Tagged: Comerica Park

Yankees Sweep O’s As Early Big Lead Aids Tanaka

GAME 94

YANKEES 9, ORIOLES 4

The 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were also characterized by the term “Five O’Clock Lightning” because somewhere around that time would come a barrage that put an opponent away. The 2015 Yankees should be called “1:30 Lightning” for their penchant for their first-inning outbursts.

They did again in style on Thursday.

Chase Headley stroked a base-clearing double with two out as part of a four-run first inning and Masahiro Tanaka pitched masterfully into the eighth as New York swept reeling Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 46,875 at Yankee Staduim.

Jacoby Ellsbury added to the onslaught with three hits, four RBIs and finished the day just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as the Yankees rapped out 13 hits to win their ninth game out of their past 11 to take a commanding 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East.

Tanaka (7-3) capitalized on the 9-1 lead his was given by the bottom of the fifth inning and cruised to victory despite yielding solo home runs to Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. Tanaka gave up three runs on just five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

The Yankees, meanwhile, immediately jumped all over right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6) in the first as Ellsbury singled to left and Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez drew walks on 3-2 pitches to load the bases.

After Jimenez looked to be just about out of danger after striking out Mark Teixeira and retiring Carlos Beltran on a shallow outfield fly, Headley laced a three-run double off the center-field wall. Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI single to score Headley.

After Davis crushed a fastball into the right-field bleachers for his second home run in as many at-bats and his 21st of the season to lead off the second inning, Ellsbury delivered a long home run of his own to lead of the bottom of the inning.

The Yankees then proceeded to put the game away for good in the fourth inning after Gregorius and John Ryan Murphy reached on one-out singles. Stephen Drew delivered the knockout blow to Jimenez with a lined single to right to score Gregorius.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter replaced Jimenez and was greeted with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ellsbury that scored Murphy to make the score 7-1.

Jimenez was charged with all seven runs on eight hits and three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. In his previous outing, Jimenez also surrendered seven runs on seven hits (including three home runs) to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park last Friday.

The Yankees added a pair of runs off right-hander Bud Norris in the fifth inning on an opposite-field single by Headley and a single off the second-base bag by Murphy. Ellsbury capped his big day with a two-out, two-run double to left to pad the Yankees lead to 9-1.

Tanaka, meanwhile, was dazzling the Orioles with pinpoint command. He yielded just the one run and three hits through 7 1/3 innings until Hardy cracked a solo home run to left and, one out later, Machado laced a shot of his own for his 21st home run of the season.

It was Tanaka’s third consecutive victory in his past three starts and he has not lost a game since the Tigers defeated him 12-4 on June 21 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are now a season-high 53-41 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the division. The Orioles dropped to 46-48 and they trail the Yankees by seven games.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury was hitting .327 on July 11, one day before the All-Star break. He immediately fell into a 3-for-26 (.115) slide until Thursday’s game. He was 3-for-4 with a single, double, home run, two runs scored and added four RBIs. In order to light the match to their offense, the Yankees need Ellsbury getting on base along with Gardner. They set the table for the hitters that follow them.
  • Headley is one of those players that just by definition is steady. From May 25 through Thursday Headley’s batting average has stayed within the .242 and .259 range. But since July 1, Headley is 17-for-50 (.340). Oddly though, Headley had no home runs and just seven RBIs during the streak. It is really hard to hit that well and have so little to show for it but Headley is hitting .259 with eight homers and 35 RBIs on the season.
  • Forget the three homers Tanaka gave up. The 26-year-old right-hander seems to be in a nice groove over the past month. In his past four starts, Tanaka is 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. If there is any doubt he is the ace of this staff he is quickly dispelling it.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Tanaka pitched exceptional baseball, the team scored nine runs and they swept a very dangerous division rival. There is no reason to complain about anything about Thursday’s effort. It is clear that after two injury-plagued seasons, the Yankees have gotten their swagger back. They look like they will be tough to beat for the A.L. East title.

ON DECK

The Yankees are off to Minnesota to play the Twins in a weekend series at Target Field that starts on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (9-6, 3.77 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The Twins will look to former Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.15 ERA). Hughes, 29, took a no-decision on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics despite giving up just one run on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in seven innings.

Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Ellsbury’s Speed Allows Yankees To Freeze Tigers

GAME 16

YANKEES 2, TIGERS 1

With Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez locked up in a classic pitchers’ duel and scoring at a premium the result on Thursday was decided by the quick feet of Jacoby Ellsbury.

Ellsbury used his speed to force Sanchez into a costly balk and he later hustled a base hit into a double that led to scoring the game-winning run as New York took three of four games against Detroit on another bone-chilling 38-degree afternoon at Comerica Park.

The Tigers took advantage of some early command issues that plagued Tanaka to score a run in the first inning.

Anthony Gose led off with an opposite-field double and advanced to third on Ian Kinsler’s ground out. After Miguel Cabrera drew a walk, Gose was able to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Victor Martinez.

That run stood up most of the day as Tanaka and Sanchez matched each other for the rest of the afternoon.

After Cabrera’s walk, Tanaka retired 18 of the next 19 batters he faced, striking out six. The only hit he gave up was a two-out double to J.D. Martinez in the fourth inning.

Meanwhile, Sanchez entered the game with a 7.71 ERA. But he was able to keep the Yankees scoreless through the first five innings, yielding only a two-out double to Chris Young while striking out five.

