YANKEES 7, ATHLETICS 0
In his previous four starts, David Phelps was 0-4 with a 6.57 ERA and he was shelled for 13 earned runs in 11 2/3 innings in his last two starts. Despite facing the first-place team in the American League West and their ace, Phelps on Friday posted one of the best starts of his career.
Phelps pitched 6 2/3 innings of two-hit baseball and the Yankees were able to get three runs on the board in the first two innings against Sonny Gray as New York broke a seven-game road losing streak against Oakland in front of a sellout crowd of 36,067 at O.co Coliseum.
Phelps (2-4) set the tone early by retiring the first 10 batters he faced until he walked John Jaso in the fourth inning. He only allowed a one-out bloop single to Derek Norris in the fifth inning and a two-out double to Jed Lowrie in the seventh before being replaced by Dellin Betances.
Phelps ended up walking three batters and striking out four in his 6 2/3 innings of work.
He got all the support he really needed in the first inning when the Yankees jumped on Gray (6-3) for three consecutive singles by Brett Gardner, Derek Jeter and Jacoby Ellsbury.
Ellsbury’s single not only extended his major-league-leading hitting streak to 17 games, it also drove in Gardner with the game’s first run. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Jeter.
In the second inning, Brian Roberts reached first on an infield single, Kelly Johnson drew a walk and Gardner slapped an opposite-field single to left to score Roberts.
Jeter then singled to load the bases but Gray escaped further trouble by getting Ellsbury on a fielder’s choice in which Johnson was cut down at home plate and Teixeira flew out to left.
Ellsbury and Teixeira began a run of 13 consecutive batters Gray was able to retire until Ichiro Suzuki reached on an infield single with two out in the sixth. The final five outs Gray recorded were on swinging strikeouts.
But Gray was charged with loss after yielding three runs on seven hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings.
The Yankees were able to turn the game into a rout by scoring four runs in the eighth inning off veteran left-hander Jeff Francis – all of them scoring with two outs.
After Teixeira and Brian McCann hit back-to-back one-out singles, Suzuki, Roberts and Johnson all stroked two-out RBI singles. On Roberts’ single Suzuki was able to score from first when the throw from right-fielder Brandon Moss caromed off Norris’ glove at the plate for an error on Norris.
Betances retired all four batters he faced, two of them by strikeout. Fellow rookie right-hander Jose Ramirez pitched a perfect ninth to allow the Yankees to claim their fourth straight victory.
The Yankees improved their season record to 35-30 and they are in second place in the American League East, 3 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The A’s fell to 40-27.
- Phelps had been a major disappointment as a replacement starter when Michael Pineda was placed on the disabled list and his past two starts were dreadful. But on Friday he was very good despite the fact he walked three and threw 45 balls among his 102 pitches. Phelps used his cutter and his slider to keep the A’s hitters off balance. His only “stress” inning came in the fifth when he walked Lowrie and gave up the bloop single to Norris. But he got out of the inning by getting Andy Parrino to fly out and he struck out Kyle Blanks.
- Ellsbury continues to roll along on his hitting streak. He was 1-for-4 with a walk and he drove in a run on Friday. He is now 25-for-67 (.373) during the streak with two home runs an 12 RBIs. Ellsbury is now hitting .290 with four home runs and 30 RBIs and he leads the team in stolen bases with 18. He has been the Yankees’ most consistent player on offense and, if you add his excellent defense, he has been the team’s best all-around player.
- Jeter returned for the last time to the field where he made his iconic “flip play” in the American League Division Series in 2001 and he celebrated it by going 2-for-4 with a run scored. Jeter is red hot at the plate in his past four games. He is 9-for-18 (.500) with two RBIs and five runs scored in that span. That has raised the 39-year-old team captain’s season average to .275.
In their past four games the starters have yielded only five runs in 29 innings for an ERA of 1.55 and the team has scored 20 runs. The defense has also been exceptional. The Yankees need to start piling up victories if they want to be contenders and they doing just that.
The Yankees signed veteran right-hander Heath Bell to a minor-league contract and he was assigned to Triple-A Scranton/ Wilkes-Barre. Bell, 36, compiled a 1-1 mark with a 7.27 ERA in 13 games with the Tampa Bay Rays this season. After being released by the Rays, Bell signed with the Baltimore Orioles. However, he opted out of his minor-league deal with them after posting a 4.22 ERA in 10 2/3 innings. Bell has recorded 168 saves in 590 games with the New York Mets, San Diego Padres, the then-Florida Marlins, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Rays. . . . Pineda, 25, has not resumed throwing and manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Friday that the right-hander likely will not return until August. Pineda is on the 60-day disabled list with strain of the teres major muscle in his right shoulder. He had to be scratched from a June 1 start in an intrasquad game after feeling soreness in the shoulder muscle.
The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend series with the A’s on Saturday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (4-4, 4.12 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda held the Kansas City Royals to two runs in seven innings on Sunday but ended up taking the loss because the Yankees offense snoozed to the tune of going 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position.
Left-hander Scott Kazmir (7-2, 2.20 ERA) will pitch for the Athletics. Kazmir threw seven shutout innings to defeat the Orioles on Sunday. He beat both Kuroda and the Yankees at Yankee Stadium on June 3, giving up two runs and striking out 10 in 6 1/3 innings.
