YANKEES 3, TWINS 2
It came in his 401st career start and it came in his second attempt at it, but CC Sabathia was able to join a very elite club of major-league pitchers on Wednesday.
Red-hot Robinson Cano keyed the offense with a huge two-run double in the sixth inning and Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven strong innings to earn his 200th major-league victory as he and New York continued their unbelievable dominance over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,457 at Target Field.
Sabathia (9-6) became the 27th pitcher in major-league baseball history to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday and only the eighth pitcher to do so after 1961.
The veteran left-hander held the Twins to only two runs on seven hits and three walks to run his record against the Twins to 11-0 in his last 12 starts – which includes the playoffs – dating back to Aug. 3, 2007.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have now won three straight against the Twins after they had dropped their previous five games.
Cano entered the evening 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs, three of those home runs coming against the Twins. He struck again against rookie right-hander P.J. Walters after Walters had shut out the Yankees on only one hit and two walks in the first five innings.
With the Twins ahead 2-0, Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki followed by slashing a line drive that struck the wall down the right-field line just inside the foul line for a double.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire elected to have Walters pitch to Cano with a base open and Cano made both Gardenhire and Walters pay for it when he lashed a two-run double to right-center.
Travis Hafner chased Walters (2-5) when he slapped an opposite field single to left to advance Cano to third.
One out later, Lyle Overbay plated Cano with the go-ahead by lining a sacrifice fly to center-field off left-hander Caleb Thielbar.
Walters was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead off Sabathia in the third inning when Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk and Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double to the wall in left-center.
The Twins, however, missed a golden opportunity to add to their 1-0 lead in the inning when newly signed Yankee shortstop Luis Cruz airmailed a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Doumit over Overbay’s head for an error that advanced Mauer to third with no outs.
Sabathia then struck out Justin Morneau swinging, retired Trevor Plouffe on a fly ball to shallow right and fanned Oswaldo Arcia swinging to end the threat.
The Twins did add a run with two out in the fifth inning when Plouffe connected off Sabathia for his eighth homer of the season to straightaway center.
But for the third consecutive evening the Yankees were able to come from behind to take the lead and hold it against the Twins.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Mariano Rivera shut out the Twins in the ninth for his 28th save in 29 chances this season. It was the 636th career save for the 41-year-old right-hander and 35 of them have come against the Twins.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 45-39 and they remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. But they edged a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the division. The Twins, who have now lost four in a row, are 36-45.
- It was nice to see Sabathia get his 200th victory after he threw five no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday only to end up losing the game 4-3. Despite the nine strikeouts, Sabathia did have some command issues that raised his pitch count in the early innings. He ended up throwing a season-high 121 pitches.
- Cano finished the evening 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs. In his past six games, Cano is 14-for-24 (.584) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. It is odd that the Twins elected to pitch to him with first base open and no outs in the sixth, but Cano is beginning to deliver the big hit. In fact, when he lined out to center in the eighth it took a diving catch by Aaron Hicks to get him out.
- Rivera is continuing his farewell tour of American League cities and he is absolutely rolling in his final season. Rivera is 1-1 with 28 saves with an amazing 1.44 ERA. At 43 years of age Rivera is a lock to be invited to his 13th All-Star Game. The odd thing is they would not be inviting him out of sentiment. Rivera honestly is STILL among the elite closers in baseball. Amazing!
- The Yankee offense was poor on Wednesday. They made the soft-tossing rookie Walters look like Greg Maddux for the first five innings. The No. 5 through No. 9 spots in the order were a combined 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. It was just lucky they strung together three of their four hits in the sixth inning to take the lead.
- Cruz, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Dodgers, was signed as a free agent earlier in the day and ended up starting at shortstop for the Yankees. He was 0-for-3 and committed a throwing error that could have been costly if Sabathia had not pitched his way out of the jam. But Cruz did drive a ball to deep left in the fifth that Arcia grabbed at the wall to rob him of at least a double.
- Chris Stewart ‘s problems at the plate continue. He was 0-for-4 and now has not gotten a hit in his past 14 at-bats. His season average continues to plummet. His 0-for-4 evening dropped his average to .238. It looks as if the career .223 hitter is falling back to his norm.
The Yankees signed Cruz because they placed infielder Jayson Nix on the 15-day disabled list as of July 2 with a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Nix sustained the injury running out a double in Monday’s game against the Twins. Crus, 29, was released by the Dodgers after hitting .127 in 45 games. He was designated for assignment on June 28 and opted to become a free agent rather than accept an offer to play for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Cruz, a right-hand hitter, can play both shortstop and third base. Cruz becomes the fifth player to play shortstop for the Yankees this season in place of Derek Jeter. Eduardo Nunez, Nix, Reid Brignac and Alberto Gonzalez have also played the position this season.
The Yankees can actually sweep the Twins in the four-game series with a victory on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Phelps was treated like a piñata by the Orioles on Sunday. He gave up a career-high nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Twins.
The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00 ERA). Gibson gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings in his major-league debut on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. Gibson will get his first look at the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 1, RAYS 0
It was a classic pitcher’s duel harkening back to the days of Sandy Koufax vs. Juan Marichal or Tom Seaver vs. Nolan Ryan or Jack Morris vs. Greg Maddux.
But the contest all turned on two very sloppy throwing errors.
