YANKEES 4, ATHLETICS 2
Phil Hughes missed all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back and he had to use his first two starts as “spring training on the fly.” But, if his last four starts are any indication, he is healthy and he is mowing down hitters with ease.
Hughes, 26, gave up only four hits and struck nine batters in shutting out the Athletics over eight innings as New York downed Oakland in front of a paid crowd of 41,349 at Yankee Stadium on Saturday.
Hughes (1-2) won his first game of the season and now has given up only six runs on 23 hits and five walks while striking out 30 in 28 innings over his last four starts for a 1.93 ERA.
“I feel like I’m kind of clicking right now with what I’m trying to do,” Hughes told reporters.
Meanwhile, the Yankees managed to put together enough offense against former Yankee right-hander Bartolo Colon (3-1).
Chris Stewart greeted Colon leading off the third inning by swatting a 1-0 fastball down the left-field line and into the bleachers for his second home run of the season. He entered the season with only four career home runs.
Two innings later, one of “The Replacements,” Lyle Overbay, jumped on Colon’s first offering in the fifth inning to connect for his fifth home run of the season, which landed in the second deck in the right-field bleachers.
The Yankees then added a single run in the sixth on a leadoff double off the wall in right-center by Robinson Cano and a one-out bloop opposite-field single by Travis Hafner that scored Cano and ended Colon’s afternoon.
Colon gave up three runs on six hits and no walks while he fanned three in 5 1/3 innings.
The Yankees added another run in the seventh when Eduardo Nunez laced a triple off the wall in left-center off reliever Chris Resop and he scored one out later on an infield single off the bat of Brett Gardner.
The Yankees entered the game with right-handed setup man David Robertson unavailable due to a sore left hamstring and right-hander Joba Chamberlain placed on the disabled list on Friday with a right oblique strain.
So when Hughes departed after eight innings manager Joe Girardi entrusted the Yankees 4-0 lead in the ninth to right-hander Shawn Kelley. But Kelley gave up a bloop single to left off the bat of Yoenis Cespedes to start the frame and Girardi abruptly pulled him in favor of closer Mariano Rivera.
Rivera then issued a controversial walk on a 3-2 pitch to Brandon Moss. Replays showed the ball caught the outside corner of the plate above the knee but was called a ball by fading veteran umpire Tim McClelland.
After a fielder’s choice grounder by Josh Donaldson advanced Cespedes to third and erased Moss at second, Seth Smith singled to right to drive in Cespedes.
Josh Reddick then grounded a ball to short that erased Smith but Reddick was just able to beat the relay from second by Cano to score Donaldson.
But Rivera retired Adam Rosales on a routine flyball to right to end the A’s’ threat and preserve the victory for Hughes.
With the victory, the Yankees now have won seven of their past nine games. Their season record improved to 18-11. The A’s fell to 17-14.
- The Yankees entered the season with major questions about their starting rotation behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. But Hughes is proving that his 34-21 record in his two full seasons as a starter was not a fluke. Hughes threw first-pitch strikes to 21 of the 29 batters he faced and, after giving up five home runs in his first three starts, Hughes has not given up any in his past three outings.
- Stewart is picking up where starting catcher Francisco Cervelli left off when he was placed on the disabled list on April 27 with a fractured right hand. Since April 27, Stewart is only 4-for 17 (.235) but he has a home run and three RBIs. Even more impressive is that he has nailed five of nine base-runners this season, which is an amazing 56 percent.
- “The Replacements” continue to contribute to the Yankees’ offense as the team bides its time until their injured players return. Overbay is 8-for-23 (.348) with three home runs and three RBIs in his last six games. Hafner’s RBI single in the sixth inning ties him with Cano for the team in RBIs with 18.
It is hard to complain when a starting pitcher goes eight shutout innings, the offense gets him plenty of runs to support him and the team plays errorless defense. So no negatives on this day.
Infielder Chris Nelson made his first start for the Yankees in place of Jayson Nix at third base and was 4-for-4 with two strikeouts. Nelson was obtained earlier this week from the Colorado Rockies for cash considerations or a player to be named later after the Yankees placed Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list with a lower back sprain. . . . Meanwhile, Yankees coach Mick Kelleher worked with Nix at first base before Saturday’s game so that Nix might provide the Yankees with an right-handed hitting option at the position. . . . When the Yankees placed Chamberlain on the 15-day disabled they purchased the contract of right-hander Preston Claiborne from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Claiborne was a perfect 3-for-3 in save chances and had a 3.48 in eight appearances with Scranton. In order to make room for Claiborne on the 40-man roster the team designated right-hander Cody Eppley for assignment. . . . Robertson had a MRI on his left knee on Thursday that was negative but Girardi said Robertson will not pitch until Tuesday in Colorado at the earliest.