Game-time will be 10:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 2, ATHLETICS 1
The last time the Yankees won a game, Masahiro Tanaka pitched eight innings to defeat the Minnesota Twins 3-1 on May 31 on his way to being named May’s American League Pitcher of the Month. So on Thursday all Tanaka did was pitch six gutty innings to defeat Oakland to begin June.
Tanaka weathered a home run from the second batter he faced, John Jaso, in yielding five hits and one walk while striking out four as New York ended its four-game skid to edge Oakland in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 at Yankee Stadium.
The A’s deliberately tried to press Tanaka (9-1) in the fourth and fifth innings after they could manage just Jaso’s homer off the right-hander. They decided to take pitches until they got to two strikes and shortened their swings on two strikes to foul off tough pitches.
Tanaka was forced to throw 26 pitches in both the fourth and fifth innings. The A’s did manage to post a pair of two-out singles in the fourth by Brandon Moss and Yoenis Cespedes before Jed Lowrie struck out on nine pitches. In the fifth Tanaka yielded a leadoff single to Stephen Vogt and a two-out walk to Coco Crisp but Jaso popped out weakly to end the threat.
The strategy was clear: Get Tanaka’s pitch count up to attack him in a weakened condition or force him out of the game so the Athletics could attack the Yankees’ bullpen, which has been leaking like a sieve during the Yankees’ seven-game homestand.
But the strategy did not work.
Tanaka left after 104 pitches and six innings with the lead.
Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson did not yield a run in the final three innings to give the Yankees a 2-5 record during the homestand. Both of the victories were Tanaka’s.
However, both Warren and Robertson had to complete their innings with the potential tying run standing on third base as they recorded the final out.
Warren began the eighth by giving up singles to Crisp and Jaso and even uncorked a wild pitch to allow both runners to advance. But he escaped any damage by striking out Josh Donaldson, retiring Moss on a liner to right and fanning Cespedes.
Robertson had to earn his 13th save in 15 tries this season after Vogt muscled a bloop one-out single to center and pinch-runner Craig Gentry stole second base.
Alberto Callaspo hit a hard grounder that ticked off Robertson’s foot and bounded toward first baseman Mark Teixeira. Teixeira alertly fielded the ball and was able to retire Callaspo with a toss to Robertson covering first base.
“I was probably the happiest guy in the stadium that the ball hit me,” Robertson told reporters after the game. “I felt even more fortunate that we get an out of it.”
Robertson then finished the game by striking out pinch-hitter Derek Norris.
Tanaka and the relievers were working within a slim margin of error because the Yankees’ offense again sputtered against left-hander Drew Pomeranz (5-3).
The Yankees tied the game in the bottom of the second when Brian McCann singled and reached second when the left-fielder, Moss, allowed the ball to scoot past him to the wall for an error. Alfonso Soriano, who had been mired in an 0-for-16 slide with eight strikeouts dating back to May 25, then delivered an RBI single to right-center that scored McCann without a throw.
Brett Gardner later gave the Yankees a lead they ultimately would not relinquish with a leadoff home run in the third inning on Pomeranz’s first offering. The home run, a no-doubter that landed in the second deck in the right-field stands, was his fourth of the season and his first since May 17.
From that point on, the Yankees did absolutely nothing with Pomeranz for the rest of the afternoon.
The 25-year-old left-hander did not allow another base-runner until the sixth when Jacoby Ellsbury drew a one-out walk. The Yankees only “hit” off Pomeranz after the Gardner’s blast came with two out in the seventh when Crisp lost Soriano’s fly ball to center in the sun and it was scored a double.
Pomeranz was charged with two runs on six hits and one walk and he struck out seven in seven innings of work.
However, he could not outduel Tanaka, who lowered his American League-leading ERA from 2.06 to 2.02.
“I don’t think it was my best performance for the season,” Tanaka told reporters through a translator. “But given the fact that our team was in a little bit of a funk, and that we were facing one of the best teams in the league right now, I’m really happy to contribute to the team’s win.”
With the victory the Yankees climbed back over the .500 mark to 30-29. They are third place in the American League East and they trail the first-place Toronto Blue Jays by six games. The A’s are 37-23.
- Tanaka has bristled at being called the team’s ace but he is proving in his first season in the major leagues that he is every bit the ace the staff has needed. “A true ace stops losing streaks. There’s not another guy we want out there after losing a few in a row than Tanaka,” Teixeira told reporters after the game. The Yankees are 11-1 in his starts and it is hard to imagine where they would be without him.
- Soriano’s two hits, even though one was dubious, hopefully will get him out of one of his worst slumps in his 14 full major-league seasons. The Yankees always knew that the 38-year-old outfielder was a streaky hitter but Soriano has not really had a sustained hot streak this season. He is batting .233 with six homers and 2o RBIs a third of the way into the season. That is not what the Yankees were expecting from him.
- There also may be hope that Gardner will get going again after slumping from May 22 through June 3 on a 9-for-48 (.188) slide. Gardner finished the final two games of the Oakland series 3-for-9. This team-wide hitting slump has been very frustrating to manager Joe Girardi and the pitching staff because it left them feeling they have to be perfect in every inning to every batter on every pitch. It is hard to pitch that way.
Why dwell on the obvious offensive woes. Let’s chalk this one up as a victory thanks to Tanaka and the bullpen. The Yankees just have to hope the bats wake up before the Blue Jays run away with the division.
