YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 1
When CC Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list after a June 24 start against the Mets with a strained left groin, the Yankees were 43-28 and 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. After Sabathia completely shut down the Toronto Blue Jays for six innings on Tuesday the Yankees are 56-34 and lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by 9 1/2 games.
Nothing can be better than stretching your division lead with your ace on the shelf, except when you get your ace back and win your eighth game out your last 10.
Sabathia shut out Toronto on four hits and a walk and struck out six over six innings and Andruw Jones hit a three-run home run in the second inning to stake him to an early lead as New York clinched its three-game series with a victory over Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 44,975 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (10-3) entered the game with a 12-3 career record against the Blue Jays and he was 7-0 in his last eight starts against them.
Jones provided all the runs Sabathia really needed when he followed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano and a walk to Nick Swisher with a line-drive shot into the left-field corner bleachers off left-hander Brett Cecil (2-2) for his 12th home run of the season.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was mixing his fastball, slider and change-up to throw 66 strikes in 87 pitches (76 percent).
Cecil settled in after Jones’ homer and held the Yankees to just two more hits before he left having given up three runs on six hits and two walks while he fanned five batters in his six innings of work.
However, the Yankees took advantage of the Blue Jays’ inexperienced bullpen in the seventh inning.
Jayson Nix opened the frame with a leadoff single off rookie right-hander Sammy Dyson. After failing to get a bunt down, Chris Stewart bounced a high hopper down the left-field line past third baseman Brett Lawrie and the ball rolled into the left-field corner.
Nix was able to score on the double and Stewart advanced to third on an errant throw from left-fielder Rajai Davis.
Derek Jeter then laced a double down the right-field line to score Stewart.
Curtis Granderson reached on a single and Mark Teixeira drew a walk to load the bases. Then Alex Rodriguez completed the Yankees’ scoring by driving in Jeter on fielder’s choice groundout.
The Blue Jays spoiled the shutout by scoring a run in the eighth off reliever Chad Qualls on a leadoff double by Jeff Mathis, a flyout by Davis that advanced Mathis to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Colby Rasmus.
Qualls, who currently has a 6.75 ERA in his 6 2/3 innings of work with the Yankees, started off the ninth by giving up a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion and a one-out walk to Yunel Escobar.
Manager Joe Girardi then pulled Qualls in favor of left-hander Clay Rapada, who then botched an attempted bunt by rookie Anthony Gose for an infield single that loaded the bases.
Girardi then summoned closer Rafael Soriano, who induced pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia to hit into line-drive unassisted double play to Teixeira to end the game and earn Soriano’s 24th save of the season.
By scoring six runs on Tuesday, the Yankees set a franchise record by scoring three or more runs in 41 consecutive games.
With the loss, the Blue Jays fell to 45-46, 11 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- Sabathia was in command and likely could have pitched longer if Girardi had not chosen to play it safe with his pitch count. Sabathia is now 10-3 with a 3.27 ERA and still has a very good chance to win 20 games for the second time in his career.
- Jones was 0-for-9 in his previous at-bats against Cecil until he laid into a fastball and drove it on a line into the left-field seats. Jones has only 28 bats in July and is hitting .286 with five home runs and nine RBIs.
- Cano’s single leading off the second inning extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games. In that span he is 32-for-79 (.405) with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
- From June 16 through July 7, Cory Wade gave up 16 runs on 21 hits and three walks in six innings for a 24.00 ERA, which got him demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement Qualls is about to join him if he keeps pitching the way he did on Tuesday. In his six appearances with the Yankees he has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The fact that he was unable to give Girardi the confidence he could hold a 6-1 lead in the ninth proves all you need to know. He is on a real short leash now.
In order for the Yankees to activate Sabathia from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday they decided to designate outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment. McDonald played in four games with the Yankees and was hitless in four at-bats since he was claimed off waivers on July 5 from the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees will be going for a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.67 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Kuroda surrendered five runs on eight hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings in his last start on Friday against the Los Angels Angels. Kuroda actually pitched better than the numbers show because he only gave up two runs in the first six innings before he ran out of gas in the seventh. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA against the Blue Jays.
