YANKEES 8, TWINS 3
It is not easy replacing a popular player, particularly when he is really loved by Yankee fans. But Chris Stewart may have taken his first big step on Tuesday in helping those fans get over the absence of backup catcher Francisco Cervelli.
Stewart stroked a bases-loaded single to drive in two runs that gave the Yankees the lead as part of a four-run third inning as New York’s sputtering offense came alive to support the solid pitching of CC Sabathia and New York defeated Minnesota at Yankee Stadium.
Stewart was claimed off waivers from the Giants on the final day of spring training by the Yankees and, because Stewart was out of options, the team opted to send Cervelli to Triple-A.
Trailing 3-1 entering the third inning, Andruw Jones started what proved to be the winning rally with a one-out single off Francisco Liriano (0-2). Curtis Granderson followed with a single down the right-field line that was bobbled by outfielder Trevor Plouffe and both runners moved up a base. Eduardo Nunez then slapped a ball in the hole at shortstop that Jamey Carroll could only knock down and Jones scored.
Liriano then issued his fourth walk in 2 1/3 innings to Brett Gardner to load the bases and Stewart chased the left-hander from the game with a lined single down the left-field line that scored Granderson and Nunez.
Derek Jeter capped the four-run eruption with a sacrifice fly reliever Mark Maloney to score Gardner.
Much like he had in his first two starts, Sabathia (1-0) struggled early in the game, giving up a solo home run to Josh Willingham in the second inning. With one out in the third, he gave up a single to Alexi Casilla, committed a balk to put him at second, pinch-hitter Clete Thomas then doubled to drive in Casilla and Carroll followed with a RBI single to score Thomas.
But after that point, Sabathia turned into the CC that Yankee fans are used to seeing. He retired the next 13 batters in a row until he walked Plouffe with two outs in the seventh. He did not allow another hit and left after giving up just the three runs on four hits and one walk and he struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings.
It was only the Yankees’ third quality start for their pitchers in the first 11 games.
Liriano, meanwhile, has now turned in three horrible starts in a row. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits and four walks and struck out two batters in only 2 1/3 innings. Liriano has now surrendered 17 runs (15 earned) in 11 1/3 innings over three starts. His ERA is now a stratospheric 11.91.
With the victory the Yankees are 6-5 on the season. The Twins are 3-8.
- Mark it down that the first official Sabathia sighting was in the fourth inning of tonight’s game with the Twins. Sabathia settled in once he got the lead and shut down the Twins through the eighth inning. After throwing 59 pitches in the first three innings, Sabathia made it to one out in the eighth needing only 52 more (33 of them were strikes). Sabathia is habitually a slow starter who hits his stride in the summer months.
- Last night the top part of the order carried the offense, going 8-for-16 but the team scored only three runs – all in the first inning. Tonight it was the bottom of the order that carried the team. Jones (batting fifth), Granderson (batting sixth), Nunez (batting seventh), Gardner (batting eighth) and Stewart (batting ninth) were a combined 9-for-19 (.474) with three walks, they scored all eight of the Yankees’ runs and drove in six.
- Gardner is very quietly have a very good season at the plate. He was 2-for-2 with an RBI double and two walks, a stolen base and he scored three runs. Gardner is hitting .321 early in the season and he is looking like he does not want to be taken out of the lineup against left-handers. Gardner also made a great diving catch off the bat Willingham to end the Twins’ two-run rally in the third inning.
- Stewart is a career .203 major-league hitter with only 13 RBIs. On Tuesday, he was 2-for-4 with three RBIs. Stewart added an RBI single in the seventh off reliever Jeff Gray to his two-run single in the third that proved to be the game-winner. Realistically the Yankees only want Stewart to shine as a defensive catcher and they do not care what he hits. But I am sure they appreciated his effort at the plate.
- It is pretty safe to say that the Yankees are looking from big things from Alex Rodriguez after he missed 63 games last season and he is coming off a very good spring. Well, the Yankees are still waiting because he was 0-for-4 on Tuesday and it dropped his average to .227. with one home run and two RBIs.
- A-Rod was batting fourth and the Yankees are still the only team in baseball who have not gotten an RBI from their cleanup hitter this season. Rodriguez and Robinson Cano have shared that spot this season. Cano was 1-for-5 in the game and is hitting .239 with no home runs and one RBI.
- Hopefully the Yankees will only see the Sabathia who pitched so well after the third inning. Early in the game, Sabathia was having problems with fastball command, as he had in first two starts. With the effort Sabathia won his first game and lowered his ERA to 5.59. Needless to say, there is a lot of room for improvement in that ERA.
Home-plate umpire Greg Gibson was a busy man on Tuesday. He not only ejected Twins center-fielder Denard Span for arguing a strike call in the third inning, Gibson also gave the heave-ho to manager Ron Gardnehire right after Span. From the replays, it appeared that Span had a legitimate complaint. Sabathia’s first pitch looked well of the plate inside. But the Twins should not be too upset because they benefitted from the very odd strike zone of Gerry Davis on Monday.
The Yankees will play the third game of the four-game home series with the Twins on Wednesday.
The Yankees will send 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.63 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda is coming off eight scoreless innings in his Yankee Stadium debut against the Angels last Friday. Kuroda only gave up five hits, walking two and striking out six. He has never faced the Twins.
The Angels will counter with right-hander Jason Marquis, who will be making his 2012 debut after making two rehab starts at Double-A New Britain. Marquis missed two weeks of spring training after his 7-year-old daughter was seriously injured in a bicycle accident. Marquis is 1-0 with a 2.70 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.