Tagged: Joey Votto

Injury Cuts Down Tex For First Time In Pinstripes

The New York Yankees have reached the end of the regular season as champions of the American League East and they have the best record in the league. It was not easy but they are now ready for the playoffs. It is time to look at the players that got them there and give them grades for the season.

FIRST BASE – MARK TEIXEIRA (24 HRs, 84 RBIs, .251 BA)

When you look at Mark Teixiera’s career numbers you see the amazing consistency he has provided since 2004, his second season in the majors. He entered the 2012 season as the only active player who had hit 30 or more home runs and drove 100 or more runs for eight consecutive seasons.

Teixeira, 32, was on track to make it nine this season when on Aug. 27 he incurred a Grade 1 strain of his left calf.

He returned to the lineup Sept. 8 and re-injured the calf trying to beat out a double-play grounder that ended a loss against the Orioles in Baltimore. He did not return until Oct. 1, when the Yankees opened their final series of the season against the Red Sox.

Though he blasted a two-run home run in his first game back, Teixeira’s contributions at the plate during the playoffs may be limited. It is unclear how long it will take him to sharpen up his stroke from both sides of the plate.

But Teixeira’s presence in the lineup means far more than what he actually contributes himself. The lineup deepens when he is back in it and, no matter what Teixeira delivers at the plate, he provides world-class defense at first base and saves the pitchers runs and his infield teammates errors.

The only real knock on his game has been the steady decline in his batting average since he signed with the Yankees as a free agent in 2009.

After hitting .259 in his rookie season with Texas, Teixeira batted .281, .301, .282 and .306 in his next four seasons. Teixeira hit .306 and .308 in combined seasons with Texas and Atlanta in 2007 and Atlanta and the Los Angeles Angels in 2008.

But when he joined the Yankees in 2009, Teixera found the short porch in right very inviting, much like his predecessor Jason Giambi did. He hit .292 in 2009 but since then he has hit .256, and .248.

The criticism of his low average stung a bit and Teixeira vowed this season that he would take a new approach into the season with him. He would not be a strict pull hitter, but try to go the other way with pitches. This, he hoped, would raise his average while not hurting his production.

But it was obvious early in the season that Teixeira was struggling with the new approach. In his typically slow April, he hit .244 with three home runs and 12 RBIs.

Teixeira abandoned the approach altogether in May and by the All-Star break he had 14 home runs 46 RBIs and a .247 average. Teixeira basically said: “I do not care what my batting average is. I am paid to hit home runs and drive in runs and that is what I am going to do.”

Judging by his numbers, Teixeira was on a pace in which he would have reached 30 home runs and 100 RBIs had he not been injured. Injuries are new with him, too.

Teixeira had not played less than 156 games since 2007, when he played in 132 games.

So you take two things out of Teixeira’s injury this season: No. 1, it a rare occurrence and No. 2, it is just bad luck it happened so late in the season.

Though Teixeira has fallen a notch below the elite first basemen in baseball such as Cecil Fielder of the Detroit Tigers and Joey Votto of the Cincinnati Reds, he is still one of the most productive hitters at his position and he is still considered the elite fielding first basemen in the game.

The proof of his fielding prowess is that Teixeira set a career low by committing only one error all season. That is not a fluke either. He has not committed more than five errors in a season since his rookie year in 2004, when he was shifted to first base by the Rangers for the first time and he was charged with 10.

The error totals don’t really measure how good Teixeira is at first base. He has unbelievable range, cat-quick reflexes, an accurate arm and an uncanny ability to scoop bad throws out of the dirt.

Over the years, the Yankees have gotten excellent glove-work out of first baseman such as Don Mattingly and Tino Martinez. Teixeira could be considered as good as those two if not maybe a bit better. The errors he saves his fellow infielders have become part of his legend now.

So even when Teixeira is slumping at the plate, he contributes so much in the field that it does not show unless he is gone for periods of time like he was this season.

Though Nick Swisher is above average at the position, Teixeira’s defense was missed when he was gone.