The Yankees did get one potentially big bat back in the lineup when Carlos Beltran was activated from the disabled list prior to the game and he was inserted into the lineup into the fifth spot at designated hitter. Beltran, who missed 21 games while dealing with a bone spur in his right elbow, was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game. To make room for Beltran on the roster the Yankees designated for assignment infielder Scott Sizemore. . . . Ellsbury had a two-run home run in the first inning taken away when a video review indicated that the ball struck about three inches below the top of the wall in right-field. Instead the umpires awarded him a double and placed Derek Jeter, who had singled with one out, at third base. Teixeira lined out and Beltran struck out swinging and the Yankees did not score in the inning.
The Yankees are off to Kansas City to open a wraparound four-game weekend series with the Royals beginning on Friday.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.37 ERA) will try to earn his first major-league victory in his fifth start of the season. Whitley held the Twins to one run on five hits while he struck out six in five innings on Sunday before Robertson blew his second save of the season and the Yankees lost the game.
The Royals will start veteran right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (2.5, 4.00 ERA) who is 0-5 in his past 10 starts. Guthrie gave up two runs on eight hits and two walks while fanning five in seven innings in a loss to the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 4 – BOSTON RED SOX
A fellow Yankee fan once called the Red Sox the Red Flops because of their penchant for running out to big leads in the American League East and fading badly in the second half. After the famous “Collapse of 2011” the term seems apropos.
On Sept. 3, they were 84-54, a half game behind the Yankees and nine games up on the Tampa Bay Rays. They finished the season with a dreadful 6-18 record and missed the playoffs by a game. In Boston that is not an oops, it is an eruption and it cost manager Terry Francona his job and general manager Theo Epstein fled to the Chicago Cubs.
Looking to 2012 the Red Flops hired ego-driven Bobby Valentine as manager. Ben Cherington, an Epstein assistant, took over as GM. They even dismissed first-year pitching coach Curt Young in favor of Bob McClure to keep their starting pitchers from getting bagged in the clubhouse on Samuel Adams.
Of course, that is odd because McClure pitched most of his career with the beer capital of the world in Milwaukee.
There is no doubt the starting pitching let the Red Sox down in 2011. They scored runs and the bullpen was good until it got overtaxed. But has this team addressed the areas of weakness enough to win the division in 2012?
Well, it does not look good.
The Red Sox were unable to acquire any starter of significance this winter because they had to re-sign free agent David Ortiz and the team was already perilously close to the salary mark that would incur the luxury tax.
So they return to the field with two of the pitchers who aided in the collapse (Josh Beckett and Jon Lester), one pitcher who was hurt most of the 2011 season (Clay Buchholz) and two big question marks behind them. That seems hardly like a recipe for success.
Beckett, 31, returns as the team ace after a season in which he was 13-7 with a 2.89 ERA. But an ankle injury late in the season forced him to fade like a typical Red Flop in September. He posted a 5.48 ERA in September. He also was in the center of the beer issue that drew the ire of teammates and the front office.
If Beckett wants to remain the ace he better start showing some leadership by example.
Lester, 28, is starting to look like the Red Sox version of Mike Mussina. He has all the talent and the pitches to be successful but he never takes that big step forward to be an elite pitcher. He was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA but he also slid in September. He had only two quality starts from Aug. 27 to the season finale and was 1-3 with a 5.40 ERA in the final month.
Buchholz, 27, made only 14 starts last season before ending up on the disabled list with what was eventually diagnosed as a stress fracture in his back. He finished with a record of 6-3 and a 3.48 ERA. There is no doubt he was sorely missed last season because Epstein failed to stock the Red Sox with any depth and the team floundered after he was shelved on June 16.
The Red Sox other two starters were veteran right-handers John Lackey and Daisuke Matsuzaka.
If Lester is like Mussina then Lackey is looking like the Red Sox version of A.J. Burnett. Signed as free agent before the 2010 season, Lackey has done nothing but disappoint Red Sox Nation with bad pitching. He was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA in 2010 but he got much worse in 2011 with a 12-12 mark and 6.41 ERA.
Red Sox fans have taken to calling him “Lacking.”
But there is good news for RSN, Lackey, 33, will not pitch at all in 2012 because he had to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. There is no real guarantee Lackey will be any better in 2013, which will be the final year of his four-year contract. His days in Beantown look to be limited at this point.
Speaking of that, Red Sox fans also would like to see Matsuzaka, 31, gone after three injury-filled seasons in which he was a combined 16-15 with a plus 5.00 ERA in only 44 starts. Last season, he was shelved in June with a 3-3 record and a 5.30 ERA. Like Lackey he underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
He possibly could return late in the season but there is no one banking on him coming back pitching like in he did in 2008 when he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He is in the final year of lucrative six-year contract and the Red Sox seem to be counting the days they can part with him.
With Lackey and Dice-K on the shelf, the Red Sox have to come up with two starters and one of them is Daniel Bard, the team’s setup man the past two seasons. Bard, 26, does throw hard and he has two breaking pitches to mix in his arsenal.
But Bard also was the poster boy for the Red Sox collapse. Forced to pitch a lot to cover for weak starting pitching, Bard got hit hard and often in September, finishing the season 2-9 with a 3.33 ERA and five blown saves. Only July 31, Bard had a 1.76 ERA.
