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.
YANKEES 11, BLUE JAYS 4
The 2012 season has mostly been a house of horrors for Russell Martin, but the veteran backstop has caught fire in September – just in time for the Yankees’ stretch run for the American League East title. On Friday, Martin keyed another crucial victory with a big hit at just the right time.
Martin launched a three-run home run off Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor with two out in the sixth inning to turn what was a 3-1 lead into a comfortable 6-1 cushion as New York outscored Toronto to maintain their slim one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the division.
With five games left to play the Yankees lowered their magic number to five to clinch their 13th A.L. East crown over the past 15 seasons.
The home run was the 20th of the season for Martin and it is a career high for him. Martin has also punctuated the month of September with six homers and 16 RBIs after driving in just 36 runs before the month started.
Martin’s blast handed a victory to Hiroki Kuruda (15-11), who held the Blue Jays to just two runs but he struggled over 5 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and two walks while striking out four batters. In winning his 15th game, Kuroda has established a new career high in victories in the majors, surpassing his high of 13 set in 2011 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Yankee’ offense made Kuroda’s night somewhat easier by providing him with some early support against Blue Jays rookie right-hander Brad Jenkins (0-3).
With two out in the first inning Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano each stroked singles and Nick Swisher scored both with a booming double off the wall in center-field.
An inning later, Raul Ibanez opened the inning with a single and Jenkins then issued back-to-back walks to Martin and Eric Chavez. Derek Jeter then killed the bases-loaded, no-out rally by grounding into a double play, but Ibanez scored on the play and the Yankees held a 3-0 lead.
Meanwhile, base-running blunders by the Blue Jays cost them some runs early.
In the first inning, Brett Lawrie doubled to lead of the inning but he was cut down at second base when he strayed to far off the bag on a hard-hit grounder by Colby Rasmus to Swisher at first base. Swisher threw to Jeter to get Lawrie. One out later, a single by J.P. Arencibia likely would have scored Lawrie.
In the second inning, Yunel Escobar led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Kuroda. But he also got caught too far off the bag when Kelly Johnson struck out and Martin nailed Escobar with a throw to Rodriguez. Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose followed with a single and double, respectively. Kuroda then walked Lawrie to load the bases but Kuroda escaped when he struck out Rasmus looking.
The Jays finally did cut the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Rasmus got a measure of revenge against Kuroda by blasting a leadoff home run.
The Yankees, meanwhile, went to work to extend their lead off left-hander Brett Cecil in the sixth.
Cecil hit Cano in the left hand with his first offering of the frame and Swisher followed with a opposite-field single to left.
It then appeared Cecil might wriggle out of the inning when he registered consecutive strikeouts against Curtis Granderson and Ibanez.
However, Blue Jays manager John Farrell opted to bring the right-hander Frasor to face the right-handed-hitting Martin.
Martin battled all the way back from an 0-2 count to 3-2 by laying off some close breaking pitches before he belted a slider about a dozen rows into the left-field bleachers.
The Yankees then added another run in the inning off Frasor when Chavez drew a walk, Jeter singled and Suzuki drove in Chavez with an opposite-field single to left.
The Blue Jays drew a run closer and chased Kuroda in the sixth when Johnson slapped a one-out double down into the right-field corner and Davis advanced him to third with a bloop single to right. David Phelps came on for Kuroda to retire Gose on a fielder’s choice grounder as Johnson scored.
But the Yankees, already aware the Orioles had defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-1, then added single runs in the seventh and eighth before Chavez connected for his 15th home run of the season in the ninth inning off rookie right-hander Bobby Korecky.
The Blue Jays added to their run total when Adam Lind hit a two-run, opposite-field home run off Phelps in the seventh inning but it was much too little and much too late for the Blue Jays and their home crowd of 25,785 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees improved their season record to 91-66, which is one game behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Blue Jays fell to 69-88 and they are tied with Red Sox for last place in the division, 22 games behind the Yankees.
- After the Yankees were shut out on Thursday, it was nice to see Martin come through with a clutch two-out home run that knocked the Blue Jays out of the game. Martin very quietly turned around his game after the All-Star break. At the break he was hitting .179 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs. Since then he is hitting a more respectable .241 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Martin is not signed beyond this season and he would like to at least have a chance to stay with the Yankees. If he finishes strong he just may get that chance.
