RED SOX 10, YANKEES 6
The Yankees lost an exhibition game on Wednesday but it is meaningless compared to what it lost with respect to the start of the 2015 season.
Veteran left-hander Chris Capuano was covering first base with one out in the first inning to complete a groundout by Brock Holt to first baseman Garrett Jones when he suddenly pulled up in pain in his right leg. He then threw the ball to the ground in frustration and had to be helped off the field by guest trainer Gene Monahan.
An MRI taken later confirmed what was obvious: Capuano suffered a Grade 2 strain in his right quadriceps and he will begin the season on the disabled list.
The Yankees used a total of 13 starting pitchers in 2014 and manager Joe Girardi, knowing he had starters such as Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and CC Sabathia coming off injuries, has been using a number of additional starters this spring.
Those pitchers include right-handers Adam Warren, Emil Rogers, Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell and Scott Baker. Now Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild will have to select one of those pitchers to fill in for Capuano, who was likely to be named the No. 5 starter.
“I’d be surprised if he’s not down for a while,” Girardi told reporters.
Capuano, 36, was acquired at midseason from the Colorado Rockies and he recorded a 2-3 mark with a 4.25 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees. The Yankees liked Capuano in the rotation because he gave the team a second left-handed starter in addition to Sabathia.
With the defeat the Yankees’ spring ledger is now 5-4.
To say this was not a good day for the team is putting it mildly.
Sometimes when opportunity knocks you not only have to answer: You have to grab the opportunity and close the door behind you.
There could not be a better time for that knock after the Capuano injury for the 29-year-old right-hander Rogers, who has failed before in his trials as a starter with the Rockies and the Toronto Blue Jays despite having a great arm and immense talent.
Rogers has made 43 starts in his career and he has an overall record as both a starter and reliever of 18-21 with a hideous 5.54 ERA. The Blue Jays designated him for assignment last May after he posted a no record and a 6.97 ERA in 16 relief appearances.
The Yankees picked him up in August and he was 2-0 with a 5.72 ERA in 34 games (one as a spot starter). But that did not tell the whole story.
The minute Rogers arrived Rothschild took him to the bullpen to work on some things to make him better. They did a little tinkering here and a little there. They picked it up again when Rogers arrived in camp.
Strangely enough, Rogers has been very impressive in his three outings this spring. He has 0-0 record and 0.00 ERA with three strikeouts in three innings. It is early, true, but Girardi is seeing the big picture and he likes what he sees.
“Larry worked with him long and hard last year during some bullpen sessions about changing a few things,” Girardi told reporters. “I thought he pitched pretty well for us. He’s started in his career and he’s got a number of pitches he can go to. He’s been really good this spring. He’ll be one of the guys we’re really looking at.”
So even in the dark cloud of Capuano’s injury there may be just a sliver of a silver lining.
- The bright spot for the Yankees had to be Alex Rodriguez. After facing a lot of harassment from the Red Sox fans at George M. Steinbrenner Field, Rodriguez launched his first home run of the spring to lead off the fourth inning against right-hander Brandon Workman. There is nothing better for a player who is being abused than to shut those fans up with a good long blast. A-Rod is now 5-for-11 (.455) with home run and two RBIs.
- We have been singing the praises of infielder Jose Pirela and with good reason. The 25-year-old Venezuelan was 2-for-2 in the game is now 8-for-24 (.333) in Grapefruit League play. Fellow second base prospect Rob Refsnyder is 5-for-12 (.455) while the veteran slated to start at second, Stephen Drew, is batting .091. Hmmm!
- Injuries have wrecked the career of former first-round draft pick Slade Heathcott. After the team had cut Heathcott loose over the winter they decided to offer him a non-roster invite this spring. Heathcott, 24, is taking advantage of what may be his last chance with the team. He slugged a two-run home run in the ninth against the Red Sox and is 5-for-8 (.625) with a home run and three RBIs.
- Mitchell, 23, was forced into the game in the fourth inning due to Capuano’s early exit. He was tagged for four runs on seven hits and a walk while he struck out two in two innings. He is a much better pitcher than he showed against the Red Sox. He was 6-7 with a 4.37 ERA in 23 games (21 starts) at Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell even made his major-league debut with the Yankees last season and was 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in three games (one start).