Left-hander Ricky Romero (8-5, 5.03 ERA) will start for the Blue Jays. Romero gave up only one run on six hits and two walks in six innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday but lost 1-0 to Justin Masterson. He is 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, RED SOX 8
Well, it all came down to, as it so often does, one very bitter rival getting the best of another bitter rival on Friday.
In this case, I am not speaking of the Red Sox and Yankees. I am referring to the very bitter and public feud between Mark Teixeira and his former Texas Rangers teammate Vicente Padilla. This time, Teixeira won.
Teixeira launched a 3-2 fastball from Padilla into the deepest recesses of center-field in Fenway Park for a one-out, two-run triple that ignited a four-run seventh inning and led New York to a 10-8 victory over Boston in a game that took three hours and 59 minutes to play.
Teixeira has publicly lashed out several times at Padilla for his penchant of hitting batters on purpose while he was a starter for the Rangers. After an incident in which Padilla hit Teixeira with a pitch in 2009 when Teixeira was in in his first season with the Yankees, the Rangers players and front office were so angry with Padilla that the team released him soon after the dustup.
In his 93 starts for Texas, Padilla hit 51 batters and he even admitted publicly that he would rather hit batters than walk them and ruin his walks to innings pitched ratio (WHIP).
But Teixeira got a measure of revenge with the Yankees trailing 7-6 in the seventh inning as Padilla entered the game after Andrew Miller had walked Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez scratched out an infield single off the glove of Mike Aviles at shortstop. Texeira’s triple easily scored Granderson and Rodriguez and gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the night.
“Almost every at-bat, he tries to throw at your head, throws behind you or something screwy,” Teixeira said. “With first and second and the game on the line, he’s not going to do it then, so I could actually dig in and look for a good pitch to hit.”
Teixeira led the Yankees’ 10-run, 14-hit attack with two hits, a walk, a stolen base, two runs scored and four RBIs. In the finale of a two-game series at Fenway Park on April 21, Teixeira had a double and two home runs and drove in a season-high six runs. So in his last two games at Fenway Park, Teixeira is 7-for-10 with a double, a triple, two home runs, five runs scored and 10 RBIs.
Meanwhile, the Yankees’ bullpen ended up being better than Boston’s.
Boone Logan (4-0) was credited with the win though he did give up a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to Cody Ross that made it 10-8.
Rafael Soriano entered the game in the bottom of eighth with two out and two on but retired Adrian Gonzalez on a routine infield groundout to end the threat. He then pitched a 1-2-3 ninth with two strikeouts to earn his 20th save in 21 opportunities.
You can pretty much expect the unexpected when these two teams hook up and so it was on this night in front of a sellout crowd of 38,066.
The Yankees jumped on ace right-hander Josh Beckett for five runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-loaded two-run single by Teixeira and a pair of sacrifice flies from Nick Swisher and Chavez in an inning which the Yankees sent nine men to the plate.
However, the Red Sox jumped all over Yankees right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who entered the game 5-1 with a 1.98 ERA in his last seven starts. The Bosox struck for five runs of their own and also sent nine men to the plate. Jarrod Saltamacchia’s 17th home run of the season, a three-run shot, was the key blow in the inning.
Granderson stroked a one-out triple in the second inning and he scored on an RBI infield groundout by Rodriguez as the Yankees ended up scoring six runs on eight hits and two walks off Beckett in 5 2/3 innings.
Kuroda, however, allowed the Red Sox to tie it up again in the bottom of the second by hitting Daniel Nava with a pitch and allowing back-to-back singles by Ryan Kalish and David Ortiz. Nava scored on Ortiz’s single but Ortiz was thrown out at second base trying to stretch the hit in to a double.
The Red Sox took the lead off Kuroda in the fifth as Gonzalez opened the frame with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and scored one out later on an RBI single by rookie Mauro Gomez, the first RBI of his career.
Kuroda gave up seven runs (six earned) on 10 hits and one walk while striking out three in 5 2/3 innings.
But the Red Sox bullpen was unable to hold the one-run lead and the Yankees triumphed for the third time in three games this season against the Red Sox, all of them coming in Boston.