The Yankees can win the three-game weekend series against Oakland with a victory on Sunday.
Pettitte (3-2, 3.86 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. He would like to forget his last start. He was shelled for seven runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings on Monday against the Houston Astros. In the past 10 seasons, Pettitte is 5-3 with 3.13 ERA against the A’s.
Oakland will counter with right-hander Dan Straily (1-0, 6.35 ERA). Straily gave up six runs on seven hits in 4 2/3 innings on Monday against the Los Angels Angels in his first start replacing left-hander Brett Anderson. Straily has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
MARLINS 6, YANKEES 1
Manager Joe Girardi needs to make an emergency call to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission because on the Yankees’ road trip to Jupiter, FL, they were overrun by some extremely pesky fish and birds.
On Thursday they lost 7-6 to the St. Louis Cardinals and on Friday they fell meekly to the Miami Marlins.
Matt Downs and Adeiny Hechavarria each drove in a pair of runs and Nathan Eovaldi and four Marlins relievers held the Yankees to just one run as Miami easily defeated New York at Roger Dean Stadium.
Eovaldi (2-0) gave up four hits, walked three and hit a batter in his four innings of work but the Yankees were only able to push across a single run against the right-hander. Adam Warren (0-1) gave up four runs on six hits and a walk in four innings to take the loss.
The Yankees scored their lone run in the fourth on a two-out single by Melky Mesa and an RBI double off the wall in left-center by Thomas Neal.
The Yankees fell to 3-10 on the spring The Marlins improved to 5-5.
- The Yankees who were on this road trip – minus the players who are injured or who are playing in the World Baseball Classic – got in their exercise for the day and nary a one got injured in the game.
- Mesa had two of the Yankees’ five hits and scored the team’s only run. In going 2-for-4, Mesa raised his spring average to .261 and he leads the team in home runs this spring with two and he is tied with J.R. Murphy for the team lead in RBIs with four.
- Branden Pinder pitched a scoreless fifth inning and he was the only Yankee pitcher to record a 1-2-3 inning. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched mostly at High-A Tampa last season and was 2-6 with a 2.79 ERA. He likely will be assigned to Double-A Trenton in 2013 but he bears watching this season.
- Nobody with the Yankees will tell you this but I will: Warren is a complete waste of time as a starting pitching prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander is not a strikeout pitcher and he has to rely on trickery to get outs. The Marlins on Friday were able to exploit that and it is the main reason he gave up four runs in four innings.
- Brett Gardner was the recipient of Thursday’s Rip Van Winkle Award for getting picked off first base by Cardinals starter Joe Kelly. Friday’s recipient is Eduard Nunez, who got nailed by Eovaldi leaning too far off first after a leadoff walk. With hits and runs hard to come by this spring it is aggravating when runners get picked off.
- Kevin Youkilis was 0-for-3 on Friday and is still looking for his first hit with the Yankees. With Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira both out until mid-May the Yankees will be leaning on Youkilis and Travis Hafter to help produce runs. But they are a combined 2-for-19 (.105) with one RBI.
Most of the buzz around spring camp in Tampa, FL, is about the news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. in which future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera is expected to announce that the 2013 season will be his last. Rivera, for his part, has been ducking reporters questions about it. . . . Rivera, 43, is scheduled to make his 2013 spring debut on Saturday. Rivera is rehabbing from surgery on his right knee, which cut short his 2012 season in early May. . . . Left-hander Andy Pettitte pitched a simulated game on Friday in Tampa and he could make his first spring start as soon as Wednesday. . . . Reliever David Robertson, who has been shelved for a few days with right shoulder discomfort has been cleared to resume throwing. . . . Shortstop Derek Jeter returned to camp after visiting the physician who performed surgery on his fractured left ankle in Charlotte, N.C., and he could be making his spring training debut soon. The most likely date could be a home game on Monday against the Cardinals.
During Friday’s game Miami Marlins radio broadcasters Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner were poking fun at the Yankees’ injury woes this spring. At one point, Geffner said it was like “Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know was at third.” Very clever, Glenn. You get some star stickers to place on your Jose Reyes lunchbox. I would think after the Marlins front office decided to ship just about every able-bodied player they had on last season’s roster to other teams I would not be taking shots at the misfortunes of other teams. Considering that the Marlins will be starting such household names as Rob Brantly behind the plate, Donovan Solano at second, Hechavarria at short and Justin Ruggiano in center, I would stick to just reporting on the Marlins and not worrying about a team in another league. Especially a team that is out of your in league in talent. I would say there are more “Who’s and What’s” on the Marlins roster than the Yankees. So just shut up, OK?
