Tagged: Elliot Johnson

Cano, Wells Deal Out Yankees’ Royal Flush Of K.C.

GAME 36

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

If winning games is fun then the New York Yankees’ charter plane to Cleveland must be a barrel of laughs.

Robinson Cano and Vernon Wells each homered and drove in two runs and Hiroki Kuroda pitched into the eighth inning as the New York swept the three-game series against Kansas City and extended their winning steak to five games in front of 29,515 fans at Kauffman Stadium.

Kuroda (5-2) collected his third victory in his past four outings, limiting the Royals to two runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out one batter in 7 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Cano gave the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the day in the third inning.

With the Yankees trailing 1-0, Chris Stewart stroked a one-out single to left and, one batter later, Cano connected with the first offering from Royals right-hander Ervin Santana (3-2) on a two-run blast into the bleachers in right-field for his 10th home run of the season.

Cano was using a pink bat as part of Major League Baseball effort to bring awareness on Mother’s Day for breast cancer research and an eventual cure.

Right after Cano gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead, Wells laced a 1-0 fastball from Santana down the line into the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season.

Wells added another run for the Yankees in the fifth. Brett Gardner slapped a one-out opposite-field double to left. One out later, Wells singled to left to plate Gardner.

Santana gave up four runs on eight hits and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.

The Royals scored both their runs off Kuroda on the strength of leadoff doubles.

Jarrod Dyson led off the first inning with a double down the right-field line and he advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt off the bat of Alcides Escobar. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Alex Gordon.

Elliot Johnson led off the eighth with a double off the wall in right-center. He advanced to third on a flyout to deep center by Dyson and he scored on an infield groundout off the bat of Escobar.

After the Royals drew to within two runs, Gordon doubled off Kuroda. Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kuroda with right-hander David Robertson, who retired Billy Butler on a routine flyout to end the Royals’ threat.

Mariano Rivera came in to pitch a scoreless ninth to save his 14th game in 14 tries this season and it was his 28th consecutive save against the Royals, which dates back to the 1998 season.

With the victory the Yankees are now 22-9 since April 7 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game in front of the Baltimore Orioles with a 22-13 season mark. The Royals, who have now lost six of their past seven games, are now 18-16.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano is way ahead of his home-run pace of 2012, a year in which he set a career high with 33 home runs. Cano leads the team in batting (.311), runs scored (22), doubles (10), home runs (10) and RBIs (23).
  • Wells hit only nine home runs in 77 games with the Los Angels Angels last season. Wells is second on the club in batting (.295), runs scored (19), home runs (9) and RBIs (20).
  • Kuroda pitched another gem to become the first Yankee starter to win five games. Kuroda also leads all Yankee starters in ERA (2.31) and Walks To Innings Pitched (WHIP) (1.05).

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Though the Yankees’ No. 9 through No. 4 hitters were a combined 9 for 19 (.474), the No. 5 through No. 8 hitters were a combined 0-for-16 against Santana and relievers Tim Collins and Greg Holland.
  • Third baseman Chris Nelson was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and since he has joined the Yankees on May 4 he is 5-for-29 (.172) with no home runs and two RBIs in eight games.
  • Jayson Nix was 4-for 6 with two walks in the first two games of the series but on Sunday he was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. When he did reach base on a two-base throwing error by Mike Moustakas in the fourth inning he was doubled up off second after Nelson lined out on a diving catch by Dyson in center-field.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees on Sunday elected to place shortstop Eduardo Nunez (left ribcage tightness) on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to May 6 and he will be eligible to activated on May 20. To replace Nunez on the roster the Yankees bought the contract of infielder Alberto Gonzalez from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Gonzalez, 30, previously played for the Yankees from 2006 through 2007 after being acquired as part of the Randy Johnson trade from the Arizona Diamondbacks. He was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last week in a trade for a player to be named later. He is career .241 hitter and also has played with with the Nationals, Padres and Rangers.  . . .  Right-hander Ivan Nova experienced discomfort in his right side while throwing at the team’s complex in Tampa, FL, and he will not be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Monday. Nova, who has been on the disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps, was being considered for a start in the team’s doubleheader on Monday. It is unclear how long Nova will remain on the DL.  . . .  Reliever Joba Chamberlain three 30 pitches in a bullpen session at Kauffman Stadium on Sunday and he is scheduled to pitch in a minor-league rehab game for Scranton on Tuesday. Chamberlain has been on the disabled list since April 28 with a right oblique strain.  . . .  Chamberlain and Rivera apologized to each other on Sunday after a intense shouting match erupted between the two on Saturday. Rivera was conducting an interview with reporters in the dugout during batting practice while Chamberlain apparently was shouting up to family members in the stands. Rivera asked Chamberlain to be quiet and Chamberlain took exception to it. Both players said it was an exchange in the heat of the moment and all has been forgiven.

ON DECK

The red-hot but limping Yankees will be in Cleveland on Monday for day-night doubleheader as part of a makeup of two rained out games against the Indians on May 10 and May 11.

The Yankees will open the doubleheader with right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.02 ERA). Phelps, 26, is coming off a six-inning no-decisoon against the Colorado Rockies in which he yielded two runs on three hits and a walk while striking out four. Phelps is making his third start of the season but he has never faced the Indians.

