Tagged: Gio Gonzalez

Tanaka Bests Scherzer As Yanks Push Streak To 7

GAME 58

YANKEES 6, NATIONALS 1

With Masahiro Tanaka and Max Scherzer locked into an old-fashioned pitchers’ duel on Tuesday the question among the paid crowd of 36,613 at Yankee Stadium was “Which one of them would blink first?” In the bottom of the seventh inning it was Scherzer.

Stephen Drew hit a pair of solo home runs, the Yankees scored four runs in the seventh and Tanaka outpitched his counterpart as New York downed Washington to stretch their winning streak to seven games.

Tanaka (4-1) cruised through seven innings having held the Nationals to a solo home run by Bryce Harper, who launched his 20th of the season with two out in the fourth inning that tied the game at 1-1.

Tanaka yielded just the one run on five hits and no walks with six strikeouts throwing just 87 pitches to earn his second straight victory since being activated from the disabled list on June 3.

Scherzer (6-5), meanwhile, entered the seventh inning having held the Yankees to a solo home run by Drew that opened the bottom of the third inning. It was Drew’s eighth home run of the season and it was his 1,000th career hit.

Scherzer had a very close call with one out in the sixth inning when the Yankees had Mark Teixeira on third after a double and Brian McCann at first on a single. Carlos Beltran then hit a sinking line drive to Michael Taylor in center-field.

Taylor dove and appeared to have caught the ball rolling forward. However, second-base umpire Lance Barksdale ruled that Taylor trapped the ball. So Taylor threw the ball in to second baseman Danny Espinosa and Espinosa flipped the ball to shortstop Ian Desmond, who touched second base to retire McCann on what was scored a fielder’s choice.

However, Teixeira failed to make any attempt to score from third despite the fact that Taylor was on the ground in center-field. Didi Gregorius struck out to end the threat and the game remained tied.

Teixeira and the Yankees earned some redemption in the seventh inning when rookie Ramon Flores stroked a one-out single to right, one of three hits Flores’ had on the night. Brett Gardner followed with an bloop opposite-field single to left to advance Flores to second.

One out later, Alex Rodriguez hit a ground ball to the right of Desmond between second and third. Desmond dove to stop the ball and he elected to try to force out Flores at third. But the ball struck Flores and rolled away in foul territory to allow him to score what proved to be the game-winning run.

Scherzer was removed from the game and replaced by former Yankee left-hander Matt Thornton.

The Nationals elected to walk Teixeira intentionally to load the bases and pitch to McCann. However, McCann ruined the strategy by lacing a lined single down the right-field line that scored Gardner and Rodriguez while Teixeira advanced to third.

Beltran capped the uprising by lining a single to left. Fortunately, this time Teixeira did not stay at third and he was able to score on the hit.

Scherzer, who entered the game with a 1.85 ERA, was charged with four runs on eight hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings. Teixeira’s run was charged to Thornton.

Drew added his second home run of the game and his fourth in his past three games while leading off the eighth inning off right-hander Taylor Hill.

Right-hander Dellin Betances, left-hander Chasen Shreve and left-hander Andrew Miller combined to pitch two scoreless frames to preserve the victory for Tanaka.

The Yankees are now 33-25 on the season and  –  combined with the Tampa Bay’s 8-2 defeat by the Los Angeles Angels  –  they have now moved to a 2 1/2 games up on the second-place Rays in the American League East. The Nationals have now lost 8 of their past 10 games and are 30-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his two starts since coming off the disabled list, Tanaka has yielded two runs on eight hits with no walks and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings for a sparkling 1.29 ERA. Those two outings lowered his season ERA to 2.48. For those of you who are thinking that Tanaka’s right elbow is being held together with balsa wood and duct tape, you may want to rethink that belief. Tanaka has re-established himself as an ace for the hottest team in baseball.
  • Drew is having a very confounding season. Even with his two-homer night he is still only hitting .175. But the 32-year-old second baseman now has nine home runs and 21 RBIs. In addition, he has been the team’s best fielder in terms of sabermetrics. The question is when backup infielder Brendan Ryan comes off the disabled list will the Yankees send hot-hitting Jose Pirela back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre? Drew appears to be saving his job.
  • Flores, 23, came up when fellow rookie Slade Heathcott suffered a knee injury on May 27. One thing he has proven since he arrived is that he can play the outfield. He already has thrown two runners out at the home plate and he also made some excellent catches. On Tuesday, he was 3-for-4, scored the game-winning run and he added another sensational catch. In the eighth inning he made a diving catch of a sinking fly ball off the bat of Espinosa for the first out in the eighth inning.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

The way the Yankees have been playing I may have to retire this blog category. When you combine good pitching, good defense and some timely hitting off a very tough pitcher in Scherzer you having the makings of great victory. The Yankees are playing with such confidence now that they are showing that they very well may be the class of the A.L. East.