MIDSEASON GRADE: C

SECOND HALF GRADE: I

OVERALL GRADE: C

BACKUP – ERIC CHAVEZ (16 HRs, 37 RBIs, .281 BA)

Despite the fact that manager Joe Girardi elected to use Swisher as Teixeira’s primary backup when he was injured, Swisher’s report card will be with the outfielders.

Chavez, 34, made six starts at the position and played in 10 games here during the season. The Yankees also used Casey McGehee and Steve Pearce at the position during Teixeira’s stint on the disabled list.

But Chavez is still considered the primary backup at first base and his season was magical. He avoided injury, which is always a plus considering he has not played more than 137 games since 2006.

Chavez was signed primarily as a backup at third and first base and an occasional designated hitter against right-handers. In those roles Chavez seemed to thrive because, though his midseason numbers were good (six home runs, 16 RBIs and a .270 batting average), his second-half numbers were even better.

He had 10 home runs, 21 RBIs and raised his season average 11 points.Chavez made 50 starts at third base and that is the position for which he collected six consecutive Gold Gloves with the Oakland Athletics from 2001 to 2006. First base is a little tougher for him though he committed only one error at first in his limited time there.

No one can come close to providing the defense Teixeira can at the position but Chavez does not embarrass himself either.

MIDSEASON GRADE: B

SECOND HALF GRADE: B+

OVERALL GRADE: B

The fact that the Yankees were forced to trade for McGehee and sign Pearce as a free agent shows just how devoid of talent the Yankees are at the position in the minor leagues.

Pearce, 29, and former major league slugger Russell Branyan, 36, played the position at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. They combined for 22 home runs (11 apiece) there but neither obviously are considered are long-term solutions at the position for the Yankees.

Of course, Teixeira is signed through the 2016 season but the Yankees still need to be looking at grooming a replacement soon.

At Double-A Trenton the Yankees had a pair of powerful right-handed-hitting first basemen in Addison Maruzak and Luke Murton.

Maruszak, 25, had 16 homers, 59 RBIs and hit ,276 and Murton, 26, put up 25 home runs, 68 RBIs and batted .249. But the Yankees do not consider either player a prospect because they are playing at the Double-A level at a decidedly advanced age.

The Yankees do not have a first baseman among their Top 20 minor-league prospects so this position could stand to be strengthened.

OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C

As long as the Yankees have Teixeira they can count on 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and a batting average in the .240s or so. In addition, they will get Gold Glove defense from arguably the best-fielding first baseman in the game.

Teixeira’s consistency is his hallmark. Up to this season, he also has been quite durable. But the Yankees are going to have to admit that as Teixeira gets older he is going to be more susceptible to injury and he will require more rest during the season.

What Teixeira will able to contribute in the playoffs is questionable right now. Because Teixeira has always been a slow starter when the season begins, it stands to reason he might be real rusty when the playoffs begin. He also is not playing at 100 percent on his left calf now.

But just having him in lineup makes it stronger and there is no doubt Teixeira can save runs and errors with is glove. So the sum of all the parts adds up to being a huge positive for the Yankees.

 

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Yankees Look Poised To Take Control Of A.L. East

The New York Yankees have played 33 percent of the season and their record stands just about where it was in 2011 when the Yankees were 31-23. That team ended up winning 97 games to lead the American League. The question is in 2012 can the Yankees reach the same heights with the loss of Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, young right-handed starter Michael Pineda and an offense that seems to sputter with runners in scoring position. Let’s examine how the Yankees have fared.

OFFENSE

Last season the Yankees wielded a powerful offense despite the fact only Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano had what could be called good seasons. Their hope in 2012 was that Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher, Russell Martin and Brett Gardner would join them along with new designated hitter Raul Ibanez, who replaced the retired Jorge Posada.

Instead, the Yankees can actually only point to one hitter who has truly carried the offense throughout the season and that is Jeter. The 37-year-old shortstop has reached the one-third mark with the third-highest batting average in the American League at .336 with six home runs and 20 RBIs.