CC Sabathia of the Yankees and James Shields of the Rays pitched 17 innings in which neither pitcher allowed an earned run. But the boys from The Bronx defeated Tampa Bay on Sunday with the help of an errant pickoff throw by Shields to nab Robinson Cano at third base.
Sabathia (13-4) pitched a complete game shutout to extend his scoreless streak to 24 2/3 innings and won his 10th game in his last 11 starts and his sixth in a row. He also became the major leagues’ first 13-game winner. He gave up only four hits and a walk while fanning nine batters to outduel Shields (8-7), who was also the victim of some overanxious base-running by his teammates and two very costly errors in the seventh inning.
Cano opened the seventh with a single just under the glove of diving second baseman Ben Zobrist. Jorge Posada followed with a routine fly ball to center-fielder B.J. Upton.
But after retiring Posada, Upton — attempting to catch Cano napping between first and second — fired a throw to first base and ended up airmailing it into the Yankee dugout for a two-base throwing error. Russell Martin followed with a hard hit groundout that kept Cano at third.
Then Shields, who has 10 pickoffs this season, became a little greedy. Rather than concentrating on retiring Brett Gardner, Shields set up a trick play to pick off Cano at third base with Sean Rodriguez. As Cano took a secondary lead off third, Shields whipped a throw towards Rodriguez. But the throw sailed high and behind Rodriguez and Cano, who would have been a dead duck with a proper throw, trotted home with the game’s only run.
Shields pitched 8 innings and gave up four hits and a walk, striking out five.
But Sabathia was better while the Rays were playing it too fast and loose on the basepaths all afternoon. Of the four hits the Rays collected off Sabathia, three of the runners were retired running the bases.
In the second inning, Rodriguez hit a leadoff double but was gunned down by Martin trying to steal third base. In the fourth inning, Upton reached first on an infield single with one out. But he was caught stealing by Sabathia when Upton broke for second too soon. Upton also reached on an infield single in the seventh. But he misjudged a line drive to right off the bat of Rodriguez and he ended up being doubled off first on a throw from Andruw Jones.
The Rays might have hoped to get to Sabathia by being lucky rather than good. But instead they ended up cursed and frankly a little stupid in running themselves into outs.
With the victory, the Yankees improved the record at the All-Star break to 53-35 and they remain a game in back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Rays fell to 49-41 and they are in third place in the division, six games behind the Red Sox.
- Sabathia was so dominant he pitched to more than three batters in an inning in only the first two innings. His nine strikeouts give him a total of 42 in his last 31 2/3 innings. He has only given up one run in his last 39 2/3 innings, dating back to a start June 19 against the Cubs. That run came on a Ty Wigginton solo home run in the sixth inning for the Rockies in an 8-3 Yankee victory at home on June 25. Sabathia also has lowered his season ERA to 2.72.
- The Yankees’ four hits were collected by Cano, Gardner, Derek Jeter and Eduardo Nunez. Mark Teixeira drew a two-out walk in the first and that was the only offense for the Yankees all afternoon against Shields. A day after his historic 3,000th hit, Jeter’s single in the third inning, a bunt hit, extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 10-for-23 (.435) in those five games.
- The Yankees played “little ball” to near perfection in the third inning. Nunez opened the frame with an infield single. Jeter followed a bunt single down the third-base line. Curtis Granderson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Nunez and Jeter up a base. But Teixeira’s potential sacrifice fly to score Nunez was turned into an inning-ending double play on a perfect throw home to nail Nunez by the center-fielder Upton, the same player who committed an error and two base-running gaffes in the game.
You can’t criticize a game in which you get a complete-game shutout from your ace, you make no real mental or physical errors in the game and the other team ends up handing you the game by making stupid mistakes all day.
The game was played at a rapid pace of two hours and 11 minutes, the second shortest game the Yankees have played at home this season. . . . Sabathia was pitching in the third inning when he was named to his fifth All-Star berth to replace Shields. However, because Sabathia pitched on Sunday, he is ineligible to pitch in the game. However, Sabathia will collect on an incentive bonus from the Yankees written into his contract. . . . Reliever David Robertson was also named to the All-Star team on Sunday, replacing Rays left-hander David Price, who pulled out of the game due to a minor foot injury. Robertson becomes one of eight Yankees named to the team but only Cano, Martin, Granderson and Robertson will actually be going to Phoenix, AZ. Alex Rodriguez, Jeter and Mariano Rivera were forced to pull out due to recent injuries. . . . Rodriguez has opted to have surgery on Monday to repair a small meniscus tear in his right knee and he is expected to miss four to six weeks. Dr. Lee Kaplan will perform the surgery in Miami on Monday. Rodriguez injured the knee on June 19 in a game in Chicago’s Wrigley Field and he has not hit a home run in a game since June 9. Nunez likely will be the primary replacement for Rodriguez at third base.
The Yankees have reached the All-Star break. They will count their blessings and heal their wounds in order to resume their chase to their 28th world championship in Toronto on Thursday.
The Yankees have named 38-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon (6-4, 3.20 ERA) to start that game. Colon was not Colon for the first time all season in his July 7 start against the Rays. Colon was nicked for five runs on 10 hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. He is 8-3 with a 3.41 ERA in the last 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.
Toronto will start a virtual unknown pitcher named To Be Announced (0-0, 0.00 ERA). The Yankees have not faced To Be Announced in a game before but they are hoping to study up over the break on this mysterious pitcher they will face at Rogers Centre.