YANKEES 9, BLUE JAYS 6
Through the course of a 162-game season, teams have to go through many difficult tests to prove their worthy of moving on to the playoffs. On Sunday, the Yankees were down 5-1 to Blue Jays after five innings in a game the Yankees desperately needed to win.
Somehow and someway they got off the mat and scored one of their most crucial victories of the season in front of a paid crowd of 31,418 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees benefitted from a wild pitch to tally a run in the sixth, tied it with three runs in the eighth (the tying run scoring on another wild pitch) and Eduardo Nunez hit a sacrifice fly to deep left to score Curtis Granderson with the tie-breaking run in the eighth as New York came back from the brink of despair to down Toronto and clinch their 17th playoff spot over the past 18 seasons.
The victory also allowed the Yankees to maintain a first-place tie in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
The heroic comeback began in the sixth when Robinson Cano led off with a double and he advanced to third on Nick Swisher’s line-drive single to right off Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. With Granderson at the plate, Alvarez tossed 1-2 pitch into the dirt past catcher J.P. Arencibia to allow Cano to score.
The Yankees opened the seventh against lefty reliever Brett Cecil with a lined single by Eric Chavez, who had accounted for the Yankees’ first run of the game in the third with a solo home run, his 16th of the season.
Manager John Farrell replaced Cecil with right-hander Steve Delabar and Derek Jeter greeted him with a ground-rule double down the right-field line to chase Chavez to third. Ichiro Suzuki scored Chavez with a sacrifice fly to center.
Alex Rodriguez then battled back from 0-2 count to draw a walk and Cano laced a double into deep right to score Jeter and advance Rodriguez to third.
Farrell replaced Delabar with left-hander Aaron Loup and, with Swisher at the plate, Loup tossed a slider into the dirt past Arencibia to allow Rodriguez to tack on the tying run.
The Yankees hoped the rally would continue with Cano on third and one out, but Swisher laced a bullet line-drive that Yunel Escobar caught with a dive to his right and he threw to Brett Lawrie at third to double up Cano.
But the Yankees were not through by any stretch.
In the eighth, Granderson drew a leadoff walk from veteran left-hander Darren Oliver (3-4) and Raul Ibanez followed it by lashing a single into right, forcing Farrell to replace Oliver with right-hander Brandon Lyon.
Russell Martin slapped a sacrifice bunt to Lawrie at third to advance Granderson and pinch-runner Brett Gardner and Nunez hit the very next pitch to deep right and right-fielder Moises Sierra made a spectacular grab of the ball before it reached the wall. However, it was plenty deep enough to score Granderson and give the Yankees their first lead in the game.
Jeter provided insurance by dropping a sinking liner into right to score Gardner.
The Yankees even added a pair of runs in the ninth by loading the bases with no outs against veteran right-hander Jason Frasor and Granderson laced a two-run single into right to give the Yankees a seemingly “comfortable” 9-5 lead. The RBIs for Granderson gave him exactly 100 on the season.
While the Yankees did not receive much in the way of pitching from 16-game winner Phil Hughes, the bullpen pitched well enough to allow the Yankees to make their comeback.
Hughes was tagged for five runs on eight hits and two walks while he struck out four batters in 4 2/3 innings.
Veteran sinker specialist Derek Lowe relieved Hughes in the fifth after Hughes gave up three runs on five hits and left the game with runners on first and third and two out. But Lowe ended the inning by getting Arencibia on a flyout.
Lowe then retired the next four batters he faced on groundouts before Boone Logan (7-2) came with one out in the seventh and he retired the side despite issuing a two-out walk to Escobar.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth, which set up the Yankees hoped would be a routine ninth with Rafael Soriano on to close it out.
However, anyone who has followed this tortuous and trying season with the Yankees knows there is no such thing as routine when it comes to the Yankees and their victories.
Lawrie opened the frame with a single and Rajai Davis added his ninth hit of the series with a single to center. Soriano then walked Colby Rasmus to load the bases.
But Soriano was able to induce Escobar to hit into a double-play, which scored Lawrie but left the Yankees with just one out to get. Soriano then retired Adam Lind on a groundout from Cano to Swisher to end the game.
The Yankees collected on the field to celebrate but it was a subdued one. They are waiting to really celebrate when they win the division.
The Yankees are 92-67 – as are the Orioles. But they also are one game behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Blue Jays, who seemed to play this series to a tie as if their lives were on the line, fell to just 70-89, 21 games back in fourth place in the division.
- Nunez’s sacrifice fly was huge and it could not have happened to a more deserving player. Nunez battled his way back from a demotion to Triple-A and a thumb injury to come back with vengeance since his Sept. 1 recall. He has driven in runs in three of his last four games and there is a good possibility that the Yankees might use him as a right-handed designated hitter in the playoffs over outfielder Andruw Jones.
- After slumping much of September, it appears Cano is getting back on track at the plate. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. He now has a six-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-24 (.625) with five RBIs. With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup and Alex Rodriguez scuffling all month, Cano pretty much has had to produce for the Yankees to have a chance to win.
- Lowe stopped the bleeding in the fifth and retired all five batters he faced. Though Lowe got cuffed around pretty good in his first eight appearances (0-1 with a 5.79 ERA), he has pitched much better over his last eight appearances (0-0 with a 1.46 ERA). There is a good chance Lowe could make the postseason roster over Freddy Garcia because he has more value out of the bullpen.