It is an extension of the way he has hit since he returned from the disabled list last July and it has finally silenced talk throughout Yankee Universe that his productive days were behind him.

The only disappointing part of Jeter’s season is his run scored total of 30. That number points to the problems the Yankees have had in scoring runs this season when they are not hitting home runs.

The team’s batting average with runners in scoring position is atrocious. Jeter leads the team in that category hitting a mere .262. Ibanez is hitting .256. The rest is abysmal: Swisher, .236; Granderson, .222; Teixeira, .218; Martin, .172; Rodriguez, .170; and Cano, .140.

What is manager Joe Girardi to do? Should he bench A-Rod and Cano in favor of Eric Chavez and Jayson Nix? Should he bat A-Rod leadoff because he is hitting .346 with the bases empty and make Jeter the cleanup hitter?

The problem is all Girardi can do is trust that these hitters will begin to hit more like they have in the past and the law of averages will mean the Yankees will start to begin to punish pitchers who dare to load the bases. The Yankees are 9-for-57 (.158) in those situations this season.

The Yankees have also suffered from a dramatic shift in their offense away from speed because Gardner has been on the disabled list since April 19 with a strained right elbow that has been slow to heal. In addition, Eduardo Nunez was sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after he continued to butcher balls so badly fielding he earned the nickname “Eduardo Scissorhands.” With it, Nunez took his 22 steals playing half the time in 2011.

Without Gardner and Nunez, the Yankees are less of a threat on the bases. Rodriguez has six steals and that ties him for the team lead with Nunez, who had six before his demotion on May 11.

The Yankees hope to have Gardner back within a week and it will be a welcome sight. Gardner was hitting .321 when he was injured and he has the ability to spark the offense with his speed. His exceptional Gold Glove-worthy defense in left-field has also been missed.

There are also hopeful signs that Teixeira is coming out his usual early-season struggles at the plate. In his last 10 games, Tex is hitting .351 with four home runs and 12 RBIs. He has abandoned his “put the ball in play” strategy to increase his batting average and gone back to his “swing for production” approach and it appears to be working.

Just don’t expect Teixeira to anywhere near the .308 average he hit in the season before he joined the Yankees. Those days seem to be behind him much like they were for his predecessor Jason Giambi after he left Oakland.

Cano and Rodroguez also are showing signs of life with the bat. Rodriguez has four home runs in his last four games and Cano was hitting .308 on May 26 until a recent 4-for-29 (.138) slide has dropped his average back to .284.

The truth is that the Yankees only will go as far as the productive bats of Cano, Rodriguez and Teixeira take them. If you triple their current numbers, Cano would have 24 home runs and 72 RBIs, Rodriguez would have 27 homers and 66 RBIs and Teixeira would have 27 home runs and 96 RBIs.

Would anyone like to bet the house that those numbers will actually be their final numbers? It would be a fool’s bet, for sure. But they have to start hitting and soon.

Granderson is having a season much like his breakout 2011 season. He has 17 home runs and 33 RBIs. His .261 average is only a point lower than he hit last season. No problem there. But there are some negatives, too.

Granderson has struck out 61 times in 207 at-bats and that translates to 183 strikeouts for a full season. He also has stolen three bases in six attempts. He also has only one triple.

It would be nice to see Granderson elevate his speed game and cut the strikeouts as the season progresses.

Swisher helped carry the offense in April by hitting .284 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. But in May, Swisher suffered a hamstring injury and he has slumped ever since. He hit just .207 in May with two home runs and nine RBIs. With this being his contract year, Swisher has all the motivation in the world to get busy hitting again. Let’s see if he can.

Ibanez, meanwhile, has been a revelation. Only signed to be a left-handed DH, Ibanez has been forced to play left-field in Gardner’s absence and he has done fine there. Ibanez has also contributed nine home runs and 29 RBIs while hitting.252. Gardner’s return should allow him to get some occasional rest at age 40 and it also might help him stay fresh the remainder of the season.

