YANKEES 5, TWINS 4
Sometimes the difference between good pitchers and great pitchers is how great pitchers deal with the fact that they do not have their best stuff that given day. Masahiro Tanaka proved on Saturday he can succeed on a day when he does not have command of his pitches.
Tanaka (1-0) yielded three runs on five hits and a walk and struck out six in 5 2/3 innings and the Yankees scored four runs in the fourth inning to back him up as New York won its seven straight Grapefruit League game by edging Minnesota in front of a record crowd of 9.298 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, FL.
The Twins got to Tanaka in the bottom of the first when Brian Dozier led off with a double, he advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a RBI groundout by Joe Mauer.
Trailing 4-1 in the sixth, the Twins scored two more runs off Tanaka when Kurt Suzuki singled, Josh Willingham was hit by a pitch, Jason Kubel stroked an RBI double to score Suzuki and Trevor Plouffe scored Willingham on a groundout.
That ended Tanaka’s afternoon and relievers Fred Lewis, David Herndon, Shane Greene and Yoshinori Tateyama held the Twins to one hit and one run the rest of the way.
Despite giving up a solo home run to Eduardo Escobar in the ninth inning, Tateyama was credited with a save.
The Yankees managed only one hit in the first three innings off Twins right-hander Kevin Correia (1-2). But they sent nine men to the plate and scored four runs off him in the fourth.
After loading the bases with one out by hitting Francisco Cervelli with a pitch, Correia unloaded a wild pitch allowing Eduardo Nunez to score the tying run. Scott Sizemore, in the same at-bat, followed with a two-run single to score Kelly Johnson and Cervelli.
Zelous Wheeler capped the inning one out later by drilling an RBI double that scored Sizemore.
The Yankees added what was an insurance run in the seventh off reliever Anthony Swarzak. But it ended up being the game-deciding run.
Zoilo Almonte led off the frame with a double and Wheeler followed with a single. One batter later, Raybell Herrera, a catcher who was added to the traveling squad and was making his first plate appearance of the spring, slapped an RBI single that scored Almonte.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-9-2. The Twins are 7-12.
- Though Tanaka was far from dominant, he did show that he could pitch his way out of trouble and limit the damage. He held the Twins to just the one run in the first after the leadoff double. With the bases loaded and two out in the third inning, he retired Willingham on a fly ball to left. There were stretches in his outing where he retired six and seven batters in a row, respectively. The bottom line is held the lead when he got it and he got credit for the victory.
- Sizemore, 29, is trying to make the Yankees’ roster after suffering two straight seasons in which he had to undergo surgery to repair ligament tears in the same right knee. He also is not likely to make the roster as a backup infielder because he needs to more reps in the minors. But he did come through a clutch two-run single in the fourth. Sizemore is 4-for-5 (.267) on the spring.
- Wheeler, 27, is also trying to make the team as a backup infielder and he also can play the corner outfield spots. He was 2-for-3 in the game with an RBI. Wheeler is now 11-for-32 (.344) with seven doubles and six RBIs in 20 games. But Wheeler also is not likely to make the team because Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte are playing well and are ahead of him.
Considering the Yankees brought only two starters (Brett Gardner and Johnson), the fact that Tanaka was not at his best and the Twins were a determined bunch, the Yankees found a way to win. Every team has days like this and the Yankees proved they could adapt. There is nothing wrong with that.
Cervelli took an absolute beating in the game. The 28-year-old backup took two foul tips to the groin and was hit on the left hand by a pitch from Correia in the fourth inning. Cervelli, however, remained in the game until he was replaced by Jose Gil in the seventh inning. . . . The Yankees won a crucial replay challenge in the third inning that ended up helping them win the game. With Aaron Hicks on first after a leadoff single, Pedro Florimon at the plate and no outs, Hicks attempted to steal second. As Florimon swung at strike three, Cervelli threw a perfect strike to Sizemore at second. Hicks, however, stopped his right foot in the baseline and swung his left foot onto the base as Sizemore swept his right leg with the tag. Umpire Marvin Hudson ruled Hicks was safe. Manager Joe Girardi got word that Hicks was tagged on the right shin by Sizemore and he challenged the call. Within two minutes the call was reversed. Had the call stood the play would have changed the outcome because the Twins ended up loading the bases.