The Indians will counter with ace right-hander Justin Masterson (5-2. 3.67 ERA). Masterson is 2-2 with a 5.91 in his past five starts after starting the season 3-0 with a 0.41 ERA. Masterson is 3-3 with a 3,00 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 12:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

Rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-0, 0.00 ERA) will make his first major-league start in the second game. Nuno, 25, has pitched only once for the Yankees, tossing three shutout innings against the Houston Astros on April 29. Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts at Scranton before he was recalled on April 28.

Nuno will be opposed by right-hander Trevor Bauer (1-1, 2.78 ERA). Bauer is being called up from Triple-A Columbus to make this start. He is 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in four outings at Columbus.

Game-time will be determined and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

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Yankees’ Myriad Injuries Defy All Logic Or Reason

Because of the spate of injuries the New York Yankees have incurred over the past two seasons there has been a suggestion that the team’s iconic logo should be changed to a Red Cross symbol to replace the “Y” laid over a pair of crutches and a Band-Aid to form the “N.” Most fans know about the injuries to Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and Mark Teixeira. But there are some injuries which many fans are not aware to lesser players. Let’s look at all of the injuries, when they might return and what impact they could make upon their return.

ALEX RODRIGUEZ

As most fans know, Alex Rodriguez had surgery to repair a congenital defect in his left hip in January. There has been some question as to why he waited until January to have this surgery. The answer is because the doctor who was performing the surgery believed A-Rod could cut the rehabilitation time by doing exercises prior to the surgery. The surgery was pronounced successful and Rodriguez, 37, is expected to return sometime after the All-Star break. There has not been any word from the Yankees extending that time frame. However, Rodriguez is facing potential accusations surrounding the Miami clinic Biogenesis, which Major League Baseball believes was distributing performance enhancing drugs to players. Rodriguez’s name surfaced in an examination of the clinic’s documents and there have been allegations representatives attempted to purchase the documents on the All-Star third baseman’s behalf. The surgery on Rodriguez was a major reason why the Yankees elected to sign Kevin Youkilis to a free-agent contract this winter. Youkilis now is an insurance policy in case A-Rod either can’t come back from his surgery or is suspended by MLB. Rodriguez was back on the field in Tampa, FL, for the first time on Monday. He ran sprints, played catch and hit off a batting tee. If MLB does decide to suspend Rodriguez it likely will come just before he is activated because they don’t want Rodriguez to cheat the suspension by spending part of it rehabbing from his surgery.

DEREK JETER

Much like Ryan Howard of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, Jeter, 38, suffered a major injury during the playoffs in 2012, fracturing a left ankle that he had hobbling upon for a month prior. Jeter had surgery to repair the ankle and he vowed to return by Opening Day on April 1. The Yankees held him out of early exhibition games and allowed him to play at first as the designated hitter on May 10. However, it was clear that though Jeter was able to hit as he always has, he still was unable to run at full speed. It became inevitable that when Jeter was shut down because of recurring soreness that something was  –  if you pardon the pun  –  afoot. A trip back to Charlotte, N.C., in April to the doctor who performed his surgery led to a new X-ray that showed a tiny break near the spot of the original fracture. Jeter is now in a removable walking boot. He will be able to work out without the boot but the timetable for his return has been shifted back to mid-July. He should be able to return to full workouts when the boot is removed within a month. Jeter vows he will play this season and there does not seem to be any reason to discount it. The only real concern is will he be able to display enough range to play shortstop on a daily basis. The Yankees, in the interim, have Eduardo Nunez and Jayson Nix to play the position. But Nunez has already been shelved twice for two games after being hit by pitches and is currently day-to-day with tightness in his right rib cage. If Nunez is placed on the disabled list, Nix would have to play short and the only available shortstop at Triple-A Scranton is Addison Marausak. The Yankees might be forced to make a trade for another shortstop, preferably someone who could start at the position ahead of Nix.

MARK TEIXEIRA

Teixeira, 33, accepted an invitation this spring to play first base for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. He was taking batting practice prior to exhibition game against the Chicago White Sox in Glendale, AZ, when he felt pain in his right wrist. Tests indicated he sustained a partially torn sheath in the wrist, an injury similar to the one suffered by Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista last season, which eventually required surgery after a failed comeback. The Yankees believe Teixeira will be able to avoid surgery because it is partial tear and they are lengthening his rehab from their original timetable of 8-to-10 weeks. Teixeira has had the brace from his wrist removed and he hoped to be cleared to take swings in time to return by May 1. However, his doctor withheld clearance for an additional two weeks. Teixiera is in Tampa, FL, taking “tee and toss” swings and he soon hopes to progress to begin taking swings off live pitching in a batting cage. His target date for his return is now closer to June 1. In his absence the Yankees had hoped to use lefty-swinging Lyle Overbay and righty-swinging Youkilis in a platoon. However, a lower back sprain landed Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list so the Yankees are using Overbay full-time and exposing his weakness against left-handers. But they are hoping to have Youkilis back in the lineup soon.

CURTIS GRANDERSON

Granderson, 32, was playing in his first exhibition game of the season on Feb. 24 when Blue Jays left-hander J.A. Happ hit him in the lower right forearm with his first pitch. Granderson left the game and underwent X-rays that indicated he suffered a fractured right forearm and would miss eight weeks. Though the injury was a major blow to the Yankees, of all the injuries the team has suffered, this one the Yankees felt sure about Granderson’s ability to return because bones do heal eventually. Granderson targeted May 1 for his return but that timetable was adjusted two weeks because Granderson missed all of spring training. So the Yankees have him hitting against live pitching at their complex in Tampa. In fact, Granderson was struck on the left tricep by a pitch on Saturday. But it was termed not serious and Granderson remains on track to return to the active roster in a couple of weeks. The Yankees obtained veteran outfielder Vernon Wells to play in left for Granderson and Wells is hitting .280 with six home runs and 13 RBIs in the middle of the lineup. That has forced manager Joe Girardi to shift his thinking of how to use Wells when Granderson returns. Wells obviously could be a right-handed DH but those at-bats would be limited because there are so few left-handed starters. So Girardi is considering rotating some rest for his lefty-swinging outfielders (Granderson, Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki) in order to keep Wells’ bat in the lineup more often.

