Tagged: Jeff Keppinger

Rivera Halts Late Rally As Yankees Sweep Chisox

GAME 139

YANKEES 6, WHITE SOX 5

If Yankees manager Joe Girardi wants to have a conversation after the season with Mariano Rivera just to make sure he really wants to retire who could blame him. The 43-year-old future Hall-of Fame closer has shown no signs of his age or lost an of his effectiveness.

Rivera came with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning on Wednesday and “Mo’ed” down all four batters he faced for a rare four-out save to propel New York to a three-game sweep of Chicago in front of a paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 36,082.

The Yankees actually were cruising with a 6-1 lead behind CC Sabathia in the top of the eighth when Girardi pulled him with Alexei Ramirez on second and Paul Konerko on first after he singled with one out.

Little did Girardi and the Yankees realize that the usually reliable David Robertson would have a meltdown that allowed the White Sox to climb back into the game.

Avisail Gracia greeted Roberston with an RBI single to left to score Ramirez and, one out later, Dayan Viciedo drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.

Josh Phegley followed with a two-run single to left and Marcus Semien, who was making his major-league debut, ripped an RBI single up the middle to bring the Chisox to within a run of the Yankees and send Robertson to the dugout.

Rivera came on to strike out Alejandro De Aza looking to shut the rally down and he then pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 41st save in 46 opportunities this season.

Sabathia (13=11) pitched 7 1/3 string innings to run his career record against the White Sox to 19-4. He gave up three runs on five hits and four walks while he struck four in his longest outing since Aug. 7.

Other than the two runs, Sabathia was charged with in the eighth, he only gave up a single run in the first inning when Garcia stroked a two-out, opposite-field double to drive in Gordon Beckham, who had drawn a one-out walk.

The Yankees, however, tied it with two out in the bottom of the first when Robinson Cano blasted his 26th home run of the season to right-field off right-hander Erik Johnson, who was also making his major-league debut.

The Yankees added four runs in the fourth inning off Johnson (0-1) as Alex Rodriguez led off with a lined single to center and Ichiro Suzuki reached first when Johnson’s throw to first base pulled Jeff Keppinger off the bag for an error.

Lyle Overbay followed with an RBI single and, one out later, Brett Gardner laced a two-run triple off the wall in left-center. Cano then capped the inning by driving in his 91st run of the year by scoring Gardner on a sharp comebacker off Johnson that was scored as an infield single.

Johnson, 22, was charged with five runs (three earned) on seven hits and three walks while he fanned one batter in six innings. That one batter was Suzuki, who struck out with the bases loaded and two out in the first inning.

The Yankees added what looked to be just another tack on run in the seventh inning off right-hander Daniel Webb, who was the third player for the White Sox who was making his major-league debut.

Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Cano advanced him to third with a lined single to right for his third hit of the night.