BOMBER BANTER

Sorely in need of some right-handed bullpen help the Yankees have signed veteran Sergio Santos to a minor-league contract. Santos, 31, recorded a 4.73 ERA in 12 games with the Los Angeles Dodgers this season. He elected to become a free agent rather than accept an assignment to Triple-A Oklahoma City. Santos saved 30 games with the Chicago White Sox in 2011. He has been limited to just 65 innings since then due to a rash of injuries.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to sweep their third consecutive series with a victory over the Nationals on Wednesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (5-1, 4.16 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, was sailing along against the Angels on Friday, allowing one run on four hits and one walk through five innings. But he walked the bases loaded in the sixth and had to be removed even though he ended up getting credit for the victory.

The Nationals will send left-hander Gio Gonzales (4-3, 4.57 ERA) to the mound. Gonzales, 29, lost to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday, yielding two runs on four hits and four walks with six strikeouts in six innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Volquez Propels Royals To Shutout Over Yankees

GAME 39

ROYALS 6, YANKEES 0

Edinson Volquez threw seven shutout innings and Salvador Perez homered and drove in two runs as Kansas City blanked New York on Sunday to take the three-game series at Kauffman Stadium.

Volquez (3-3) yielded just three hits, issued no walks and fanned five.

Perez opened the scoring for the Royals with a solo home run with one out in the second inning off left-hander Chris Capuano (0-1), who was making his season debut after coming off the disabled list earlier in the day from a right quad strain.

The Royals added three runs in the fourth off Capuano and right-hander Esmil Rogers on consecutive RBI hits by Kendrys Morales, Perez and Omar Infante.

Capuano was charged with four runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 3-plus innings.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 22-17, but they remain a game ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Royals improved to 24-14.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

There were no positives at all for the Yankees.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The right elbow injury to Chase Whitley forced the Yankees to rush Capuano from his minor-league rehab and it appears he is going to have to build back his stamina. He did look fine in his first three innings but he began the fourth with back-to-back walks to Lorenzo Cain and Eric Hosmer, which led to the three-run inning.
  • It appears that beginning on May 12 the Yankees have fallen back into their offensive woes of 2013 and 2014. In their past six games they have lost five of them and they scored only six runs in those games. Part of the issue is the Yankees have been placed on a killer schedule of 30 games in 31 days with most of those on the road. This team needs rest and they need to get back home to get the offense going again.
  • The Yankees are going to have to make a decision soon about Stephen Drew. He was 0-for-4 and is batting .177 on the season. When a team is struggling to score runs he sticks out like a sore thumb. His days in pinstripes may be numbered if he does not turn it around like right now.

BOMBER BANTER

First baseman Mark Teixeira left the game in the seventh inning with a right big toe contusion. X-rays taken after the game were negative for a fracture. Teixeira was hit on the right foot by a 3-0 pitch from Volquez in the fourth inning but remained in the game until Garrett Jones replaced him defensively in the seventh. Teixeira said he plans to play in the Yankees’ next game on Tuesday.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Capuano, 36, from the disabled list on Sunday the team optioned right-hander Bryan Mitchell back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell, 24, was recalled on Saturday but did not appear in a game.

ON DECK

The Yankees will get a much needed day of rest on Monday before opening a series with the Washington Nationals on Monday at Nationals Park.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (3-1, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi suffered his first loss last Monday against the Rays, surrendering four runs on six hits and two walks with six strikeouts in 7 1/3 innings.

He will be opposed by left-hander Gio Gonzalez (3-2, 4.25 ERA). Gonzalez did not get a decision on Tuesday in giving up five runs on nine hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks.

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

 

Yankee Rotation Started Team’s First-Half Surge

The New York Yankees have reached the halfway mark of the season and they are comfortably in first place in the American League East. This is despite some injuries to some keep players such as Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte, Michael Pineda, Brett Gardner and Joba Chamberlain. As we do every year, let’s look at the individual components of the team and issue grades for the first half.  