Now the question is can he be an effective starter? It has not worked for relievers lately. It did not work for Joba Chamberlain and Brandon Morrow of the Blue Jays has struggled to get past the fifth inning with the Blue Jays. Usually it works better when a starter becomes a reliever as it did with former Red Sox right-hander Dennis Eckersley.
Until Bard proves he can pitch deep into games consistently and does not fade late in the season as the innings pile up, he is big question mark in 2012.
For the fifth spot, the Red Sox issued an open casting call much like the Yankees did in 2011 with Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia.
They are looking at holdovers Alfredo Aceves and Andrew Miller as possible candidates. Aceves, 29, was 10-2 with a 2.61 ERA but made only four starts. He is better suited as a reliever, as he proved with the Yankees. Miller, a 26-year-old left-hander, was 6-3 but he had a horrible 5.54 ERA in 12 starts.
The Red Sox also signed former Yankee right-hander Ross Ohlendorf and three other right-handers including Aaron Cook, Vicente Padilla and Carlos Silva to compete for the job this spring.
None of these candidates are going to impress the Red Sox faithful. They all have a lot of mileage on them and they all have not had much success in recent years.
This might be one of the weakest Red Sox rotations in many years and the lack of depth in it is the major problem. If Beckett, Lester or Buchholz are hurt, who steps up to replace them?
The Red Sox allowed Jonathan Papelbon leave for the Philadelphia Phillies rather than pay him what he was worth as a closer for them over the past six seasons. The conventional wisdom was Bard would take over as the closer.
But the Red Sox made him a starter instead and opened up the job. They decided to fill it with 27-year-old right-hander Andrew Bailey, who was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics.
Bailey is coming off two injury-plagued seasons but is pretty darn good when he is healthy. Bailey is 7-10 with a career ERA of 2.07 and 75 saves in 84 chances.
There is no doubt Bailey is an excellent closer. The only question is of the Red Sox can keep him healthy and can Bailey adjust to the very small dimensions of Fenway as opposed to the expansive Coliseum.
The Red Sox also traded with the Houston Astros for yet another former Yankee reliever in Mark Melancon. (Can the signing of Tanyon Sturtze be far behind?). Melancon, 26, was 8-4 with a 2.78 ERA and saved 20 out of 25 games for the lowly Astros last season. Melancon, who was touted years ago as the eventual successor to Mariano Rivera when he was in the Yankees’ minor-league system, will set up Bailey and can close if Bailey should revert to past form and pull up lame.
Speaking of lame, the Red Sox suffered a huge blow to their bullpen before pitchers reported to camp on Sunday because 30-year-old right-hander Bobby Jenks will miss more time when a pulmonary embolism was discovered in his lung. This was discovered after he had two back surgeries after pitching only 19 games last season. He is on the 60-day DL and he will be on a long road back to health.
Aceves also figures in the late innings because he is much more valuable in that spot.
The Red Sox got some use out of 29-year-old right-hander Matt Albers, who was 4-4 with 4.73 ERA in 56 games last season. The lefty specialist was 26-year-old Franklin Morales, who was 1-2 with a 3.69 ERA in 50 appearances. The Red Sox are hoping Rich Hill will come back from Tommy John surgery on his left elbow sometime this season.
The Red Sox think 24-year-old lefty Felix Doubront can take the second left-hander spot in the bullpen. He had no record and 6.10 ERA in 11 appearances last season. Doubront could also get a chance to start and he has some upside.
This bullpen is definitely in a state of flux. New personnel, new roles and there are some pitchers coming off injuries or currently rehabbing injuries. It is not a recipe for success.
Valentine and McClure have a lot of decisions to make in the spring. For the Red Sox to succeed they need an excellent bullpen. For now, it looks just mediocre.
The Red Sox were largely a four-man offense – a very good four-man offense but a four-man offense nonetheless – in 2011.
First baseman Adrian Gonzalez was as advertised. He hit .338 with 27 home runs and 117 RBIs and played Gold Glove defense. The Red Sox hope Gonzalez, 29, is the fulcrum of the Bosox attack for many years to come.
Second baseman Dustin Pedroia bounced back from an injury-plagued 2010 season to re-establish himself in 2011. He hit .307 with 21 homers and 91 RBIs and also won a Gold Glove. Pedroia, 28, remains the spark-plug in the Red Sox engine. His grit and determination makes him the heart and soul of the team.
Designated hitter David Ortiz followed up a bounce-back 2010 season with another solid campaign in 2011. Ortiz, 36, hit .309 with 29 home runs and 96 RBIs. He is not the same feared hitter he was in his steroid days hitting behind Manny Ramirez but he is still good enough to help the offense.
The big surprise was center-fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, who played only 18 games in 2010 and was accused of milking his rib injury by some teammates. Ellsbury, 28, must have been angry because he came back with a vengeance in 2011. He hit .321 with easily a career-high 32 home runs and 105 RBIs from the leadoff spot. He also stole 39 bases.
To most Red Sox observers, Ellsbury was the team’s MVP and would have won the American League MVP if Justin Verlander of the Tigers had not.
The big disappointments in this lineup were Kevin Youkilis and Carl Crawford.