Alfonso Soriano then scored Jeter with a sacrifice fly to deep right for his 91st RBI of the season and his 40th in just 37 games with the Yankees. That run actually ended up being the margin of victory for the Yankees, who managed a home sweep of the Chisox after they swept the Yankees in a three-game series at U.S. Cellular Field a month ago.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 75-64 and they remain in third place in the American League East eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. However, they are just 2 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays for a wild-card spot. The last-place White Sox fell to 56-82, assuring them a season below .500.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano is red-hot at the plate at just the right time for the Yankees’ playoff push. He was 3-for-4 on Wednesday with a pair of singles, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs. Since Aug. 2, Cano is 42-for-117 (.359) with five home runs and 21 RBIs. Soriano is providing him with a lot of protection in the cleanup spot and he is getting better pitches to hit as a result.
  • Gardner has also been on fire of late. He was 2-for-4 with a single, a triple, a run scored and two RBIs on the night. In his past nine games, Gardner is 12-for-35 (.343) with six doubles and a triple, eight runs scored and four RBIs. His triple on Wednesday was his eighth of the season, which is a career high.
  • Sabathia actually pitched creditably after going through a stretch in which his ERA was an incredible 7.33 in his past nine starts. Sabathia has managed to win four his past five starts but he has been getting by with more run support than he received earlier in the season. The Yankees are hoping he can turn in a very good September to get the team into the playoffs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Robertson’s outing was very jarring because he was rocked for two runs on three hits and a walk in just one-third of an inning. Robertson had only given up one earned run over his past 29 1/3 innings covering 17 appearances since June 19. Considering his season ERA is still 1.88 after his outing on Wednesday I doubt Girardi will lose sleep over it.
  • Suzuki was 0-for-4 and did allow Johnson to escape a bases-loaded jam in the first when he struck out on a pitch that actually bounced in the batter’s box at his feet. He did not get a ball out of the infield and he is just 1-for-9 in his past four games and is hitting just .182 in his past 10 games.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi dropped a bombshell when he announced on Wednesday that right-hander Phil Hughes has been shifted from the starting rotation to the bullpen in favor of left-hander David Huff. Hughes, 27, is 4-13 with a 4.86 ERA in 26 starts this season. He has lost 11 of his past 13 decisions and he has a 6.12 ERA since August.  Huff, 29, has compiled a 2-0 record with 1.13 ERA in 16 innings covering seven appearances with the Yankees, most of them in long relief. Huff is scheduled to pitch in Saturday’s game against the Red Sox as part of the four-game home weekend series.  . . .  Right-hander Ivan Nova was named the American League Pitcher of the Month for August on Wednesday. Nova, 26, was 4-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his six starts and he is coming off his first major-league complete-game shutout in his last start against the Orioles on Saturday.

ON DECK

The Yankees’ hopes to win the A.L. East hinge on their four-game weekend series with the Red Sox that starts on Thursday.

Nova (8-4, 2.88 ERA) will be starting for the Yankees and he is the team’s hottest pitcher of late. Nova held the Orioles to three hits, walked one and struck out five batters in what was his most dominant start of the season. Nova is 2-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his career against the Bosox.

Nova will be opposed by right-hander Jake Peavy (3-1, 3.18 ERA). Peavy held the White Sox to two runs on five hits and a walk in seven innings to win his last start on Saturday. However, Peavy has had no luck against the Yankees. He is 0-4 with a 3.86 ERA lifetime against them.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Nova’s Star Reignited As Yankees Dim Rays’ Hopes

GAME 145

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

So much of life seems to move in circles and Ivan Nova’s path to Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays certainly came full circle.

Nova reached the All-Star break 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA coming off a brilliant rookie season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. But then came a surprisingly rapid decline in which he was 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in his last eight starts and he ended up on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 22 with inflammation of his right rotator cuff.

Nova, coming off the DL to make his first start in three weeks, was simply brilliant in pitching six-plus innings in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports as New York reclaimed sole possession of first place in the American League East with a clutch victory over Tampa Bay.

Nova (12-7) gave up two runs on just four hits and two walks and he struck out eight batters in an 85-pitch effort that drew a standing ovation from most of the paid crowd of 46,856 at Yankee Stadium as he left in the seventh inning.

The victory for the Yankees, coupled with the 5-2 loss of the Baltimore Orioles to the Oakland Athletics later on Saturday, allowed the Yankees to reclaim a one-game lead over the Orioles in the standings while the Rays dropped to four games back in third place.

The Yankees were able to get to Rays starter James Shields in the second inning.

Raul Ibanez opened the frame by drawing a walk and, one out later, Curtis Granderson timed a change-up and drove it deep into the bleachers in right-field for his 39th home run of the season.

Three pitches later, Eduardo Nunez smacked a high cutter into the stands in left-field to make it 3-0. Nunez, playing his third consecutive game for a hobbling Derek Jeter at shortstop, also had his season come full circle after being sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 11 and being recalled on Sept. 1. For Nunez it was his first home run of the season.