STARTING PITCHERS

CC SABATHIA (9-3, 3.45 ERA)

HIROKI KURODA (8-7, 3.17 ERA)

PHIL HUGHES (9-6, 4.29 ERA)

IVAN NOVA (9-3, 4.05 ERA)

ANDY PETTITTE (3-3, 3.22 ERA)

When the New York Yankees were assembling their starting pitchers for the 2012 season they decided to stay away from high-priced free agents like C.J. Wilson and Yu Darvish and when they inquired about potential trades they stayed away from teams that were asking too much in return for pitchers like Mark Buerhle, Gio Gonzalez and Matt Garza.

Their first order of business was make sure CC Sabathia was not going to opt out of his contract. He didn’t and the Yankees rewarded their ace with a very lucrative extension to the contract he signed in the winter of 2009.

With that accomplished they decided to offer a 2012 contract to Freddy Garcia, who impressed the Yankees by recording a 12-8 record and a 3.62 ERA in his first season in pinstripes.

They then bolstered their rotation even further by trading mega-prospect Jesus Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in return from rookie sensation Michael Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos.

They then signed former Los Angeles Dodgers right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to one-year, $10 million contract.

The Yankees knew that they needed some additional starters to buy time for five young minor-league starters to develop. Trading for Pineda and signing Kuroda would allow the Yankees to continue the development of 21-year-old left-hander Manny Banuelos, 24-year-old right-hander Dellin Betances, 25-year-old right-hander Adam Warren, 25-year-old right-hander D.J. Mitchell and 25-year-old right-hander David Phelps.

The Yankees hoped that rookie right-hander Ivan Nova would continue to develop after a season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA and they were hopeful 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes had put his issues with weakness in his right shoulder behind him and was healthy for the 2012 season.

But, spring training proved to be a little more topsy-turvy than manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would have hoped.

Pineda, 23, showed up in camp about 20 pounds overweight and as the spring unfolded he was not reaching the mid-90s velocity he exhibited in the first half of the 2011 season. Though publicly the Yankees were saying they were not concerned, privately they were wondering if they had made a terrible mistake in trading away a great prospect in Montero for sore-armed Pineda.

Late in spring training, Pineda came off the mound in a game in which he was shelled by the Phillies complaining of a sore right shoulder. An MRI indicated a partially torn labrum and Pineda would have surgery and miss the entire 2012 season. Oops!

That left the Yankees with five healthy pitchers for five slots. However, Andy Pettitte, who retired after the 2010 season, decided this spring that he wanted to make a comeback and the Yankees were more than willing to accommodate him. He stayed behind at the Yankees’ complex in Tampa, FL, to get in shape for a return sometime in early May.

Now the Yankees had six pitchers and five spots available. But Girardi was confident things would work out on their own. Little did he know that his rotation would end up in tatters in April.

In his four April starts, Garcia was 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA. Garcia’s fastball, which he used to be able to reach the low 90s with was topping out at about 86 miles per hour. That made him fodder for major-league hitters who were willing to wait for something in the strike zone to whack. And Garcia ended up taking some major whackings.

Hughes was 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his four April starts and the Yankees possibly were thinking of either shifting him to the bullpen, sending him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre or trading him altogether. It was as if the Yankees had finally reached a point with Hughes that they were willing to give up on him.

Nova was hit really hard in the spring and when the season started there was major concerns about his effectiveness. The funny thing was Nova was 3-0 in April but his ERA was 5.18. Ouch!

Kuroda was getting lit up also. American League East teams found his off-speed stuff worth teeing off on, but Kuroda mixed in a few impressive starts to record an inconsistent 2-3 mark with a 3.69 ERA.

Sabathia, meanwhile, was a lot like Nova. He was 3-0 but his ERA was elevated at 4.58. But, then again, Sabathia has been known to start slow and get hot as the weather warms. So there were no real concerns with him.

Pettitte, meanwhile, returned to the Yankees on May 13 for a start against the Mariners. Garcia was banished to the bullpen to make room for the 40-year-old left-hander.

The week after May 13 also seems to coincide with the resurgence of the pitching staff. Every starter seemed to pull things together and harness their stuff to begin a long winning streak. The starting pitching was strong enough to overcome what was an inconsistent offense that could only hit home runs and not hit with runners in scoring position.

Pettitte seemed to light a spark under Hughes and Nova. Kuroda seemed to make the adjustments he needed to make pitching in the American League for the first time and Sabathia got hot like the weather.

Pettitte was 3-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his nine starts through June 27 when a hard-hit ball off the bat of Casey Kotchman of the Cleveland Indians struck Pettitte just above his left ankle and fractured his tibia. As a result, Pettitte will miss about two months. But the Yankees are hopeful he will be able to pitch down the stretch enough to be ready for the playoffs.

It is a shame but the staff that Pettitte inspired has really not missed a beat since he was placed on the disabled list.