The Yankees will come back to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Yankees will start 25-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda, who has a chance to nail down the No. 5 spot in the starting rotation. Pineda (2-0) has not allowed a run in nine innings in three starts, giving up just eight hits and walk while striking out 14.
The Blue Jays will counter with veteran left-hander Mark Buehrle (0-1, 3.60 ERA), who will be celebrating his 35th birthday.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, TWINS 0
For five innings the Twins and Yankees seemed to be not getting the whole ABC offense thing of (A) get them on, (B) get them over and (C) get them in. They each did OK on the A and B part but neither could pull the trigger on C.
Fortunately, for the Yankees, the Twins never did get it and the Yankees found a way to win utilizing some timely offense and geting great pitching from rookie right-hander Ivan Nova and their bullpen.
New York managed to shut out Minnesota at their home in Target Field on Sunday in front of a sellout crowd of 41,242 and a national television audience watching on TBS.
Nova (13-4) held the Twins hitless through three innings until Joe Mauer stroked a lined single to right with one out in the fourth. He was promptly erased in a double play.
But over the next three innings, the Twins kept mounting threats against Nova only to be stymied.
In the fifth, the Twins got a leadoff single from Jim Thome and Danny Valencia lofted a fly ball that dropped between and rolled past Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher for a double. Using his wicked slider, Nova was able to strike out Rene Tosoni and Matt Tolbert and Drew Butera rolled out to end the threat.
In the sixth, Mauer smashed a two-out single and Jason Kubel drew a walk. However, Nova shut the Twins down by striking out slugger Jim Thome.
In the seventh, Valencia opened the inning with a single to center. But Nova retired the next three batters on flyball outs.
The Yankees, meanwhile, could not seem to get a big hit when they needed it off starter Nick Blackburn or reliever Anthony Swarzak.
In the first inning, Jeter led off with an infield single and reached second on a passed ball by Butera. Curtis Granderson then drew a walk. However, Mark Teixeira rolled into a double play and Alex Rodriguez, playing in his first game since before the All-Star break due to right knee surgery, bounced out to short.
In he next inning, with one out Blackburn walked Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner in succession to load the bases. On the final pitch to Gardner ,Twins manager Ron Gardenhire and the Twins’ trainer sprinted to the mound and Blackburn left the game with what was termed a lateral forearm strain.
Swarzak entered the game and promptly struck out Eduardo Nunez and Jeter lined out to end that threat.
The Yankees then did not get a hit or walk off Swarzak over the next two innings but they did load the bases with two out in the fifth off left-handed reliever Phil Dumatrait. However, Dumatrait was able to get Rodriguez to pop up weakly to end that threat.
Through five innings, the Yankees were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and they had left seven runners on base, including two innings in which they left the bases loaded.
But the Twins ran out of miracles in the sixth. Robinson Cano lashed an opposite-field double to start the inning. Swisher hit a long fly ball to left that Tosoni caught but Cano was able to tag up and reach third. Cano then scored on a sacrifice line drive smash to center by Russell Martin, his fourth RBI in the three games he played in the series.
The Yankees padded the lead in the next inning by using some fast legs and powerful wrists.
Facing reliever Jose Mijares with one out, Granderson stroked a lined shot off the very top of the wall in right-center and the ball rolled back towards the infield between center-fielder Ben Revere and right-fielder Jason Kubel. By the time Revere got on his horse to retrieve the ball and relayed a throw to Trevor Plouffe, Granderson was heading for home plate. Granderson beat the throw from Plouffe and the tag of Butera for an inside-the-park home run. It was Granderson 35th home run of the season and the third inside-the-park home run of his career.