Ellsbury opened the sixth by drawing a walk and stealing second base. Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a infield groundout. Then with two out and Brian McCann up, Ellsbury bluffed his way down the third-base line and forced Sanchez to lose contact with the rubber on his first delivery.

Home-plate umpire Phil Cuzzi made no call as McCann and the Yankees bench protested loudly. Third-base umpire and crew chief Gerry Davis then called the balk and Ellsbury scored the tying run for the Yankees without the benefit of a hit.

Unfortunately, the late call did not please Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and he was ejected from the game by Davis.

Tanaka continued his mastery of the Tigers until J.D. Martinez laced another double with one out in the seventh inning and Yoenis Cespedes the drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. That ended Tanaka’s day.

Left-hander Justin Wilson came on to retire pinch-hitter James McCann on a sensational diving stop by Chase Headley at third, who barely beat Cespedes with his throw to second on a fielder’s choice while preventing Martinez from scoring the tie-breaking run.

Right-hander Dellin Betances then came on to get Nick Castellanos on a foul popup to end the threat.

Ellsbury opened the eighth inning against left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (0-1) with a sinking liner in left-center and he slid into second just ahead the throw from Gose. Gardner advanced him to third on a sacrifice bunt and, after Carlos Beltran was walked intentionally to set up a potential double play, McCann hit a hard grounder that trickled off Cabrera’s glove before Kinsler retrieved it throw out McCann at first base.

However, Cabrera’s inability to field it cleanly allowed Ellsbury to score what turned out to be the decisive run.

Betances (3-0) pitched a perfect eighth to get credit for the victory and Andrew Miller came in to hurl a perfect ninth, striking out Cabrera and J.D. Martinez, to earn his sixth save in as many chances.

Tanaka was charged with one run on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings while Sanchez surrendered one run on one hit and four walks with eight strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.

After losing their first two series at home and one on the road, the Yankees have now won two straight road series. They also cooled off the Tigers and have now won six of their past seven games to improve their record to 9-7. The Tigers fell to 11-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Between Sanchez’s pitching, the cold weather and the fact manager Joe Girardi held Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup to rest them, it was obvious the Yankees would have to be resourceful to score runs. Ellsbury provided it. He was 1-for-2 with his hustle double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored the Yankees two runs. This was Ellsbury at his very best as a leadoff hitter.
  • The Tigers may have a scary offense and some good starting pitching but their bullpen is definitely their Achilles’ heel. It let them down again and lost the game for the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen was flawless throughout the series. Betances was especially impressive on Thursday. He has shaken off a bad spring training and has his velocity back, having registered as high as 97 miles-per-hour on his fastball on Thursday. In his past five outings since April 15, Betances has yielded just two hits and a walk and struck out nine batters in six innings.
  • Headley was 0-for-3 with a walk and struck out three times but his value in this game was huge. Not only did Headley save a run with his diving stop of McCann’s ground ball in the seventh, he also robbed Victor Martinez of a base hit with one out in the ninth. The Yankees may have gotten off to shaky start in the field but they have committed only one error in their past eight games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • This is not so much a negative as it is a complaint. Girardi opted to rest both Teixeira and Rodriguez, who have combined to hit nine home runs and drive in 24 runs. I understand the reason is they are older players but the Tigers used Kinsler, Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez and Cespedes after they played the night before. The Yankees had Beltran batting third and McCann in the cleanup spot. On top of that, Teixeira entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh and played first base for the final two innings. My point is that if Teixeira was going to be used anyway why not start him? Girardi got away with it because Ellsbury bailed him out. But the Yankees can’t be shocked they had only three hits in the game when they basically entered the game with one hand tied behind their back by their own manager. Rest Rodriguez or rest Teixeira but not both them, Joe. Come on!

BOMBER BANTER

The Tigers entered the four-game series 10-2 and they had scored 68 runs in those 12 games. The Yankees’ pitching staff allowed them only nine runs in the four games. Here is the most amazing part of it, though. The bullpen only allowed one run in the entire series. “I give our pitchers a lot of credit for fighting through the weather and keeping a really good offense down,” Teixeira told reporters. “We didn’t score a ton of runs except for last night, but we scored enough runs to win, and that’s because pitching and defense was really good this series.”

ON DECK

The Yankees ended their first road trip 7-3 and now the return home to open Round 1 of the Subway Series at Yankee Stadium against the New York Mets on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (2-0, 5.00 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda defeated the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday giving up three runs on seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.

The Mets will counter with 2014 National League Rookie of the Year Jacob deGrom (2-1, 0.93 ERA), who has not surrendered a run in his past 18 1/3 innings. He shut out the Miami Marlins on Sunday on six hits and no walks with eight strikeouts over seven innings.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Pay Very Steep Price In Rout By Yankees

GAME 15

YANKEES 13, TIGERS 4

There are 28 major-league teams who rightly fear facing left-hander David Price and there is one team that does not. After Wednesday’s game between the Tigers and the Yankees at chilly Comerica Park it became obvious the Yankees do not.

The Yankees hounded and harassed Price (1-1) for 10 hits, three walks and a hit batter on 88 pitches in just 2 1/3 innings as New York put a serious hurting on Detroit on a 38-degree night that even included snow flurries.

The last time the Yankees faced Price was last August at Yankee Stadium as he was making his debut with the Tigers. Price ended up getting shelled for nine consecutive hits in the first inning and eight runs in all in what was the worst outing of his career.

The Yankees seemed to have picked it where they left off.