Since May 25, Nova is 6-1 with a 2.98 ERA in nine starts. Since May 6, Hughes is 8-3 with a 3.46 ERA in 12 starts. Since May 27, Kuroda is 5-1 with a 2.47 ERA in eight starts.

Sabathia is 6-3 with a 2.89 since May 4. But Sabathia had to be placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time since the 2007 season on June 25 due to a slight strain in his left groin. He missed two starts leading up the All-Star break but is expected to be activated on July 17 for a start at home against the Toronto Blue Jays.

In Pettitte’s place, the Yankees have discovered a starter with almost an equal ability to mix pitches and speeds to keep batters off balance. He is Garcia. Yep, that same Garcia that took  thrashing in April.

The man who was abruptly banished to the bullpen found his old fastball velocity and the difference in his results on the mound have been like night and day.

In his two starts in place of Pettitte, Garcia is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA. The Yankees can certainly live with that until Pettitte returns sometime in late August.

Though the Yankees were criticized for not signing any high-priced free-agent pitchers or trading for some, the Yankees have been patient with what they have and it has paid dividends.

On May 21, the Yankees took a 6-0 walloping from the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium and it dropped their season record to 21-21, which found them tied for last place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox. They trailed the first-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5 1/2 games.

The Yankees reached the 81-game mark with a 4-3 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL, to improve their season record to 49-32. Their 28-11 surge since May 21 gave them a .718 winning percentage over that 39-game stretch and put them in first place in the division by 5 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles.

The biggest reason the Yankees were able to surge into first place was the strength of their starting rotation, which not only held opponents hitters down but they also pitched deep into games. That ended up helping the bullpen shine in closing out games in the late innings because they were not needed as much as they were in April.

The combined record of the starters at the 81-game mark is 40-24. Their team ERA of 3.73 is fourth in the American League.

With the second half to go, Girardi and Rothschild have to keep this momentum from the starters going while preparing them for the playoffs. At this moment it appears that the Yankees will have a good chance to have four pitchers (Sabathia, Hughes, Nova and Kuroda) win 16 games or more. That would make the staff formidable come the playoffs.

Add to that the most successful starter in modern playoff history in Pettitte, than you have the makings of a strong group heading into the postseason.

MIDSEASON GRADES:

SABATHIA: B

KURODA: B

HUGHES: B-

NOVA: B-

PETTITTE: I (Incomplete)

GARCIA: I (Incomplete)

BACKUPS

DAVID PHELPS (0-1, 2.08 ERA in 3 starts)

ADAM WARREN (0-0, 23.14 ERA in 1 start)

The Yankees dipped into their minor-league quintet of young starters at Triple-A to make some fill-in starts.

Phelps made two starts in early May in place of Garcia while the Yankees were still waiting for Pettitte to make his 2012 debut. Meanwhile, Warren and Phelps filled in one start apiece for Sabathia just before the All-Star break.

Phelps actually pitched quite well overall in his three starts and he shows some long-term promise as starter for the future. His only negative was that his pitch count got the better of him in all three starts and he was not able to complete five full innings in any one of them.

Earlier in the season, Phelps spent most of the season with the Yankees as a long man out the bullpen and he was 1-3 with a 3.05 ERA overall in 41 1/3 innings over 15 appearances.

But after his start for the Yankees on the Fourth of July against the Rays, the Yankees sent him Double-A Trenton to stretch him out as a starter. So if anything should happen to any of the Yankees five current starters, Phelps would likely be first in line as a replacement.

Warren, however, had a disastrous major-league debut on June 29 at Yankee Stadium against the Chicago White Sox. As a result we are not likely to see Warren the rest of the season.

He is 5-6 with a 4.19 ERA in 16 starts at Scranton this season.

MIDSEASON GRADES:

PHELPS: B+

WARREN: I (Incomplete)

In addition to Phelps and Warren, the Yankees have also called up Mitchell and he is currently on the 25-man roster as a long reliever.

Mitchell is 0-0 with a 2.45 ERA in just 3 2/3 innings covering three appearances. Mitchell’s main calling card is his sinking fastball that allows him to induce a lot of groundball outs.

He was 5-4 with a 5.36 ERA in 14 starts at Scranton this season. The Yankees still consider him a starter but he actually may have more value at the major-league level as a reliever. The Yankees liken him to former Yankee sinker specialist Ramiro Mendoza.

The two biggest jewels in the Yankees’ minor-league system are Banuelos and Betances. Banuelos entered 2012 as the No. 1 prospect and Betances was listed at No. 2. However, neither has distinguished himself at Scranton.