Teixeira followed with his 34th home run of the season. This one was the traditional over-the-fence kind that landed in the left-field bleachers.
The Yankees protected that 3-0 margin with Nova and bullpen. Nova pitched seven innings and gave up only five hits and one walk and he fanned five batters for his ninth victory in his last 10 starts. He is 9-0 with a 3.48 ERA in those starts. Since his demotion to Triple-A in July, Nova is 5-0 with a 3.55 ERA.
David Robertson continued the Twins’ offensive frustration in the eighth. Robertson gave up singles to Revere and Mauer (Mauer’s third hit of the game) sandwiched by a strikeout. After fanning Kubel for the second out, Robertson walked Thome to load the bases. However, Robertson, who is called “Houdini” by his teammates because of how he escapes bases-loaded jams, got Valencia to hit a routine fly ball that Swisher caught in medium right to end yet another threat.
The Twins left nine runners on and they were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the day.
Mariano Rivera was called upon to close out the game out and he did that by pitching a perfect ninth. He fanned the last two batters to collect his 33rd save in 38 chances and No. 592 in his career.
With the victory, the Yankees’ record improved to 77-48 and they also maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Twins lost three of the four games in the series and fell to 55-71 on the season.
- Martin had a good series offensively and defensively. He was 4-for-10 with two home runs and four RBIs. He was 1-for-2 on Sunday with walk, a single and his sac fly scored what was the eventual winning run. Martin also played exceptional defense behind the plate. He called good games for Hughes and Nova, deterred the Twins on the bases and blocked balls in the dirt that saved runs from scoring. Martin stopped two balls in the dirt for Nova with a runner on third in the fifth inning on Sunday. Martin won a Gold Glove in the National League with the Dodgers in 2007.
- Granderson’s fast feet set him apart from the other candidates for A.L. Most Valuable Player and he showed that skill off on Sunday with his inside-the-park home run. That home run ties him with Toronto’s Jose Bautista for the major-league lead in homers. Despite going 0-for-4 on Saturday, Granderson was 6-for-16 (.375) in the series with a home run and three RBIs. Granderson is tied with Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder for the major-league lead in RBIs with 98.
- Teixiera’s home run was his second in the series and he also pulled into second place in the American League to Granderson in RBIs with 95. Cano is fourth with 87. Teixiera was 5-for-12 (.417) in the series with two home runs and six RBIs.
- Nova is pitching far beyond what anyone expected from a 24-year-old rookie. To be sure, Nova has received a lot of run support in his starts. But on Sunday he proved he could win games without it. He pitched five innings of a scoreless game, an inning with a one-run cushion and one with a 3-0 lead. Four of his five strikeouts in the game came with runners in scoring position. That tells you all you need to know about Nova. He is very quietly pitching himself into position to start in the playoffs.
- In four previous times in which he played his first game coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez had homered in the game. On three occasions, it came in his first at-bat. But that did not happen on Sunday. A-Rod was 0-for-5 and he committed a misplay in the field, though it was not scored an error. To his credit he did make a great play in scooping a bunt attempt by Revere and barely nipping him at first in the sixth inning.
- Teixeira’s double play grounder in the first and Nunez’ strikeout with the bases loaded in the second really set the early tone in the game. It truly looked as if the Yankees would not score a run because they kept shooting themselves in the foot. They did finish the game 0-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they left 10 runners on base.
- It is amazing how Robertson is able to load the bases and escape without giving up a run. However, there is nothing wrong with 1-2-3 innings. As it is, Robertson threw 27 pitches in the inning. It is a good thing the Yankees do not play on Monday because Robertson likely would be unavailable to pitch.