Youkilis, who will be 33 when the season starts, still has not played any more than 147 games in a season. Last season, the combination of bursitis in his left hip and a sports hernia limited him to 120 games. He hit a disappointing .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and he did not play third base as well he played first base. Youkilis must stay healthy and return to form if the Red Sox are to make a move in 2012.
Left-fielder Crawford, 30, arrived in Beantown with 409 career steals and .293 career batting average. His seven-year, $142 million contract was the signing that limited the Red Sox from adding pitching this winter. He also proved he did not fit in well at Fenway. He hit .255 with 11 home runs and 56 RBIs and only 18 stolen bases. He also proved weak in the field despite having won a Gold Glove with the Rays in 2010.
More bad news about Crawford: Late in the winter Crawford realized his left wrist required surgery and he is not likely to be able to play on Opening Day. Crawford will either turn his game around or become one of the biggest albatross signings in baseball history.
The Red Sox have shuffled the deck in right-field and shortstop this season.
The Red Sox released aging outfielder J.D. Drew and they used promising youngster Josh Reddick in the Bailey trade.
The Red Sox did obtain outfielder Ryan Sweeney in the Bailey deal and he is a left-handed hitter like Reddick. However, the 27-year-old has been a huge disappointment in Oakland. He is career .283 hitter but he lacks both power and speed.
Holdover Darnell McDonald, 33, was brought up last season and he hit .236 with six home runs and 24 RBIs in 79 games. He could figure in an early platoon with Sweeney or win the job outright. Ryan Kalish, 23, hit .252 in 53 games and he will get a look also.
The Red Sox also picked up Cody Ross from the Giants. Ross, 31, bats right-handed and he figures to start n left-field until Crawford returns to health. Then he will shift to right in a platoon with either Sweeney or Kalish. Ross hit .240 with 14 home runs and 52 RBIs in 2011.
Shortstop also was shuffled for 2012. Starter Marco Scutaro was shipped to Colorado for right-handed pitcher Clayton Mortensen. Backup infielder Jed Lowrie was used in the Melancon trade with the Astros.
That leaves former Royals infielder Mike Aviles to start at the position. Aviles, 31, is a career .288 hitter but he hit only .255 with seven home runs and 39 RBIs in 91 games with the Royals and Red Sox.
The Jason Varitek era in Boston is officially over. Varitek was not re-signed and Jarrod Saltalamacchia enters his second season as the unquestioned starter for the Red Sox. Saltalamacchia, 26, is coming off a so-so 2011 season. He hit .235 with 16 homers and 56 RBIs. He also struck out 119 times in 358 at-bats so he is not exactly a selective hitter. The Red Sox also wish he would continue to improve his defense and throwing.
The Red Sox will likely keep Ross, McDonald and either Sweeney or Kalish as backup outfielders. McDonald is valuable because he play all three spots and he is better in center.
The Red Sox picked up former Twins infielder Nick Punto as a reserve at second, short and third. Punto, 34, hit .278 with one home run and 20 RBIs with the Cardinals last season. Having Punto means the Red Sox can allow 22-year-old shortstop Jose Inglesias another season to develop at Triple-A. Inglesias can field but has not developed much as a hitter.
The team also picked up former Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach from the Rays. Shoppach, 31, hit .176 with 11 homers and 22 RBIs with the Rays and he replaces Varitek as the backup catcher. He is solid defensively.
This is a serviceable bench but I would hardly call it talent-laden or special.
The Epstein-Francona era is over. The main architects of the only two World Series championships in the last 96 years have fled. They left a financial constraint on the team that prevented them from addressing their crisis in starting pitching, the bullpen and in right-field.
The Crawford and Lackey signings along with the trades for since-departed Victor Matinez and Gonzalez left this very dollar-rich team weak in minor-league prospects and unable to find enough wiggle room to sign what they needed without breaking way past the level where the luxury tax kicks in.
This limits what the Red Sox will actually do this season. This is team that already is beset by injuries (Lackey, Dice-K, Crawford, Jenks) and they are severely lacking in depth before spring training has even started. It is hard to see how they find the money to fix what needs fixing if the ship should begin to flounder.
The Red Sox will only go as far their offense and their top three starters take them this season.
With the Rays a bit flawed it is easy to see both the Red Sox and Rays battling for second place behind the Yankees in 2012. Because of what happened to the Red Sox last season it hard to see how it could happen again. But that is what I am predicting.
I just have a sneaking suspicion that the Rays pitching will be the reason the Red Sox will finish third. The only question is can Valentine get out of town before RSN tries to lynch him. Good luck, with this bunch, Bobby. You are going to need it – along with a lot of Maalox.
Just call them the Red Flops.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
– William Shakespeare from Macbeth
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2
It looked like Thursday night series finale against the Red Sox was going to be one of those games where the Yankees put runner after runner on base only to be denied a run. That is until the seventh inning, when Russell Martin came to the plate with two on and one out.
Up to that point, the Yankees were trailing 2-1 because the Yankees could not parlay nine hits, four walks and a hit batter into any runs after the first inning and had left 12 runners on base in the first six innings.
But Martin greeted The Bard, the reliever Daniel and not the famous playwright, with a two-run double to right-center and closer Mariano Rivera weathered a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the ninth to strike out Adrian Gonzalez looking to preserve a very important victory for New York in front of a mostly hostile crowd of 38,074 at Fenway Park.
With the victory the Yankees pulled to within a slim half game of the Red Sox in the American League East race and the two teams are tied in the loss column at 53 apiece.