With the victory the Yankees improved to 50-32, which is the best record in the major leagues. They also maintained their lead in the American League East over the second-place Baltimore Orioles of 5 1/2 games games with the Orioles. The Red Sox fell to 42-41 and they are 8 1/2 games back in fourth place in the division.
- After largely disappointing Yankee fans with a first half in which he had 14 home runs, 46 RBIs and hitting just .247, Teixeira has been on a bit of hot streak in his last three games. He is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBIs. In his three games against the Red Sox this season, he is 5-for-14 (.357) with two home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Even though Logan gave up the solo home run to Ross, the Yankee bullpen easily outshone the Red Sox pen. Logan, Cody Eppley, David Robertson and Soriano combined to give up one run on four hits and one walk and struck out five in 3 1/3 innings. In contrast, the Red Sox bullpen surrendered four runs on six hits and two walks and fanned five in four innings.
- Soriano was sensational in retiring all four batters he faced and striking out two. These games are good tests to see if Soriano can hold up to the pressure of a playoff-like atmosphere. It is pretty clear that he was not phased with pitching in Fenway with the game on the line.
- Give Chavez credit for another good game filling in for Rodriguez at third while A-Rod was the designated hitter. Though he was thrown out trying to stretch a single and committed an error which allowed an unearned run in the first inning, he was 2-for-3 at the plate with a double and a single and drove in two runs. Chavez is hitting .279 on the season.
- Kuroda is showing he is having difficulty winning on the road. He is 6-3 at home and 2-5 on the road and his road ERA is now 5.82. Kuroda missed the strike zone early and often in counts and got tattooed when he was forced to throw strikes. The Red Sox were without Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Dustin Pedroia and Kevin Youkilis has been traded but they still managed 10 hits off Kuroda.
- Watching Russell Martin flail helplessly at pitches is just getting painful to watch. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and he has just four hits in his last 55 at-bats. His average has now dipped to .176. His last hit was on June 20 against the Braves. Since then he is hitless in his last 29 at-bats.
- Swisher is also struggling big-time with the bat. He was 0-for-4 with an RBI on sac fly. However, he struck three times and he is hitless in his last 17 at-bats with eight strikeouts. He is now hitting .255 on the season.
Joba Chamberlain could be in line to begin a minor-league rehab stint next week. Chamberlain faced six batters at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, on Friday and struck out three in a 25-pitch session. Chamberlain, who began the winter rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. However, in March he suffered a severely displaced right ankle playing on a trampoline with his son. The right-hander vows he will pitch for the Yankees this season. . . . As expected, the Yankees activated former Red Sox outfielder Darnell McDonald on Friday and sent right-hander David Phelps to Double-A Trenton to build up his pitch count as a starter. Phelps could return to the Yankees after the All-Star break but that has not been decided yet. . . . The Yankees will recall right-hander Cory Wade from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to join the team for Saturday’s day-night doubleheader. League rules allow teams to add a 26th man on the day of doubleheader. Wade was optioned earlier in the week when the team added right-hander Chad Qualls to the roster. Wade had been struggling, giving up 13 runs on 17 hits and three walks in 5 1/3 innings in his last six appearances.
The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader against the Red Sox on Saturday which is necessary because of a rainout at Fenway Park on April 22.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (2-2, 5.94 ERA) will start the first game for the Yankees. Garcia pitched pretty well in his first start since April 28. He gave up only two solo home runs in 5 1/3 innings on Monday in a no-decision that the Yankees eventually lost to the Tampa Bay Rays. In the last 10 seasons, Garcia is 9-4 with a 4.76 ERA against the Red Sox.
The Red will counter with left-hander Franklin Morales (1-1, 2.51 ERA). Morales pitched seven innings of shutout baseball in a no-decision against the Seattle Mariners on June 28. Morales is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA against the Yankees but it all has been in relief.