The Yankees return George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
Jose Ramirez, who is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA in his first two outings this spring, will start for the Yankees. The Braves will counter with left-hander Mike Minor.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2
Since June 27, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been dreaming about the return of all five of his starters, including 40-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte. On Wednesday afternoon he got his wish and what he got had to exceed even his expectations.
Pettitte threw five scoreless frames, giving up four hits and two walks in a workmanlike 75-pitch outing, as New York put up three runs in the first inning and made them hold up to defeat Toronto in the opener of a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.
Pettitte (4-3) was making a comeback from a broken left fibula he suffered on a hard-hit comebacker by Casey Kotchman of the Cleveland Indians on June 27. Held to a pitch count of about 70 pitches, Pettitte stranded six Blue Jays by inducing ground ball outs to escape any damage. He also struck out three batters.
His most impressive inning was his last in which he retired Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie in order using only seven pitches.
The Yankees’ offense got busy early off Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez (9-13).
Ichiro Suzuki opened the frame with a solid single to right. Nick Swisher followed with a lined single up the middle and Robinson Cano scored Suzuki with line-drive double that Rasmus misjudged in center-field and allowed to bounce off the wall.
Alex Rodriguez scored Swisher and advanced Cano to third with an RBI grounder and Curtis Granderson drove in Cano with a sacrifice fly to center.
The 3-0 margin held up until the eighth inning when David Robertson again got smacked around by the Blue Jays.
Lawrie greeted him with a double off the wall in left-center and he advanced to third on a seeing-eye single by pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia that got past Jayson Nix at shortstop and rolled into left-field.
Pinch-hitter Kelly Johson then slapped a single into left to score Lawrie.
Robertson fanned Moises Sierra looking but veteran Omar Vizquel doubled into the corner in right to score Arencibia and advance Johnson to third.
Robertson fanned Adeiny Hechavarria looking and Girardi chose to bring in closer Rafael Soriano for what would be his sixth four-out save of the season.
Soriano walked rookie Anthony Gose to load the bases but Davis was retired on a sharp sinking line drive to left that Suzuki made a sliding grab on and barely held onto as the ball rolled up his right arm.
The Yankees added a crucial insurance run with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning off Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver.
Suzuki started it by slapping a bloop ground-rule double just inside the line in shallow left-field that was just out of the reach of a diving Gose.
Swisher followed with a hot smash that snuck under the glove of Lawrie at third base and rolled into left to plate Suzuki.
Soriano retired the Blue Jays in order in the ninth, striking out two batters, to record his 41st save in 44 opportunities this season. What was left probably one-third of the paid crowd of 39,859 from last night’s rainout stood and cheered the clutch victory.
The Yankees, for the moment, pulled back ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East by a half game. Their season record is 83-63. The Blue Jays fell to 66-80.
- The Yankees got rolling in May when Pettitte joined CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova and that quartet was 30-5 over a stretch of a month and half before Pettitte was injured. Since then the Yankees have also lost Nova and Sabathia in certain stretches and their 10-game lead on June 18 shrunk to zero. But Pettitte showed he could still compete and he has two more starts to build up his stamina for the playoffs. I think the Yankees are breathing a lot easier than they were a few weeks ago.
- Suzuki was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to raise his season batting average to .272. His catch on Davis’ sinking liner in the eighth inning preserved the victory for Pettitte and Yankees. With Derek Jeter out of the lineup, Suzuki fulfilled his role as a the consummate table-setter at the top of the lineup and he threw in a game-saving catch to boot. The trade the Yankees made to obtain from the Mariners is starting to pay major dividends.
- Swisher was 2-for-4 with a huge RBI single in the eighth that made the ninth inning more comfortable for Soriano and the Yankees. Swisher entered the contest in an 0-for-10 slide but he got a big hit when it counted.
- The way Robertson is pitching lately has to concern the Yankees some. He was tagged for two runs on four hits two-thirds of inning and he is now 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his last 10 appearances. Although his overall ERA is still a respectable 2.98, Robertson has been far more hittable lately and the Yankees need him to shut down teams in the eighth to go anywhere in the postseason.
- Swisher has played marvelous defense at first base for the most part but he actually made two errors on one play in the third inning. With Davis on first and one out, Lawrie hit a ball well off the bag at first. Swisher should have held the ball but attempted an awkward toss to Pettitte covering first and it rolled to the dugout screen to allow Davis to reach third. Pettitte bailed out Swisher by retiring Adam Lind on an inning-ending double-play ball.
- The top three Yankee hitters in the lineup – Suzuki, Swisher and Cano – collected all seven of the Yankees’ hits in the game. The rest of the batting order was a combined 0-for-17. That is a big reason why Alvarez stayed in the game for seven innings despite giving up three runs in the first frame.
NOTE: The BOMBER BANTER and ON DECK features will appear in the post from the second game of the doubleheader.