- Hughes did not pitch very well at all. But the Blue Jays are a bad matchup for a flyball pitcher like Hughes. The Blue Jays scored two off Hughes in the first, keyed by a one-out double by Escobar. Lawrie tagged him for a two-run homer in the fifth, the 28th Hughes has given up this season. Sierra chased him with an RBI single later in the fifth. Hughes is 1-1 with a 7.16 ERA in his last three starts. This is not how Hughes wanted to enter the playoffs.
- Soriano’s shaky ninth was a bit of a concern. But you have to chalk that up to the fact that he has only pitched one-third of an inning overt the past week because he has not gotten save opportunities in the games the Yankees have won in that stretch. His last save was on Sept. 19 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays.
- Lost in the excitement over the victory is the fact the Yankees did not take full advantage of their situation in the sixth after Alvarez uncorked a wild pitch to allow Cano to score. Granderson was up with Swisher at second but he grounded out to Alvarez, which was an unproductive out. Ibanez grounded out weakly to Lind at first and Martin struck out swinging. This is a microcosm of the Yankees’ season. They blow a lot of chances to score runs by not delivering with runners in scoring position.
Girardi said Teixeira will start at first base on Monday for the Yankees in his first action since he reinjured his left calf on Sept. 8. Teixiera worked out in Tampa, FL, on Sunday after playing the previous day in an Instructional League game and he reported no issues with his injured calf. Teixeira will see the team physician in New York on Monday and he is expected to be cleared to play. . . . Nunez will make the postseason roster because reserve infielder Jayson Nix is expected to miss the next 10 to 14 days with a strained left hip flexor. Nix sustained the injury during Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays. . . . The Yankees continue to have Ivan Nova penciled in as the starter for Tuesday’s game but no definite word has been issued. Nova is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his three starts since coming off the disabled list.
The division title is on the line and the Yankees will have to beat the “Dead” Sox to win it over the last three games.
Ace lefty CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42 ERA) will open the series. Sabathia is coming off an impressive outing in which he gave up two runs on six hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings against the Minnesota Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22 ERA) will start for the last-place Red Sox. Buchholz gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings in loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. He is 2-4 with 5.84 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.”
– cartoonist Walt Kelly, “The Pogo Papers,” published in 1953
YANKEES 10, ATHLETICS 9 (14 INNINGS)
If Martin Scorsee had submitted Saturday’s game to producers in Hollywood as a movie they would have thrown the script back at him and laughed him out of the office. After all, what team gets off the deck after trailing by four runs in the bottom of the 13th inning to tie it and go on and win it in the next frame on a bases-loaded error?
Well, obviously no other team but the New York Yankees, who did just that to the upstart Oakland Athletics.
Ichiro Suzuki scored the game-winning run at 6:51 EDT after five hours and 43 minutes of drama that turned – on all things – a bases-loaded error in the 14th inning by Brandon Moss on a ball off the bat of Eduardo Nunez. What was left of the paid crowd of 44,026 at Yankee Stadium erupted in delirium as much as disbelief as the Yankees managed to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat at the most opportune of times for themselves.
The Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day had defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 12 innings at Fenway Park and they no doubt saw the Yankees were down 9-5 heading into the bottom of the 13th inning, knowing a Yankee loss would mean a tie atop the American League East.
But the Yankees had an answer for both the O’s and the A’s in the bottom of the 13th.
Suzuki, who could not be any hotter than if he was Satan himself, opened the inning off left-hander Pedro Figueroa with a high-chopping single over Figueroa’s head that second baseman Cliff Pennington fielded but had no play on. Alex Rodriguez followed with a lined single up the middle and Robinson Cano then loaded the bases with an opposite-field single to left.
A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced Figueroa with right-hander Pat Neshek and Neshek promptly uncorked a wild pitch with Nunez at the plate to allow Suzuki to score and Rodriguez and Cano to advance into scoring position. Nunez then scored Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly to center.
Raul Ibanez then strolled to the plate having put the Yankees ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a pinch-hit home run off reliever Jim Miller. It was his 16th home run of the season but it was his first since an Aug. 5 home game against the Seattle Mariners.
Ibanez again reached into the Yankees’ bag of improbable tricks by turning around a 3-1 Neshek pitch and depositing it into the second deck in right field to tie the score at 9-9. It was at this point that it began to dawn on the fans in the stands and those either watching or listening to the game they were now part of something very special. Perhaps a new Yankee Classic?
Cory Wade (1-1), the Yankees’ ninth pitcher of the afternoon, came in the top of the 14th and he retired the A’s in order to what later would be credited to him as his first victory of the season with the Yankees.
The A’s sent out tall, lanky right-hander Tyson Ross (2-10) to pitch the bottom of the inning.
Eric Chavez opened the inning with a single in the hole between first and second base into right-field. Manager Joe Girardi sent in rookie outfielder Melky Mesa in to pinch-run in what was his major-league debut.
Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Mesa to second and the A’s finally got smart enough to walk Suzuki intentionally considering he was 5-for-8 in the series so far.
Misfortune had followed the Yankees like a persistent cloud all day. They were just 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, they had stranded 14 baserunners and left the bases loaded in the first and 12th innings.
Rodriguez did come through with another hard-hit single into center-field on which Mesa should have scored easily. But, alas, Mesa in his haste to tally the winning run slipped rounding third base and he had to go back to third with his embarrassment splashed all over his face.