Game-time will be 12:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (9-6, 4.29 ERA) will pitch in the nightcap. Hughes allowed two runs and walked just one while striking out eight in eight innings in a victory over the Chicago White Sox on Sunday. Hughes is 2-5 with 6.65 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
The Bosox will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (8-4, 4.42 ERA). Doubront gave up just one run but left after throwing 103 pitches in 4 1/3 innings in a no-decision against the Mariners on Sunday. Doubront walked five batters. He has no record and a 2.53 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:15 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 4, RAYS 3
The Yankees had lost their last nine games at Tropicana Field. Rays starter David Price was throwing near no-hit stuff. The Yankees had to dip into their bullpen early and they were losing 3-1 heading into the eighth inning.
The Yankees were, indeed, facing long odds.
But former Bronx fans punching bag Kyle Farnsworth and hotter than a Fourth of July firecracker Robinson Cano provided the Yankees just what they needed to put the frustration of the last two days behind them and win a game late.
Farnsworth (0-1) walked four of the five batters he faced and Cano delivered a game-winning two-run single with the bases loaded off reliever Jake McGee in the eighth as New York rallied for three runs to down Tampa Bay in front of a holiday crowd of 28,033 on Wednesday.
Boone Logan (3-0), who gave up a two-run home run from Carlos Pena in the seventh inning, was credited with the victory.
Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 19th save in 20 opportunities.
Rays fans seemed to ready to set off firecrackers and bottle rockets to celebrate their 10th straight home victory over the Yankees after Logan gave up a leadoff single to Elliot Johnson and Pena followed one out later by launching Logan’s first offering into the right-field bleachers for his 13th home run of the season.
But the Yankees opened the eighth inning with a very patient approach and Farnsworth, as he did so often when he was wearing pinstripes, obliged by handing the game over to the opponents.
Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez drew a leadoff walk. Derek Jeter then struck out. But Farnsworth dug his own grave deeper by walking, in succession, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira (on four pitches) and Alex Rodriguez. The walk to Rodriguez scored Chavez and brought the Yankees to within a run at 3-2.
Rays manager Joe Maddon then summoned the lefty McGee to face the lefty-swinging Cano. But Cano can hit a pitcher throwing with his left foot as hot as he has been the past month. He proved it to Maddon and McGee.
He laced a 2-2 fastball on a line into center-field to score Granderson and Teixeira and the Yankees took a 4-3 lead they would not relinquish.
Price, an All-Star selection who entered the game 11-4 with a 2.92 ERA, did not allow a baserunner until there was one out in the fourth inning when Granderson drew a walk in a contentious 10-pitch at-bat. The Yankees did not get their first hit off Price until the next inning when Cano led off with an opposite-field single to left.
The Yankees finally broke through in the top of the seventh against Price when led off Teixeira by slapping a 2-1 fastball into the bleachers in left-center to tie the game at 1-1.
The Yankees faced even longer odds against Price by having to start rookie right-hander David Phelps in place of the injured Andy Pettitte. However, Phelps pitched exceptional baseball until conditioning and a high pitch count forced him out of the game in the fifth inning.
But Price no-hit the Rays over the first 3 2/3 innings and struck out eight batters over that span.
Unfortunately for Phelps, Ben Zobrist turned a leadoff walk into a “walking double” by stealing second base. Phelps did strike out Luke Scott and Jose Lobaton looking. However, weak-hitting Sean Rodriguez got the Rays’ first hit by singling into right to score Zobrist to stake the Rays to a 1-0 lead.
With the victory, the Yankees salvaged one game of the three-game series and improved their season record to 49-32. The Yankees remain five games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Rays are 43-39 and they are 6 1/2 games back in the third place in the division.
- Cano was 2-for-5 in the game with the two big RBIs. Cano is not only a tear with his batting average. He also has been on an unbelievable RBI tear as well. On June 16, Cano had 27 RBIs. In his last 17 games, Cano has driven in 23 runs. His two RBIs on Wednesday also gave him the team lead in RBIs this season with 50. Granderson is second with 48.
- Phelps was matching Price pitch-for-pitch and strikeout-by-strikeout. Entering the fifth, Phelps had thrown 78 pitches. Since he had been sent down by the Yankees he had not built his arm back up to 100 pitches to allow him pitch further in the game. But this start proved he could be very effective. He gave up only two hits, three walks and hit two batters in 4 1/3 innings. If he pitches like this, Freddy Garcia may go back to the bullpen when CC Sabathia returns after the All-Star break.