Manager Joe Girardi try to play down the incident between A.J. Burnett and himself that occurred when Burnett was removed from Saturday’s game after only 1 2/3 innings. Burnett shouted an obscenity at Girardi as he left the mound and later Girardi and Burnett both disappeared down the dugout tunnel. Girardi insisted there was no riff and he did hear Burnett say anything after he left the mound. He also said the two did not cross paths in the clubhouse. But Burnett appears to be on very thin ice of being the odd sixth man in what will be a five-man rotation. Burnett gave up seven runs on five hits and three walks in his short stint on Saturday. In addition, Burnett has won only one of his his last nine starts dating back to July 4. In those outings, Burnett is 1-4 with a 6.93 ERA. He was 10-15 with a career-high 5.26 ERA in 2010. To say that the Yankees made a mistake giving Burnett an $82 million contract in 2009 is an understatement. . . . When the Yankees activated Rodriguez from the disabled list they sent down left-hander Aaron Laffey to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Laffey made his debut with the Yankees on Saturday and gave up two runs on five hits in three innings.
Off winning three out of four from the Twins and posting a 5-2 road trip, the Yankees will get a day off on Monday. They will host the Oakland Athletics in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium starting on Tuesday.
The Yankees will open the series with right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-7, 3.54 ERA). Colon lost his first start since July 19 as he allowed five runs on seven hits and two walks in five innings against Kansas City. He is 0-1 with a 5.17 ERA in August. He is 8-4 with a 2.80 ERA against Oakland in his career . Two of those wins came in his two starts against them season, including a May 30 complete-game, four-hit shutout in Oakland.
The A’s will counter with Brandon McCarthy (6-6, 3.74 ERA). McCarthy gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks in five innings in a victory against Baltimore in his last start. He is 1-0 with a 7.36 ERA lifetime against the Yankees He has not faced them this season.
Game-time will be at 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by MY9.
YANKEES 8, TWINS 1
Watching the Twins play the Yankees the past few years is like watching the Washington Generals play the Harlem Globetrotters. You just knew Meadowlark Lemon would always get the best of that bald, fat guy trying to grab the basketball from him.
At Target Field, on a picturesque Midwest Friday evening, the same kind of scenario played out.
Phil Hughes (4-4) pitched 7 2/3 innings of dominant one-run and two-hit baseball, Russell Martin hit two home runs and Martin and Mark Teixeira drove in three runs apiece as New York best Minnesota for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings since the beginning of the 2009 season.
Hughes gave up a solo home run to Trevor Plouffe, the second batter he faced, in the first inning and then he silenced the Twins bats so soundly that could you practically hear the crickets over the 41,328 people in attendance. After Hughes issued a leadoff walk to Jason Kubel in the third inning, he retired 14 Twins in a row.
The Twins managed a Plouffe leadoff walk in the seventh and they actually added another runner when Kubel walked with two out in the inning. But Hughes escaped any damage by inducing Danny Valencia to ground into a forceout.
The Twins did manage a second hit by Luke Hughes with one out in the eighth, but Yankee right-hander — with relief help from Boone Logan — left the game having walked three and striking out two. Hughes threw 70 of his 106 pitches for strikes, a rate of 66 percent. In his last three starts, Hughes is 3-0 with a 1.37 ERA.
He and A.J. Burnett both have been rumored to be candidates to move to the bullpen because the Yankees have six starters and they prefer a five-man rotation. But Hughes served notice on Friday that he not only should stay in the rotation, he might be the Yankees’ best choice for a No. 2 starter.
Meanwhile, after trailing 1-0 early to the Twins, the Yankees began their assault on Twins starter Kevin Slowey (0-1) in the third inning of what was Slowey’s first start of the season.
Martin opened the inning by swatting the first pitch from Slowey down the left-field line and into the first row of the bleachers, the ball avoiding a leaping attempt at the wall by left-fielder Rene Tosoni.
The Yankees added another run in the fourth on a bloop leadoff double by Teixeira and a lined RBI double off the wall in right-center by Robinson Cano.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth on a double by Granderson that drove in Brett Gardner with Granderson’s major-league-leading 96th RBI of the season. Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to left that Derek Jeter scored upon by narrowly evading a good throw by Tosoni and a lunging tag by catcher Joe Mauer.