And it looked like it just going to be one of those days when Cano rolled a tapper back to Ross and Ross threw wide at catcher Derek Norris but Norris kept a toe on the plate to force Mesa for the second out.
That left the bases loaded and two out for Nunez, who only just entered the game in the as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning but he did deliver that key run-scoring fly ball in the 13th.
On the second pitch, Nunez shot a Neshek slider the opposite way inside the first-base line. Moss moved two steps over to field it, the ball clanked off the bottom of his mitt and rolled past him to allow Nunez to reach first as Suzuki crossed the plate with the winning run.
The A’s did not exactly put on a pitching and fielding clinic all day and it ultimately led to their downfall. They committed three fielding errors, a passed ball, a balk and three wild pitches to help the Yankees’ cause. So if they are looking for someone to blame for the loss they should start by looking in the clubhouse mirror.
For the Yankees, who had entered the series on Friday with only two walk-off victories all season, it was their second in two days against a very overconfident bunch of young Athletics who swept the Yankees in four one-run games in Oakland in July.
The victory was the Yankees’ seventh in a row and their ninth in their past 10 games. They now have a record of 88-63. For the A’s this second devastating one-run loss in extra innings dropped their record to 85-66. They are 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, two games behind the Orioles for the first wild-card spot and three games ahead of the Angels for the second wild-card spot.
For the A’s this loss was by far one big dagger to the heart. For the Yankees it was one big tribute to their own heart in the face of major adversity.
- Suzuki has seemingly turned back the clock on his 38-year-old body to his magical 2001 season when he won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. In his last five games, Suzuki is 14-for-20 (.700) with two home runs, five RBIs, seven runs scored and four stolen bases. He opened the first inning with his ninth home run of the season off Oakland starter Travis Blackley. He added two singles, two walks and a sacrifice bunt as he debuted in the second spot in the order against a left-handed pitcher.
- Ibanez’s bat had to be colder than a polar bear’s hindquarters when he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. After hitting .196 in August, Ibanez was hitting .042 in September. He had only one hit in his last 28 at-bats. But he delivered a huge solo home run in the fifth that put the Yankees ahead and then an even bigger two-run shot in the 13th that tied the game at 9-9. He now has 17 home runs and 56 RBIs despite hitting .228 on the season.
- Steve Pearce has never gotten much mention since he was acquired but he is going to get one here. Pearce entered the game in the 10th inning after Chris Dickerson was used to pinch-run for Nick Swisher. Pearce never got a chance to bat in the game because he was pinch-hit for by Nunez in the 12th. But on a day that the A’s were kicking the ball all over the yard he came up with a real gem in the 11th inning. The A’s had the bases loaded and two out with Josh Reddick facing Freddy Garcia. Reddick lined a hot smash that was headed into right-field and would have scored two runs except Pearce dove headlong to his right and caught the ball a foot off the ground. That was the key play in the victory.
- Ivan Nova proved his command issues this season are not quite behind him. After an impressive start coming off the disabled list he struggled in in his second outing. He gave up three runs on five hits and two walks and struck out two in just 2 1/3 innings. Fortunately for him, Blackley was just as bad, surrendering four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks in two innings. Nova likely lost any chance he may have had to make the postseason rotation.
- Garcia had not pitched since he gave up three runs to the Orioles in 3 1/3 innings in what was his last start before being demoted to the bullpen. Though he pitched three scoreless innings from the 10th through the 12th, he stumbled badly in the 13th. He gave up a two-run home run to Jonny Gomes and a then solo shot to Yoenis Cespedes. Girardi replaced Garcia with rookie left-hander Justin Thomas, who then gave up a solo home run to Chris Carter, which dug the Yankees a huge 9-5 hole from which they escaped – luckily. Garcia may not make the postseason roster and his days with the Yankees are numbered.
- Cano was 2-for-8 in the game. But it does not really illustrate how bad he has been lately. He had an RBI single in the first inning and reached on an error in the second. But he flied out to end the fourth. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth after Rodriguez was walked intentionally in front of him. He flied out to center to start the ninth. He grounded out to second to end the 11th. After singling and scoring in the 13th, he failed to deliver with bases loaded in the 13th with a tapper back the pitcher. In all, Cano stranded seven runners in the game.
Mark Teixeira jogged in the outfield, took some ground balls and some swings in the batting cage at Yankee Stadium before Saturday’s game and experienced no issues with strained left calf. Teixeira will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday to accelerate his workouts in hopes of returning before the regular season ends. Teixeira was originally injured on Aug. 27 and missed 10 games. He came back and reinjured it in his first game back. He since has missed the last 12 games. . . . The Yankees’ bullpen was down two pitchers because of the recent use of closer Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Soriano reported a dead arm in the wake of Friday’s blown save against the A’s. Robertson had pitched in each of the previous three games.
The Yankees stand just one game away of the final step in what can be called the “Pay Back To The Punks” weekend series against the A’s.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (14-10, 3.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda struck out the first six batters he faced and finished with 10 as he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in his career against Oakland.
The A’s will start rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.45 ERA). Griffin allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers to take his first loss of the season. He was tagged for three home runs. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his one start 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.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 4
Just when it looks like the Yankees’ grip on first place in the American League East appears to be slipping the team seems to right itself in time to claim a narrow victory. Such was the case on Wednesday at Fenway Park.
Curtis Granderson smacked a pair of home runs and the Yankees’ bullpen bent some but did not break as New York kept its share of first place with a huge victory over Boston.