The Yankees added a run off Shields (14-9) in the fifth inning with two out. Ichiro Suzuki, batting leadoff for the Yankees for only the second time since he was acquired for the Mariners on May 23, singled to left and stole second base. Jeter then drove in Suzuki with hot smash up the middle.

The Rays were finally able to get to Nova in the bottom of the sixth inning when Evan Longoria was able to launch a two-out solo home run into right-center.

Nova, returning with a very strict pitch count, left in the seventh after giving up a leadoff single to Jeff Keppinger.

Manager Joe Girardi elected to bring in Boone Logan. Logan retired pinch-hitter Ben Francisco on botched bunt attempt in which Logan was able to throw out Keppinger at second. However, Ryan Roberts stroked a double down the left-field line to advance Francisco to third.

Joba Chamberlain replaced Logan and promptly retired pinch-hitter Sam Fuld on a hard-hit ball that Chamberlain snagged on a high bounce and threw out Fuld to save two runs. Nonetheless, Chamberlain was tagged for a two-out, two-run single by pinch-hitter Luke Scott to cut the Yankees’ lead to a single run.

Chamberlain was able to escape further damage by striking out Desmond Jennings on an 0-2 curveball.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and the Yankees added an insurance run in their half of the inning on a one-out double by Robinson Cano off lefty reliever Jake McGee and Alex Rodriguez followed with RBI single up the middle.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and he pitched around a Francisco single and walk to Carlos Pena to strike out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson swinging for his 39th save in 42 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees ran their season record to 82-63. The Rays are 78-67 and are finding their hopes of winning the division looking very bleak.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Nova refused to blame his weak second-half performance on his shoulder injury, it was obvious that something was definitely wrong with him. But 23 days of rest brought back Nova’s velocity and command of the strike zone. The Rays also might have had something to do with it. Nova is 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his eight career starts against the Rays.
  • Granderson is getting his home-run stroke back after a long slide at the plate. Gramderson has hit five home runs in his past six games. He is 7-for-22 (.318) with five home runs and 11 RBIs in that six-game span. After being benched for a few games against left-handers, it appears Granderson is starting to get hot again.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a big RBI in the eighth inning. Since coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez is 14-for-47 (.298) with three home runs and nine RBIs. Only five of his 14 hits have been for extra bases but A-Rod appears to concentrating on making contact and hitting the ball where it is pitched rather then swinging for the fences.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The bullpen was a little leaky on Saturday. Chamberlain had been pitching much sharper of late but he was victimized by Scott’s single that allowed two inherited runners to score. Though Soriano and Roberston have had good seasons in the wake of the loss of future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, the rest of the bullpen has been a bit more inconsistent in the second half. They need to get better with the playoffs looming.
  • Eric Chavez was 0-for-3 in the game and he suddenly has fallen into a prolonged slump. Since Aug. 19, Chavez is 10-for-51 (.196) with no home runs and two RBIs. His season average has dropped from .305 t0 .283 in that span.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi said using Suzuki in the leadoff spot had to do with Suzuki’s success against Shields and was not something that will be happen frequently. Suzuki entered the game 14-for-46 (.307) against Shields. The move paid dividends because Suzuki was 1-for-3 off Shields with a stolen base and a run scored.  . . .  If his rehab continues without any setbacks, outfielder Brett Gardner could be activated from the disabled list next week. Gardner has only played in nine games this season and his return was delayed by surgery on his right elbow in July. Gardner is not able to swing a bat but he could be used as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement in the outfield.

ON DECK

The Yankees can win the series against the Rays with a victory in the rubber game on Sunday.

In their final regular-season meeting with Rays the Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.17 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision the Yankees lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with rookie left-hander Matt Moore (10-10, 3.68 ERA). Moore gave up two runs in four innings in his last start against the Orioles. He is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

Rays Pay Price As Sabathia Notches 5th Straight

GAME 31

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

Just like the swallows who return to San Juan Capistrano every year and the upstream swim of the salmon, you can pretty much set your clock about this time every season when CC Sabathia gets on a roll.