Andruw Jones, the right-handed half of the DH platoon, is off to a slow start similar to his 2011 season. He has five home runs and 11 RBIs and he hitting .233.

The biggest disappointment in the Yankees’ offense this season has been Martin.

Last season, Martin hit 18 home runs and drove in 65 runs despite hitting .237. This season, Martin is hitting a mere .194 and has four home runs and 12 RBIs. With Martin’s defensive gifts behind the plate, it is inconceivable that Girardi would replace him.

But the Yankees have ben spoiled by the offense Posada provided and there are Yankee fans who are still angry that general manager Brian Cashman traded rookie catcher Jesus Montero to the Mariners. To make them even madder, Montero is on a pace to hit 21 home runs and drive in 81 runs with the Mariners this season.

Martin better pick it up and fast. Backup catcher Chris Stewart is hitting .227 with six RBIs catching just once a week.

STARTING PITCHING

The Yankees got tired of hearing that the quality of their starting pitching began and ended with CC Sabathia.

In 2011, they cobbled a starting staff together with retreads like Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia and a promising rookie in Ivan Nova and somehow won 97 games and made the playoffs. But they were quickly eliminated to a staff of pitchers that were better in the Tigers.

This season, they ignored the extravagant fixes like C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish and decided instead to sign Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10 million contract and trade megastar Montero for Pineda. They also re-signed the 35-year-old Garcia after his 12-8 record with a 3.62 ERA.

They were counting on Nova’s continued development after a 16-4 mark and a 3.70 ERA and the return of 25-year-old Phil Hughes, who was throwing with velocity again much like he did in 2010 when he was 18-8 with a 4.16 ERA.

A funny thing happened on the way to the start of the regular season. None of this really worked out as Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild would have hoped.

Pineda showed up to camp this winter overweight by 20 pounds and the velocity on his fastball was down considerably. As spring training unfolded, Pineda never regained the velocity he had last season and after a late spring start he revealed he was pitching with a sore right shoulder.

He underwent surgery to repair a slight tear in his right shoulder and he hopes to return in the early stages of the 2013 season. Scratch Pineda.

The Yankees then hoped Garcia would be able to provide the same ability to keep them in games he showed last season. Unfortunately, Garcia was unable to regain even the modest velocity on his pitches he had last season and he was lit up like bottle rockets at the start of the Chinese New Year.

After four April starts in which he was 0-2 with a 12.71 ERA, Garcia was banished to long relief in the bullpen and there he sits. He has not pitched a game since May 21. Scratch Garcia.

The Yankees big surprise was when 39-year-old left-handed legend Andy Petitte decided to return to the Yankees after one year in retirement. After allowing Pettitte to build up his arm and legs in the minors early this season, Pettitte returned to the majors on May 13.

In his four starts, he is 2-2 with a 3.49 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP. By all measures it does not appear that Pettitte has suffered any regression of his abilities when he was idle. After the loss of Pineda for the season and Garcia’s demise, Pettitte has provided some optimism to the Yankees’ rotation.

The rest of the staff has been down early and getting better lately.

Kuroda in six of his 11 starts is 4-1 with a 1.44 ERA. In his other five starts he is 0-5 with a 8.03 ERA. Inconsistency with his command and perhaps having to adjust to a new league has a lot to do with the bad numbers. But, Kuroda is showing signs of improvement since April 24. Since then he is 3-3 with a 3.40 ERA.

The Yankees have hope the 37-year-old right-hander will continue to improve as the season goes along as he adjusts to a much tougher division like the American League East.

Hughes has also shown signs of finding his rhythm after missing most all of 2011 with weakness in his right shoulder.

The 25-year-old right-hander was 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA in April. Since then he is 4-2 with a 3.94 ERA and he is coming off the first nine-inning complete game of his career as he held the Tigers to one run and struck out eight on Sunday. Hughes is beginning to show the form that he showed when he made the American League All-Star team in 2010.

The enigma of the group has been Nova.

When he is good, it seems he gets little support or he gives up a key home run that beats him. When he is shaky, the Yankees score a lot of runs and he wins anyway.