KEVIN YOUKILIS

Two things were apparent when the Yankees signed Youkilis to a free-agent contract this winter. One was that with Rodriguez injured someone had to play the position for a long period of time. Perhaps the player might have to play there the entire season. The second thing was the Yankees were taking a risk on the 33-year-old Youkilis, who had his past two seasons ruined by injuries to his groin and his back. Because Youkilis was versatile enough to play third and first base he also became the player the Yankees could LEAST afford to lose. That scenario played out when Youkilis was removed in the sixth inning of a game on April 20 against the Blue Jays with stiffness in his lower back. The Yankees held him out of competition for six games when Youkilis assured them he was fine. He started a game on April 27 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays. However, CC Sabathia slipped off the mound on a ground ball off the bat of Melky Cabrera in the third inning. Youkilis was forced to slide hard to beat the speedy Cabrera to the base. Youkilis made it but re-aggravated his back injury and had to be placed on the disabled list on April 28. Youkilis was administered an epidural pain-killing injection and he claims he already is feeling better. However, the Yankees are angry Youkilis “talked” them into believing he was fine. They could have backdated his DL stint April 21 and he would have been able to play on May 7. Now he will be able to be activated on May 13 at the earliest. The Yankees are going to make darn sure he is really 100 percent before they activate him. In his absence the Yankees have used Nix at third base and traded to obtain Chris Nelson from the Colorado Rockies. Nix, however, has not contributed much offensively (.227 batting average with a home run and six RBIs) and on Sunday Nix was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and two weak infield popups and he stranded seven base-runners in 5-4 loss to the Oakland Athletics. Nelson has played in two games and is 0-for-7 with three strikeouts.

FRANCISCO CERVELLI

With the departure of free-agent catcher Russell Martin, the Yankees opened up the catching competition this spring to Cervelli, backup catcher Chris Stewart and rookie Austin Romine. But Cervelli, who was shipped to Triple A on the last day of spring training to make room for Stewart in 2012, was determined to prove to the Yankees he belonged in the major leagues. Cervelli, 27, reneged on his commitment to play for Italy in the WBC so he could concentrate on winning the starting catching job. Though Girardi left spring camp without naming a starter, Cervelli quickly won the job by playing good defense, throwing well and surprisingly he was even contributing offensively. Cervelli was hitting .269 with three home runs and eight RBIs when he was struck on the right hand by a foul tip off the bat of Rajai Davis leading off a game on April 26 against the Blue Jays. Cervelli sustained a fractured hand and had to undergo surgery to repair the hand the next day. He will be in a cast for more than a month and he was placed on the 60-day disabled list. He is expected back sometime after the All-Star break. To Yankee fans Cervelli getting injured should not be a total shock. Bad luck and injuries have hovered over Cervelli like a dark cloud. In spring training in 2009, Cervelli had his wrist broken in a home-plate collision with Elliot Johnson of the Tampa Bay Rays. In spring training in 2010, Cervelli fouled a ball off his foot and missed the most of the first month of the season. In spring training of 2011, Cervelli was hit in the helmet with a pitch and missed time with a concussion and had to wear a special batting helmet upon his return. In September of that season, Cervelli suffered another concussion, the third of his professional career, when he was involved in a home-plate collision with Nick Markakis of the Baltimore Orioles. He was unable to play for the rest of the season and missed the playoffs. In his place, Stewart is now the starter. Stewart is hitting .256 with two home runs and four RBIs but he is definite step down offensively from Cervelli. Romine was recalled from Scranton to be the backup catcher. Romine’s defense is excellent but his bat is major question mark. Romine also has had his development derailed by a recurring back problem. Stewart is a fabulous defensive catcher but the offense will definitely suffer until Cervelli returns in July.

JOBA CHAMBERLAIN

Chamberlain, 27, returned to the Yankees last season because he missed most of 2011 after undergoing Tommy John surgery and freakishly breaking his ankle in a spring training trampoline accident. He pitched in 22 games and was 1-0 with a 4.35 ERA in 20 2/3 innings. With Rafael Soriano gone via free agency, much was expected of Chamberlain this season. He was 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA in 9 1/3 innings over 10 appearances when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a right oblique strain last Thursday. Oblique strains are tricky. He might be back in two weeks but he may miss a month. Either way it shortens the Yankees bullpen considerably. The Yankees recalled 25-year-old right-hander Preston Claiborne to replace him. Claiborne pitched two perfect innings of relief in the Yankees’ 5-4 loss to the A’s on Sunday. Claiborne is perhaps the best of the young relievers the Yankees have been developing within their system. He is going to have a chance to prove his 95-mile-per-hour fastball can hold up against major-league hitters. With Chamberlain a potential free agent after the season, Claiborne has a perfect opportunity to make his future mark in the Yankees’ bullpen with this recall.