- Teixeira’s home run off Price – his 14th of the season – was a huge factor in getting Price out of the game. Entering the seventh, Price had given up two hits and one walk and struck out eight. Teixeira is showing a little life with his bat in going 3-for-6 in last two games.
- Logan is perhaps showing some fatigue after pitching in 41 of the Yankees’ first 81 games. In June, Logan gave up only two earned runs the entire month. In his first two appearances in July he has been scored upon in both outings, giving up three runs on two hits and a walk in 1 1/3 innings. If anybody needs rest during the All-Star break it is Logan.
- Andruw Jones and Russell Martin failed to deliver in the seventh inning with the game tied and runners at first and third with one out. Jones flew out to right (I will have more on this later) and Martin grounded out. The Yankees also left the bases loaded in the eighth when Martin hit a routine fly ball to right. Martin is now hitting .178 this season. Ouch!
- Granderson had another no contact day with two walks and three strikeouts. Granderson is on a pace to strike out a career-worst 192 times this season. His previous season high was 174 in 2006 when he was playing for the Detroit Tigers.
An obscure ground rule cost the Yankees another run in the seventh inning. With Rodriguez on second and Nick Swisher on first and one out, Rodriguez attempted a steal with Andruw Jones at the plate with a 1-2 count. Price delivered the pitch and home plate umpire Mike Estabrook called it a ball. As Lobaton drew his right hand back to throw to third base, Estabrook’s mask came in contact with the ball and the throw to third was late. However, Estabrook ruled that his interference prevented the throw and ordered Rodriguez back to second. On the next pitch, Jones lofted a fly ball to deep right that would have scored Rodriguez easily. If that is a correct rule it needs to be changed. Why if a ball strikes an umpire in the field of play isn’t the hitter made to hit again? The same logic applies, right? . . . The Yankees announced on Wednesday that they have claimed outfielder Darnell McDonald off waivers from the Red Sox and he will be placed on the 25-man roster before the Yankees’ game on Friday. The Yankees will be facing three left-handed starters this weekend and McDonald is a right-handed hitter who is hitting .214 this season with two home runs and nine RBIs.
The Yankees will have a day off at the actual halfway point of the season before beginning a four-game weekend series at Fenway Park with the Boston Red Sox starting on Friday.
The Yankees hottest pitcher, Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.17 ERA), will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda tied a career high with 11 strikeouts as he blanked the Chicago White Sox over seven innings on Saturday. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 2.57 ERA against the Red Sox lifetime.
Kuroda will be opposed by Josh Beckett (4-7, 4.06 ERA). Beckett gave up two runs in six innings in his first start back from right shoulder soreness. In his career, Beckett is 14-7 with a 5.36 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
This transmission was delayed by technical difficulties
RED SOX 1, YANKEES 0
TAMPA – The first salvo in the 2012 Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was all it was expected to be and in the end it was just a pair of mistakes on one play that decided the winner on Tuesday.
Outfielder Zoilo Almonte misplayed Pedro Ciriaco’s ninth-inning single into a two-base error and Ciriaco was able to slide home safely on David Adams’ throwing error as Boston nipped New York in a nationally televised exhibition game from George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Vicente Padilla (1-0) pitched three hitless innings and fanned four batters to get credit for the victory. David Phelps (0-1), who pitched 2 2/3 innings of brilliant relief, was tagged with the hard-luck loss. Junichi Tazawa struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to pick up a save.
Both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova of the Yankees and Felix Dubront of the Red Sox, pitched four scoreless innings to set the tone for the game. Nova gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three. Dubront gave up two hits, walked one and fanned three in his stint.
With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record dropped to 5-7. The Red Sox are 7-2.
- Nova entered the contest with an 11.57 ERA in his first two starts so this was a much-needed improvement. Nova was only touched by a two-out double by Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning and a leadoff infield roller that hit the third-base bag by Dustin Pedroia. Nova showed much better command of his fastball and his secondary pitches were working for him as well. Though Nova won 16 games last season and he seems to a lock to be one of the Yankees’ five starters, manager Joe Girardi has not named Nova a starter because he wants him to earn the role by pitching well in spring training.