The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate in the first inning and forced Price to throw 56 pitches in a six-run inning keyed by a bases-loaded double by Gregorio Petit that drove in three runs.

Things for the Price and the Tigers began to look a bit better when right-hander Adam Warren struggled with his command so badly that he walked four of the first five batters he faced and he ended up yielding four runs while the Tigers batted around in the bottom of the first.

However, while the Yankees added a pair of runs in the second inning off Price on back-to-back two-out RBI triples by Carlos Beltran and Chase Headley, Warren (1-1) settled down to keep the Tigers off the board for the next 4 1/3 innings to earn his first victory of the season.

The Yankees padded their lead in the fourth inning off right-hander Angel Nesbitt on a two-run double by Didi Gregarious. The closed out the scoring in the seventh when Mark Teixeira connected for his fifth home run of the season  –  a three-run shot  –  off right-hander Al Albuquerque.

After two disappointing starts, Warren was charged with four runs on five hits and four walks while he fanned three in 5 2/3 innings.

Yankee relievers Justin Wilson, David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve combined to pitch 3 1/3 scoreless innings to close out the rout as the Tigers did not advance a runner past first base after the first inning.

The Yankees defense also combined for inning-ending double plays in the fourth and fifth innings and they have now turned nine double plays against the Tigers in the first three games of the series.

With the victory the Yankees climbed above the .500 mark for the first time this season as 8-7. Since opening the season 3-6, the Yankees have now won five of the past six games. The Tigers fell to 11-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira’s home run was his fifth and the Yankees’ 21st of the season, which leads all of Major League Baseball. Who would have believed having seen this team struggle to score runs all  through spring training would evolve into the Bronx Bombers again? Despite batting .204, Teixeira leads the Yankees with five home runs and 13 RBIs.
  • Give Petit credit for setting the tone for the rout with his bases-clearing double with two out in the first inning. Petit was starting in place of lefty-swinging second baseman Stephen Drew and he made the most of it despite entering the game batting .111. The Yankees actually scored seven of their eight runs off Price with two out.
  • Chris Young followed up on his 3-for-3 night on Tuesday by going 3-for-6 with a double and two runs scored. In his past three starts, Young is 7-for-14 (.500) with two home runs and five RBIs. Overall he is 14-for-38 (.394) with four homers and nine RBIs. Manager Joe Girardi has a difficult problem in getting Young at-bats at a time when he is the hottest hitter on the team.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I will admit it did not look promising when Warren was throwing pitches in the first inning that were going everywhere but the strike zone. But he settled down and the Yankees have now beaten a very good Detroit team like they own them. They are showing signs that the dire predictions of the so-called experts were egregiously wrong.

ON DECK

The weather may be cold but the red-hot Yankees will have a chance to win the four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.

Ace right-hander Masahiro Tanaka (2-1, 3.94 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off an impressive performance on Saturday against the Tampa Bay Rays. Tanaka blanked the Rays on just two hits and no walks while he struck out eight in eight innings.

The Yankees lead in home runs and the will face a right-hander Anibal Sanchez (1-2, 7.71 ERA), who has already given up five. Sanchez was shelled for nine runs on nine hits (two of them home runs) and two walks in just 3 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Eovaldi Escapes Big Jams To Tame Tough Tigers

GAME 14

YANKEES 5, TIGERS 2

When the Yankees acquired 25-year-old right-hander Nathan Eovaldi from the Miami Marlins they knew he would be a work in progress. After watching him throw seven-plus innings of one -run ball against the mighty Tigers on Tuesday, it appears the work is paying off.

Eovaldi (1-0) held the Tigers to a single run on eight hits and one walk while he struck four and the Yankees got a pair of solo home runs from Chris Young and Stephen Drew as New York cooled off the red-hot Tigers at rainy, windy and chilly Comerica Park.

The Yankees staked Eovaldi an early 1-0 lead in the first inning against left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-1) when Brett Gardner drew a one-out walk and, one batter later, Mark Teixeira stroked an opposite-field double to plate Gardner.

Eovaldi, meanwhile, was buoyed by four double plays that kept the Tigers’ vaunted offense from scoring a run. In fact, the Yankees have turned seven double plays on the Tigers in the past two games.

The Yankees, however, were unable to get any more runs off Lobstein, who left after six innings yielding one run on three hits and four walks with three strikeouts.

But the Yankees were able to take advantage of a porous Tigers’ bullpen in the seventh inning as Young led off the frame with his fourth home run of the season on a 3-1 offering from left-hander Ian Krol. One batter later, Drew touched Krol for his fourth home run of the season.

Left-hander Tom Gorzelanny replaced Krol and, with two out Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk and stole second base. Gardner then hit an infield single that deflected off Gorzelanny’s glove, allowing Ellsbury to advance to third.

Right-hander Al Alburquerque then replaced Gorzelanny and Alburquerque uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Ellsbury to score to extend the Yankees’ lead to 4-0.

The Tigers did get to Eovaldi in the bottom of the seventh as J.D. Martinez laced a one-out double, advanced to third on a wild pitch and scored on sacrifice fly off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes.

The Yankees added an unearned run in the ninth inning when Gardner led off with a single, advanced to second on a long fly ball to deep left-center by Alex Rodriguez and scored from second on a hard-hit ground ball into left by Brian McCann that was scored as an error on third baseman Nick Castrellanos.