Sabathia (5-0) gave up two runs (neither of them earned) on seven hits and one walk and he struck out a season-high 10 in eight strong innings on Thursday as he outdueled David Price and defeated Tampa Bay at Yankee Stadium for his fifth straight victory.

With the victory, the Yankees won the three-game series with the Rays.

Price (5-2), who was 3-0 in his five previous matchups against Sabathia, took the loss this time, giving up five runs on 11 hits and three walks and striking out four in seven innings.

The key blows for the Yankees were one-out RBI single by Chris Stewart in the second inning that tied the score at 2-2 and a two-run home run by Robinson Cano in the fifth inning that put the Yankees ahead of the Rays to stay.

Rafael Soriano, who was summoned to pitch the ninth inning because closer David Robertson was unavailable to pitch, gave up a run but still managed to get credit his first save of the season.

Curtis Granderson also homered for the Yankees. His solo shot to lead off the second inning was his 11th of the season.

The Rays scored a pair of unearned runs in each of the first two innings aided by errors by Eduardo Nunez.

With two out and runners on first and second, Nunez mishandled a bouncer off the bat of Brandon Guyer that loaded the bases and Carlos Pena followed with an RBI single but Nick Swisher was able to cut down Jeff Keppinger trying to score at home plate to end the inning.

In the second inning, Nunez fielded an easy grounder off the bat of Chris Gimenez but tossed the potential double-play relay to Robinson Cano into right-field that allowed Elliot Johnson to slide safely into second. Johnson later scored on a two-out single by Sean Rodriguez.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 17-14. The Rays fell to 20-12.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia is on a full-fledged roll now. In his last five starts, he has pitched 39 1/3 innings and has given up just 11 runs on 29 hits and five walks and he has struck out 38 batters. That is an ERA of 2.52 and a WHIP of  0.86 in that span. Over the final six innings, Sabathia held the Rays to no runs on just three singles.
  • Cano is back to his old self and it shows. He was 3-for-4 in the game with two singles and his two-run home run. Cano now has an eight-game hitting streak and during that span he is 12-for-32 (.375) with two home runs and seven RBIs. He has raised his season average to .286. Opposing pitchers, beware!
  • Stewart will never be compared to Matt Wieters or  Joe Mauer at the plate, but his RBI single tied the game and set the stage for the Yankees ability to take the lead in the fifth. Stewart is hitting just .240 and he plays largely because of his defense. But he has four big RBIs for the Yankees this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • I think even manager Joe Girardi has had enough of “Eduardo Scissorhands” Nunez and his careless errors. Nunez misplayed Guyer’s grounder because he was rushing to step on third before he even had the ball. The errant throw in the second inning was just carelessness. Nunez led the Yankees in errors last season with 20 despite the fact he played only half the time. He leads the team with six errors this season and Girardi actually put Jayson Nix in at third in the SIXTH inning as a defensive replacement for Nunez.
  • Though he did draw a walk in the fifth, Mark Teixeira was 0-for-3 in the game and his season average dipped to .212. He was hitting .288 on April 23 but since then he is 8-for-59 (.136) with a home run and six RBIs. I think we have seen the final transformation of Teixiera into what Jason Giambi was in 2008 when he hit 32 home runs, drove in 96 runs and hit .247.
  • Derek Jeter took a rare 0-for-4 and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Jeter’s batting average dipped to .376. But he can be forgiven the mini-slump because he has been carrying the team for most of the season with his bat.