- Relievers Tyler Webb and Chris Martin did not fare much better as they allowed the Red Sox to tack on five runs between the seventh and eighth innings. Webb gave up two runs on three hits and Martin yielded three runs (two earned) on three hits. It was the first runs of the spring scored off the 24-year-old lefty Webb and the 28-year-old righty Martin. The timing could not have been worse, though.
The Yankees will play host to the Atlanta Braves on Thursday in Tampa, FL.
It will be the spring training debut for right-hander Tanaka, who is recovering from a partial tear in his ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. Tanaka was 13-5 with a 2.77 ERA in 20 starts last season. He is expected to pitch just two innings.
The Braves will counter with right-hander Shelby Miller, who was 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA with the St. Louis Cardinals last season. The Braves acquired him in trade for outfielder Jason Heyward.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally on the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, BRAVES 4
TAMPA – There was a buzz amongst the 10,527 in attendance at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday before Masahiro Tanaka even threw a pitch. Such is the anticipation for what the 2014 season holds for the 25-year-old Japanese right-hander.
He did not disappoint.
Facing a large portion of the Braves’ everyday lineup, Tanaka allowed one run on three hits and two walks while he fanned six in 4 1/3 innings in his his second start of the spring.
His mound opponent, Julio Teheran, was every bit as impressive, giving up a run on five hits and a walk while striking out five in four innings of work.
But the game actually turned on a key hit from former Braves catcher Brian McCann, who delivered a two-run double with one out in the fifth inning as part of a six-run rally that turned a 2-1 deficit into a 7-2 lead.
The Braves had just broken a 1-1 tie in the top of the fifth against Yankees left-hander Matt Thornton on an RBI single by B.J. Upton that scored Jason Heyward.
The Yankees started the pivotal fifth when Ichiro Suzuki and Eduardo Nunez drew back-to-back walks off left-hander Atahualpa Severino. One out later, McCann laced his game-winning double down the right-field line that scored Suzuki and Nunez.
The Yankees added runs on a wild pitch, an RBI single by Ramon Flores, a sacrifice fly by Mason Williams and an error by shortstop Andrelton Simmons as the Yankees brought 10 men to the plate in the frame.
Thornton (1-0) got credit for the victory despite having a shaky outing. Severino (1-2) took the loss, giving up five runs on three hits and two walks in a third of an inning.
The Yankees evened their spring training record to 9-9-2. The Braves fell to 7-12.
- The Braves hitters were raving about Tanaka’s devastating split-finger fastball after the game. “That split-finger he’s got, it’s a good pitch. It’s a swing-and-miss pitch,” Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman told reporters. It looks as if the Yankees’ $155 million commitment to Tanaka was a very wise move. Tanaka looks to be something very special.
- McCann is a Georgia native who spent nine seasons playing for the Braves. So it was an emotional day for him to visit with his former teammates. But his two-run double made the day complete. McCann originally was supposed to head to Panama this weekend for the Legends Series. But he was held back to work some more with Tanaka and Hiroki Kuroda.
- Suzuki and Nunez did some serious table setting in this game. They combined to go 4-for-6 with a double, three singles, two walks, two runs scored and an RBI. Neither player will start this season but they could make a huge impact off the bench if they hit like they did on Sunday.
- I have not been impressed with the pitching of Thornton so far this spring. His ERA is a staggering 11.57 and lefties are hitting .750 off him. Ouch! If the Yankees had acquired Thornton in 2010 it would have been great. But he is 37 years old and his ERA in the past three seasons has ballooned from 3.32 in 2011 to 3. 46 in 2012 to 3.74 in 2013. That is not a good sign. This team will miss Boone Logan.
- Catcher Pete O’Brien should receive an endorsement deal from Carrier air conditioners. This spring he is 0-for-15 with nine strikeouts. He was 0-for-2 with a walk on Sunday and struck out twice. O’Brien, 23, played baseball at the University of Miami and was the team’s pick in the second round of the First-Year Player Draft in 2012. O’Brien hit .291 with 22 homers and 96 RBIs at two stops at Single A in 2013. He also struck out 134 times.
Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was scratched from Sunday’s lineup due to tightness in his right calf. Ellsbury also will be held out of Monday’s game. The Yankees called the decision “precautionary.” Ellsbury, 30, said it was nothing serious but he did feel his calf tighten up on Saturday during a workout. . . . The Yankees optioned left-hander Manny Banuelos to Class-A Tampa on Sunday. General manager Brian Cashman said Banuelos, 23, will remain a starter. Banuelos was once considered the team’s No. 1 pitching prospect but he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2012 and he missed the 2013 season. Banuelos hopes to get on track enough to earn his way to the major leagues this season. . . . There is still buzz that the Yankees are receiving offers for backup catcher Francisco Cervelli, who is out of options and is hitting .409 with three homers this spring. Cashman declined to comment. . . . Backup infielder Brendan Ryan (back stiffness) is beginning to hit off a tee and is getting closer to returning to action in a few days.
The Yankees will take to the road to Bradenton, FL, to play the Pittsburgh Pirates at McKechnie Field on Monday.
Kuroda, coming off an outing in which he was tagged for six runs 10 hits last Wednesday, will try to get back on track for the Yankees.
The Pirates will start right-hander Stolmy Pimentel.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on tape delay at 11 p.m. by the MLB Network.
ORIOLES 2, YANKEES (SS) 1
Jonathan Schoop scored pinch-runner Jemile Weeks on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie as Baltimore edged a New York split squad on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Non-roster outfielder Delmon Young opened the seventh with a double of right-hander Mark Montgomery (0-1). Weeks pinch-ran for Young and stole third to set up Schoop’s scoring fly ball.
Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his first major-league appearance to get credit for the victory. Evan Meek pitched the ninth inning to earn his second save of the spring.
With most of the Yankees’ best players either in Panama participating in the two-game Legends Series or resting at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, the Yankees – who brought 13 players who were not on their 40-man roster or who were not invited to spring training – scored their lone run of the game on a leadoff homer in the sixth inning by Francisco Arcia off Orioles starter Chris Tillman.
Tillman had held the Yankees scoreless on two hits and two walks and struck out five in five innings before Arcia’s blast chased him from the game.
The Yankees, meanwhile, got four strong innings of shutout baseball from 26-year-old left-hander Vidal Nuno. Nuno yielded only a hit and a walk while he fanned three batters against an Orioles lineup that included starters Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Orioles tied the score with two out in the sixth when Davis launched his third home run of the spring off right-hander Danny Burawa.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record slipped to 8-8-2. The Orioles improved their record to 10-5.
- Nuno made a strong case for the fifth spot in the rotation with his effort on Saturday. Nuno threw 38 of his 59 pitches for strikes and only reached three-ball counts on three hitters. Nuno spotted his fastball well and mixed in his off-speed pitches more to keep the Orioles off-balance. Though Michael Pineda is expected to get the No. 5 spot, Nuno showed he deserves some consideration. His spring ERA is now down to 1.50.
- Brian Roberts was one of the few starters to make the trip and he had a great day against his former teammates. Roberts was 2-for-3 and he also contributed a fine defensive play in the sixth inning to rob Cruz of a single. Roberts, 36, may not be Robinson Cano but he is a fine second baseman as long as he can stay healthy.
- Ramon Flores was 2-for-3 on Saturday, including a double and single. Flores, 21, is hitting only .217 this spring but, after a season where he hit .260 with six homers and 55 RBIs in 136 games at Double-A Trenton, he will have a chance to develop this season at Triple A.
- It may be time for Ichiro Suzuki to admit that his days in baseball are waning. He was 0-for-3 on Saturday and he is 3-for-24 (.125) this spring with only three singles and two RBIs. He has not really stung the ball much this spring either. Though the Yankees might be open to trade Suzuki, it is hard to see if there would be any suitors for his services. Suzuki is in the final year of two-year contract with the Yankees and he is slated to be the fifth outfielder this season.
- After getting off to a quick start with the bat this spring, Austin Romine has been slumping of late. Romine, 25, batted cleanup and was 0-for-2 with a walk on Saturday. He is 5-for-25 (.200) with no RBIs in 11 games. Though Romine is a superior defensive catcher, his weak bat makes it almost certain that Francisco Cervelli will win the backup catching job. Romine likely will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- Burawa learned a valuable pitching lesson on Saturday. With two out in the sixth, Davis came up the plate for his last at-bat with his team trailing 1-0. Obviously Davis was thinking about hitting a home run to tie it. Burawa, 25, opted to pitch aggressively to Davis instead of making him hit pitches out of the strike zone. His 1-1 fastball was thigh high and Davis drove it deep to left-center and over the wall. If he had walked Davis, Burawa would then have pitched to Steve Pearce, a journeyman who had four homers last season. Davis hit 53. Duh!