The Yankees scored three runs in the fourth inning to take an early 3-0 lead and they never relinquished it. But getting from point A to point B proved to be a bit tougher than it should have against a Red Sox team that is playing out the string of a season in which they are in last place in the division and 16 1/2 games back.
Granderson opened the scoring with a titanic moon shot home run over the Red Sox bullpen in right-center off journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (3-10) to lead off the fourth.
After Alex Rodriguez blooped a single into center, Robinson Cano launched a high shot of his own into the Green Monster seats in left-center. It was the 30th home run of the season for the All-Star second baseman and it is a new career high for him.
The Red Sox drew first blood off rookie right-hander David Phelps (4-4) in the bottom of the fourth. Dustin Pedroia stroked a one-out double off the Green Monster in left-center and James Loney rolled a single through the hole between first and second base into right-field to score Pedroia.
But the Yankees tacked on a pair of runs against former teammate Alfredo Aceves in the seventh on a leadoff single by Derek Jeter and Granderson followed with his second home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. The two home runs give Granderson 37 home runs on the season, which leads the team.
Phelps left the game with two out and two on on the sixth inning. But he really earned his pitching stripes after he opened the fifth by surrendering a leadoff triple by Jarrod Salatalamacchia. Phelps stranded the Bosox catacher by striking out Daniel Nava, inducing Scott Podsednik to hit an infield popup and fanning Jose Iglesias looking.
The bullpen for the Yankees, however, was another story.
With one out in the seventh Cody Eppley gave up a ground-rule double to Saltalamacchia. Boone Logan came in to relieve Eppley and he gave up a double off the wall in center that Saltalamacchia misjudged and failed to score.
Joba Chamberlain came in for Logan and promptly gave up an infield groundout off the bat of pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez that plated Saltalamacchia (who must have breathed a sigh of relief heard all the way in the Bronx). Then pinch-hitter Mike Aviles doubled off the wall in left to score Gomez to make it 5-3.
The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, struggled to put additional runs across by doing what they do best: Choking with runners in scoring position. They left 10 men on base on the night and they were 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position.
Closer Rafael Soriano was summoned to relieve David Robertson with a Loney on second and two out in the eighth. He escaped further trouble by striking out Cody Ross looking on a 3-2 pitch that Ross thought was low. Ross actually waved the bat menacingly at home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez before he was tossed from the game.
Boston skipper Bobby Valentine had to restrain Ross to keep him from bumping Marquez. But Valentine must have an important date with his clubhouse office mirror because he also got ejected by Marquez just before the ninth inning started. It was Valentine’s sixth ejection of the season and a new Boston record for managers.
It is about all Bobby can really be stoked about this season.
Valentine could not view first-hand a bottom of the ninth inning in which Saltalamacchia launched a home run off Soriano into the bleachers in right to lead off the inning. He also had to watch on TV as Aviles reached first on an infield hit off the glove of Soriano with two out.
The Fenway faithful among the 37,230 in attendance were virtually in a frenzy. Bobby smiled into his trusty mirror.
That brought up the potential winning run in last night’s hero Jacoby Ellsbury. But Ellsbury’s string of good fortune eluded him when he bounced the first pitch right into Soriano’s glove and Soriano dispatched Ellsbury and the reeling “Dead Sox” with an easy underhand toss to Nick Swisher for the final out.
Though it might not have been pretty, Soriano earned his 37th save in 40 opportunities this season.
Coupled with Baltimore’s 3-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays, the Yankees remain in first place for the 85th consecutive day and they are tied with the Orioles with identical 80-62 records. The Rays fell three games back. The Red Sox are now 64-79 and headed for oblivion.
- Granderson seems to be showing signs of coming out of his long September slide. He is 5-for-11 (.455) with three home runs and eight RBIs in his last three games. Of course, Granderson did strike out two more times, which gives him 170 on the season, second in the American League to Adam Dunn.
- Phelps pitched extremely well in a game the Yankees desperately wanted to win. He gave up one run on five hits and a walk and he struck out five in 5 2/3 innings. It is a shame but Phelps may not get another start this season because Andy Pettitte is expected to take his place in the rotation next week.
- Cano’s home run gave him a personal high with 30 (he hit t 29 in 2010) but he remains some 43 RBIs shy of 2011 high of 118. Cano only has 77 RBIs this season mostly because he is hitting a career low .223 against left-handers and he is hitting just .235 with runners in scoring position.
- Eppley, Logan, Chamberlain and Soriano looked shaky in a game the Yankees should have breezed through. In 3 1/3 innings, the bullpen gave up three runs on six hits (four of them doubles and one homer) and they actually allowed the Red Sox back into the game. They also faced the possibility of letting the Red Sox tie it or win it in the ninth. That is just plain bad.
- Boston pitchers used Ichiro Suzuki and Chris Stewart, who were batting eighth and ninth, respectively, as escape hatches out of even bigger innings. They were 0-for-6 and they combined to strand nine base-runners.
- The 0-for-13 with runners in scoring position line speaks for itself. The Yankees were able to put the leadoff batter on in six consecutive innings from the third through the eighth innings. They only scored runs on the Cano and Granderson home runs in the fourth and seventh innings. So they squandered a lot of chances to pad the lead and let Boston have a chance to mount a comeback, which they did.