IVAN NOVA

Nova, 26, is your typical enigma. After a sensational rookie season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA in 2011, Nova fell into the deep end of the pool by going 12-8 with 5.02 ERA last season. This spring Nova was put into a competition for the fifth spot in the rotation with David Phelps. Phelps was 3-3 with a 4.18 ERA in seven starts while Nova was 1-0 with a 4.19 ERA in five starts. Girardi elected to keep Nova as his fifth starter and keep Phelps in the bullpen role he filled last season. Nova was not impressive in any of his four starts. He was 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA when he was pulled from his last start in the third inning of a game against the Blue Jays with what originally was termed a sore elbow. But tests after the game showed a right triceps strain and Nova was placed on the 15-day DL. Nova’s injury could be two weeks but it could turn out to be much longer. In the interim, the Yankees shifted Phelps into the starting rotation to replace Nova and recalled 25-year-old left-hander Vidal Nuno from Scranton to fill Phelps’ role in the bullpen. Phelps gave up four runs on eight hits, a walk and hit two batters in 5 2/3 innings against the Houston Astros on May 1. Nuno pitched three scoreless innings and gave up three hits in his only outing on April 29 against the Astros. Phelps got better as the season progressed in 2012 so there is no doubt he will pitch better. Nuno was sensational this spring, winning the James P. Dawson Award as the team’s top rookie. He just needs chances to prove he can pitch well in the majors. The Yankees actually may be better off without Nova until he conquers his command issues.

MICHAEL PINEDA

It is almost like Pineda is the forgotten Yankee. After all, he has never worn pinstripes in a major-league game even though he has been a member of the team for two seasons. He was acquired in the 2012 offseason in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for Yankee mega-prospect Jesus Montero. He showed up at training camp 20 pounds overweight and he proceeded to throw some horrible spring training games culminating with a terrible beating at the hands of the Phillies in his final spring tuneup. It turned out Pineda, 24, was pitching with some right shoulder pain and he did not bother to mention it until after that game. Pineda underwent tests that showed he had a torn labrum and the surgery would mean he would need at least a year to recover. Pineda was one of the most impressive young rookie pitchers in 2011 when he made the American League All-Star team. But the Mariners as a team and Pineda had a horrible second half and Pineda finished with a 9-10 record and a 3.74 ERA. There were whispers about Pineda losing velocity in the second half but the Yankees made the trade for the right-hander just the same. Now they are hoping he will be able to make it back to the big leagues this season. He has been rehabbing at the team’s complex in Tampa and reports indicate he has been hitting 95 mph on the radar gun. However, the hope is that Pineda might be ready to start pitching in games in June. The question is will those games be with the Yankees or with a minor-league team. It is looking more likely Pineda will pitch in the minors until he indicates he is ready to pitch in the majors. It is unclear when that will be.

CESAR CABRAL

Even more obscure than Pineda is Cabral. The 24-year-old left-handed reliever was a Rule V selection for the Yankees by the Kansas City Royals from the Boston Red Sox in the winter of 2012. Cabral had racked up some impressive numbers with two Red Sox minor-league teams but was left off their 40-man roster. With those two teams Cabral was 3-4 with a 2.95 ERA and racked up 70 strikeouts in only 55 innings. The Yankees saw him as a potential second left-hander to Boone Logan in the bullpen and Cabral battled fellow lefty Clay Rapada all through spring training until Cabral sustained a fractured left elbow in what would have been his final appearance. Cabral has not pitched in a game since and the Yankees are hoping that he can begin throwing this month in a rehab stint that might lead to him being available to pitch in the majors. They hope that could mean he could pitch for them this season. But until Cabral begins throwing it is unclear if he will be able to help and when.

That said, it leads us to some injuries the Yankees have suffered that are actually under the radar. They are not part of the 10 players the Yankees have listed on the disabled list but they actually are important injuries that are having an effect on the current roster. Here they are:

CLAY RAPADA

Rapada, 32, benefitted from Cabral’s injury but he likely would have won the job anyway. He also did a great job as the lefty specialist in Girardi’s bullpen last season, recording a 3-0 record and 2.82 ERA while keeping lefties to a low .100 batting average. Rapada likely would have kept his job this season if he did not come down with bursitis in his left shoulder that prevented from pitching this spring. The Yankees designated him for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster but they were able to sign him to a minor-league contract and they have him pitching at Scranton. Rapada has pitched just one inning of one game but there is hope that he might be able to return to the Yankees sometime soon this season because the Yankees have a starting pitcher in Nuno along with Logan in the bullpen. Neither Nuno or Logan are really lefty specialists like Rapada. There is a good possibility that Rapada will be back with the Yankees real soon if he has overcome the bursitis.

RONNIER MUSTELIER

Mustelier, 28, is the Cuban defector who turned heads all spring with his hitting. The corner outfielder even was utilized late in the spring at third base and actually had a good shot to make the team. That was until he ran smack into a camera well along the third base line chasing a foul popup in the fourth inning of a game in Tampa against the Miami Marlins on March 15. Mustelier suffered multiple bone bruises to both legs and his shot of making the team was over. In fact, Mustelier only recently recovered enough to be able to start playing at Scranton. He is hitting .231 with a home run and one RBI in five games. Mustelier still has a great shot of being able to help the Yankees at some point this season. He bats right-handed and can play the outfield and third base. In fact, if the Yankees had a healthy Mustelier when Youkilis injured his back, he would have been the player the team recalled from Triple A instead of Corban Joseph or would have not forced the team’s decision to trade for Nelson.