The Yankees split squad returns to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Atlanta Braves.
Free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Catcher Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira are also scheduled to play in the game.
McCann’s former team will start right-hander Julio Teheran. Brothers Justin and B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are scheduled to make the trip for the Braves.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network and MLB Radio through WFAN (660-AM/99.1-FM).
BRAVES 4, YANKEES (SS) 0
Paul Maholm held the Yankees to just two hits in six scoreless innings and Juan Francisco homered and drove in two runs as Atlanta blanked a New York split squad on Saturday at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Maholm (3-1) walked one and struck out four batters to extend his spring scoreless-inning streak to 14 2/3 innings. David Phelps (2-2) was tagged for four runs on seven hits and one walk while he struck out seven in five innings to take the loss.
Eduardo Nunez, Matt Diaz and Dan Johnson were the only Yankees to reach via a hit, all of them were singles.
The loss drops the Yankees’ Grapefruit League record to 8-14. The Braves are now 12-11.
- Absolutely nothing was positive in this debacle.
- When you lose a lot of your offense to free agency and injury it is inevitable that when you split your squad it is going to be bad day. In this case the Yankees played two games on Saturday and lost them both by a combined score of 11-0 and the offense in both games managed just 10 hits.
- Phelps had his first hiccup of the spring after some excellent outings up to this point. The 26-year-old right-hander was undone by a three-run fifth inning when Justin Upton singled in Jason Heyward and Francisco followed with a mammoth shot that hit off the scoreboard in centerfield.
- In addition to the fact that the Yankees have added veteran outfielders Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch, Melky Mesa has fallen into a funk at the plate that may cost him the roster spot he was seeking this spring. Mesa went 0-for-3 on Saturday and now is hitting just .175 . Mesa is excellent defensive outfielder but the Yankees may want him to try to make better contact at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
Reliever Boone Logan threw a bullpen session at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, FL, and he hopes that his next assignment will be pitching in an exhibition game. Logan, 28, has been sidelined for a few weeks with tenderness in his left elbow.
The Yankees will travel to Brandenton, FL, on Sunday for a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ivan Nova, who is competing with Phelps for the No. 5 starting rotation spot, will pitch for the Yankees. The Pirates will counter with right-hander Phil Irwin.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 2
When you think of perfect 10’s you might immediately conjure up images of Angelina Joile, Jessica Alba or Kate Beckinsale. Though they might not be in the same league as those women in terms of looks, the New York Yankees are now a perfect 10 themselves.
CC Sabathia pitched his first complete game in 11 months and Derek Jeter drove in three runs, including a clutch two-out, two-run single that a broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning, as New York overcame being no-hit for the first four innings on Monday to defeat Atlanta for their 10th straight victory.
Sabathia (9-3) gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk and he fanned 10 batters to join teammate Ivan Nova as the first two pitchers in the American League to win nine games.
Sabathia, however, got off to a rough start when Michael Bourn cranked his second offering into the gap and to the wall in left-center for a triple. Martin Prado pushed him across the plate on a groundout.
Four innings later, Bourn burned Sabathia for a second time.
Jason Heyward led off the fifth with a single up the middle and Andrelton Simmons reached on an infield single when his comebacker ticked off Sabathia’s glove. One out later, Bourn slapped a single up the middle to score Heyward and the Braves held a 2-0 lead with Mike Minor throwing a no-hitter through four innings.
But the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be very unkind to the 24-year-old left-hander, who shut down the Yankees on one run and four hits through 7 1/3 innings last Tuesday in Atlanta only to have the Yankees rally for six runs in the eighth inning and win the game, 6-4.
Alex Rodriguez started the inning with the Yankees first hit of the game, a solid lined single to center. Minor then walked Robinson Cano and, after one out, Russell Martin smacked a ground-rule double down the left-field line to score Rodriguez and halve the Braves’ lead to 2-1.
Jayson Nix drew a walk to load the bases and with two out Jeter smacked a single up the middle to score Cano and Martin and the Yankees grabbed their first lead of the night. A majority of the 42,709 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium finally had a chance to get to their feet and cheer.
Sabathia was not about to give up the lead either.
In the final four innings, the Braves managed only a two-out single by David Ross in the seventh inning. Sabathia retired the other 12 batters he faced – six on strikeouts, five on groundouts and one on a flyout – to nail it down down for the Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Yankees tacked on single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Mark Teixeira blasted his 12th home run of the season off Minor to lead off the sixth. It was the 100th home run of the season for the Yankees, which leads the majors.