Banuelos was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in six starts before being placed on the disabled list with a left elbow injury. Fortunately for the Yankees, an MRI showed no structural damage to the elbow, but the team is being extremely cautious with their top pitching prospect.

Betances, meanwhile, was 3-5 with an ugly 6.39 ERA at Triple-A in 16 starts before being demoted back to Double-A Trenton. He is 0-1 with an 0.75 ERA there in two starts.

Both pitchers have plus fastballs and they both project to top of the rotation starters in the major leagues. But they both share a problem with harnessing their stuff. Betances walked 69 batters in 74 2/3 innings at Scranton and Banuelos walked nearly five batters every nine innings last season.

The Yankees best pitcher at Triple-A is 39-year-old right-hander Ramon Ortiz. The Dominican is 6-3 with a 2.94 ERA in 16 starts. Though at age 39 he would fit right in with the Yankees’ roster, Ortiz is with his 12th different organization and the Yankees likely would feel more comfortable using Phelps or Mitchell.

Campos, 19, led the Northwest League in strikeouts and ERA last season and the Yankees were excited to get him as part of the deal that brought them Pineda.

Campos was 3-0 with a 4.01 ERA with 26 strikeouts in 24 2/3 innings before also being shelved with an elbow injury. Like Banuelos, the Yankees are saying the injury is not serious, but Campos is in Tampa rehabbing at a slow pace.

The Yankees most successful minor-league pitcher this season is 22-year-old right-hander Brett Marshall, who is 9-3 with a 3.17 ERA in 17 starts with Double-A Trenton. Marshall is not a fireballer like Banuelos or Betances (he has just 61 strikeouts in 91 1/3 innings).

After Tommy John surgery Marshall has found that the movement on his pitches is more important than velocity. He is on track to make it to the Yankees within the next two or three years.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B

The much-maligned Yankee rotation has been the biggest factor in the Yankees re-awakening after May 21 and their current comfortable lead in their division.

Veterans Sabathia and Kuroda have mixed well with young guns Hughes and Nova to make this one of the best rotations in baseball.

The addition of Pettitte boosted the staff in May and Kuroda, Hughes and Nova immediately started erasing Yankee fans memories about how awful they were in April. When Pettitte returns the Yankees will have the best No. 1 through No. 5 rotation in baseball.

In the meantime, Garcia has fixed his velocity problem an he appears to be pitching to his 2011 form based on his most recent two starts.

With Phelps in the wings it is doubtful the Yankees will make a trade-deadline move to get an additional starter.

Though I continue to see fellow bloggers and Yankee fans insist the Yankees should make an effort to trade for Matt Cain or Cole Hamels, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has maintained the Yankees are determined to cut payroll by 2014.

If the Yankees passed on Wilson, Darvish, Buerhle, Gonzalez and Garza before there is no reason to think they will add to the team’s payroll by trading for a high-priced starter at the end of the month. The Yankees think they can win with what they have and it is doubtful they will add anyone significant at the deadline.

Those dyed-in-the-wool Yankee lovers can start crying now. It just is not going to happen.

 

Nationals Feeling ‘Hughesed’ By Red-Hot Yankees

GAME 63

YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2

When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.

But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.

Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.

Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.

Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.

Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.

The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.

Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.

Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.

Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.

Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.

The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
  • Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
  • Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez’s RBI single in the third inning was the 1,924th RBI of his career, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list.  . . . Girardi made it clear to reporters that Cano did not start on Friday because he wanted to give him two days off, including Thursday’s off day. Cano was spiked on the left ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Braves but he was not seriously injured. Cano did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and he drew an intentional walk. He stayed in the game as the second baseman and singled in the ninth inning.  . . .  Robertson gave up two hits and a run in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. David Phelps was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre  to make room on the roster for Robertson.
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ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.

Birthday boy Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees after he turned 40 on Friday. Pettitte gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out eight in six innings against the Mets on Sunday before leaving the game with a bruised left hand he sustained fielding a hard-hit comebacker in the sixth. But the hand is fine and Pettitte declared himself ready to go. He is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in his career against the Nationals.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA). Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park against the Red Sox in his last start. Zimmermann has never faced the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
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Yankees Leave Braves Stranded Without Victory

__________________________________________________________

“You got me stranded baby.. stranded
stranded, stranded.. I’m so stranded”

                                                                                                                   – Lyrics from “Stranded” by Mario

GAME 62

YANKEES 3, BRAVES 2

They pounded out 12 hits. They drew four walks. They had 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But, in the end they scored only two runs, left 13 runners on base and lost by a run.