- Mariano Rivera made his second appearance of the spring in the fifth inning and after receiving another huge standing ovation he went about breaking bats. Rivera worked around a two-out error and stolen base to throw a scoreless inning. He broke three bats in the process and fanned Alex Hannan to complete the frame in 13 pitches (nine of them were strikes).
- Phelps is one of five young pitchers who likely will open the season at Triple A but the former Notre Dame star is making a good impression with the coaching staff. Phelps pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and struck out two batters. In the eighth he worked around a leadoff single and a stolen base by Darnell McDonald to retire the next three batters in order. Though he gave up the single to Ciriaco, it was played into a three-base error by two misplays. After that he fanned the next two batters. Phelps is 25 and he will be pitching his first full season at Triple A. He bears watching because he could pitching in the Bronx soon.
- The Yankees are simply not hitting consistently well this spring. They managed only four hits in the game and it is not because of Dubront. They forced the left-hander to throw 75 pitches in four innings and just could not mount any offense. They only managed three hits the evening before against the lowly Houston Astros. The Yankees are one-third of the way through their spring schedule and it is time they start hitting the ball with authority. There is not only a lack of hits. There also is a lack of power, too. It is a big concern.
- One of the major culprits in the hitting drought has been newly signed designated hitter and outfielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez, 39, is a career .280 hitter but is coming off a season in which he hit just .245. He was allowed to become a free agent by the Phillies when the Yankees signed him on Feb, 21. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is now hitting .095. Ibanez is unconcerned about his slow start but the question is when does he become concerned?
- It is kind of odd that Girardi chose not to play Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher and yet he is playing all the team’s starters with the exception of Russell Martin and subbing Eric Chavez for Alex Rodriguez at third base with Rodriguez acting as the DH in a game against Toronto on Wednesday. In the days of George Steinbrenner this would be unacceptable. It makes me curious also.
- The Red Sox pitchers used the 7.8 and 9 hitters to attack aggressively all night and it paid off for them. Bill Hall, Jason Nix and Doug Bernier each had two at-bats and they combined to go 0-for-6 and fanned five times. That is the reason i pointed out the previous item about not playing four starters.
The Yankees originally had Eduardo Nunez in the strating lineup against the Red Sox but he had to be scratched again because of recurring pain in his right hand. Nunez was struck on his right hand on March 5 on a pitch from the Phillies’ Austin Hyatt and he been unable to shake the pain despite the fact X-rays on the hand show no broken bones. The Yankees say the bruise is deep and it will take time to heal. Nunez will not attempt to hit again until Saturday. . . . Girardi had high praise for three of his left-handed reliever candidates: Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA), Cesar Cabral (3.38 ERA) and Juan Cedeno (10.12 ERA). One of them could make the bullpen depending how they pitch the rest of the spring.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX
A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011” the term seems apropos.
On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.
Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.
Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.
There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?
Well, it does not look good.
The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.
So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.
Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.
If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.
Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.
Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.
The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.
Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”
But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.
Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.
But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.
Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.
Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.
For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.
The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.
None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.
This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?
The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.
But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.
There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.
The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.
Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.
Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.
The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.
The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.
This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.
Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.
The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.
Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.
The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.
To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.
The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.
Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.
More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.
The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.
The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.
The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.
Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.
The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.
Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.
That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.
The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.
The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.
The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.
The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.
This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.
The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.
The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.
This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.
The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.
With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.
I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.
Just call them the Red Flops.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 2
Reporters kept reminding CC Sabathia that he was 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox this season and he kept saying to them that he had beaten them before and he could do it again.
On Tuesday night, he did just that.
Sabathia bowed his neck and steeled his nerves to throw six tough innings, fanning 10 and stranding 10 baserunners as New York rode its ace lefty to a huge psychological victory over Boston at hallowed Fenway Park with 37,773 in attendance.
Sabathia (18-7) threw a Yankee career-high 128 pitches and gave up just two runs on 10 hits and two walks. But the best part of Sabathia’s performance was how he wriggled out trouble in virtually every inning.
