayson Nix and Nix stole second before Romero also walked Casey McGahee.
Suzuki singled into center-field but Colby Rasmas threw out a sliding Nix at the plate with a perfect throw to Arencibia.
Chris Stewart then followed with a ground-rule double down the left-field line that scored McGahee.
But in the rest of the contest, the Yankees pretty much squandered chance after chance to score off Romero, who gave up seven hits, walked five and struck out five in six innings. They did the following:
- The Yankees had Derek Jeter on first with his 200th hit of the season in the first and Nick Swisher walked. But Robinson Cano flew out and Alex Rodriguez hit into an inning-ending double play.
- After Stewart’s double in the second, they had runners at second and third and two out but Jeter struck out swinging.
- Swisher and Cano stroked consecutive one-out singles in the fifth but Rodriguez and Granderson both struck out swinging.
- Suzuki hit a two-out single in the sixth and he stole second and third base while Stewart drew a walk. However, Jeter grounded out to third.
- After Suzuki’s RBI single broke the tie in the eighth, he stole second and third base for the second time in the game. Stewart drew a walk and he also stole a base. Then Jeter drew a walk from reliever Brandon Lyon to load the bases. But Swisher struck out swinging.
Other than Stewart’s RBI double and Suzuki’s two singles with runners on second, the Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base.
However, they did break out a new weapon in their arsenal: The stolen base. They stole a season-high seven bases in the game, including Suzuki’s four.
Phelps deserved a better fate. He gave up one run on just three hits and three walks and he struck out six in 6 1/3 innings.
Cody Eppley (1-2) pitched to one batter in the eighth and struck him out to get credit for the victory.
Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar (4-3) took the loss after surrendering a leadoff walk to Granderson in the eighth. Nix sacrificed him to second on a perfect bunt.
Loup then came on and struck out pinch-hitter Steve Pearce swinging but Suzuki was able to come through with his fourth hit of the game and give the Yankees an important victory.
Coupled with the Baltimore Orioles’ 10-inning 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees maintained a half-game lead in the American League East. The Yankees are also a game up in the loss column at 84-63. The Blue Jays fell to 66-81.
- Suzuki’s day was just absolutely mind-boggling. He did it all with his glove, his bat and his feet. The 7-for-8 day raised his season average to .277. Also give credit to Girardi for playing the 38-year-old Suzuki in both games despite the fact Romero is a left-hander and Suzuki had been benched against most lefties lately. Of course, Suzuki was 9-for-25 (.360) in his career against Romero. So it was an easy decision.
- Phelps was a late addition to start this game because the Yankees did not want to have Phil Hughes and Pettitte on the same rest next week. So Hughes was pushed back a day and Phelps pitched a real gem. In his 10 starts this season, Phelps is 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA. He now becomes a valuable arm in the bullpen because he is 4-4 with a 3.24 ERA overall.
- Stewart had his best game in a while. He was 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and a stolen base. He also called a great game for Phelps and he even caught the American League second-leading base-stealer in Rajai Davis trying to take second in the third inning.
- The 0-for- 11 number for the starters other than Suzuki and Stewart is important. This team needs to start doing a better job with runners in scoring position if they want to advance in the playoffs. Home runs will not bail them out against top-flight pitching. So they better improve on this in a hurry.
- Rodriguez was the poster child for the team’s futility. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he grounded into a double play. With Mark Teixeira still out for the forseeable future, A-Rod has to deliver with runners on base and stop stinking up the joint as he did Wednesday.
- Jeter’s hit gave him 200 on the season which makes him the sixth oldest player in the majors to reach 200 hits in a season. He is the first player to reach 200 hits at age 38 since Paul Molitor did it in 1996. But he also failed two times with runners in scoring position to deliver the big hit. He left four runners on base and A-Rod left five.
Jeter returned to short in the second game of the doubleheader, his first start at the position in a week due to a nagging deep bone bruise in his left ankle. Jeter committed his 10th error of the season on a high throw to first after fielding a ball off the bat of Arencibia in the seventh inning. . . . The Yankees elected not to activate outfielder Brett Gardner from the disabled list. Gardner, who has missed most all of the season with a strained right elbow and elbow surgery, may be activated on Thursday but it will require the Yankees to make a move on their 40-man roster. They activated Andy Pettitte by moving pitcher Dellin Betances to the 60-day disabled list.
The Yankees will go for a sweep of their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Hughes (15-12, 3.96 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in a victory over the Boston Red Sox last Thursday. He has a 3.24 ERA since June. He is 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will start journeyman left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-5, 4.55 ERA). Laffey gave up three runs on four hits and four walks in just 3 2/3 innings against the Red Sox. He has lost his last four starts. He is 0-2 with a 9.56 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast regionally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, ASTROS 9 (RAIN SHORTENED)
KISSIMMEE, FL – A week or so ago it just seemed the Yankees were not scoring any runs. After Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros you have to wonder are they ever going to stop scoring.