But it wasn’t the Yankees! It was the Braves!

Curtis Granderson stroked a two-run home run in the sixth inning off Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees’ bullpen dodged scoring threat after scoring threat all night as New York edged Atlanta on Wednesday to sweep the Braves in front of sellout crowd of 48,938 at Turner Field.

The Braves had just taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning when Brain McCann blasted a two-run home run into the right-field bleachers after Martin Prado had blooped a single to center off Kuroda.

However, the Yankees immediately answered back in the next half-inning when Derek Jeter led off the frame with soft lined single into right. Granderson followed by a hitting a 1-1 cutter off Hudson high and deep down the right-field line and over the outstretched glove Jason Heyward for his 19th home run of the season.

Kuroda and the bullpen were tasked with protecting that lead for the next four innings. They did just that but it was not easy.

The Braves put at least one runner on base in all nine innings and they left runners in scoring position in five of those innings against the Yankees.

Kuruda wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second inning by striking out Hudson and retiring Michael Bourn on a groundout. In the fourth, he escaped with runners on second and third and two out by striking out Bourn swinging.

Kuroda (6-6) gave up nine hits and two walks and struck eight batters in six innings of work to earn the victory.

The Yankees’ bullpen did the rest.

Boone Logan walked two batters in the seventh inning with only one out. However, he got out of the inning by getting a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Heyward and a flyout from Eric Hinske.

Cody Eppley escaped a major jam in the eighth with runners on first and third and one out by inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Prado.

Rafael Soriano pitched around a two-out single by Chipper Jones to retire Heyward on a broken-bat infield popup to preserve the win for Kuroda and earn his 11th save of the season in 12 opportunities.

The red-hot Yankees have now won six games in a row, 11 of their last 13 and 16 of their last 20. They also are an amazing 9-2 lifetime at Turner Field.

The Yankees took an early lead on Hudson and the Braves when Jeter led off the game with a double in the gap in right-center. Granderson advanced Jeter to third on a groundout and Alex Rodriguez followed with a hot-shot single through the middle.

Hudson (4-3) gave up three runs on six hits, walked none and he struck eight batters over six innings.

With the victory, the Yankees are 37-25, the best record in the American League. They also are a game up on the second-place Baltimore Orioles and two games up on the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Braves fell to 34-29.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Give Kuroda a lot of credit for toughing out a hard-earned victory. The Braves put pressure on him in every inning by getting on base and advancing runners into scoring position. But, other than the McCann home run, Kuroda was able to get outs by making tough pitches. In his last four starts, Kuroda is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
  • Because of the loss of David Robertson, the bullpen has had to pick up the late-inning slack and tonight Eppley did an exceptional job in the eighth. Eppley gave up a leadoff single to Andrelton Simmons and pinch-hitter Jack Wilson advanced him to second on a groundout. Bourn then rolled an infield single into the hole at short to put runners at first and third. But Eppley got Prado, who came into the game hitting .318, to hit into an inning-ending double play. Prado had hit into four double plays all season.
  • Granderson’s home run was his 19th of the season, which ties him for third place in the majors with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals. That hit also extended his modest hit streak to five games. He is 7-for-20 (.350) in that stretch.
  • Jeter collected two hits and scored two the Yankees’ three runs. He also extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 8-for-21 (.381) in that span. Jeter has been a career .404 hitter at Turner Field and he was 5-for-14 (.357) in the three-game series.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

When a team is on a roll like this there is no real reason to dwell on negatives. The Yankees were playing with house money having won the first two games of the series. On Wednesday, they just toughed it out and won a squeaker with solid starting pitching, a gutty bullpen and some timely offense. No cares now!

BOMBER BANTER

Good news for the bullpen: Roberrtson joined the team on Wednesday and he is expected to be activated for Friday’s game in Washington against the Nationals. Robertson has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 15 with a left oblique strain. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief in a minor-league rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and flew to Atlanta to join the team on Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi said Robertson will assume his old eighth-inning role and set up for Soriano.  . . .  Andy Pettitte threw a bullpen session on Wednesday before the game and said their are no lingering effects from the bruised left hand he sustained against the Mets in his last start on Sunday. Pettitte is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Nationals.

ON DECK

After extending the season-best winning streak to six games the Yankees will have Thursday off before opening a three-game weekend road series against the Nationals.

Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. In his last two starts against the Tigers and Mets, Hughes has given up just three runs on 10 hits in 15 1/3 innings. Hughes has no record and no ERA in a limited relief outing against the Nationals.