BOMBER BANTER

Brett Gardner has suffered a setback in his attempt to come back from a right elbow strain. Girardi told reporters that another MRI exam indicated that Gardner has a further strain of a muscle in his elbow and he will miss two to four more weeks of action. Gardner has been sidelined since he injured the elbow making a diving catch on April 18. He was on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday when he reported a lingering pain in his elbow after the game. Girardi said Gardner will not swing a bat for 10 days and then will be re-evaluated.  . . .  Eric Chavez was not activated from the seven-day disabled list on Thursday as expected because he has not been cleared by Major League Baseball. League officials were concerned about one aspect of Chavez’s concussion test. But Chavez participated in a second test and he hopes to be cleared to play soon.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open a three-game home weekend series with the Seattle Mariners on Friday.

Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-4, 3.75 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda is coming off a disappointing start in which he gave up three runs (two earned) on six hits and three walks in 4 1/3 innings on Saturday to the Kansas City Royals. He is 0-1 with a 5.68 ERA in his career against the Mariners.

Right-hander Felix Hernandez (3-1, 1.89 ERA) will get the start for the Mariners. He is coming off a seven-inning, one-hit shutout victory over the Minnesota Twins. He is 6-4 with a 3.29 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Robertson’s Dramatic Punchout Saves Nova’s Win

GAME 29

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

Harry Houdini is known as the greatest escape artist of all time and Mariano Rivera is regarded as the greatest closer in the history of baseball.

On Tuesday night, David Robertson paid homage to them both by escaping a bases-loaded, two-out jam to strike out Carlos Pena looking to record his first save since Rivera sustained a season-ending right knee injury last week in Kansas City.

Meanwhile, Ivan Nova may have had his 15-game winning streak snapped in his last outing but Rual Ibanez’s two home runs and three RBIs and Curtis Granderson’s solo shot gave him the offense he needed to start another one as New York held on to defeat Tampa Bay on a rainy and cool night at Yankee Stadium.

Nova (4-1) pitched his best game of the season, giving up two runs on six hits and two walks while striking out eight batters over seven innings.

The Yankees were able to pin the first loss of the season on Rays right-hander James Shields (5-1). Shields limited the Yankees to three runs on four hits and three walks and he struck out four in six innings of work. However, two of the hits left the yard.

Ibanez gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning with a two-out, two-run home run to right-field right after Robinson Cano was cut down at home plate trying to score on a Nick Swisher grounder to second baseman Will Rhymes. Ibanez has only three hits in 46 at-bats career against Shields and two of them have been home runs.

Granderson victimized Shields in the following frame with a two-out blast into the fourth row of the right-field bleachers. It was Granderson’s 10th home run of the season, which leads the team.

The Rays clawed back to within a run on a pair of solo home runs – one from Jose Molina in the sixth and another from Luke Scott in the seventh.

However, Ibanez led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a blast off reliever Burke Badenhop that struck high off the foul pole in right-field.

The Rays got that run back in the eighth when Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a triple and he later scored on a wild pitch from reliever Rafael Soriano.

The Yankees reclaimed their two-run edge in the bottom of the inning when Mark Teixeira stroked a one-out double into the corner in right-field to score Alex Rodriguez, which set up the dramatic ninth inning.

With one out, Robertson walked Rhymes and Sean Rodriguez followed with a single in the hole to left. Robertson was able to strike out pinch-hitter Brandon Allen swinging but he walked Zobrist tio load the bases.

With intermittent rain showers having held down the paid crowd of 37,086 to about half of that total, most of them were on their feet as Robertson dueled Pena with the game on the line.

After getting two quick strikes, Robertson missed with his next two offerings. But, the former setup man now closer was able to place a 94 mile-per-hour fastball perfectly on the outside corner that caught Pena looking and ended the game.