MANNY BANUELOS

Banuelos, 22, remains as the team’s top pitching prospect despite the fact he has not pitched since the early stages of the 2012 season. Banuelos came up with a sore elbow last season and later tests showed ligament damage that required Tommy John surgery. So Banuelos will miss all of the 2013 season with hopes of being able to compete for a roster spot with the Yankees in spring training in 2014. After impressing the Yankees with a fine 2011 season in which he was 4-5 with a 3.59 ERA at Double-A Trenton the Yankees wanted to see him pitch in the spring in 2012. His combination of a plus fastball and devastating change-up had them salivating at the prospect of him in the majors. But Banuelos took a detour on his control in 2012 and the balky elbow might have been the cause. With veteran starters Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte on one-year contracts and Phil Hughes eligible for free agency, Banuelos’ recovery could be important to their prospects in 2104.

 

Nova’s Star Reignited As Yankees Dim Rays’ Hopes

GAME 145

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

So much of life seems to move in circles and Ivan Nova’s path to Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays certainly came full circle.

Nova reached the All-Star break 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA coming off a brilliant rookie season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. But then came a surprisingly rapid decline in which he was 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in his last eight starts and he ended up on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 22 with inflammation of his right rotator cuff.

Nova, coming off the DL to make his first start in three weeks, was simply brilliant in pitching six-plus innings in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports as New York reclaimed sole possession of first place in the American League East with a clutch victory over Tampa Bay.

Nova (12-7) gave up two runs on just four hits and two walks and he struck out eight batters in an 85-pitch effort that drew a standing ovation from most of the paid crowd of 46,856 at Yankee Stadium as he left in the seventh inning.

The victory for the Yankees, coupled with the 5-2 loss of the Baltimore Orioles to the Oakland Athletics later on Saturday, allowed the Yankees to reclaim a one-game lead over the Orioles in the standings while the Rays dropped to four games back in third place.

The Yankees were able to get to Rays starter James Shields in the second inning.

Raul Ibanez opened the frame by drawing a walk and, one out later, Curtis Granderson timed a change-up and drove it deep into the bleachers in right-field for his 39th home run of the season.

Three pitches later, Eduardo Nunez smacked a high cutter into the stands in left-field to make it 3-0. Nunez, playing his third consecutive game for a hobbling Derek Jeter at shortstop, also had his season come full circle after being sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 11 and being recalled on Sept. 1. For Nunez it was his first home run of the season.

The Yankees added a run off Shields (14-9) in the fifth inning with two out. Ichiro Suzuki, batting leadoff for the Yankees for only the second time since he was acquired for the Mariners on May 23, singled to left and stole second base. Jeter then drove in Suzuki with hot smash up the middle.

The Rays were finally able to get to Nova in the bottom of the sixth inning when Evan Longoria was able to launch a two-out solo home run into right-center.

Nova, returning with a very strict pitch count, left in the seventh after giving up a leadoff single to Jeff Keppinger.

Manager Joe Girardi elected to bring in Boone Logan. Logan retired pinch-hitter Ben Francisco on botched bunt attempt in which Logan was able to throw out Keppinger at second. However, Ryan Roberts stroked a double down the left-field line to advance Francisco to third.

Joba Chamberlain replaced Logan and promptly retired pinch-hitter Sam Fuld on a hard-hit ball that Chamberlain snagged on a high bounce and threw out Fuld to save two runs. Nonetheless, Chamberlain was tagged for a two-out, two-run single by pinch-hitter Luke Scott to cut the Yankees’ lead to a single run.

Chamberlain was able to escape further damage by striking out Desmond Jennings on an 0-2 curveball.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and the Yankees added an insurance run in their half of the inning on a one-out double by Robinson Cano off lefty reliever Jake McGee and Alex Rodriguez followed with RBI single up the middle.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and he pitched around a Francisco single and walk to Carlos Pena to strike out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson swinging for his 39th save in 42 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees ran their season record to 82-63. The Rays are 78-67 and are finding their hopes of winning the division looking very bleak.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Nova refused to blame his weak second-half performance on his shoulder injury, it was obvious that something was definitely wrong with him. But 23 days of rest brought back Nova’s velocity and command of the strike zone. The Rays also might have had something to do with it. Nova is 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his eight career starts against the Rays.
  • Granderson is getting his home-run stroke back after a long slide at the plate. Gramderson has hit five home runs in his past six games. He is 7-for-22 (.318) with five home runs and 11 RBIs in that six-game span. After being benched for a few games against left-handers, it appears Granderson is starting to get hot again.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a big RBI in the eighth inning. Since coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez is 14-for-47 (.298) with three home runs and nine RBIs. Only five of his 14 hits have been for extra bases but A-Rod appears to concentrating on making contact and hitting the ball where it is pitched rather then swinging for the fences.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The bullpen was a little leaky on Saturday. Chamberlain had been pitching much sharper of late but he was victimized by Scott’s single that allowed two inherited runners to score. Though Soriano and Roberston have had good seasons in the wake of the loss of future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, the rest of the bullpen has been a bit more inconsistent in the second half. They need to get better with the playoffs looming.
  • Eric Chavez was 0-for-3 in the game and he suddenly has fallen into a prolonged slump. Since Aug. 19, Chavez is 10-for-51 (.196) with no home runs and two RBIs. His season average has dropped from .305 t0 .283 in that span.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi said using Suzuki in the leadoff spot had to do with Suzuki’s success against Shields and was not something that will be happen frequently. Suzuki entered the game 14-for-46 (.307) against Shields. The move paid dividends because Suzuki was 1-for-3 off Shields with a stolen base and a run scored.  . . .  If his rehab continues without any setbacks, outfielder Brett Gardner could be activated from the disabled list next week. Gardner has only played in nine games this season and his return was delayed by surgery on his right elbow in July. Gardner is not able to swing a bat but he could be used as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement in the outfield.