An inning later, Jeter followed a two-out double by Chris Stewart with an RBI single to make it 5-2 and Cano capped the scoring with his 13th home run of the season with one out in the eighth.
Minor (3-5) gave up four runs on four hits and three walks and he struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings.
Sabathia’s complete game was his first since an eight-inning loss to Tampa Bay on July 21, 2011. He has pitched at least seven innings in 11 of his 14 starts this season.
The Yankees’ 10-game winning streak is their longest such streak since May 2005. The Yankee starting rotation has an ERA of 2.09 during the streak and they have recorded eight of the victories.
The Yankee have improved their A.L.-best record to 41-25 and they extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to 2 1/2 games in the A.L. East. The Braves, who have now lost all four interleague contest they have played against the Yankees, are now 35-32.
- In the month of June, Sabathia actually entered the game as the starter with the worst ERA at 3.80, though he was 2-1. But after a shaky start, Sabathia settled in the minute the Yankees took the lead and was in command the rest of the way. Sabathia lowered his season ERA to 3.55 and he is on pace for another run at a 20-win season.
- Jeter two RBI hits both came with two outs and with runners in scoring position. There have not been many of those from the Yankees this season. Jeter extended his hitting streak to nine games and he is 14-for-41 (.341) over that stretch. He raised his season average to a team-best .317. Jeter also made a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Bourn to end the seventh inning.
- When Martin stepped to the plate in the fifth inning he was one for his last 19 at-bats, including a strikeout in this first at-bat. But he doubled and later singled to push his batting average back over the Mendoza Line to .206 for the season.
What negatives? Despite the fact it took them five innings to get a hit, the Yankees dug down deep again and pulled another game out. Sabathia looked sensational after the Yankees got the lead and not many teams can say they have won 10 in a row. This one can.
The Yankees will go for No. 11 on Tuesday against these same Braves.
Red-hot right-hander Hiroki Kuroda ( 6-6, 3.43 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda limited the Braves to two runs on nine hits and he fanned a season-high eight last Wednesday for his third straight victory. Kuroda is 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in his career against the Braves.
Kuroda will square off with Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.90 ERA) again. Hudson gave up three runs – two coming on a Curtis Granderson two-run homer in the sixth – in six innings and took the loss against the Yankees. He is 1-4 with a 3.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on regional basis by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
“You got me stranded baby.. stranded
stranded, stranded.. I’m so stranded”
– Lyrics from “Stranded” by Mario
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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 4
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took out starter Mike Minor with one out in the eighth inning nursing a 4-0 lead after Derek Jeter singled and Minor had reached 100 pitches. In what looked to be a minor move at the time turned into a major catastrophe for the Braves.
Lefty reliever Jonny Venters faced the next four batters and he could not retire a single one.
Alex Rodriguez made him pay with an historic grand slam home run and, two batters later, Nick Swisher smashed a game-winning two-run shot of his own as New York got up off the mat and laid the heavy lumber to the Atlanta bullpen on Tuesday for a dramatic 6-4 comeback victory at Turner Field.
The miracle comeback was the Yankees’ fifth victory in a row and their 10th in their last 12 games, propelling the team into first place in the American League East with a 36-25 mark – the best record in the AL.
Rodriguez’s grand slam was the 23rd of his career and it ties him with former Yankee legend Lou Gehrig for first place on the all-time list.
Venters set the stage for Rodriguez and Swisher by giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, which advanced Jeter to second. Venters then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Venters threw a called strike and Rodriguez fouled off two more pitches before he connected with the low fastball and drove it out on a line about two rows into the left-field bleachers with a frozen rope you could hung all the Yankees’ laundry on for Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season and the 639th of his career.
A stunned Turner Field crowd of 41,452 was now staring at a scoreboard that read Yankees 4, Braves 4.
Venters then allowed Cano to fist a single into center and he was serenaded with a cascade of boos as he was replaced by right-hander Cory Gearrin.
Swisher greeted Gearrin by smacking a 1-0 change-up into the bleachers in right-center for his 10th home run of the season and the Yankees had their first lead of the game. Previously, the Braves had been 27-0 this season when leading after seven innings.
In Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium he said, “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” After this comeback victory, CC Sabathia should say the same thing.
Sabathia (8-3) got credit for a victory he frankly did not deserve.