Jeter left the game in the eighth inning after he injured his left ankle trying to beat out a double-play grounder that ended the inning. Jeter was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi, but Jeter vowed he will be in the lineup in the Boston series finale on Thursday. Jeter also revealed he has been battling thorough a deep bone bruise on his left shin. . . . The Yankees announced that right-hander Ivan Nova will come off the 15-day disabled list on Saturday and will start in place of Freddy Garcia against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Nova has been sidelined since Aug. 21 with inflammation in his right rotator cuff. Garcia will now pitch out of the bullpen after he was 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA over his last four starts. . . . Pettitte threw a 55-pitch simulated game on Wednesday at Fenway Park and he likely will make a start next week for the Yankees. Pettitte has not pitched since June 27 when he fractured his left ankle. Pettitte almost certainly will replace Phelps in the rotation in order to prepare the 40-year-old left-hander for some potential starts in the postseason.
The Yankees will hope to win the rubber game of their three-game series with the “Red Flops” on Thursday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (14-12, 4.13 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off a victory over the Orioles on Friday in which he gave up three runs (two earned) in six innings. Hughes is 4-6 with a 5.51 ERA in his career against the Bosox, but he won his last start against them at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 17.
Left-hander Felix Doubront (10-8, 5.21 ERA) will take the hill for Boston. Doubront is 1-4 with a 7.22 ERA since the All-Star break, which likely is because Doubront pitched 134 innings this season and he has not thrown more than 129 1/3 innings since 2008. He is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career 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.
YANKEES 13, ORIOLES 3
When you are talking about the New York Yankees since their season pinnacle on July 18 until now, it has been the proverbial one step forward and two steps back. But on Sunday their slumping bats awoke to take a giant leap forward and the Baltimore Orioles paid the price by allowing the Bronx Bombers to leave Oriole Park at Camden Yards in first place in the American League East.
Curtis Granderson has been so horrible at the plate that he was benched to start the game. But he came off the bench with a vengeance as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning to swat the first pitch he saw into the Orioles’ bullpen in left-center. He ended the day with five RBIs to lead a relentless 14-hit attack on Oriole pitching as New York salvaged a split of their four-game battle for supremacy in the division.
It was the Yankees’ biggest blowout victory of the season and it could not have come at a much better time.
Joba Chamberlain (1-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings of scoreless relief while striking out four of the five batters he retired to earn the victory.
Meanwhile, Oriole left-hander Zach Britton (5-2) found control to be an elusive thing in the fourth inning and he was saddled with the loss.
Britton perhaps got an inkling of how frustrating the day would be when Derek Jeter opened the contest with a infield single and he advanced to second on a throwing error by third baseman Manny Machado. Britton then walked Nick Swisher.
Alex Rodriguez stopped the momentum a bit by hitting into a double play but Britton then served up an RBI single to Robinson Cano.
In the fourth, Britton found that his sinker was sinking out of the strike zone and he paid dearly for it.
Rodriguez singled to begin the inning and Britton then walked Cano and Russell Martin to load the bases.
Steve Pearce then drew a bases-loaded walk to score Rodriguez to make 2-0. After Andruw Jones struck out, Jayson Nix hit a dying quail single into shallow center to score Cano. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a “Baltimore-chop” to shortstop J.J. Hardy and Suzuki beat out Hardy’s throw to first to score Martin.
Britton then ended his day appropriately by issuing a bases-loaded walk to Jeter that made it 5-0.
Britton gave up five runs on five hits and five walks and struck out two in 3 1/3 innings.
However, the Yankees were unable to savor their four-run inning for long because starter Freddy Garcia stumbled in the bottom of the inning.
Garcia walked Nate McLouth and then hit Hardy with a pitch. Wilson Betemit followed with a two-run double to center and, one out later, Matt Wieters plated Betemit with a single to right.
Manager Joe Girardi, showing the veteran Yankee right-hander one of the shortest leashes of the season, removed Garcia in favor of Chamberlain to keep the game at 5-3.
The Yankee bullpen of Chamberlain, Boone Logan, Cory Wade and Derek Lowe threw 4 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball, surrendering just one hit and two walks the rest of the way.
At the same time, the Yankees continued to pile on the runs in front of a paid crowd of 40,346.
Granderson, who has been benched the past two games mired in a 5-for-43 (.116) slump, then teed off on Jake Arrieta’s first offering in the sixth inning for his 35th home run of the season and his 100th home run with the Yankees.
Granderson later really broke the game open with a two-run single in the seventh that ran the score to 8-3 and he and Jeter keyed a five-run eighth inning that buried the Orioles and sent their new-found bandwagon fans home disappointed.
Jeter blasted a two-run home run, his 15th of the season, off Kevin Gregg and Granderson later added a two-run double.
The Yankees ran their record against the Orioles this season to 9-9 and they are 79-61 on the season. The Orioles are 78-62.
- Granderson’s 3-for-3 day with a homer, a double and five RBIs was a welcome sight for fans who were growing disgusted with him swinging and missing at breaking pitches in the dirt or out of the strike zone. Granderson is the team’s leading home run hitter and, in order to have a shot at the playoffs, he has got to start producing better. Sunday was a nice first step.
- Chamberlain has never looked better and perhaps has turned the corner in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Chamberlain reached as high as 97 miles per hour on his fastball and, even better, he had command on the location of it. It is the first time Chamberlain has struck out four batters in an outing since his electric rookie season in 2007.