ON DECK

The Yankees can win the series against the Rays with a victory in the rubber game on Sunday.

In their final regular-season meeting with Rays the Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.17 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision the Yankees lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with rookie left-hander Matt Moore (10-10, 3.68 ERA). Moore gave up two runs in four innings in his last start against the Orioles. He is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

‘Little-Ball Yanks’ Use 2-Run Error To Deflect Rays

GAME 136

YANKEES 6, RAYS 4

When things are going bad on the field and nothing seems to help, baseball teams sometimes revert to one tried-and-true method to get back on track: A closed-door team meeting. The New York Yankees held one two hours before the game on Wednesday and it maybe turned their fortunes around.

The Yankees benefitted from a seventh-inning throwing error by Elliot Johnson to score two runs as New York downed Tampa Bay in front of a paid crowd of 16,711 at Tropicana Field to reclaim sole possession of first place in the American League East.

After a slide that eroded a 10-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles on July 18 to a tie going into Wednesday’s game, the players and coaches held a 20-minute meeting in the visitors’ clubhouse to stress what Alex Rodriguez suggested as “doing the little things” the rest of season instead of trying to hit home runs all the time. They then put the new credo into practice and it appeared to work.

With the game tied 4-4 in the seventh, Andruw Jones and Steve Pearce opened the inning with back-to-back singles off Rays left-hander Matt Moore. Manager Joe Girardi then put the team’s new motto into action by having Jayson Nix drop down a sacrifice bunt to advance both runners.

Rays manager Joe Maddon then removed Moore in favor of former Yankee fan punching bag and reliever Kyle Farnsworth.

Derek Jeter slapped a high-hop bouncer into a drawn-in infield and second baseman Johnson fielded it and fired to home plate to nip pinch-runner Ichiro Suzuki. However, Johnson’s throw was high and up the third-base line and eluded catcher Jose Lobaton. Suzuki scored and Pearce also was able to score as the ball caromed along the fence in front of the Yankees’ dugout.

The bullpen trio of Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rafael Soriano blanked the Rays over the final three innings to preserve the victory for starter Hiroki Kuroda (13-10). Kuroda gave up four runs – including a solo home run by Luke Scott in the sixth that re-tied the game – on eight hits and two walks and he struck out three batters.

Soriano hurled a perfect ninth to record his 36th save in 39 chances this season.

The Yankees awoke from their hitting doldrums, which saw them limited to six hits or less in their previous five games, as they trailed 1-0 in the fourth inning against Moore (10-9).

Jeter opened the frame with a bloop single that Johnson actually had in his glove but dropped in shallow center-field. One out later, Robinson Cano drew a walk. Rodriguez then followed with an RBI double down the left-field line to score Jeter and advance Cano to third.

Russell Martin then stroked an opposite-field, ground-rule double to score Cano and Rodriguez.

However, Kuroda could not hold the lead. In the fifth, Sam Fuld drew a two-out walk, Desmond Jennings singled and Ben Zobrist smacked a two-run triple.

Martin regained the lead for Kuroda and the Yankees with a two-out home run, his 15th of the season and with the hit he also raised his season batting average over the “Mendoza line” at .202.

Moore ended up surrendering six runs (four earned) on eight hits and one walk while he fanned nine.

The victory, combined with the Orioles’ 6-4 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, allowed the Yankees to reclaim first place in the division to themselves, a position they had held for 84 consecutive days until Tuesday. The Yankees’ season record is now 77-59. With the loss, the Rays drop 2 1/2 games back in third place.  They are 75-62.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • They finally won a game. Shall we have a ticker-tape parade for them on Thursday?
  • Martin, batting fifth behind Rodriguez despite his low batting average, came up with a clutch double and home run and drove in three runs. This season has been very disappointing for the 29-year-old catcher and his contract expires at the end of the season. It is about time he starts contributing to the offense.
  • Jeter continues his amazing resurgence at the plate. He was 3-for-5 to raise his season average to .319. He also tossed in a clutch running catch of a two-out flare to shallow left off the bat of Matt Joyce that stranded two runners and perhaps saved the game.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Kuroda somehow was unable to pitch as well as he had been pitching for the Yankees. He came in having lost his last two games because he gave up three runs early and the Yankees’ offense could not get back into the game. This time, the Yankees handed him two leads and he handed them right back. The Yankees need Kuroda to pitch great down the stretch to have a chance to win the division.
  • Nick Swisher was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and it appears his recent hot streak has come to an end. He was 0-for-11 in the three-game series with the Rays and he struck out seven times. Perhaps he needs to take to heart the Rodriguez mantra and not try to do too much.
  • Curtis Granderson was also 0-for-4 and 0-for-8 in the series. Granderson, all of a sudden, has become virtually useless at the plate. He is 3-for-31 with 10 strikeouts in his last 10 games. His season average has dipped to .231 and it is sinking fast. Granderson seems to have reverted back to his early 2010 form before hitting coach Kevin Long restructured his swing.

BOMBER BANTER

Left-handed pitcher Andy Pettitte threw a short simulated game to hitters at Tropicana Field on Wednesday to get a step closer to rejoining the team. Pettitte threw 15 pitches off a mound in his rehab from a fractured left ankle. However, there is no firm date for his return. Pettitte is scheduled for another throwing session in Baltimore this weekend.