The Nationals will start left-hander Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35 ERA). Gonzalez is coming off a strong 6 1/3 inning outing in which he defeated the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday. However, while he was with the Oakland Athletics he had very little luck against the Yankees. He was 1-4 with a 7.27 ERA.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

 

Laird’s Walk-Off Sac Fly In 10th Boosts Yankees

GAME 15

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3 (10 Innings)

TAMPA – When you have a team struggling to get on base and score runs it is never too late push a run across – even if it is the 10th inning.

Brandon Laird lofted a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score Justin Maxwell with the game-winning run as New York swept it two-game home-and-away set with Washington at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

The Yankees, very much like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” depended greatly on “the kindness of strangers.”

Nationals right-hander Atahualpa Severino started his stint in the 10th by walking Maxwell. Pinch-hitter Melky Mesa followed by hitting a routine grounder that was misplayed by Nationals third baseman Mark Teahen, allowing Maxwell to advance to third. One out later, Laird launched a fly ball to right field that plated Maxwell with the deciding tally.

Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory. Severino (0-1) took the loss.

The game featured a matchup of lefties in CC Sabathia for the Yankees and newly acquired Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. However, Sabathia struggled with his command and he left after just three innings on the south end of a 3-1 deficit.

Sabathia gave up three runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned two. Gonzalez gave up a run on three hits and three walks and struck out six in 3 1/3 innings.

The Yankees managed to tie the game in the fifth inning off reliever Craig Stammen on a leadoff single by Doug Bernier and a two-out, two-run home run to deep left by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run this spring since he homered on the first pitch he saw by Roy Halladay of the Phillies on March 3.

With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 7-8. The Nationals fell to 5-7.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the battle of lefties going on most of the buzz in the sellout crowd of 10,982 was about another left-hander entirely. The news 39-year-old Andy Pettitte had elected to come out of retirement and sign a $2.5 million minor-league contract with the Yankees spread like wildfire through the Yankee faithful on hand. I would consider adding a pitcher to your roster who has 240 major-league victories (203 of them with the Yankees) has got to be considered a positive development.
  • Though the Yankee regulars struck out so much they could have put out a wildfire, it was nice to see Rodriguez connect for a huge two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees, if you can believe this, have only hit a total of five home runs in the first 15 games this spring. Hopefully, this may signal an end to the power outage.
  • Though Sabathia struggled, Phil Hughes turned in a very sharp four innings of work in relief. Hughes, who is still competing with a group of pitchers that now will include Pettitte for a starting spot, held the Nationals scoreless on three hits, did not walk a batter and he struck three. Hughes is showing no signs of the right shoulder fatigue that plagued him last season.
  • Robinson Cano doubled to the opposite field in the first inning off Gonzalez to score Curtis Granderson from first base to draw the Yankees to within a run at 2-1. Cano is off to a very slow start this spring and is hitting .190.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Sabathia admitted after the game his fastball was “all over the place” and it cost him early. The Nationals loaded the bases to start the game on a double, single and a walk. They pushed across a run on a double-play grounder off the bat of Wilson Ramos. But they added a second run in the same frame on an RBI double by Jesus Flores. Steve Lombardozzi then touched Sabathia with a leadoff home run in the third inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
  • Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times in the game. Raul Ibanez, Francisco Cervelli and Bill Hall fanned two times each. Considering the fact that the Yankees won the game after collecting just five hits in the game you would have to say they were lucky to have won at all. The pitching of Hughes was the big key. The question is when are the Yankees going to wake up and start hitting?
  • Ibanez was 0-for-2 with a walk and fanned twice and he is now hitting .077. Yankee fans are getting a bit impatient with Ibanez considering he is replacing retired Yankee icon Jorge Posada at designated hitter and because the Yankees chose to sign him instead of a pair of former popular Yankees in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.

BOMBER BANTER

Injuries have cropped up all over the place and it is now an epidemic in Yankee camp. Derek Jeter missed the game Friday and will not play again until Tuesday due to a tender left calf. The Yankees were quick to point out that they do not consider the injury serious and that is not the same calf that forced Jeter to the disabled list for three weeks last season.  . . .  Meanwhile, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were held out of action with strained left groins. Swisher could return to the lineup on Saturday but Martin will be shelved for a couple of days.  . . .  Those walking wounded join the ranks of Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand), Ramiro Pena (sprained right ankle) and David Robertson (bone bruise of right foot) who are also out of action.  . . .  The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Friday, re-assigning 14 players to minor-league camp, including top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was among seven pitchers sent out. The others were Dan Burawa, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner and Whitley. The other cuts included catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Mesa.