The Yankees had trailed since the bottom of the fourth inning, when Dustin Pedroia followed a four-pitch walk to Gonzalez with a two-run home run to center off Yankee starter A.J. Burnett.
But the Yankees got busy with one out in the seventh inning with an incredible at-bat by Andruw Jones against former Yankee reliever Alfredo Aceves. Jones worked Aceves to a 2-2 count, fouled off three pitches, took ball three, fouled off five more pitches and drew ball four.
Aceves’ night then came to an end when he hit designated hitter Jesus Montero, who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and was playing in his first major-league game, with a 2-2 pitch.
Manager Terry Francona summoned his ace setup man,Bard, to get the Red Sox out the jam. However, Martin was able to drive 3-2 Bard fastball into the gap in right-center to score pinch-runner Chris Dickerson, who also was recalled from Scranton on Thursday, and Montero to allow the Yankees to reclaim the lead. Martin moved to third on the play at the plate.
Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez then added an important insurance run by slapping a 1-0 fastball to right that scored Martin.
The Yankees again turned to their troika of Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Rivera to close out the game.
Soriano tossed a scoreless seventh and Robertson followed suit in the eighth.
But Rivera opened the ninth by walking Jed Lowrie. After Josh Reddick flew out to deep right and Jarrod Saltalamacchia struck out swinging, Jacoby Ellsbury drew a walk. Rivera entered the game having walked only five batters in 51 innings.
Marco Scutaro then singled sharply to right to load the bases and bring to the plate Gonzalez, who entered the game leading major-league baseball with a .341 average.
Rivera, using his cutter to Gonzalez on the inside corner for the first four pitches, was ahead on the count 1-2 when he threw a cutter to the outside corner at the knees and Gonzalez watched as it nestled right into Martin’s glove and home-plate umpire Alfonso Marquez raised his right arm to call Gonzalez out on strikes.
The game was somewhat bittersweet redemption for Burnett, who has been lit up like a roman candle since June 29. Signed as a free agent before the 2009 season expressly because he came off a 18-10 season in which he beat the Red Sox four times, Burnett entered Thursday’s game having never beaten the Red Sox while wearing a Yankee uniform. Burnett also was in real danger of losing his spot in the starting rotation.
But Burnett pitched well. He gave up only the two runs on five hits and two walks and he fanned four batters over 5 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankee hitters were keeping Boston left-hander Jon Lester busy throwing pitches from the first toss four hours and 21 minutes before this marathon ended.
With one out in the fist inning, Curtis Granderson singled to right. Mark Teixeira followed with a sinking liner single to center and Robinson Cano scored Granderson with a lined double off the Green Monster in left-center.
The Yankees could have put a real hurting on Lester then. But Nick Swisher struck out, Jones walked and Montero struck out to end the threat. However, Lester threw 43 pitches in the inning. Though the Yankees continued to put pressure on Lester they could not get the big hit to either tie it or take the lead.
Lester threw 114 pitches over five innings and gave up just the lone run on seven hits and three walks.
Burnett left the game with one out in the sixth after giving up a single and a stolen base to Pedroia and a walk to David Ortiz. Boone Logan was called in by manager Joe Girardi and he fanned Carl Crawford.
Cory Wade then was called in to pitch to Lowrie and disaster nearly struck the Yankees.
Lowrie lofted a fast-sinking liner into centerfield but Granderson dove to his right and scooped the ball into his glove just before it hit the ground. The sensational grab not only saved at least one run for sure. It also ended the inning.
Wade (3-0), thanks to Granderson, earned the victory with his one-third inning of relief. Rivera earned his 36th save in 41 chances, albeit he did it the hard way.
Aceves (9-2) took the loss.
The Yankees ended up taking two of three from the Red Sox at Fenway and now are 4-11 with their bitter rival on the season.
- Martin missed the first two games of the series but he made his presence felt with his clutch double in this game. He was 2-for-5 with two RBIs and scored a run. Martin has quietly and steadily raised his season’s average to .240.
- Cano continues to pound Red Sox pitching. He was 2-for-5 with two doubles and an RBI in the game. Cano is now hitting easily a team-best .307 on the season and he now has 98 RBIs.
- Burnett was so bad many Yankee fans cringed when it was announced he would pitch this game. It was with good reason, too. Burnett recorded an astronomical 11.91 ERA in August. But he did pitch well and kept the Yankees in the game until the Yankee hitters finally got tired of leaving runners on base. There is a good chance Burnett will remain a starter and Phil Hughes will be sent to the bullpen after Burnett’s performance because Hughes has experience in the bullpen and Burnett’s wildness may not translate well to the bullpen.
- Granderson’s catch in the sixth inning added a strong defensive note to his resume for a potential Most Valuable Player award. Granderson’s 124 runs, 38 home runs, 107 RBIs, 10 triples and 24 stolen bases has overshadowed his excellent defense in centerfield.
- The Yankees were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position until Martin’s double and Chavez’s single in the three-run seventh. They left the bases loaded twice in the first six innings and left two on in two other innings. The pitching staff holding the Red Sox to six hits and just the two runs allowed the hitters to finally get the big hits when they needed them.