ON DECK

The Yankees open an important four-game series with the Orioles in Baltimore on Thursday.

Rookie David Phelps (3-4, 3.13 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Phelps allowed three runs in 4 2/3 innings against the Orioles in his last start. Despite the fact that Phelps had absolutely no command of any of his pitches, he still limited the O’s to three hits and the Yankees won the game. He is 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA against the Orioles this season.

Right-hander Jason Hammel (8-6, 3.54 ERA) will come off the disabled list to pitch. Hammel has not made a start since July 13 because he had surgery on his right knee. His pitch count will be limited in this game, Hammel is 1-3 with a 6.75 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Cano’s 2-Run Firecracker Blows Up In Rays’ Faces

GAME 81

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • 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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

Pettitte’s Masterpiece Renders Rays To Canvas

GAME 54

YANKEES 7, RAYS 0

Michelangelo is generally considered the greatest artist of all-time and the Sistine Chapel is living testimony to that greatness. But I truly doubt that Michelangelo could have painted the corners of the strike zone any better than Andy Pettitte did on Tuesday night.

Home plate at Yankee Stadium was Pettitte’s canvas as he craftily dotted a corner here and skillfully used some heavy brushstrokes there on the Rays in 7 1/3 innings of two-hit, no-run baseball and he struck out 10 batters as New York ended up hanging a masterpiece on Tampa Bay.

The 39-year-old left-hander was truly the “Grand Master” as he took command of the game from the opening pitch all the way to his strikeout of Luke Scott to open the eighth inning that ended his night. Pettitte (3-2) gave up only two singles and two walks and no base-runner got past second base as he thoroughly dominated the Rays with his arsenal of cutters, curves, sliders and fastballs.

Meanwhile, struggling catcher Russell Martin broke out of a season-long funk to collect three hits, including a one-out, grand-slam homer off Rays starter James Shields (6-4) in the fourth inning that gave the Yankees a 6-0 lead.

Shields was undone by a combination of sloppy Rays play and Martin’s well-timed home run.

The Yankees scored two unearned runs off Shields in the first inning aided by a wild pitch, a missed double play and a critical two-out error.

With one out Curtis Granderson singled to right and Shields tossed a wild pitch that advanced him to second. He then walked Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano slapped a one-hopper that bounced off Shields’ glove for a double-play ball that became a single.

In keeping with the Yankees’ 2012 tradition of bases-loaded futility, Mark Teixeira struck out looking and Raul Ibanez dribbled a routine ground ball to shortstop Elliot Johnson. However, Johnson short-armed the throw and the ball bounced off first baseman Carlos Pena’s glove and Granderson and Rodriguez scored.

Then in the fourth, Ibanez drew a one-out walk, Nick Swisher singled sharply to right and Eric Chavez was walked on four pitches.

Martin then stepped the plate after having singled in the second inning to bring his batting average to .200 for the first time since May 5. Down 0-2 in the count, Martin actually swung at a high and outside fastball and he drilled it to the opposite field into the right-field bleachers.

The Yankees added a run in the fifth inning on a one-out double off the right-field wall by Swisher to score Cano, who had led off with a double..

Shields, who has lost three of his last four starts and has an ERA of 5.92 in that span, gave up seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and four walks and struck out two in just five innings. In his three starts against the Yankees this season, Shields is 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA.

However, this chilly evening in the Bronx belonged to Pettitte. He threw 103 pitches and 70 were strikes for a percentage of 68 percent. He has won three of his four starts at Yankee Stadium this season and his effort tonight drew the Yankees to within a half-game of the Rays and Orioles, who are tied for first place in the American League East.

The Yankees boosted their season record to 30-24. The Rays fell to 31-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pettitte’s 10 strikeouts were the most he has recorded in a game since 2003. But that really does not tell you just how dominant he was on Tuesday. In one stretch he struck out five Rays batters in a row. The only hits he gave up were a leadoff single to B.J. Upton in the fourth inning and a one-out single by Pena in the fifth. Pettitte lowered his ERA to 2.78, which is the best of all the Yankee starters. It was the 243rd victory of his career.
  • Martin’s grand slam was his fifth home run of the season and it was his fourth career grand slam. Martin’s 3-for-4 night raised his batting average to .211 on the season. He has gotten at least one hit in six of his last seven games and he is 9-for-23 (.391) during that span. The Yankees hope his season-long slump is finally over.
  • Cano was 2-for-3 with a single and a double. He entered the game in a 4-for-26 slump (.154).

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I am not going to dwell on any negatives in a night the Yankees needed to win to move up in the division. Pettitte was spectacular and the Yankees have very quietly won nine of their last 12 games. They are only one game off their pace from last season when they won 97 games.

BRONX BANTER

Hideki Matsui returned to Yankee Stadium wearing No. 35 for the Rays on Tuesday and he received a warm reception from the 40,537 fans in attendance when he stepped to the plate in the second inning. However, Matsui was 0-for-4 in the game and he is 1-for-9 in his career against his former teammate Pettitte.  . . .  Cano was hit by a pitch from Rays reliever Cesar Ramos in the seventh inning and he was removed from the game in the bottom of ninth inning in favor of Jayson Nix. It is unclear if Cano was injured or if he will miss any time as a result.  . . .  Yankee manager Joe Girardi made it clear that when David Robertson is activated from the disabled list he will be the setup man for Rafael Soriano. Robertson is recovering from a left oblique strain and he hopes to return in about two weeks.  . . .  Early balloting indicates that shortstop Derek Jeter and outfielder Granderson are leading at their positions for the 2012 All-Star Game. Cano and Teixeira are in second place at their respective positions. The balloting will end at midnight on June 28.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Rays on Wednesday.