It was the fourth career save for Robertson and his first of the season.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 16-13 on the season and they gained a game on the first-place race in the American League East. The Rays are 19-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova bounced back nicely after two consecutive poor outings in which he gave up 11 runs on 20 hits and seven walks in 11 2/3 innings. The key was Nova had command of his fastball, curveball and slider and it translated into eight strikeouts, which tied his previous season high against the Angels on April 15.
  • Ibanez is proving to be a very good free-agent signing for the Yankees. It was Ibanez’s 15th career multi-homer game and his first with New York. After hitting .241 in April, Ibanez is hitting .353 in May. He now has five home runs and 16 RBIs on the season.
  • Robertson’s high-wire act in the ninth may have looked like nerves but Yankee fans are well aware that Robertson is prone to issuing his share of walks. Robertson entered the game with a 0.00 ERA and he had struck out the last eight batters he faced and 10 of the last 11. He left the mound with a 0.00 ERA and he now has 23 strikeouts in 13 innings this season. He has not been scored upon in his last 26 1/3 innings over 12 appearances dating back to last September.
  • Granderson’s home run puts him second in the American League with 10. That would have tied Josh Hamilton of the Rangers but he was busy hitting four home runs in a game on Tuesday against the Orioles.

HOLEY-MOLELY, FOLEY: By the way, the Yankees owe a big thank you to Rays third-base coach Tom Foley. In the seventh inning, Scott had just brought the Rays to within a run of the Yankees with his one-out solo home run. Nova walked Jeff Keppinger and then surrendered a double to Rhymes that rolled into the corner down the right-field line. Foley could have sent Keppinger home but he elected to play it safe and held him. Sean Rodriguez then lofted a fly ball midway into right-field and down the line. Swisher made the catch and fired the ball on the fly – but off to the left of home plate – to catcher Russell Martin. Again, Foley chose not to risk sending Keppinger. But the prudent approach backfired when Nova fanned Molina swinging on an 0-2 pitch and the Rays were thwarted.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Martin is really struggling at the plate. He was one of two Yankee starters who did not have a hit (Swisher was 0-for-4) and his 0-for-3 night dropped his season average to a pathetic .184. Martin’s exceptional defense is valuable in and of itself, however, it would be nice of he started hitting more consistently.
  • Soriano looked a bit shaky in his new eighth-inning role. The leadoff triple to Zobrist was bad enough but he compounded the problem by unleashing a wild pitch with two outs to allow the Rays to draw to within a run. Soriano ended the frame by striking out the side but it was too late.
  • Swisher came up in the fourth and eighth innings with a runner on third and only one out. In both cases he failed to get the runner in. In the fourth, he bounced a ball to Rhymes that ended up with Cano being thrown out. In the eighth, he bounced a ball to Pena at first and the runner (Teixeira) was unable to score.

BOMBER BANTER

It’s official! Andy Pettitte will be activated on Sunday and he will make the first start of 2012 comeback against the Seattle Mariners on Sunday. “I think everybody is in agreement that he’s not really going to benefit from any more time down below,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman told reporters on Tuesday. Manager Joe Girardi said the club is not willing to discuss who will be dropped from the rotation in favor of Pettitte.  . . .  No date has been set for the season-ending right knee surgery for Rivera. Rivera met with team physician Chris Ahmad as well as Dr. Russell Warren and Dr. David Altchek on Monday, all of whom concurred with the diagnosis of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus. There also was a complication found during the examination but the Yankees are not commenting on it. Cashman only said it would not prevent Rivera from pitching in 2013.  . . .  Brett Gardner played in a game at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday as part of rehab assignment. Gardner (strained right elbow) hopes to be ready to be activated from the disabled list on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home series against the Rays on Wednesday.

Rookie right-hander David Phelps (0-1, 3.74 ERA) will make his second start of the season for the Yankees. Phelps gave up only two runs on six hits against the Royals last Thursday. But a high pitch count limited him to only four innings and he took the loss. Phelps has no record against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with right-hander Jeff Niemann (2-3, 4.05 ERA). Niemann gave up three runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out five against the Mariners last Thursday to win his second game of the season. Niemann is 3-0 with a 3.10 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Leave Tampa Bay Area With Blank Glare

GAME 3

RAYS 3, YANKEES 0

This weekend for the Yankees was like it came from the mind of 1970s disaster film king Irwin Allen. The title could be “Voyage to the Bottom of the Division.”