Teixeira was forced to leave the game in the bottom of the seventh inning due to swelling in right knee after he was hit by a pitch batting in the top of the sixth against Aceves. No X-rays were taken but Teixeira had the knee wrapped in ice after the game. He is day-to-day. . . . Along with Dickerson and Montero, the Yankees recalled four other players from their minor-league system. Infielder Brandon Laird and right-handed relief pitchers Lance Pendleton and Scott Proctor were called up from Scranton. Left-handed reliever Raul Valdes was recalled from Double-A Trenton. Proctor, 34, previously spent four seasons with the Yankees from 2004-2007. He posted a 2.57 ERA in seven innings at Scranton. Valdes, 33, had a 3.38 ERA in seven appearances with the Cardinals this season before he was released. Valdes becomes the second left-hander in the bullpen along with Boone Logan. . . . Alex Rodriguez (sprained left thumb) hopes to be able to return to the lineup on Friday.
The Yankees return home after a taxing road trip to host the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game weekend series.
The Yankees will open the series with their hottest starter, Ivan Nova (14.4, 3.96 ERA). Nova is 6-0 in his six starts after being recalled from Scranton on July 30. He is 1-1 with a 4.24 ERA against the Blue Jays in his short career.
The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Brandon Morrow (9-9, 4.79 ERA). Morrow has allowed five homers and 11 runs in his last 10 innings over two starts. He lso has lost four of his last five starts. He is 3-1 with a 4.68 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 2
Reporters kept reminding CC Sabathia that he was 0-4 with a 7.20 ERA against the Red Sox this season and he kept saying to them that he had beaten them before and he could do it again.
On Tuesday night, he did just that.
Sabathia bowed his neck and steeled his nerves to throw six tough innings, fanning 10 and stranding 10 baserunners as New York rode its ace lefty to a huge psychological victory over Boston at hallowed Fenway Park with 37,773 in attendance.
Sabathia (18-7) threw a Yankee career-high 128 pitches and gave up just two runs on 10 hits and two walks. But the best part of Sabathia’s performance was how he wriggled out trouble in virtually every inning.
In the second, Sabathia induced Jacoby Ellsbury to hit into a harmless grounder to end the inning with the bases full of Red Sox. In the fourth, Sabathia gave up four hits, including a solo home run by Carl Crawford and an RBI double by Marco Scutaro that brought the Red Sox back into the game at 3-2. But he struck out swinging American League batting leader Adrian Gonzalez to leave two more Bosoz adrift. In the fifth inning he struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia swinging and stranded two more runners.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at right-hander John Lackey (12-10), who entered the contest with a 3-0 record against the Yankees this season. They did it without most of the usual suspects, too. It came from the crew who normally play off the bench.
In the second inning, Eric Chavez, who is filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base, followed a Robinson Cano one-out walk and a Nick Swisher single with a bouncing RBI single just past second baseman “Dusty” Pedroia to break the seal on the scoring. I call Pedrois “Dusty” because in his effort to stop the bouncing ball he ate a face full of dirt on his dive.
The Yankees tacked two more runs off a tentative Lackey in the fourth. Curtis Granderson walked and one out later Robinson Cano doubled off high the Green Monster in left-center to score Granderson with his major-league-leading 123rd run of the season. After Nick Swisher drew a walk, Chavez hit another shot up the middle that Pedroia had no chance on to score Cano and give Sabathia a 3-0 cushion.
After the Red Sox scored what would be their only two runs of the night in the fourth, another bench player shocked Lackey and the Red Sox in the fifth. Francisco Cervelli, who came into the game with only one home run this season and a total of two in his career, blasted a 3-1 Lackey fastball over the Green Monster in left and out onto Landsdowne Street.
The Yankees added a run in the seventh. It started with a bang and some fireworks that cleared both benches and got Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild ejected from the game.
When Cervelli crossed the plate on his home-run gallop in the fifth he stopped at home plate to clap his hands. Lackey promptly hit him square in the back with his first delivery of the seventh. Cervelli immediately yelled out at Lackey and walked towards the mound. He was cut off by Saltalamacchia and home-plate umpire Ed Rapuano and both benches and bullpens cleared.
Calm was restored without any blows struck and Rapuano warned both benches to cut it out drew the ire. Rothschild had some parting words with third-base umpire Mark Wegner and walked away. However, Wegner tossed him from the game.
The question was did Lackey throw at Cervelli on purpose? If he did it was the stupidest thing he did all night. And Lackey, who came into the game with a 5.98 ERA, has been on a first-name basis with stupid in his pitching this season.
Lackey later uncorked a pitch that Saltalamacchia could not handle and Cervelli moved to second. Brett Gardner advanced Cervelli to third on a bunt single. Cervelli then scored on Derek Jeter’s double-play grounder. So if Lackey did hit Cervelli on purpose it was yet another stupid decision because it cost him a run.
Meanwhile, the Yankee bullpen had to navigate the last nine outs to preserve the victory for Sabathia. Cory Wade, Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano and Mariano Rivera combined to give up three hits, two walks and hit a batter over the final three innings. However, the Yankees were still able to keep the Red Sox from scoring with more clutch pitching.
Wade got into a one-out jam in the seventh when he walked David Ortiz and Jed Lowrie followed with a single.
Logan was summoned from the bullpen and he gave up a fly ball single to left-center by Crawford on which Ortiz could have scored. But he waited too long at second to see if it would drop. Logan then bowed his neck and steeled his nerves and fanned Saltalamacchia and Darnell McDonald on 3-2 pitches out of the strike zone.