- Swisher’s two-out, two-run double in the first inning gives him 92 RBIs on the season and puts him within striking distance of bettering his career-high 95 RBIs he set in 2006 in his second full season in the majors with the Oakland Athletics. Swisher also could be a free agent this winter, but the Yankees might be forced to let him go because Cano will become a free agent after the 2013 season and the Yankees want to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal while cutting payroll before the 2014 season.
- Very quietly Chavez is turning in a great season as a role player for the team. He was 1-for-3 with a homer, two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored batting ninth as the team’s designated hitter. Chavez is 4-for-10 with two home runs and three RBIs in his last three starts. He is hitting .283 with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs coming off the bench this season.
- Kuroda won the contest but there has to be some concern about the way he has pitched in September. Kuroda entered the final month with a 12-10 record and an excellent 3.04 ERA. However, Kuroda is 3-1 with a 5.22 ERA in his five starts this month. He has pitched 212 2/3 innings, which is the most he has pitched since he threw 202 innings last season with the Dodgers. There is a question about him possibly wearing down before the postseason begins.
- The Yankees might be considering using Phelps on Tuesday in a start against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium instead of struggling right-hander Ivan Nova. But Phelps was tagged for a two-run homer by Lind and he threw 24 pitches to get through the seventh inning. Phelps has to have sharp command in order to keep his pitch count down. Manager Joe Girardi will have a tough decision to make on Tuesday.
- Jeter is showing signs of slowing down with the bat of late. He was 1-for-6 in the game and is 1-for 13 since his 19-game hitting streak was halted on Wednesday. He possibly could a use a day off to rest his bruised left ankle but with the division title on the line that seems unlikely.
Cano left Rogers Centre with his left hand wrapped in ice and he was headed to a Toronto hospital to have the hand X-rayed. Cano was struck by a pitch from Cecil as he led off the sixth. He remained in the game and came through with an RBI single in the eighth inning. It is unclear if Cano will miss any time due to the injury. . . . Mark Teixeira took six at-bats in the batting cage in Tampa, FL, on Friday and will play five innings in an Instructional League game on Saturday. Teixeira, who is rehabbing from a strained left calf, hopes to be able to return to the Yankees on Monday when the team opens its final series of the season against the Red Sox.
The Yankees will continue their final road series of the season on Saturday against the Blue Jays.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.71 ERA) will make his third start since his return from the disabled list with a fractured left fibula. Pettitte is 2-0 and has been unscored upon in his 11 innings over his first two starts. He also is 13-9 with a 4.70 ERA in the last 10 seasons against the Jays.
Left-hander Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76 ERA) will start for Toronto. Though Romero allowed four runs in his five-plus innings against the Orioles in his last start, he snapped a 13-game losing streak with a victory. He is 3-7 with a 4.76 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 7
Let’s make this perfectly clear. This game on Thursday is not going to go down as a Yankee Classic. With both teams combining for 17 runs on 18 hits, 13 walks, two hit batters, an error, two wild pitches and two passed balls, it likely could be disseminated without the expressed written consent of the either team.
But it was a victory for the Yankees and they will take it.
Ichiro Suzuki continued his hot hitting by driving in three runs and Nick Swisher blasted his third grand slam of the season as part of seven-run fourth inning as New York outslugged Toronto to give themselves a one-game lead in the American League East over the idle second-place Baltimore Orioles.
Phil Hughes (16-12) did not so much win this game as he did not lose it. He gave up four runs on four hits and three walks while he struck out nine batters in five innings to collect his team-leading 16th win of the season.
The Yankees, meanwhile, had to wait out soft-tossing left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-6) to throw a pitch within a neighboring area code of the strike zone before they drove him out of the game in the fourth.
The Blue Jays held a slim 2-1 lead in the fourth when Laffey issued a leadoff walk to Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson reached when second baseman Kelly Johnson treated his routine grounder as if it was a hand grenade.
Laffey then issued another one of the five free passes he handed out on the evening to Casey McGehee to load the bases for Suzuki, who started the night 7-for-8 in the series and had homered in his first at-bat off Laffey to lead off the third inning.
Suzuki brought most of the paid crowd of 40,511 at Yankee Stadium to their feet with a two-run double that gave the Yankees their first lead of the night. Little did they know they would hold the lead for the rest of the night.
Manager John Farrell mercifully ended Laffey’s evening in favor of right-hander Brad Lincoln. However, unlike the vehicles that sport his name, Lincoln was neither original or inspired.
Lincoln walked Jayson Nix to refuel the bases to full and he put it in gear to face Derek Jeter. But Jeter stroked a lined single into right to make it 4-2.