The Tigers mounted a two-out rally in the bottom of the ninth with a single by Martinez and a double by Cespedes off right-hander Chris Martin. Closer Andrew Miller then entered the game and walked Castellanos and pinch-hitter Rajai Davis, which scored Martinez and brought the potential winning run to the plate.

However, Miller was able to preserve the victory by striking out Jose Iglesias to record his fifth save in as many chances.

With the victory the Yankees pulled back to the .500 mark at 7-7. The Tigers dropped to 11-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Eovaldi had only one perfect inning but the double plays and strikeouts allowed him to frustrate the Tigers. The Yankees have to be encouraged by the starts they have gotten the past two nights against the Tigers from CC Sabathia and Eovaldi. They combined to yield just three runs on 15 hits and six walks while striking out nine in 15 innings of work. If Sabathia and Eovaldi do that consistently then the Yankees might have a solid rotation that will allow them to contend.
  • Carlos Beltran may want to watch out for his job because Young, 31, has been absolutely sensational as a starter against right-handed pitching. Young started for Beltran in right and was  3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, a walk, a run scored and one RBI. In limited play, Young is 11-for-32 with four homers and nine RBIs. Beltran, 37, is batting .171 with no home runs and six RBIs.
  • The Yankees turned four double plays and Teixeira turned in a gem to cut off a potential tying run in the third inning after Castellanos and Avila opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Eovaldi. After Iglesias legged out a fielder’s choice grounder that erased Avila at second, Anthony Gose hit a chopper to Teixeira at first. Teixeira froze Castellanos between third and home plate and Chase Headley tagged him before he could get back to third. Eovaldi then retired Ian Kinsler on a pop up to end the threat. Good pitching and great defense go hand-in-hand and the Yankees got both on Tuesday.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position but I am not going to complain because (1) they won the game and (2) the Tigers were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Yankees have stood toe-to-toe with what could be the best team in baseball the past two nights so I have no complaints.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Tuesday recalled left-hander Chasen Shreve, 24, from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and optioned right-hander Branden Pinder, 26, to Scranton. Shreve was sent down on April 11 after throwing 3 1/3 scoreless innings against the Boston Red Sox in a 19-inning loss on April 10 so that the Yankees could recall a fresh arm from Scranton, left-hander Matt Tracy. The Yankees were forced to wait a mandatory 10 days before they could recall Shreve, who now gives manager Joe Girardi a third left-hander in the bullpen.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Tigers on Wednesday.

Right-hander Adam Warren (0-1, 4.82 ERA) will make his third start of the season. Warren, 27, has been a bit of a disappointment after pitching so well in spring training to earn the job as the fifth starter. He yielded four runs on six hits (two of them home runs) and two walks in four innings against the Tampa Bay Rays on Friday.

The Tigers will start left-hander David Price (1-0, 0.40 ERA), who gave up one run on four hits and two walks while striking out nine in eight innings in a no-decision against the Chicago White Sox on Friday.

Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT an the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Score Two Late To Ruin Sabathia’s Gem

GAME 13

TIGERS 2, YANKEES 1

J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes stroked consecutive two-out RBI singles in the seventh inning and Alfredo Simon outdueled CC Sabathia as Detroit edged New York on Monday on a chilly, windy night at Comerica Park.

Simon (3-0) was touched for a solo home run to lead off the second inning by Mark Teixeira for Teixeira’s fourth home run of the season. That lone run stood as Simon and Sabathia matched pitch-for-pitch until the seventh.

Simon held the Yankees to seven hits, did not walk a batter and he struck out seven to lower his season ERA to 1.74.

Meanwhile, Sabathia was mowing down the Tigers and getting some timely help from his defense. Over the first six innings, Sabathia had faced the minimum despite yielding three hits and a walk.

Ian Kinsler singled in both the second and fourth innings only to be erased by double plays off the bat of Miguel Cabrera. Nick Castellanos drew a leadoff walk in the sixth but also was retired on a double play ball.

Jose Iglesias reached on a two-out single in the third inning but Sabathia caught him attempting to steal second and tagged him out in the baseline.

Sabathia also benefitted from three excellent defensive plays in the outfield. One of them by Jacoby Ellsbury and two by Brett Gardner.

Ellsbury robbed Victor Martinez with a all-out running and sliding catch on the warning track in right-center in the fifth. Gardner, meanwhile, also robbed Martinez on a running catch in left-center as he collided with the fence in the second inning. Gardner also took a single away from J.D. Martinez with a sliding catch of his line drive right after Ellsbury’s catch in the fifth inning.

In the seventh, Rajai Davis reached on a leadoff single and advanced to second on a flyout by Kinsler. After Cabrera grounded out, Sabathia intentionally walked Victor Martinez. But J.D. Martinez singled to left to score Davis and Victor Martinez scored on Cespedes’ single.

Sabathia (0-3) was charged with two runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned five in eight innings and took the tough-luck loss.

Joakim Soria pitched a perfect ninth to earn his fifth save of the season.