Sabathia was rocked for three runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Matt Diaz. The Braves loaded the bases on him again in the seventh and pushed another run across on an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward.
In seven innings of work, Sabathia fought to command his fastball and gave up four runs on 10 hits and and two walks and he struck six batters.
Minor, meanwhile, shut out the Yankees on five hits and one walk and he struck out four in 7 1/3 innings. Many Braves fans are wondering now if Gonzalez perhaps may have taken him out just a bit too soon.
Once the Yankees took the lead, manager Joe Girardi chose to use lefty Clay Rapada for the eighth and he pitched a scoreless frame. Then Rafael Soriano, who blew his last save opportunity on Sunday against the Mets and who also was nursing a blister on right index finger, came in to pitch the ninth.
He set Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla down in order, striking out McCann and Uggla swinging, to earn his 10th save in 11 tries.
The Yankees have clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games and they are now 8-2 at Turner Field.
- Rodriguez’s historic grand slam was also a meaningful blast for the Yankees. The home run erased Minor’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and set the stage for the come-from-behind victory. It was Rodriguez’s first multiple-RBI game since June 1 and his first home run since June 3 and both of those events came in the same series against the Tigers in Detroit.
- Swisher’s blast off Gearrin was only his second home run of the month. Swisher also became the sixth Yankee to hit at least 10 home runs this season. Russell Martin has nine. His two RBIs give him 39 on the season, which still is the most on the team.
- Give Rapada and Soriano credit for shutting down the Braves in the final two innings. The bullpen was short because Boone Logan and Cory Wade were not really available and only Freddy Garcia and David Phelps could pitch for any length of time. But the pair shut out the Braves over the last two innings with no hits, one walk and they struck out three.
- The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and that one hit was Rodriguez’s grand slam. There is reason why they are last in the American League with RISP. But they are not really paying much of a price now because they use the home run to cover that weakness. But if they don’t improve soon it will bite them.
- Sabathia has really been shaky his last two starts. He has given up nine runs (seven earned) on 17 hits and three walks and struck out 18 in 14 innings. Sabathia’s problem has falling behind and hitters are teeing off on him when he has to throw a strike. Still, he is 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
- Here is the reason why Gonzalez may have made a big mistake in taking out Minor when he did. Up to that point, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano were a combined 0-for-8 against him. Teixeira drew a first-inning walk and that was pretty much it for the heart of the lineup until the eighth.
Closer Mariano Rivera had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but there was no repairable damage to his meniscus. That was cited as great news by the Yankees. Rivera suffered the injury on May 3 in Kansas City, however, he had to postpone the surgery until a blot clot in his right calf was dissolved by medication. The surgery was performed in New York by the Mets’ team physician, Dr. David Altchek. Rivera will miss the rest of the season but he said he will pitch for the Yankees in 2013. . . . All-Star setup man David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. He will rejoin the Yankees in Atlanta on Wednesday but he will not be activated until the Yankees open a weekend series on Friday with the Nationals in Washington. Robertson has missed just about one month with a left oblique strain.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep their second consecutive three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.46) will start for the Yankees. He is coming off a one-hit, seven-inning gem against the Mets although he had to leave with a bruised left foot. Kuroda is 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA against the Braves.
Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83) will oppose Kuroda. He shut out the Marlins last Tuesday but required three extra days to rest a sore left ankle. He is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, BRAVES 0
In the Mad Max film “The Road Warrior,” Mel Gibson (Max) protects a band of survivors in post-apocalyptic Australia. If they did a current version, they would need to cast Ivan Nova as Max because his pitching on the road has protected a Yankee roster ravaged by injuries.
Nova twirled seven shutout innings en route to 11th career road victory with no defeats in 14 starts as New York stormed into Turner Field and blanked Atlanta for their ninth victory in their last 11 games.
Nova (8-2) gave up just five hits – all of them singles – and one walk and struck out six to tie Matt Harrison of Texas, David Price of Tampa Bay and Chris Sale of Chicago for the American League lead in victories. Nova’s victory also lifted the surging Yankees into a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East.
The Yankees offense, meanwhile, was able to score single runs in the first three innings off Braves right-hander Randall Delgado (4-6).
With two out in the first inning, Alex Rodriguez smacked a line-drive double over the head of left-fielder Martin Prado and to the wall. Robinson Cano followed with a single up the middle to score Rodriguez.