- Jeter was 2-for-4 with a home run and three RBIs. Jeter is batting .324 this season, which third in the American League. He trails Mike Trout of the Angels by .004 and he could possibly win his first batting title at age 38.
- Garcia’s magical run as a starter may be over. He has failed to pitch five innings in three of his last four starts and he is 0-1 with a 7.64 ERA in those four starts. With Ivan Nova poised to return to the rotation and Andy Pettitte right behind him, Garcia likely will not start another game this season. He is 7-6 with a 5.19 ERA overall.
- Swisher is in a worse slump than Granderson. He was 0-for-4 with a walk and a strikeout on Sunday and he is now hitless in his last 28 at-bats. His batting average has dipped from .271 to .255 in that span. The question is with the team in a pennant fight can they afford to bench him?
- Jones has also fallen on hard times and he was 0-for-2 with a strikeout on Sunday. He is now batting .202. Teams are beating the bushes to toss left-handers at the Yankees because it neutralizes lefty hitters like Cano and Gramderson and benches Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez. Jones’ ineptitude at the plate has been a big bonus for the opposing teams.
Mark Teixeira is scheduled to undergo an MRI in New York on Monday and it is possible he may miss the final 3 1/2 weeks of the season. Teixeira re-aggravated his left calf injury while unsuccessfully trying to beat out a double-play grounder that ended Saturday’s game against the Orioles. Girardi said he would use Swisher and Pearce at first base to replace Teixeira. . . . Pettitte is scheduled to throw a side session on Monday at Yankee Stadium and he hopes to be cleared to continue his comeback from a fractured left ankle. If the team physician clears him, Pettitte will then throw a simulated game of about 60 pitches and then could be activated off the disabled list.
The Yankees have earned a day off on Monday before resuming their pennant chase on Tuesday at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.14 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and struck out three in six innings in a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 3.45 ERA against the Bosox this season.
The struggling Red Sox will counter with left-hander Jon Lester (9-11, 4.99 ERA). Lester surrendered three runs on nine hits over six innings in a victory over the Seattle Mariners. Lester is 1-1 with a 4.67 ERA in three starts against the Yankees this season.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.
YANKEES 8, ORIOLES 5
Little ball has its place but the longball has always been the Yankees’ bread and butter. That marvelous power was proudly on display on Friday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Russell Martin, Alex Rodriguez and Steve Pearce each blasted Orioles left-hander Wei-Yin Chen for home runs as the Yankees put Baltimore in a 7-0 hole after 5 1/2 innings and New York got a solid six innings out of Phil Hughes to take back sole possession of first place in the American League East.
Martin began the power surge in the top of the fourth after Chen hit Nick Swisher with his first offering of the inning and Robinson Cano then drew a four-pitch walk. Rodriguez struck out but Chen started Martin off with two pitches low and out of the strike zone.
Forced to throw a strike, Martin blasted Chen’s “hit-me-hard” high change-up a dozen rows deep into the bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees a 3-0 lead.
One out later, Andruw Jones singled and Pearce turned around an inside first-pitch fastball into a towering drive to left-field that sailed over the outstretched glove of Nate McLouth at the wall and landed in the first row of the seats. McLouth tried to sell to the umpires that a fan interfered with his attempt to catch the ball but replays clearly indicated McLouth’s glove was over the wall and the fan in the first row did not reach into the field of play.
Nice try, Nate. But cheaters never prosper.
One inning later, the Yankees practically sent Chen crying back to his native Taiwan.
Derek Jeter led off the inning with an opposite field single to right, part of another huge three-hit night for the Yankee captain.
Two outs later, Rodriguez connected on a high fastball and drove it majestically over the bullpens in left-center for his 16th home run of the season and his 300th homer as a Yankee.
It also ended Chen’s evening. In Taiwan, they would say to Chen “zai ken,” which means goodbye.
Chen (12-9) entered the game 1-1 with a 3.26 ERA in his three starts against the Yankees this season. He left the game having been ripped to shreds for seven runs on six hits (three of them that covered quite a bit of real estate) and one walk while he struck four in 4 2/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Hughes (14-12) was shutting out the Birds over the first five innings until a Swisher error on a ball off the bat of J.J. Hardy opened the floodgates in the sixth. McLouth followed a with a double off the wall in right and Adam Jones then homered to plate Baltimore’s first three runs.
Hughes left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks and he fanned five batters to become the first Yankee pitcher to win 14 games this season.
The Yankee bullpen made it interesting for the 40,681 fans who paid to watch this showdown between to the top top teams in the division.
Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Robert Andino in the seventh and closer Rafael Soriano was touched for a solo home run by Manny Machado with two out in the bottom of the ninth. But too much damage had been done to Chen and the Orioles by the Yankees’ bats in the middle innings.
Jeter drove in the game’s sole run that did not result from a home run. He scored Ichiro Suzuki with a two-out single off the glove of Andino at second base that padded the Yankee lead to 8-4.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 78-60. The Orioles slipped to 77-61, one game back in second place. The Tampa Bay Rays are two games back in third.
- So much for left-handers having a huge edge on Yankees. All three homers off Chen were from right-handed hitters. With the three bombs he gave up on Friday, Chen has now given up 25 home runs this season. Six of them have come in his four starts against the Yankees. YES Network broadcaster Michael Kay got to really perfect his signature “See-ya” call in this one.