Soriano pitched around a leadoff walk to Ellsbury to pitch a scoreless eighth and Rivera came on the ninth to fend off one last Red Sox threat.
Ortiz led off with a double. Two outs later, Rivera hit Saltalamacchia with a inside cutter in which Saltalamacchia appeared to swing. Wegner awarded Saltalamacchia first base, claiming he did not swing. Manager Joe Girardi erupted out of the dugout and he became Wegner’s second Yankee victim of the night.
Earlier in the inning, Jed Lowrie was called out on strikes on a Rivera fastball that appeared to be out of the strike zone. Lowrie slammed his bat and charged right into the face of Rapuano to argue the call and he was not ejected. Hmm!
Anyway, the hit batter left the Red Sox with the two on, two out and the tying run at the plate in pinch-hitter Josh Reddick. Reddick did slice a lined shot to the opposite field, however, Red Sox Nation went home crying like babies when Gardner reached up and snared the liner for the final out.
Rivera eanred his 35th save in 40 opportunities and it is the 594th of his career, seven saves away from all-times saves leader Trevor Hoffman’s total of 601.
The Red Sox can’t be proud of their effort on Monday. They struck out 13 times and left a total of 16 base-runners on base while scoring just two runs. The Red Sox were 2-for-13 with runners in scoring position. The key to game was they missed their opportunities to score while the Yankees cashed in on the much fewer chances they had.
The best news is the Yankees have pulled to within a half-game of the Red Flops, uh, Sox in the American League East. The Yankees are 81-52. The Bosox are 82-52.
- Sabathia’s line of 10 hits and two walks over six innings is not very impressive. But it was a very gutsy effort the ace delivered on Monday. Sabathia struck out Gonzalez the first three times he faced him and Gonazalez ended the night 0-for-5, the only Bosox starter who did not get a hit. MVP, huh? Sabathia got the big outs when he needed to and limited the damage in the fourth to two runs. Sabathia might have been more impressive in toughing out this start then he has in his complete-game shutouts.
- Chavez came through subbing for A-Rod with a pair of RBI singles off Lackey in the second and fourth innings. After missing 2 1/2 months with a broken bone in his right foot, Chavez was hitting just .237 since his return in July. However, in his last four starts, Chavez is 6-for-16 (375). Chavez stands to get some more playing time while A-Rod heals his sore left thumb.
- Cervelli’s home run was a much smaller version of the Bucky Dent home run in the one-game playoff in 1978. Cervelli was the most unlikely Yankee to homer on Tuesday. His enthusiastic celebration at home plate also goaded Lackey into stupidly hitting him in the back with his first pitch in the seventh. It cost the Lackey and the Chicken Pox, uh, Red Sox a very important run. Letting a bench guy like Cervelli get under your skin is not smart.
- Logan deserves credit for fanning Saltalamacchia and McDonald in a bases-loaded pressure situation in the seventh. Logan has not given up an earned run since July 23 against Oakland, a span of 12 appearances. Logan is 4-2 and has lowered his season ERA to 2.60.
- The Captain let us down on Tuesday. Jeter could have been still favoring his bruised right knee but he went 0-for-5 including his run-scoring double play groundout. In fact he grounded out to the infield in all five at-bats. On the verge of passing the .300 mark, Jeter’s average fell back to .293.
- Mark Teixiera also flamed out in this game. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three weak infield popups. Teixeira is so intent on loading up on his back leg and lifting the ball that he pops up a lot, hence his current batting average of .249. Tex needs to stop going down for pitches and start hitting line drives on pitches up in the strike zone.
- Jorge Posada had no day to write home about either. He was 0-for-3 and ended the Yankees two best rallies in the second and fourth innings by grounding into double plays. He also flew out to left. Posada is hitting a anemic .239 in what likely will be his last season with the Yankees.
Rodriguez had a cortisone shot administered to his left thumb and he will not play in the Red Sox series. Rodriguez originally injured the thumb diving for a Joe Mauer infield single on Aug. 21, his first game back in the lineup after missing a month with surgery on his right knee. Rodriguez then re-aggravated the injury in the first game of a doubleheader on Sunday against the Orioles. Rodriguez may be able to return to the lineup on Friday with the Yankees at home against the Blue Jays. . . . Sabathia became the fifth Yankees pitcher to win at least 18 games in three straight seasons and he is the first to do it since Vic Raschi did it from 1948 through 1951.
Well, in Act One we had four hit batters (five if you count the one Granderson was hit with that Rapuano had his head up his hind end and missed), two ejections and a bench-clearing incident. What will Act Two of the this three-act play between the Red Sox and Yankees bring on Wednesday?
The Yankees will count on 24-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes (4-4, 6.46 ERA). Hughes was on a three-game winning streak and looking like the 18-game winner he was in 2010. However, he allowed six runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Athletics last week. But Hughes did not lose the game because the Yankees rallied from a 7-1 deficit to win 22-9. Hughes is 2-4 with a 6.25 ERA lifetime against the Blowsux, uh, Bosox.
The Sox will counter with right-hander Josh Beckett (11-5, 2.43 ERA). Beckett gave up four hits and fanned four in his last outing against the Rangers. Beckett is 13-7 with a 5.37 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.