The Yankees will start right-hander Ivan Nova (6-2, 5.60 ERA). Nova has won his last two starts despite giving up eight runs in 13 2/3 innings (5.27 ERA). The Yankees scored six runs for him in each of those starts. Nova is 3-0 with a 3.26 ERA in his career against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with right-hander Alex Cobb (2-1, 3.71 ERA). Cobb gave up four runs on nine hits and a walk and he hit two batters in five innings against the White Sox in his last start. He has no record with a 1.50 ERA in his one start against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN2 and locally by the YES Network.

 

Rays Pay Price As Sabathia Notches 5th Straight

GAME 31

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

Just like the swallows who return to San Juan Capistrano every year and the upstream swim of the salmon, you can pretty much set your clock about this time every season when CC Sabathia gets on a roll.

Sabathia (5-0) gave up two runs (neither of them earned) on seven hits and one walk and he struck out a season-high 10 in eight strong innings on Thursday as he outdueled David Price and defeated Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium for his fifth straight victory.

With the victory, the Yankees won the three-game series with the Rays.

Price (5-2), who was 3-0 in his five previous matchups against Sabathia, took the loss this time, giving up five runs on 11 hits and three walks and striking out four in seven innings.

The key blows for the Yankees were one-out RBI single by Chris Stewart in the second inning that tied the score at 2-2 and a two-run home run by Robinson Cano in the fifth inning that put the Yankees ahead of the Rays to stay.

Rafael Soriano, who was summoned to pitch the ninth inning because closer David Robertson was unavailable to pitch, gave up a run but still managed to get credit his first save of the season.

Curtis Granderson also homered for the Yankees. His solo shot to lead off the second inning was his 11th of the season.

The Rays scored a pair of unearned runs in each of the first two innings aided by errors by Eduardo Nunez.

With two out and runners on first and second, Nunez mishandled a bouncer off the bat of Brandon Guyer that loaded the bases and Carlos Pena followed with an RBI single but Nick Swisher was able to cut down Jeff Keppinger trying to score at home plate to end the inning.

In the second inning, Nunez fielded an easy grounder off the bat of Chris Gimenez but tossed the potential double-play relay to Robinson Cano into right-field that allowed Elliot Johnson to slide safely into second. Johnson later scored on a two-out single by Sean Rodriguez.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 17-14. The Rays fell to 20-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia is on a full-fledged roll now. In his last five starts, he has pitched 39 1/3 innings and has given up just 11 runs on 29 hits and five walks and he has struck out 38 batters. That is an ERA of 2.52 and a WHIP of  0.86 in that span. Over the final six innings, Sabathia held the Rays to no runs on just three singles.
  • Cano is back to his old self and it shows. He was 3-for-4 in the game with two singles and his two-run home run. Cano now has an eight-game hitting streak and during that span he is 12-for-32 (.375) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He has raised his season average to .286. Opposing pitchers, beware!
  • Stewart will never be compared to Matt Wieters or  Joe Mauer at the plate, but his RBI single tied the game and set the stage for the Yankees ability to take the lead in the fifth. Stewart is hitting just .240 and he plays largely because of his defense. But he has four big RBIs for the Yankees this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • I think even manager Joe Girardi has had enough of “Eduardo Scissorhands” Nunez and his careless errors. Nunez misplayed Guyer’s grounder because he was rushing to step on third before he even had the ball. The errant throw in the second inning was just carelessness. Nunez led the Yankees in errors last season with 20 despite the fact he played only half the time. He leads the team with six errors this season and Girardi actually put Jayson Nix in at third in the SIXTH inning as a defensive replacement for Nunez.
  • Though he did draw a walk in the fifth, Mark Teixeira was 0-for-3 in the game and his season average dipped to .212. He was hitting .288 on April 23 but since then he is 8-for-59 (.136) with a home run and six RBIs. I think we have seen the final transformation of Teixiera into what Jason Giambi was in 2008 when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 96 runs and hit .247.
  • Derek Jeter took a rare 0-for-4 and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Jeter’s batting average dipped to .376. But he can be forgiven the mini-slump because he has been carrying the team for most of the season with his bat.

BOMBER BANTER

Brett Gardner has suffered a setback in his attempt to come back from a right elbow strain. Girardi told reporters that another MRI exam indicated that Gardner has a further strain of a muscle in his elbow and he will miss two to four more weeks of action. Gardner has been sidelined since he injured the elbow making a diving catch on April 18. He was on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday when he reported a lingering pain in his elbow after the game. Girardi said Gardner will not swing a bat for 10 days and then will be re-evaluated.  . . .  Eric Chavez was not activated from the seven-day disabled list on Thursday as expected because he has not been cleared by Major League Baseball. League officials were concerned about one aspect of Chavez’s concussion test. But Chavez participated in a second test and he hopes to be cleared to play soon.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open a three-game home weekend series with the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda is coming off a disappointing start in which he gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings on Saturday to the Kansas City Royals. He is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in his career against the Mariners.

Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-1, 1.89 ERA) will get the start for the Mariners. He is coming off a seven-inning, one-hit shutout victory over the Minnesota Twins. He is 6-4 with a 3.29 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.