YANKEES 7, PIRATES 1
On a day when David Phelps was struggling with his command and his pitch count was exploding the Yankees found a time-honored way to dispatch the Pirates: Break out the home-run ball.
Mark Teixeira and Brian McCann connected for a pair of two-run home runs and Zoilo Almonte, Brett Gardner and Alfonso Soriano each added solo shots as New York deep-sixed Pittsburgh in front of a national TV audience and a paid crowd of 47,353 at Yankee Stadium.
It was only the second time this season the Yankees have hit more than three home runs in a game and they tied their season high with five set against the Boston Red Sox on April 12.
Despite his struggles, Phelps (1-0) managed to pitch five shutout innings, yielding five hits, three walks and a hit batter while striking out five. Phelps did not have a single 1-2-3 inning but kept the Pirates off the scoreboard by wriggling out of jams.
He escaped a two-on, no out situation in the second by retiring Gaby Sanchez on a flyout and striking out Jordy Mercer and Tony Sanchez. He did the same thing in the fifth by striking out Neil Walker, getting Andrew McCutchen on a flyout and Pedro Alvarez on a groundout.
He also gave up three hits in the fourth, but he escaped without giving up a run thanks, in part, to a strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out double play when Ike Davis struck out and McCann threw out Starling Marte attempting to steal second base. Gaby Sanchez then stroked a two-out double and Mercer followed with a single to right but Soriano nailed Sanchez with a perfect throw to McCann.
Four of the five home runs came off Pirates right-hander Edinson Volquez (1-4), who had given up just one homer in his first five starts but has surrendered eight in his past four starts. he was charged with five runs on six hits and struck out three in 6 1/3 innings.
Teixeira opened the barrage in the first inning by following a one-out single by Derek Jeter with his ninth home run in just 23 games after coming off the disabled list on April 20.
Almonte, who was a late addition to the lineup because Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from the lineup due to flu-like symptoms, hit Volquez’s first delivery in the third inning deep into the second deck in right-center for his first home run of the season and only the second of his major-league career.
Dellin Betances relieved Phelps and the sixth and he was greeted on his first pitch with a line-drive homer into the left-field bleachers by Marte to account for the Pirates’ only run of the day.
Gardner got the run back by stroking his third home run of the season to lead off the sixth inning, making the score 4-1.
Soriano added his sixth home of the season to lead off the seventh and McCann capped the scoring by cracking a two-run shot, also his sixth of the season, with two out in the eighth off right-hander Vin Mazzaro.
The Yankees have hit 25 home runs in just 20 games at Yankee Stadium compared to 13 home runs in 21 games on the road.
After going through a stretch of losing four games in a row earlier this week, the Yankees have now won three straight and Yankee pitchers have given up just one earned run (Marte’s homer) over the past 27 2/3 innings.
The Yankees improved their season record to 22-19 and they also climbed into a tie with the Baltimore Orioles for first place in the American League East, one game ahead of the Toronto Blue Jays. The Pirates dropped to 17-24.
- To put Phelps’ struggles in perspective, he threw 25 pitches in both the first and second innings and 26 in the fifth. His breaking pitches were diving out of the strike zone and the Pirates were not looking for anything but fastballs. But give Phelps credit for keeping the Pirates scoreless and he now owns a 1-0 record and a 2.93 ERA in his three starts in place of the injured Michael Pineda.
- McCann looks like he is beginning to be heating up with the bat. He was hitting .209 on May 6 but since then he has had at least one hit in six of his past seven games. In that span he is 8-for-28 (.286) with two homers and five RBIs to raise his season average to .225.
- Teixeira has hit in seven straight games and is 9-for-25 (.360) with four homers and nine RBIs in that stretch. With Carlos Beltran on the disabled list and McCann hitting well below his normal level, Teixeira has helped the Yankees by providing consistent production in the middle of the order.
The starter pitches five shutout innings, the team hits five home runs and the defense chips in by nailing base-runners at second and at the plate. Despite Betances blowing the shutout there is not much to criticize in this one.
The Yankees’ banged up outfield took another hit when Ellsbury had to be scratched before Saturday’s game. He had only missed one game this season. Ellsbury is day-to-day but the Yankees hope to have him available for Sunday’s doubleheader. . . . Meanwhile, Ichiro Suzuki, who has missed all of this week with a lower-back strain, was used as a defensive replacement in right-field in the ninth inning of Saturday’s game. He is expected to start at least one of two games on Sunday. . . . Although CC Sabathia will be eligible to come off the 15-day disabled list on May 26, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Saturday that he will need more time. Sabathia had right knee drained of fluid and a degenerative change in the knee was treated with a cortisone and stem-cell injection this week by Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, AL. Sabathia is expected to be back in New York on Sunday and he will be re-evaluated early next week.
Because of a rainout on Friday the Yankees will play a single-admission doubleheader against the Pirates on Sunday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-3, 4.62 ERA) will pitch the first game for the Yankees. Kuroda, 39, gave up four runs on seven hits in six innings against the New York Mets on Monday before the bullpen imploded after he left. He did not get a decision.
The Pirates will counter with hard-luck right-hander Charlie Morton (0-5, 3.22 ERA). Morton yielded three unearned runs in the first inning and lost to St. Louis Cardinals despite yielding just one earned run on seven hits in six innings last Sunday.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-1, 6.43 ERA) will pitch the second game for the Yankees. Nuno has been a disappointment so far as a No. 5 starter, having given up seven runs (five earned) on four hits and four walks in just 3 1/3 innings against the Mets on Tuesday. He is 1-1 with a 4.94 ERA in his five starts.