ON DECK

The Yankees will host the Houston Astros for the second time this spring on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Scheduled to start for the Yankees will be 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his third start of the spring. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and he was displeased with his last start.

The Astros are expected to start right-hander Bud Norris.

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

 

Yankee Reserves Come Up Big To Beat Nationals

GAME 14

YANKEES 8, NATIONALS 5

During a time when a lot of the starters are struggling with hitting this spring the non-roster and minor-league players who dominated the Yankees’ lineup on Thursday were the ones who came up big.

Bill Hall drove in two runs with a double in the third inning and New York’s spring reserves scored four runs in the seventh inning off Washington’s John Lannan en route to a Grapefruit League victory over the Nationals at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, FL.

Brett Marshall (1-0) got credit for the victory in relief. Lannan (0-1) gave up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk in four innings and he ended up taking the loss. Adam Warren retired the last batter and picked up a save.

The Yankees mounted a 13-hit attack led two hits by Hall and Justin Maxwell and Hall and Jose Gil each drove in two runs.

There were two significant injuries incurred during the game. Nationals starter and former Yankee right-hander Chien-Ming Wang had to leave the game in the third inning with a strained right hamstring after he lost his balance fielding a Russell Martin grounder and stumbled awkwardly over the first-base bag.

In the fourth inning, Yankee shortstop Ramiro Pena left after spraining his right ankle as he slid into second base on an unsuccessful steal attempt.

The Yankees snapped a three-game losing streak and improved their spring record to 6-8. The Nationals are 5-6.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees were losing 3-2 with Lannan beginning his third inning of work in the sixth when the Yankees greeted him with five consecutive hits. Jayson Nix singled, stole second and scored the tying run on a RBI single by Gil. Doug Bernier advanced Gil to third on a bunt single and Maxwell scored Gil on a single to left. J.R. Murphy followed with a single to right to score Bernier. Maxwell then scored the fourth run of the inning on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Zoilo Almonte. Nix is the only player involved in the rally who had started the game.
  • The Yankee reserves turned the game into a rout with two more runs in the seventh. Brandon Laird, who reached base on an error by shortstop Andres Blanco, scored on a passed ball by catcher Jhontan Solano. Dewayne Wise, who doubled in the inning, later scored on a sacrifice fly by Gil, giving the Yankees an 8-3 lead.
  • Michael Pineda made his third start of the spring and there were some mixed results. Pineda pitched 3 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and a walk while he fanned four batters. The good news was that Pineda was able to throw about 10 change-ups and his slider was virtually unhittable. The velocity on his fastball, however, reached only 91 miles per hour, down considerably from his 2011 average of 94.5, which ranked fifth in the majors. The Yankees refuse to talk about it, but the lack of velocity has to be a concern at this stage of spring training.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Three of the left-handers competing to become a potential second lefty in the bullpen pitched in the game and none of them were exactly sharp. Clay Rapada did not give up a run in 1 1/3 innings and has a 0.00 ERA this spring. However, he walked two and gave up a hit before inducing Chad Tracy to ground out with the bases loaded in the fifth.
  • Juan Cedeno opened the sixth by issuing a leadoff walk to Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth followed with a double. Then with one out, Steve Lombardozzi hit a sacrifice fly to score LaRoche.
  • Michael O’Connor opened the ninth with a 8-5 lead and promptly issued a leadoff walk to Roger Bernadina and one-out single to Mark Teahan to bring the tying run to the plate. After O’Connor retired Tracy on a grounder to advance Bernadina and Teahan, manager Joe Girardi summoned Warren to close out the game.

BOMBER BANTER

With Eduardo Nunez still nursing a bruised right hand for the past 10 days, the injury to Pena is not good news. Pena said he hopes to miss only two or three days by Girardi said he is not so sure about that. No tests are planned on the ankle and Pena will be re-evaluated in Tampa, FL., on Friday.   . . .  It appears doubtful that veteran right-hander Fraddy Garcia will be able to pitch in his next scheduled start because of a bruised right thumb and index finger.  Garcia was struck on the hand on a grounder off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion of the Blue Jays in the fourth inning of a game on Wednesday. The Yankees think Garcia just has a bad bruise and they do not believe the injury is serious.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete a two-game home-and-away series with the Nationals at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia is scheduled to pitch for the Yankees. He will be making his third start of the spring. The Nationals will start former Oakland left-hander Gio Gonzalez, who has not given up a run in his two previous appearances spanning seven innings.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally live by the YES Network.