In the second, Sabathia induced Jacoby Ellsbury to hit into a harmless grounder to end the inning with the bases full of Red Sox. In the fourth, Sabathia gave up four hits, including a solo home run by Carl Crawford and an RBI double by Marco Scutaro that brought the Red Sox back into the game at 3-2. But he struck out swinging American League batting leader Adrian Gonzalez to leave two more Bosoz adrift. In the fifth inning he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and stranded two more runners.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at right-hander John Lackey (12-10), who entered the contest with a 3-0 record against the Yankees this season. They did it without most of the usual suspects, too. It came from the crew who normally play off the bench.
In the second inning, Eric Chavez, who is filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base, followed a Robinson Cano one-out walk and a Nick Swisher single with a bouncing RBI single just past second baseman “Dusty” Pedroia to break the seal on the scoring. I call Pedrois “Dusty” because in his effort to stop the bouncing ball he ate a face full of dirt on his dive.
The Yankees tacked two more runs off a tentative Lackey in the fourth. Curtis Granderson walked and one out later Robinson Cano doubled off high the Green Monster in left-center to score Granderson with his major-league-leading 123rd run of the season. After Nick Swisher drew a walk, Chavez hit another shot up the middle that Pedroia had no chance on to score Cano and give Sabathia a 3-0 cushion.
After the Red Sox scored what would be their only two runs of the night in the fourth, another bench player shocked Lackey and the Red Sox in the fifth. Francisco Cervelli, who came into the game with only one home run this season and a total of two in his career, blasted a 3-1 Lackey fastball over the Green Monster in left and out onto Landsdowne Street.
The Yankees added a run in the seventh. It started with a bang and some fireworks that cleared both benches and got Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild ejected from the game.
When Cervelli crossed the plate on his home-run gallop in the fifth he stopped at home plate to clap his hands. Lackey promptly hit him square in the back with his first delivery of the seventh. Cervelli immediately yelled out at Lackey and walked towards the mound. He was cut off by Saltalamacchia and home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano and both benches and bullpens cleared.
Calm was restored without any blows struck and Rapuano warned both benches to cut it out drew the ire. Rothschild had some parting words with third-base umpire Mark Wegner and walked away. However, Wegner tossed him from the game.
The question was did Lackey throw at Cervelli on purpose? If he did it was the stupidest thing he did all night. And Lackey, who came into the game with a 5.98 ERA, has been on a first-name basis with stupid in his pitching this season.
Lackey later uncorked a pitch that Saltalamacchia could not handle and Cervelli moved to second. Brett Gardner advanced Cervelli to third on a bunt single. Cervelli then scored on Derek Jeter’s double-play grounder. So if Lackey did hit Cervelli on purpose it was yet another stupid decision because it cost him a run.
Meanwhile, the Yankee bullpen had to navigate the last nine outs to preserve the victory for Sabathia. Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera combined to give up three hits, two walks and hit a batter over the final three innings. However, the Yankees were still able to keep the Red Sox from scoring with more clutch pitching.
Wade got into a one-out jam in the seventh when he walked David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie followed with a single.
Logan was summoned from the bullpen and he gave up a fly ball single to left-center by Crawford on which Ortiz could have scored. But he waited too long at second to see if it would drop. Logan then bowed his neck and steeled his nerves and fanned Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald on 3-2 pitches out of the strike zone.
Soriano pitched around a leadoff walk to Ellsbury to pitch a scoreless eighth and Rivera came on the ninth to fend off one last Red Sox threat.
Ortiz led off with a double. Two outs later, Rivera hit Saltalamacchia with a inside cutter in which Saltalamacchia appeared to swing. Wegner awarded Saltalamacchia first base, claiming he did not swing. Manager Joe Girardi erupted out of the dugout and he became Wegner’s second Yankee victim of the night.
Earlier in the inning, Jed Lowrie was called out on strikes on a Rivera fastball that appeared to be out of the strike zone. Lowrie slammed his bat and charged right into the face of Rapuano to argue the call and he was not ejected. Hmm!
Anyway, the hit batter left the Red Sox with the two on, two out and the tying run at the plate in pinch-hitter Josh Reddick. Reddick did slice a lined shot to the opposite field, however, Red Sox Nation went home crying like babies when Gardner reached up and snared the liner for the final out.