The loss broke the Yankees winning streak and left them with a 6-7 record. The Tigers are now 11-2, which is the best record in baseball.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the loss, the Yankees had to be encouraged by the six shutout innings Sabathia threw against one of the best offensive ballclubs in baseball. The outfield defense and the double plays turned in the infield did help him. But Sabathia, 34, obviously has found a formula in which he can compete. He is 0-3 with a 4.35 ERA but he has pitched a whole lot better than than that. If he gets some offensive support he could have a good season.
  • The defense also seems to have reversed itself from its sloppy play in the first seven games of the season. The Yankees have now played error-free baseball in their past five games and they are looking more like the standout defensive club manager Joe Girardi envisioned. Gardner and Ellsbury were exceptional covering the large expanse of Comerica Park and third baseman Chase Headley started three double plays.
  • Teixeira did not hit a mistake from Simon. He actually went out and got a low sinker and drove it into the bleachers in right-center for his fourth home run of the season. It is just a shame that the Yankees could not make that run stand up. It also is a shame the Yankees could not add to that total.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Although Ellsbury turned in an excellent defensive play, he also was a big reason why the Yankees could not come back and beat the Tigers after they were down 2-1. Headley opened the eighth with a single and he was advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Stephen Drew. Didi Gregorius singled to center to put runners on first and third and one out and chase Simon from the game. However, right-hander Joba Chamberlain retired Ellsbury on a double play. That at-bat was a killer.
  • Carlos Beltran returned to the lineup after missing two games with a severe cold. But maybe he should have took another day off because he was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Simon. Beltran, 37, is batting just .171 in the early going.
  • Alex Rodriguez has been installed into the third spot in the batting order but he was no factor on Monday. He ended the evening 0-for-4 with a strikeout. After A-Rod hit two home runs and drove in four runs on Friday against the Tampa Bay Rays, he has been getting a steady diet of breaking balls out of the strike zone. The Rays walked him four times on Saturday and Sunday and Simon fed him nothing but off-speed junk on Monday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game series with the Tigers on Tuesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (0-0, 4.35 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi has been unable to get through six innings in his first two starts despite the fact he has pitched well. Eovaldi gave up two runs on eight hits and three walks while he struck out nine against the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday.

Eovaldi will be opposed by left-hander Kyle Lobstein (1-0, 5.40 ERA), who gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings in a victory against the Cleveland Indians on April 12.

Game-time will be 7:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

CC Outguns Verlander As Yankees Blank Tigers

GAME 6

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 0

After being outscored 16-7 and outhit 26-12 in the first two games and having to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in Sunday’s series finale, the Yankees countered that by throwing a former Cy Young Award winner of their own. The result was the polar opposite of what happened in the first two games.

CC Sabathia shut out the Tigers on just four hits in seven innings to outduel Justin Verlander and the Yankees busted loose for seven runs and 13 hits as New York salvaged the third game of the series to whitewash Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 39,829 at Comerica Park.

Sabathia (1-1) put the controversy surrounding the reduced velocity on his pitches by showing excellent command of his fastball and changeup to prevent any Tiger baserunner to get past second base. Sabathia also improved his career record against the Tigers to 19-12.

Meanwhile, Sabathia received some welcome run support from a pair of unlikely run producers in the second inning.

Picking on a less-than-sharp Verlander (1-1) with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first, Francisco Cervelli laced a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Suzuki with the game’s first run. One out later, Jayson Nix, who was subbing at shortstop for Eduardo Nunez, who was subbing for Derek Jeter, cranked a fat changeup into the first row of bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.

It was a lead that Sabathia refused to relinquish to a deep power-laden lineup that had destroyed the Yankees the past two games.

Sabathia ended his afternoon having walked three and striking out four. It was hardly a dominant outing but it did best Verlander, who left after 7 1/3 innings having surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four.

The Yankees then added a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings off left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Octavio Dotel, respectively.

Suzuki touched Coke with a run-scoring fly ball in the eighth and Cervelli followed with a lined RBI single to center.

Red-hot Kevin Youkilis capped the scoring with one out in the ninth off Dotel by lacing a two-run single.

David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless ninth to allow the Yankees to complete the shutout of the Tigers and salvage the series finale.

The Yankees’ season record improves to 2-4. The Tigers fell to 3-3.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia hovered mostly in the 88-91 mile-per-hour range on Sunday but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay. The Tigers 3, 4 and 5 hitters  –  Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez  –  were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Sabathia. More importantly Sabathia quieted the critics who ripped him after his Opening Day loss to the Boston Red Sox.
  • Nix entered the game 0-for-7 with five strikeouts but he broke out of it in a big way against Verlander and Dotel. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Nix was pleased because he has not had much success against Verlander in the past. “It’s great. It feels really good,” Nix said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him. He is who he is, you know?”
  • With Nix batting ninth, Cervelli held up his end batting seventh. He was 2-for-4 with two big RBIs. That raised Cervelli’s early-season batting average to .308.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Every starter had at least one hit except Lyle Overbay (0-for-4), Sabathia pitched with great precision to shut down a powerful lineup and the team did not commit an error in the field. That is a reason not to dwell on any negatives in what has been a rough week for the team.

BOMBER BANTER

Nunez was unable to get back into the starting lineup on Sunday but he was able to pinch-run for Travis Hafner in the eighth inning and he scored a run. Nunez has been hampered the past two games because of a bruised right bicep he sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Friday. Nunez tried to swing a bat and throw on Sunday but his right arm was still sore. He is still listed as day-to-day.  . . .  Most experts figured the Yankees would not succeed with a bunch of aging newcomers and journeymen starting or filling in for injured starters. But Youkilis, Hafner, Overbay, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were a combined 22-for-75 (.293) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the Yankees’ first five games.

ON DECK 

The Yankees boarded a flight for Cleveland late Sunday and will open a three-game series against the Indians on Monday.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 13.50 ERA) recovered from a bruised right middle finger he suffered in the second inning of his first start against the Bosox on Wednesday and will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his two career starts against the Indians.