They added a run in the second inning on a leadoff home run into the right-field bleachers off the bat of Raul Ibanez, his 10th of the season.
In the third inning, the Yankees loaded the bases on Delgado with one out on a walk to Rodriguez, a double by Cano and a four-pitch walk to Mark Teixeira. The Yankees have had trouble all season scoring runs with the bases loaded but this time they received some help from Delgado.
With two out and Nick Swisher at the plate, Delgado bounced a change-up into the dirt past Braves catcher Brain McCann and Rodriguez scored from third standing up.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they were unable to take advantage of the eight hits and seven walks they earned off Braves pitching. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 runners on base.
Instead, Nova leaned on the Yankees’ defense to keep the Braves off the board.
Swisher made a sensational leaping catch at the wall in right-field to rob McCann of a potential two-run home run in the fourth inning. Cano then ended the fourth with a deft stab of a scorched one-hopper off the bat of Freddie Freeman. The Yankees also turned in a pair of double plays, including one by Nova in which he snared a liner off the bat of Andrelton Simmons and doubled up Jason Heyward at first.
The Yankees’ bullpen – minus a resting Rafael Soriano – shut down the Braves the last two innings as manager Joe Girardi played mix-and-match with righties Cody Eppley and Cory Wade and lefties Clay Rapada and Boone Logan. They retired all six batters they faced and they did not allow a ball out of the infield.
With the interleague victory, the Yankees ran their major-league-best record to 162-109 for a .596 winning percentage. The Yankees are also 7-2 at Turner Field.
The Yankees season record improves to 35-25. The Braves drop to 34-27.
- Nova’s seven shutout innings lowered his ERA to 4.64. In his last two starts, Nova is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA having given up one run on nine hits and two walks and fanning 11 over 15 innings of work. His career record is now 24-6. Despite the talk about his early-season ERA, the home runs he has given up and the run support he gets, there can be no denying this 25-year-old right-hander has a brilliant career ahead of him.
- Cano extended his hitting streak to nine games and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. His 2-for-4 night brought his season average back to .300.
- Rodriguez’s base-running was crucial to the Yankees scoring a third run off Delgado. He was on first when Cano laced a ball into left-center. Rodriguez chose to challenge the arm of Braves center-fielder Michael Bourn and he slid into third just ahead of the tag of Chipper Jones. He then scored on Delgado’s wild pitch.
- I am going to keep harping on the poor performance of Yankee hitters with runners in scoring position because it will cost them dearly in close games against good teams and in the playoffs.
- Russell Martin popped out with the bases loaded in the fourth and he hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh with the bags full. He ended up leaving a total of eight base-runners in going 0-for-4. Martin was yesterday’s big hero, but on Monday he did not deliver when he had chances to break the game open. Of course, he was not alone.
- Ibanez struck out with one out and runners at second and third in the third inning. Not making contact in that situation is an absolute no-no.
Reliever David Robertson will make one more rehab appearance on Tuesday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he could rejoin the team this weekend in Washington when the Yankees face the Nationals. Robertson has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 15 with a left oblique strain. . . . Despite sporting a bruise on his left hand he sustained on Sunday by bare-handing a hard-hit ball, left-hander Andy Pettitte said he will be able to pitch in his next start on Saturday against the Nationals. . . . The Yankees will not know if Brett Gardner’s troublesome right elbow will need surgery until after he is examined by a specialist on Thursday for a second opinion. Dr. James Andrews examined Gardner’s right elbow on Monday but is it unclear if surgery would be necessary until Dr. Timothy Kremchek has a chance to examine Gardner on Thursday. Gardner has played in only nine games this season and on two occasions just before being activated Gardner has felt recurring pain in the elbow.
The Yankees will look to take the series and extend their winning streak to five games against the Braves on Tuesday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (7-3, 3.69 ERA) gets the call for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a loss to the Rays in which he gave up five runs in seven innings. He is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in two career starts against the Braves.
The Braves are throwing a lefty of their own in Mike Minor (3-4, 6.57 ERA). Minor held the Marlins to one run on four hits over five innings to earn his first victory since April 19. Minor has never pitched against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.
YANKEES 5, BRAVES 5 (10 INNINGS)
LAKE BUENA VISTA – Just when it looks like the Yankees are going to coast to a win in a Grapefruit League game something happens to snatch a tie out of the jaws of victory. That played out for the third time this spring on Wednesday.