Raul Ibanez homered and drove in four runs and Robinson Cano added a home run of his own and two RBIs as New York pounded out 16 hits – four of them homers – to down Houston at Osceola County Stadium in a game that was called with one out in the ninth inning due to rain.
Right-hander Adam Warren (1-0) was the winning pitcher despite the fact he gave up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees made life miserable for Astros starter Jordan Lyles (0-3), who was knocked around for eight runs on 11 hits and he walked one batter in 4 2/3 innings.
Preston Claiborne gave up two runs in the ninth inning but still got credit for a save.
In their last two spring training contests the Yankees have scored 24 runs on 31 hits and 11 walks.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-11 and that means they can finish the spring with no worse than a .500 record. The Astros completed their Florida portion of spring training and ended up 14-15.
- The story of the week has been the resurrection of Ibanez. In his last five games, Ibanez is 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs and eight RBIs. Not to mention he had another potential home run taken away by a leaping grab at the wall by Justin Heyward of the Braves on Wednesday. Ibanez has raised his once dismal spring average from a low of .054 to a still poor, yet encouraging, .157. It looks like the extra work Ibanez has been putting in with hitting coach Kevin Long is paying dividends at the right time.
- Cano also had a slow start to the spring but he is gearing to put up a monster season from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Cano singled and scored in the first and preceded Ibanez’s two-run home run in the fifth with one of his own as the Yankees rallied from a 5-4 deficit to 8-5 lead, a lead they did not relinquish. Cano is hitting .236 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs.
- Curtis Granderson is also primed for another big season. Granderson was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Granderson is hitting a sizzling .381 this spring and it seems he is determined to show 2011 was not a fluke.
- It also bears mentioning that the Yankees’ firstup draft pick in 2011, Dante Bichette Jr., served notice on Saturday that he is a force to be reckoned with in the future. Bichette entered the game in the fifth inning and promptly hit a solo home in the sixth off right-hander Ruben Alantz. He followed that with another solo home run in the eighth off Astros closer Brandon Lyon. Both home runs came on the first pitch.
- The pitching was atrocious but manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure his rotation was lined up for the start of the regular season on Friday so Warren was pressed into action. The 24-year-old former North Carolina Tarheels star had trouble locating his fastball and he paid dearly for it. He gave up four runs in the fourth, three of them on a three-run home run by Justin Ruggiano.
- It had to happen sooner or later but left-hander Clay Rapada surrendered his first run of the spring on Saturday. Called on to relieve Warren with two outs in the sixth, Rapada gave up a solo home run to Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed batter. Rapada, 30, will likely make the 25-man roster as a lefty specialist in the bullpen. His spring ERA is 0.93.
- Eduardo Nunez was the only Yankee starter to not get a hit on Saturday. Nunez was 0-for-3 but he still has had an excellent spring, hitting at a .381 clip.
An MRI conducted on Saturday on 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda’s sore right shoulder indicated he merely has tendinitis. However, he will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Pineda complained of soreness behind his right shoulder after he was blasted for six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Friday night. The Yankees said Pineda will rest the shoulder and then resume throwing until he is ready to return. Pineda was acquired along with right-hander Jose Campos from the Mariners in a trade for top catching prospect Jesus Montero this winter. With Pineda on the disabled list, manager Joe Girardi set the rotation as follows: No. 1 CC Sabathia, No. 2 Hiroli Kuroda, No. 3 Phil Hughes, No. 4 Ivan Nova and No. 5 Freddy Garcia. . . . With Pineda on the DL, the loser in the six-man fight for five rotation spots will not be headed to the bullpen. That opens the door for young right-handers David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Warren as candidates for a long-relief role. . . . Left-hander Cesar Cabral has a stress fracture on the tip of his left elbow and he also will begin the season on the disabled list. Cabral, 23, was in considerable pain after pitching an inning against the Phillies on Friday. An MRI, an X-ray and a CT scan was conducted on Saturday and Cabral’s left arm was placed in a splint. The silver lining in this is that with Cabral on the disabled list the Yankees will not have to offer the Rule 5 selection back to the Kansas City Royals. . . . In a procedural move the Yankees released first baseman/DH Russell Branyan on Friday and signed him to a new minor-league deal on Saturday. Branyan, 36, has been unable to play in any games this spring due to a herniated disc in his back. Branyan will stay in Tampa, FL, after spring training ends to work back into shape for about four weeks.
The Yankees will travel to Miami, FL., on Sunday to play the Marlins in a pair of games and open their brand-new retractable roof stadium, Marlins Park.
In the Sunday opener the Yankees will start Sabathia in his final tuneup before his April 6 start against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. The Marlins will counter with right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
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.