Jeremy Hellickson blanked New York on three hits in 8 2/3 innings as Tampa Bay gave the term “Bronx Bombers” a new twist in a weekend opening series sweep on Sunday at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.

Hellickson (1-0) struck four and walked four before giving way to Fernando Rodney for a one-out save in the ninth.

Phil Hughes (0-1) actually pitched well but did not get any support for his efforts, He gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and struck five in 4 2/3 innings when his pitch count reached 99. The Rays were determined not to swing until at any offering unless they had two strikes on them.

The whole weekend was a series of contrasts. The balls the Yankees hit would either go right to a Rays’ fielder and the long fly balls stayed in the ballpark. But every ball the Rays hit would just elude a Yankee fielder or inch over the wall. Maybe instead of Irwin Allen it was more like a haunting Alfred Hitchcock.

One would guess is that if Rays manager Joe Maddon had stationed a fielder on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge one of the Yankees would have hit it right into his glove.

The Yankees are an early 0-3. The Rays are 3-0. But I seem to remember the Rays starting poorly last season and it did not deter them.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • No Yankees were actually harmed in the production of this disaster.
  • The last time the Yankees started a season 0-3 was in 1998 and they happened to win 114 games and went on to win a world championship, So there is a silver lining in the Tampa Bay thunderstorm clouds.
  • Hughes actually did pitch well and it bodes well for a bounce-back season for him.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • On Saturday Jeff Keppinger of the Rays deliberately hit the ball to the right side of the infield to advance Luke Scott to third base. I do not recall a single Yankee “giving themselves up” to advance a baser-runner this entire weekend. All I saw was a lot of weak popups, grounders and strikeouts with runners in scoring position. For the weekend they were 5-for-25 (.200).
  • Nick Swisher failed twice in run-scoring opportunities on Sunday and it set the tone for the Yankees’ frustrating day. In the fourth, with one out and Alex Rodriguez on third and Mark Teixeira on second after a double, Swisher messed up a 3-1 count by hitting a weak popup to third. In the sixth, with two outs and Rodriguez on third and Teixeira at first, Swisher was called out on strikes.
  • I remember in spring training how manager Joe Girardi was proud of his veteran designated hitters Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez for their experience in playing the outfield and how it would give the team lots of flexibility. Girardi chose on Sunday to start Ibanez in right-field and Swisher as the DH. However, just because Ibanez “can” play the outfield doesn’t mean he should. In the first inning, Evan Longoria doubled to left with two out. Matt Joyce followed with a sinking liner to right that Ibanez misplayed into a triple and the Rays scored the only run they needed the rest of the day.  Ibanez has no business playing the outfield on an artificial surface, period.

BOMBER BANTER

Andy Pettitte will make his first start in a minor-league game on Monday with Class-A Tampa against Clearwater in Florida State League game in Clearwater, FL. Pettitte, 39, hopes to resume his major-league career with the Yankees sometime in May.  . . .  Despite the fact he was limping after the game, Curtis Granderson said his sore right calf was not a serious injury. Granderson fouled a ball off his right calf in the third inning. He later struck out and finished the day 0-for-3 with a walk.  . . .  Girardi opted not to rest Rodriguez on Sunday and he said the veteran third baseman likely will DH on Monday. Girardi said there will be focus on trying to keep Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rested throughout the season.

ON DECK

For the first time since they arrived in Tampa, FL., in February for spring training the Yankees will be in Baltimore on Monday to play the Orioles.

The Yankees will start right-hander Ivan Nova. Nova had a pretty forgettable spring after recording a 16-4 record and a 3.70 ERA in his rookie season. He was 2-0 with a 3.55 ERA in four starts against the Orioles last season.

The Orioles will counter with left-hander Brian Matusz, coming of a 1-9 record and 10.69 ERA in 2011. Matusz is 2-4 with a 4.70 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.