George Kontos was called upon to pitch the ninth inning with a 5-3 lead. However, Kontos issued a one-out walk to Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward made him pay with a two-run home run as Atlanta rallied to earn a tie with New York in 10 innings at Champion Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Heyward’s home run spoiled an excellent outing from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who gave up two runs on six hits and no walks and he struck out a half-dozen in seven innings. For the 37-year-old right-hander, who was named the team’s No. 2 starter on Tuesday, it was his best outing of the spring.
The Yankees got a huge offensive boost from Eric Chavez, who had a pair of two-out RBIs singles in the first and third innings and added a two-out RBI double in the eighth as the Yankees built their lead from 3-0 in the third to 5-2 in the eighth.
The Yankees tagged Braves starter Brandon Beachy for three runs (two earned) on six hits and no walks in five innings. They added a pair of runs in the eighth off reliever Eric O’Flaherty in the eighth.
The Yankees’ spring record remains 13-10. The Braves are 9-14.
- You had to be directly behind home plate like I was on Wednesday to appreciate how smart Kuroda is as a pitcher. He mixed all of his pitches, varied speeds and locations to keep the Braves off-balance all day. His wild pitch with Heyward on third in the fifth allowed one run to score. Freeman touched him for a solo home run to right-center (his third home run in two games) in the seventh was Kuroda’s only other blemish in what otherwise was a masterful performance.
- Chavez was hitting .120 as of March 20 but he is 5-for-10 in his last three games and he has raised his spring average to .235. Chavez, 34, was 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and three RBIs in the game. Chavez has already locked down the backup corner infield spot for the Yankees. Their only concern with the six-time Gold Glove winner is keeping him healthy for a full season.
- Raul Ibanez was 1-for-3 with a single in the game. You are likely wondering why I mention him. Well, Ibanez also hit what would have been a two-run home run to right in the third inning but Heyward ran to the wall, leaped and brought it back into the ballpark with a spectacular catch. Ibanez, 39, may be hitting .089 but he is making much better contact of late. He may be showing signs of life – finally.
- Failing to win three games that ended up in ties in the past seven games may seem like something that would concern Yankee fans. But look at the pitchers who were on the mound and who was in the lineup when those games were tied. Against the Red Sox on March 22, Juan Cedeno and Kontos combined to give up the lead in the bottom of the ninth. On March 25 against the Tigers, the Yankees stranded 10 runners over 10 innings after Derek Jeter led off the first inning with a solo home run. Then on Wednesday, Kontos was victimized by Heyward’s home run. Those two pitchers will not make the Yankees’ 25-man roster and the Yankees pulled most of their starters against the Tigers in the sixth and seventh innings. That would not happen in regular-season game.
- Cory Wade continues to struggle of late. He has been scored upon in his last three appearances, including Wednesday against the Braves. Wade, 28, gave up a run on two hits in the eighth inning on Wednesday. He has now given up five runs on nine hits over three innings of work. His spring ERA is 7.27.
- Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-4 in the game and his spring average dipped to .176. I doubt, however, that the Yankees really care how much their backup catcher hits.
A MRI taken on Curtis Granderson’s sore right elbow showed no structural damage but the outfielder remains day-to-day. Meanwhile, fellow starting outfielder Nick Swisher had 10 at-bats in a minor-league game on Wednesday and he is expected to both hit and play the outfield in another minor=league game on Thursday. Swisher is nursing a sore right groin. . . . Manager Joe Girardi confirmed that there is a “decent” chance that a second lefty reliever could make the 12-man pitching staff to start the season. Girardi is also pretty sure that the Yankees will lose either 30-year-old Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA) or 23-year-old Cesar Cabral (1.74 ERA) if they do not make the roster. . . . The Yankees on Wednesday claimed veteran catcher Craig Tatum off waivers from Arizona Diamondbacks because Austin Romine has suffered a setback in his recovery from lower-back inflammation. Romine, 23, likely will not be able to start the 2012 season in order to continue his rehab from the injury. Tatum is former catcher with the Baltimore Orioles and came up out of the Cincinnati Reds’ organization.
The Yankees return home on Thursday to play host to the Orioles.
Ivan Nova was originally scheduled to make the start but Girardi said that Nova will pitch in a minor-league game instead. Right-hander D.J. Mitchell will start that game. Veteran right-hander Jason Hammel will start for the Orioles.
Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally by the YES Network.