- Hughes came through with a solid six-inning effort and gave the Yankee offense plenty of time to tee off on Chen. Hughes bounced back nicely off his loss to the Orioles in his last start. Before that losing outing, Hughes had pitched at least seven innings in his previous four starts.
- After stinking up the Bronx most of the season, Martin is beginning to show signs of getting hot with the bat. In his last four games, Martin is 6-for-14 (.429) with two homers and seven RBIs. Martin has raised his season average to .204 with 16 home runs and 43 RBIs. The Yankees do need his bat down the stretch.
- The Swisher error at first base was his first error at the position this season. But it proved to be a costly one. The one saving grace was the Yankees did have a 7-0 lead at the time. It ruined what had been a very good outing from Hughes up to that point.
- Eppley and Soriano were touched for late home runs, which proved costly to David Robertson and the Yankees on Thursday. The Yankees’ bullpen has been very good about keeping the ball in the ballpark most of the season. It would be a shame if this trend continued during the stretch drive.
- Curtis Granderson has become virtually useless at the plate and it is beginning to look like he is going to need some time on the bench. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Friday and he now has just two hits in his last 17 at-bats (.118) and has struck out nine times. Pitchers lately could practically roll the ball to the plate and Granderson would swing and miss.
The Yankees elected to play it safe on Friday and did not start Mark Teixeira at first base. Teixeira, who has missed 11 games with a strained left calf, took batting practice and fielded ground balls, but trainer Steve Donohue recommended Teixeira should rest one more day. He is likely to return to action on Saturday. . . . The Yankees may make a change in their weekend rotation plans because right-hander Ivan Nova is ready to return from the disabled list after suffering inflammation in his right rotator cuff. If Nova does make the start it will be in place of right-hander Freddy Garcia, who is Sunday’s scheduled starter.
The Yankees will resume their pivotal four-game series with the Orioles on Saturday.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (13-4, 3.42 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a no-decision in his last start against the Rays. But the Orioles are a team that Sabathia has owned throughout his career, He is 16-3 with a 2.97 ERA against them.
The Orioles will counter with journeyman left-hander Joe Saunders (1-1, 4.63), who will be making only his third start for the O’s. He is coming off a game in which he threw six perfect innings and a shutout over 6 1/3 innings. Saunders is 2-1 with a 6.28 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, INDIANS 2
Lately it seems the Yankees are having a tough enough time scoring runs as it would be for them to toss manhole covers. Fortunately, on Sunday they managed to use the “Goldilocks” approach to scoring by putting up a number on the scoreboard that was “just right.”
Curtis Granderson homered in the sixth inning and Nick Swisher contributed three hits and an RBI as New York held down punchless Cleveland at Progressive Field to win the three-game series two games to one.
The Yankees did most of their damage in the second inning off Cleveland right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (9-13).
Eric Chavez started the uprising with a leadoff opposite-field single to left. Raul Ibanez followed by drawing a walk and Ichiro Suzuki lashed a line drive that caromed off Jimenez’s glove and rolled into center-field to score Chavez easily with the game’s first score.
Chris Stewart then advanced Ibanez and Suzuki one base with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt.
Derek Jeter ended the day hitless but he still contributed with a infield bouncer to third that scored Chavez. Swisher then laced an opposite-field single to left to score Suzuki, staking Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia with an early 3-0 lead.
The Indians, however, got to Garcia with two out in the fifth inning with an Indian uprising of their own.
Jason Kipnis sliced a double to the wall in the right-field corner and Garcia, trying to pitch Asdrubal Cabrera inside, hit him with a breaking pitch. Garcia then walked the base loaded by missing on a 3-2 pitch to Shinn-Soo Choo.
In the third inning, the Indians loaded the bases with two out when Garcia missed on a similar 3-1 pitch to Choo. However, Garcia escaped by getting Carlos Santana on a routine fly to right.
The fifth inning was a different story. Santana lined the first pitch up the middle into center-field to score Kipnis and Cabrera.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Garcia in favor of Boone Logan, who ended the threat by retiring Michael Brantley on a routine groundout.
Garcia pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and he struck out six batters.
Jimenez gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk and he fanned four.
Granderson greeted left-hander Tony Sipp with his 33rd home run of the season and the 200th home run of his career to lead off the sixth inning. He smacked a 1-2 slider just over the wall and into the first row of seats in the right-field bleachers.
Granderson becomes the eighth current Yankee to have 200 or more home runs, joining Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira, Ibanez, Chavez, Jeter and Swisher.
Logan (5-2) then combined with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way to earn his fifth victory in relief this season.
Soriano pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball to earn his 33rd save in 35 chances this season.
Soriano actually also literally saved face. With Ezequiel Carrera on first and one out in the ninth, Soriano used his glove to deflect a line drive off the bat of Kipnis that was headed for his face and threw Kipnis out at first to help preserve the victory for the Yankees.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 74-53. They also picked up a half-game on the idle second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. They now lead the Rays by four games. The Indians, meanwhile, have now dropped 10 of their last 11 games and are 55-72.
- Swisher was easily the Most Valuable Player of the series. Back in his native Ohio, Swisher was 7-for-11 (.636) with a home run and four RBIs against the Indians. Since Aug. 7, Swisher is 28-for-74 (.378) with five home runs and 19 RBIs. The hot streak nearly exactly corresponds with his shift to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, which came on Aug. 8.