The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Jimenez allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck six in six innings in his season debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tigers Take Out Claws On Hughes, Yanks’ Bullpen

GAME 5

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4

The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.

For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.

Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.

The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque   –  taking advantage of four walks  –  scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.

The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.

The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.

Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.

Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.

The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.

Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
  • Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
  • Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
  • Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.

BOMBER BANTER

A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run.  . . .  Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.

If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

A.L. King Tigers Use Prince’s Power To Slay Yanks

GAME 4

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 3

In adventure tales you can usually bank on a heroic prince coming to the rescue just when he is needed. That pretty much sums up what happened for the Tigers in their 2013 home opener at Comerica Park in Detroit on Friday.

Prince Fielder blasted a pair of home runs  –  a three-run shot in the fifth that turned a 3-2 deficit into a 5-3 lead and a mammoth two-run blast in the seventh that put the game away  –  as Detroit picked up right where they left off in the American League Championship Series by drubbing New York in front of a paid crowd of 45,051.

Despite the fact that Tigers right-hander Doug Fister (1-0) was touched for three runs in the top of the fifth, keyed by a two-run home run off the bat of Kevin Youkilis that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead, he was rescued by Fielder’s bat to get credit for the victory.

Fister gave up three runs on six hits, two walks, hit two batters and struck out two in five innings. Left-hander Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings of relief to earn a save.

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs on five hits and two walks and struck out five batters in 4 2/3 innings. But the bullpen did him no favors because Boone Logan gave up Fielder’s home run in the fifth and Shawn Kelley was tagged by his home run in the seventh.

The Yankees’ early-season record is now 1-3. The Tigers are 2-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Youkilis blasted his first home run as a Yankee in the fifth inning after Fister had given up a one-out single to Robinson Cano that advanced Bret Gardner to third. While pitching to Youkilis, Fister uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Gardner to score and the Yankees halved the Tigers’ lead to 2-1. Then Youkilis connected on 3-1 fastball and he deposited the ball into the Tiger bullpen in left-center to give the Yankees a short-lived 3-2 lead.
  • David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth inning and need only needed four pitches to record three outs. He was the only Yankee hurler on the day who did not give up a hit or a run.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova shocked reporters after the game by saying he did not believe he pitched that poorly. Though he did keep the team in the game, Nova was hardly effective. He was in three-ball counts to nine of the 21 batters he faced and threw 96 pitches with only 53 being strikes (55 percent). Nova will be on a short leash if he continues to struggle like this.
  • Logan was brought in to the game specifically to face Fielder with two on and two out in the fifth and Fielder swatted his second pitch just over the wall in right to allow the Tigers to reclaim the lead. In a perfect world the Yankees would have a second left-hander because Logan is not a lefty specialist but the Yankees elected to release side-winding left-hander Clay Rapada.
  • Kelley, 29, not only gave up the two-run blast by Fielder that still might be orbiting Earth, but he also gave up a long solo blast to Alex Avila in the sixth. Kelley was selected by the Yankees over veteran David Aardsma because he is capable of pitching multiple innings. I guess the Yankees’ brain trust did not realize he also is capable of surrendering multiple homers in multiple innings.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees injury list grew on Friday when Eduardo Nunez was forced to leave the game in the fourth inning after being struck by a pitch from Fister. Nunez thought that he might have a broken his right arm but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep and he is listed as day-to-day. Jayson Nix took over for Nunez at shortstop and was 0-for-2.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in the Motor City on Saturday.

Originally, the Yankees were scheduled to start David Phelps. But the Yankees decided they will activate right-hander Phil Hughes from the 15-day disabled list and he will make the start instead. Hughes was sidelined during all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. Hughes is 5-4 with a 4.22 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

The Tigers will send right-hander Max Scherzer to the mound. Scherzer was 16-7 with a 3.74 ERA in 2012. he is 3-1 with a 3.42 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Yanks’ Hopes Center On Grandy’s Gifts, Failings

Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!

CENTERFIELD – CURTIS GRANDERSON (43 HRs, 106 RBIs, .232 BA)

It is hard to find a player who has hit 84 home runs over two seasons like Curtis Granderson and yet has taken more criticism.

Though no one in major-league baseball has hit more home runs in the past two seasons, Granderson enters the 2013 season facing questions about his low batting average, his franchise-record 195 strikeouts, his ability to play centerfield and whether the Yankees should just trade him rather than pay to sign him again in 2014.

Granderson, 31, set himself up for the criticism by having a career year in 2011, when he led the major leagues in runs scored (136), hit 41 home runs and drove in 119 runs and hit a respectable .262. It is hard to top a year a like that but Granderson did give it a good try last year.

While the production was there in 2012, the negatives in Granderson’s game started to emerge last season.

The strikeouts were maddening. The most frustrating part of them was how many came on breaking pitches out of the strike zone and – in some cases – hit the dirt in front of home plate. Just like bananas Granderson’s strikeouts came in huge bunches.

For all the talk of hitting coach Kevin Long improving Granderson’s stroke against left-handed pitching in 2010, Granderson is sorely in need of a refresher course this spring. He hit just .218 against left-handers in 2011 – though he did hit 14 home runs off them.

Granderson also fell off a proverbial cliff at the plate after the All-Star break. He hit just .212 in the second half after hitting .248 in the first half of the season. Granderson also fell victim when he was behind in the count. He hit .286 when he was ahead and a lousy .155 when he was behind.