He will be opposed by hard-throwing right-hander Gerrit Cole (3-3, 3.76 ERA). Cole was tagged for three runs on seven hits and three walks while he struck out six in 5 2/3 innings of a loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Tuesday.
Game-time for the first game will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the second game will start approximately 30 minutes after the first game is completed. Both games will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, MARLINS 2
When Alex Rodriguez was a teenager in Miami he dreamed of replacing Dan Mario as the starting quarterback of the Dolphins and having his friends watch him in the Orange Bowl. Years later, friends and family watched as he starred for the Yankees in a baseball game against the hometown Marlins in their new park.
Rodriguez drove in three runs and his two-run double in the fifth inning broke a 2-2 tie as New York registered its second victory of a two-game series against Miami in a Grapefruit League exhibition game on Monday at Marlins Park.
Rodriguez followed a bases-loaded walk to Robinson Cano by Marlins starter Carlos Zambrano in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to left that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead. After the Marlins tied it up the fourth inning, Rodriguez chased Zambrano with a double off the center-field wall in the fifth to score Curtis Granderson and Cano.
The Yankees opted not to obtain Zambrano in a trade with the Cubs last season and Yankee fans saw the reason why. Zambrano (0-3) gave up five runs on four hits and a mind-numbing seven walks in four-plus innings. The Marlins’ No. 4 starter ended his spring with a 6.23 ERA.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got good efforts out of No. 2 starter Hiroki Kuroda and No. 3 starter Phil Hughes.
Kuroda gave up one run on three hits and one walk while striking out two in his three innings of work. Hughes scattered five hits, walked one and struck out four in his four scoreless innings of relief.
Rafael Soriano (1-0) pitched a scoreless one-third of an inning to get credit for the victory. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth with two strikeouts to collect a save.
With the victory, the Yankees are now 17-11 this spring and they are 12-3 with three ties since March 14. The Marlins end up with a 11-14 spring record.
- It is always good to see Rodriguez driving in runs from the cleanup spot. That is something the team sorely missed last season when he played in only 99 games due to an assortment of injuries. With his three RBIs on Monday, Rodriguez is second on the team with 14 RBIs this spring. Cano’s bases-loaded walk gave him one more at 15.
- Kuroda looked sharp in his tuneup for his game against the Tampa Bay Rays on Saturday. Kuroda gave up a leadoff double in the first inning to Jose Reyes and Hanley Ramirez scored him one out later with a single to left. He shut down the Marlins over his next two innings. He ends the spring with a 2.92 ERA.
- It appears that the Yankees have the 2010 version of Hughes healthy and ready to start the season. Hughes was 18-8 in 2010 but right shoulder weakness ruined his 2011 season. Hughes lost weight in the winter and compiled a 1.92 ERA this spring to earn the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Amid all the hoopla over Kuroda, Michael Pineda and Andy Pettitte coming back, Hughes just went about his business and he looks primed for a good 2012 season.
- The Yankees were very lucky that the right foot injury to Robertson was just a bruise. He looked dominant in his one inning of work and he will join Soriano and Mariano Rivera to form a back end of the bullpen that can be called “The Bermuda Triangle” of runs.
- Raul Ibanez entered the game riding a torrid hot streak over the past week where he has hit three home runs. However, he was 0-for-4, including a strikeout and grounding into an inning-ending double play. His average dropped to .155 but manager Joe Girardi and the Yankees are still very proud of the way Ibanez handled the adversity of his slump this spring.
- Sloppy play cost the Yankees a run in the fourth. Logan Morrison doubled to lead off the frame against Boone Logan and Gaby Sanchez singled to right, which would have advanced Morrison to third. However, Nick Swisher overran the ball and Morrison was able to score on the play.
- Though the Yankees did score five runs and win the game, their offense did not really take full advantage of the nine walks they received from the Marlins. They were 2-for-7 with runners in scoring position and Mark Teixeira, Swisher and Ibanez combined to leave a total of eight runners on base.
With the starting rotation set, Girardi has to make only two decisions for the bullpen. One is whether to keep Clay Rapada, 30, as a second lefty with Logan. The elbow injury to Cesar Cabral pretty much cleared the way for Rapada to make the team. The other decision is with Micahel Pineda on the disabled list, who among David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell or Adam Warren will make the team as a long reliever – a role Hector Noesi filled last season. . . . Outfielder Justin Maxwell, 28, has had an exceptional spring, hitting .317 with five doubles and 11 RBIs. But the Yankees have no room on the roster for him and he is out of options to the minors. So the Yankees might look to trade him. . . . After saying Pettitte would not pitch in a spring exhibition game on Sunday, Girardi said on Monday that Pettitte could pitch an inning of a game on Wednesday. If he does not, Pettitte instead will pitch in a minor-league game on Thursday.
The Yankee regulars are on their way back home to Tampa, FL. The reserves, non-roster players and minor-league rookies are headed to Port Sr. Lucie, FL., for an exhibition game against the New York Mets on Tuesday. This will be the teams’ first spring meeting since 1998.
No. 4 starter Ivan Nova is scheduled to get the ball for the Yankees. Right-hander Mike Pelfrey and left-hander Jonathan Niese are scheduled to pitch for the Mets.
Game-time will be 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.