- Soriano has now converted his last nine save chances dating back to July 23 in Seattle. Over that span Soriano has given up just two runs on nine hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings of work. That is an ERA of 1.42 and a WHIP of 0.87. Soriano is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 33 saves on the season. Mariano who?
- Granderson’s home run was his 33rd of the season, which is fourth-best in the American League. It also was his first round-tripper since an Aug. 18 game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. It was also his 12th home run this season off a left-handed pitcher.
This was a big victory considering the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles did not play and the Yankees were able to salvage the final road series before returning home for six games at Yankee Stadium. Garcia could have pitched a little longer and the Yankees should have scored more runs in the series but the bottom line is they won a game they needed to win.
The Yankees return to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium on Monday to begin a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
Rookie right-hander David Phelps (3.4, 2.69 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees starting in place of Ivan Nova, who is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Phelps lost his last start on Aug. 18 against the Boston Red Sox despite giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings of work. Phelps has never faced the Blue jays.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Henderson Alvarez (7-11, 4.84 ERA). Alvarez surrendered a career-high eight runs and 12 hits in his 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Texas Rangers. he has not won a game since July 28. He has no record and 5.25 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 1
On a night where Japan’s Hajime Motegi hit a walk-off two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth to beat Taiwan, 2-0, in the International Bracket of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, two of the team’s major-league heroes were putting on a show on the big stage at Yankee Stadium.
Hiroki Kuroda turned in yet another stellar outing on the mound and Ichiro Suzuki homered twice as New York sent Boston packing from the Bronx, N.Y. on Sunday looking up out of a huge 13 1/2-game hole with just 41 games left to play.
Kuroda (12-8) gave up only a one-out solo home run to Adrian Gonazalez in the seventh as he shut down the listless Red Sox offense on just four hits and no walks over eight very breezy innings.
The 37-year-old right-hander ran his scoreless-inning streak to 16 2/3 innings before Gonzalez connected with his meaningless solo shot. Kuroda is 8-2 with a 2.73 in his last 20 starts dating back to May 27.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at the Red Sox’ disappointing ace Josh Beckett (5-11), scoring single runs in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.
The runs in the fourth and sixth came on the sixth and seventh home runs of the season from Suzuki, marking his first multi-homer game as a Yankee. After Suzuki’s second home run of the night, many in the paid crowd of 48,620 chanted “Ichiro, Ichiro” until the 37-year-old veteran came of the Yankees’ dugout to take a curtain call.
The Yankees opened the scoring with Derek Jeter leading off the game with a ringing double to the wall in center, the first of three hits on the night for Jeter. With two out, Curtis Granderson stroked a lined double off the right-field wall to score Jeter.
Two innings later, Jeter again opened the inning with a ground-rule double to center off Beckett. Nick Swisher drew a walk and both Jeter and Swisher pulled off a double steal. Jeter then scored when a pitch from Beckett to Robinson Cano bounced in the dirt and eluded catcher Ryan Lavarnway, allowing Jeter to score easily.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth, punctuating the victory by retiring Gonzalez by striking out him swinging. Soriano saved two of the three games in the series and he has 31 saves in 33 chances this season.
With the loss, the Red Sox’s nightmarish August continues. They are 6-12 this month and they now trail in the wild-card standings by 7 1/2 games. If it is not time to stick a fork in the Bosox it is not far away.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to an American League-best record of 72-49 and they are five games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East. The Red Sox are now 59-63 and their playoff chances are about as bright as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson winning the 2012 presidential election as the Libertarian candidate.
- In the absence of CC Sabathia, Kuroda has turned out to be a true ace over his last 20 starts. Kuroda retired 16 of his 24 outs on 12 ground balls and four strikeouts. Out of his 112 pitches, 75 (67 percent) were strikes. He could not have looked in more command against the Red Sox if he were throwing from a La-Z-boy recliner.
- Suzuki came to the Yankees with only four home runs but he now has three in his 26 games with the team. On his current pace, Suzuki possibly could become the 11th Yankee to reach double digits in home runs. The Yankees lead the major leagues in home runs with 189. Suzuki also has only failed to record at least one hit in just two of his starts since he was acquired on July 23.
- Jeter was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. The three hits give him 163 on the season, which leads the majors. Though he had his 13-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, Jeter is hitting .351 with two home runs and 11 RBis in August. His season average is now .321.
Nothing to say here. Any win over the Red Sox is pretty much devoid of negatives.
Mark Teixeira, who has been sidelined throughout the three-game Boston series with a sore left wrist, hopes to return to action on Monday. Teixeira took ground balls on Sunday wearing a compression brace on his wrist. Teixeira missed games from July 31 through August 2 with the same problem and took a cortisone shot to ease the pain. . . . Left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano threw a scoreless inning for the Gulf Coast Yankees on Saturday and there is a strong possibility he could pitch some for the Yankees in September. Feliciano signed a two-year contract with the Yankees before the 2011 season and he has not pitched an inning for the Yankees because he had to undergo surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.
The Yankees travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago White Sox in a three-game series beginning on Monday.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.68 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Garcia is 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA in his eight starts replacing left-hander Andy Pettitte in the rotation. In his last time out, he gave up two home runs to Josh Hamilton but still beat the Texas Rangers for his third straight victory. Garcia is 5-5 with a 4.46 ERA in his career against the Chisox.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.43 ERA). Floyd notched his first career victory in Toronto and only his second road victory of the season by downing the Blue Jays in his last outing. He is 2-3 with a 6.07 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.