In the field, Granderson has always been considered a pretty good outfielder. Blessed with great speed, he can get to a lot of balls slower centerfielders can’t. He has never committed more than five errors in his eight seasons in the majors. Last season he committed only three.

Yet there were times that he would lose the flight of the ball and they would drop in for hits. When it happens more than a few times there has to be some concern and the Yankee coaching staff and front office suggested Granderson get his eyes checked this winter because of his propensity to swing at pitches in the dirt and his problems tracking balls in the outfield.

Granderson has had his eyes checked before and he does wear contact lenses, but the Yankees were fearful there might be something more serious at play with Granderson’s sight and depth perception. Hopefully, those issues can be put to rest this spring, when the Yankees will have a chance to evaluate Granderson’s play.

There are still a lot of positives in Granderson’s game.

His power is amazing for a player who is built so slight. Not many people believe Granderson really weighs the 195 pounds that which he is listed on the roster. Many believe Granderson’s newfound power is simply a product of the short porch in Yankee Stadium. After all, Granderson did hit 26 of his home runs at home last season.

But a lot of Granderson’s 26 home runs went into the far reaches of the right-field bleachers and into the second deck. In addition, Granderson did hit 30 home runs for the Detroit Tigers in 2009 and Comerica Park is not a friendly place for left-handed power hitters. So I do not buy the premise that Granderson would be unable to hit for power outside Yankee Stadium.

But it is true that the short porch does allow him to hit a few more.

There are all kinds of rumors about Granderson possibly being traded soon. Granderson is earning $15 million in the final year of a six-year, $43 million contract he signed with the Tigers in 2008. He can become a free agent after the season and the Yankees would seem to be willing to listen to offers for him to get something out of the deal before he walks.

But there is a real huge problem with that line of thinking. By trading Granderson before the season would rob the team of its best power hitter at a time the team has lost a lot of home runs to free agents who signed elsewhere such as Nick Swisher (24), Russell Martin (21), Raul Ibanez (19), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14).

In addition, the fifth-most prolific home run hitter in baseball history, Alex Rodriguez, is headed for hip surgery this month that will force him to miss about half the season.

It would seem silly to trade Granderson when so much of the Yankees’ power in 2012 has not been replaced on the roster. That is why I believe Granderson will remain with the team unless the team falls out of serious contention in 2013. There would be no justification for doing otherwise.

But with managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner’s edict to reduce payroll to $189 million by 2014 and Robinson Cano headed for free agency after this season, it is pretty much assured Granderson will be playing his final season in pinstripes. The scale-back in payroll pretty much ties general manager’s Brian Cashman’s hands in retaining players who are not signed to long-term deals and the team seems willing to back up a Brink’s truck in order to keep Cano.

The problem with Grandrson is whether his likely final season will be played in centerfield or leftfield.

Though there has been no official word about a switch, rumors have floated that the Yankees might consider using leftfielder Brett Gardner in centerfield this season and shift Granderson to left because of Gardner’s superior defensive ability, which is Gold Glove-worthy in leftfield.

Gardner spent most of the 2012 season dealing a strained right (non-throwing) elbow that eventually required surgery. But he is expected arrive in camp at 100 percent this spring and the Yankees know Gardner is a natural centefielder and they would only need to acclimate Granderson to left.

The Yankees likely will be coy about it by splitting up Granderson and Gardner during spring exhibition games and playing them both in center. But, on occasion, Girardi could shift Granderson to left in order to take a look at rookie Melky Mesa, 25, who came up to the team as a September call-up in 2012.

Then, late in the spring, Girardi could either leave things as they are or make the shift, claiming Granderson is needed to cover Yankee Stadium’s expansive leftfield, which would be true. Either way, it won’t have a huge impact because with Ichiro Suzuki manning rightfield the Yankees actually have one of their best defensive outfields in their history.

One misconception about Granderson is that because of his ability to score runs and his speed he should be a great base-stealer. However, that has never really been the case. Granderson’s major-league high in steals was 26 in 2007. He stole 25 for the Yankees in 2011.

However, Granderson is not a real instinctive base-stealer, much like Bernie Williams. In his career he has only a 78 percent success rate in steals, which is not real good for someone who has Granderson’s speed.

Granderson dropped off to only 10 steals in 13 attempts in 2012. But with the loss of so much power in the lineup and the fact the team will have Derek Jeter, Eduardo Nunez, Gardner, Suzuki and Granderson capable of steals in the double digits, the Yankees may be looking for more opportunities to run in 2013.

Granderson is one player who will have to step up his game on the bases this season. So look for it.

Yankee fans would be happy if Granderson showed up this spring with no issues with his eyes, he reduces his strikeouts some, hits lefties better and raises his average closer to his career mark of .262. That way his 40 plus homers and 100-plus RBIs would mean a whole lot more that it did in 2012.

With Granderson needing a productive season to get himself a lucrative new contract with some team in 2014 he is going to be very motivated to improve his all-around game. That is all the Yankees can ask from Granderson. They will very much lean on his power and production in the coming season.

NEXT: RIGHTFIELD

 

‘Eric The Red-Hot’ Slays Tigers With Mighty Blast

GAME 111

YANKEES 4, TIGERS 3

The New York Yankees might have arrived in Detroit to face a red-hot Tigers team but the Tigers certainly did not count on having to face an equally red-hot Eric Chavez.