The Yankees broke the game wide open in the fifth and chased Slowey from the game when Martin followed a Jorge Posada’s two-out single with another home run, this one to deep into the bleachers in straightway left. It was his 15th home run of the season. The two-home run game was the fourth of Martin’s career and his third such game with the Yankees this season.
Slowey ended up giving up six runs on nine hits and one walk and struck out four batters over 5 2/3 innings. In their last two games, the Yankees have scored 12 runs on 19 hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings against the Twins two starters in the series — Brian Duensing and Slowey.
The Yankees tacked on a pair of runs in the ninth off reliever Anthony Swarzak on leadoff infield single by Jeter, a walk to Granderson and two-run double down the right-field line by Teixeira.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to an American League-best 76-47 and they maintained their half-game lead over the Boston Red Sox in the A.L. East. The hapless Twins stumbled to a mark of 54-70.
- Martin continues to excel after he gets a day off. Nine of his home runs have come in games after he was rested. His 3-for-4 evening (He also singled in the fifth) raised his season average to .232. He now has 15 home runs and 52 RBIs on the season. After hitting .292 in April, Martin slumped to hit .200 in May, .185 in June and .213 in July. But Martin is hitting a solid .269 in August and he seems to have put his toe and back injuries behind him.
- In his two games against the Twins at Target Field, Teixeira is 4-for-7 with a home run and three doubles and he has driven in five runs. The RBI spurt leaves in third place in the majors with 94, two behind Gramderson and one behind Phillies slugger Ryan Howard.
- Granderson had another one of his stellar all-around games. He was 2-for-3 with a double, a single, two walks, a run scored and an RBI. He even stole his 23rd base of the season, which puts him in 10th place in the American League. Granderson is by far the Yankees’ Most Valuable Player of 2011. He also might take home league honors if he keeps up his current pace. In his last 10 games, Granderson is hitting an unbelievable .395 with six home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Hughes appears to have kept his spot in the rotation on the basis of what how has pitched in his last three starts. Though it would be nice to have Hughes in a bullpen that already includes David Robertson, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera, he is more valuable as the No. 2 starter on this team with the playoffs looming.
Eric Chavez was 0-for-5 with two srikeouts but that would be nitpicking. This was a good win for the Yankees because it combined great pitching, timely hitting and solid defense.
The Yankees decided on Friday to place right-hander Freddy Garcia on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to Aug. 8 and claimed left-hander Aaron Laffey on waivers from the Mariners and he will be activated on Saturday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Laffey, the Yankees designated veteran catcher Gustavo Molina for assignment. Garcia sliced a finger on his right hand at his home last week and he was unable to throw his split-finger fastball effectively enough to make a start this weekend. Instead, Garcia will throw a rehab start on Monday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees hope the 34-year-old right-hander will be able to make a start next Saturday in one of the day-night doubleheader games scheduled against the Orioles. . . . Alex Rodriguez is ready to play this weekend but it likely will be on Sunday. Rodriguez ended a minor-league rehab stint and returned to the Yankees on Thursday. However, the Yankees want Rodriguez to continue his workouts to strengthen his knee and improve his conditioning. Rodriguez has been out since undergoing surgery on July 11 to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.
The Yankees have already clinched at least a split in their four-game series with the Twins. They can win the series on Saturday.
The Yankees will call on right-hander A.J. Burnett (9-9, 4.61). The walking enigma actually won his last start, his first August victory in three years with the Yankees. Burnett gave up 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings but allowed only three runs while walking one and striking out one. Burnett, howver, has had some success against the Twins. He is 4-1 with a 3.20 ERA in his career.
The Twins are countering with left-hander Francisco Liriano (8-9, 5.12 ERA). He is the Twins’ enigma. Liriano won his last start but he gave up five runs on nine hits over six innings. He is 0-3 with a 3.77 ERA 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 the YES Network.