Lincoln then wished he could have put the whole thing in reverse or hit the brakes when Swisher smacked a fat 2-1 fastball into the third row of bleachers in right-center over the auxiliary scoreboard to put a serious dent in the Blue Jays’ night and give the Yankees what they thought might be some breathing room so they could rest up for their weekend series with the Oakland Athletics.
Laffey’s line read five runs given up (four earned) on just two hits but five walks and he struck out three in three-plus innings.
However, in his effort to get five innings in for his victory, Hughes surrendered a two-run home run to to rookie Moise Sierra in the bottom of the fifth.
The Yankees got those two runs back in the bottom of the frame off reliever Brett Cecil on RBI singles by Nix and Jeter to make it 10-4.
After Derek Lowe pitched two shaky but scoreless innings, manager Joe Girardi called upon Cory Wade to pitch the eighth.
Wade spent most of the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because he was unable to get anyone out consistently at the major-league level this season. That should have been a huge red flag for Girardi.
Wade opened the third by giving up a solo home run to Johnson that still might be traveling. A single, a strikeout and a double later and Wade was gone in a New York minute. Joba Chamberlain then allowed a an RBI single to Brett Lawrie and a Mike McCoy drove in another run on a fielder’s choice groundout to make it 10-7 .
Chamberlain then gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion to bring up the tying run in Adam Lind. I bet Girardi loved this part of the game.
Fortunately, Chamberlain got Lind to fly out to medium right and David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to collect his second save of the season.
It’s a good thing, too. Whew!
With the victory, the Yankees have now officially righted themselves and have won seven of their last eight games. Their season record improved to 86-63 and they have but 13 contests left to play. The Blue Jays are pretty much sucking on the tailpipe of their own Lincoln after having been swept in the series and they are now 66-82.
- All Suzuki did in the three-game series was go 9-for-12 (.750) with a home run, three doubles, four stolen bases, four runs scored and four RBIs. About the only thing he did not do was deliver margaritas in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Girardi has chosen to keep Suzuki in the lineup against left-handers because Andruw Jones seemingly has not gotten a big hit since Memorial Day.
- Swisher struck out three times and walked in the game. However, his grand slam was the biggest hit of the game and it was a game the Yankees needed to win badly. Swisher hit a franchise record-tying 10th grand slam of the season and it was his third. It also was the seventh grand slam of his career. Swisher now has 21 home runs and 83 RBIs on the season. He has hit at least 20 home runs and driven 80 runs in all four of his seasons with the Yankees.
- Hughes tied a franchise record when he struck out four batters in the fourth inning. Hughes struck out in order J.P. Arencibia, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Lawrie, however, Hechavarria reached first on one of the two passed balls charged to Russell Martin on the evening. A.J. Burnett also did it for the Yankees on June 24, 2011 against the Colorado Rockies.
- The Yankees scored 10 runs but Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with a walk. That snapped his modest four-game hitting streak and pushed him under the .300 mark this season. Cano is having an unusually quiet September, hitting just .279 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
- Wade had pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances since his Sept. 1 recall but he was tagged hard by the Blue Jays. Wade is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA on the season after he was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA for the Yankees last season. It is not likely Wade will make the postseason roster and his days with the team appear numbered.
- Martin’s two passed balls give him seven on the season, which is the most he has been charged with in any of his major-league seasons. The Yankees still rave about his defense but it is hard to imagine the Yankees will re-sign him after he thoroughly flopped at the plate this season.
Mark Teixeira took swings in a batting cage at Yankee Stadium before the game on Thursday and he will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday in order to rehab his left calf strain in some Instructional League games. Teixeira is targeting a Sept 27 return date so he can get in some game action before the playoffs. . . . The Yankees elected not to activate Brett Gardner on Thursday although the move is imminent in the next few days.
The Yankees open a three-game weekend series against the A’s beginning on Friday and they have some payback in mind after they were swept in Oakland.
The Yankees send to the mound left-hander CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.63 ERA). Sabathia has allowed nine earned runs in his last two starts covering 13 innings. Though the Yankees say he is fine, Sabathia has not pitched well since his return from the disabled list with left elbow soreness. He is 8-8 with a 4.80 ERA lifetime against the A’s.
Oakland will start right-hander Jarrod Parker (11-8, 3.51 ERA). Parker allowed two runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings in a victory over the Orioles on Saturday. He is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his one career start 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 MY9.