Chavez, who entered the game hitting .538 in the series, followed Mark Teixeira’s game-tying home run with one out in the eighth inning off Joaquin Benoit with a game-winning solo blast of his own as New York turned what was a 3-2 deficit into a victory that tied the four-game series with Detroit.

There was no one happier about the result than manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Tigers took the lead 3-2 on a controversial call by third-base umpire Tim Welke.

Clay Rapada (3-0) retired the two batters he faced in relief of starter Hiroki Kuroda in the seventh inning to earn the victory. Rafael Soriano got the final out of the eighth and had to complete a Houdini act in the ninth to escape a jam with runners at first and third with no outs to record his 27th save.

For the Tigers, the game was bitter disappointment but for the Yankees its was blessed vindication.

Kuroda and the Yankees were sailing in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead on the strength of a two-out RBI double by Raul Ibanez and an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki off Tigers starter Doug Fister in the second inning.

However, Jhonny Peralta led off the frame with a double to the wall in center-field and Alex Avila followed it by smacking a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right-field to tie up the game. Later that same inning, with two out and Quintin Berry on first, Andy Dirks lofted an opposite-field dying quail down the left-field line that landed on the chalk and rolled into foul territory.

As the ball hit the grass, Welke clearly raised both arms to indicate the ball was foul. But he then reversed the call and pointed the ball was fair with his right arm. Ibanez running into foul territory from left-field then allowed the ball to get past him for a double and Berry scored the tie-breaking run.

Girardi immediately disputed Welke’s call, claiming the original call affected Ibanez’s play on the ball and allowed a run to score. Girardi wanted lodge a formal protest of the game but was told by crew chief Bob Davidson that a protest could not be made on a judgment call. Welke later ejected Girardi and Girardi left the field at Comerica Park raising both arms and pointing right and then left to mock Welke’s incorrect call to the delight of the crowd.

The game remained 3-2 until Benoit was summoned to pitch the eighth for the Tigers.

With one out, Benoit fell behind in the count to Teixeira 2-0 and his next pitch came right down the middle. Teixeira launched it so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it landing just over the wall along the right-field line for his 21st home run of the season.

Before the Tigers fans among the 40,490 in attendance had a chance to restart their hearts, Chavez broke them by connecting on Benoit’s next offering with a lined shot to the opposite field in left for his 12th home run of the season and his second of the series.

Of the last 12 hits Benoit (1 -3) has given up this season, 10 have been home runs.

The Yankees then turned the game over to the bullpen. David Phelps pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and Soriano ended the eighth by surviving a long blast to right by Peralta that Suzuki chased down in right.

In the ninth, Avila opened the frame with a carbon-copy of Dirks’ dying quail double in the fifth. Welke clearly signaled this ball fair and Ibanez had no trouble picking it up. Gerald Laird was sent in to pinch-run for Avila.

Omar Infante then lined the next pitch for a single to right to advance Laird to third.

But Soriano retired Ramon Santiago on a soft line drive to Robinson Cano at second, Berry popped up weakly to Derek Jeter in shallow left and Dirks finally managed to run out of magic fairy dust and flied out to shallow center to end the contest.

The Yankees’ victory, combined with a loss by the Baltimore Orioles, extended the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 5 1/2 games. Their record is now 65-46. The Tigers fell to 60-52.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • As I wrote yesterday, Alex who? Chavez has done more than made up for the loss of Alex Rodriguez in the lineup with both his bat and Gold Glove. Chavez finished the series 9-for-16 (.563) with two home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and five RBIs. Ironically, Girardi was going rest Chavez on Thursday but Chavez convinced Girardi he was fine to play. So Chavez was inserted into the lineup. Smart move, Joe.
  • Teixeira’s home run was his first since July 28 against the Red Sox. After going 0-for-4 in the series opener, Teixeira was 5-for-12 (.417) and drove in three runs in the next three games. Teixeira leads the team in RBIs with 75 and he is third on the team in home runs behind Cano and Granderson.
  • After having his 12-game hitting streak stopped by the Justin Verlander in the opener, Suzuki was 4-for-12 (.333), including two hits on Thursday, and he drove in four runs in the last three games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Girardi switched Nick Swisher and Granderson in the batting order on Wednesday and it worked out great. Swisher reached base in five of six at-bats and Granderson was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. It did not work so well on Thursday. They combined to go 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. They were the only two Yankees starters who did not get a hit.
  • Girardi elected to use Swisher as the designated hitter, which moved Suzuki from left-field to right and Ibanez was inserted into left. It’s too bad because there is a good chance Suzuki would have been able to play Dirks’ double without it getting past him. But Girardi does have to rest his veterans sometimes. It just seems the ball finds the replacements too often.
  • Jeter singled to lead off the fifth inning and was started with a 3-2 count on Swisher. But Swisher fanned and Jeter stopped between first and second and was tagged out trying to get back to first. The Yankees had a boatload of runners caught stealing in this series.

ON DECK

The Yankees will take their balls and bats and head to Toronto to open a weekend series with the reeling Blue Jays.

Right-hander Freddy Garcia (5-5, 5.00 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees.Garcia allowed two runs over five innings on Sunday in a victory over the Seattle Mariners. He is 7-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 18 career starts against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Ricky Romero (8-8, 5.47 ERA). Romero surrendered just one run on three hits and four walks in seven innings on Sunday in a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics. Romero is 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.