Rivera eanred his 35th save in 40 opportunities and it is the 594th of his career, seven saves away from all-times saves leader Trevor Hoffman’s total of 601.
The Red Sox can’t be proud of their effort on Monday. They struck out 13 times and left a total of 16 base-runners on base while scoring just two runs. The Red Sox were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The key to game was they missed their opportunities to score while the Yankees cashed in on the much fewer chances they had.
The best news is the Yankees have pulled to within a half-game of the Red Flops, uh, Sox in the American League East. The Yankees are 81-52. The Bosox are 82-52.
- Sabathia’s line of 10 hits and two walks over six innings is not very impressive. But it was a very gutsy effort the ace delivered on Monday. Sabathia struck out Gonzalez the first three times he faced him and Gonazalez ended the night 0-for-5, the only Bosox starter who did not get a hit. MVP, huh? Sabathia got the big outs when he needed to and limited the damage in the fourth to two runs. Sabathia might have been more impressive in toughing out this start then he has in his complete-game shutouts.
- Chavez came through subbing for A-Rod with a pair of RBI singles off Lackey in the second and fourth innings. After missing 2 1/2 months with a broken bone in his right foot, Chavez was hitting just .237 since his return in July. However, in his last four starts, Chavez is 6-for-16 (375). Chavez stands to get some more playing time while A-Rod heals his sore left thumb.
- Cervelli’s home run was a much smaller version of the Bucky Dent home run in the one-game playoff in 1978. Cervelli was the most unlikely Yankee to homer on Tuesday. His enthusiastic celebration at home plate also goaded Lackey into stupidly hitting him in the back with his first pitch in the seventh. It cost the Lackey and the Chicken Pox, uh, Red Sox a very important run. Letting a bench guy like Cervelli get under your skin is not smart.
- Logan deserves credit for fanning Saltalamacchia and McDonald in a bases-loaded pressure situation in the seventh. Logan has not given up an earned run since July 23 against Oakland, a span of 12 appearances. Logan is 4-2 and has lowered his season ERA to 2.60.
- The Captain let us down on Tuesday. Jeter could have been still favoring his bruised right knee but he went 0-for-5 including his run-scoring double play groundout. In fact he grounded out to the infield in all five at-bats. On the verge of passing the .300 mark, Jeter’s average fell back to .293.
- Mark Teixiera also flamed out in this game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three weak infield popups. Teixeira is so intent on loading up on his back leg and lifting the ball that he pops up a lot, hence his current batting average of .249. Tex needs to stop going down for pitches and start hitting line drives on pitches up in the strike zone.
- Jorge Posada had no day to write home about either. He was 0-for-3 and ended the Yankees two best rallies in the second and fourth innings by grounding into double plays. He also flew out to left. Posada is hitting a anemic .239 in what likely will be his last season with the Yankees.
Rodriguez had a cortisone shot administered to his left thumb and he will not play in the Red Sox series. Rodriguez originally injured the thumb diving for a Joe Mauer infield single on Aug. 21, his first game back in the lineup after missing a month with surgery on his right knee. Rodriguez then re-aggravated the injury in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday against the Orioles. Rodriguez may be able to return to the lineup on Friday with the Yankees at home against the Blue Jays. . . . Sabathia became the fifth Yankees pitcher to win at least 18 games in three straight seasons and he is the first to do it since Vic Raschi did it from 1948 through 1951.
Well, in Act One we had four hit batters (five if you count the one Granderson was hit with that Rapuano had his head up his hind end and missed), two ejections and a bench-clearing incident. What will Act Two of the this three-act play between the Red Sox and Yankees bring on Wednesday?
The Yankees will count on 24-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA). Hughes was on a three-game winning streak and looking like the 18-game winner he was in 2010. However, he allowed six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Athletics last week. But Hughes did not lose the game because the Yankees rallied from a 7-1 deficit to win 22-9. Hughes is 2-4 with a 6.25 ERA lifetime against the Blowsux, uh, Bosox.
The Sox will counter with right-hander Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA). Beckett gave up four hits and fanned four in his last outing against the Rangers. Beckett is 13-7 with a 5.37 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.