So Nova is 6-2 with a 5.60 ERA. That is a far cry from his 2011 rookie season when he won 13 straight games.

The home-run ball is killing Nova. Last season he gave up 13 in 165 1/3 innings. This season he has given up 13 in 62 2/3 innings.

The odd thing is Nova probably has more electric stuff than any starter apart from Sabathia. The problem is Nova has been unable to harness it. When you can’t command the strike zone you are reduced to throwing fastballs over the plate and fastballs over the plate can end up in the seats.

So the answer to Nova’s troubles might be easily fixed when he begins to harness that command. He struck out 12 Reds in six innings on May 19 but lost because of three-run home run hit by Joey Votto. That is pretty much defined Nova’s odd season so far.

But at age 25, Nova is capable of good things and the Yankees have to trust he will continue to improve as he gets older. As long as Pettitte, Kuroda and Hughes are pitching well, Nova will be given that chance to grow. The alternatives of Garcia or rookie David Phelps or minor leaguers like D.J. Mitchell do not have the same arsenal Nova possesses.

That is why the Yankees have to continue to use him.

Sabathia has been, well, like Sabathia always has been.

At times shaky early in the season, Sabathia is 7-2 with a 3.12 ERA in his last nine starts. He has 74 strikeouts in 78 1/3 innings and his WHIP is 1.24.

It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that Sabathia is simply off to another season like his first three with the Yankees in which he 59-23 with a 3.05 ERA. The 31-year-old left-hander is the rock and foundation of this rotation.

He is pitching like it and as long as Pettitte, Kuroda and Hughes provide quality innings behind him, the Yankees should win enough as Nova develops. If they don’t this season is simply doomed to be a pretty bad one for the Yankees. It is just that simple.

BULLPEN

For all intents and purposes the Yankees’ 2012 season should have ended on May 3 when All-Universe closer Mariano Rivera went down in a heap shagging a fly ball on the warning track at Kauffman Stadium.

No doubt about it, losing Rivera was a big blow to the Bronx Bombers.

But Girardi had faith that David Robertson and Rafael Soriano would pick up the slack and the Yankees would be able to carry on without their precious Mo.

However, not more than 12 days later Robertson ended up on the disabled list with a left oblique strain.

Suddenly, the team with the deepest and best bullpen in baseball was no longer as deep or perceived to be as good.

However, Soriano has been successful in all seven of his save opportunities and he is 2-0 with a 1.89 RRA. Those are not too far from Mo numbers so the Yankees still have faith in their bullpen.

Girardi is hoping Robertson is a few weeks away to returning to the team. It is unclear if Robertson will get another opportunity to close. It is more likely he will resume his eighth-inning setup role.

In the meantime, Girardi is getting yeoman work from a mix-and-match righty combination of Cory Wade (2.55 ERA) and Cody Eppley (4.22) and a lefty combination of Boone Logan (2.79) and Clay Rapada (3.86).  Phelps is providing quality long relief (2.94 ERA).

So somehow the Yankees’ bullpen is getting the job done despite the injuries and that is a credit to Girardi and Rothschild.

The long-term prospects for the bullpen also appear bright because the Yankees have a number of possible replacements in the pipeline.

One is David Aardsma, a former Mariners closer who is hoping to return to the majors at around the All-Star break. The Yankees also have sinkerball specialist Mitchell a phone call away at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Mitchell is a starter but his long-term major-league career may translate to the bullpen.

The Yankees are also holding out some hope that Joba Chamberlain may recover from his Tommy John surgery and the horrific ankle injury he suffered this spring to pitch some this season. The jury is out but he insists he is ahead of schedule.

FORECAST

The Yankees are pretty much paddling water like most of the other teams in the American League East.

They stand 1 1/2 games out of first place and they are playing the first-place Rays at home beginning on Tuesday.

That will allow the Yankees to get into position to make a push over the next 54 games. After the Rays they will open their interleague schedule starting against the Mets at home this weekend.

The Yankees have the best interleague record in baseball and this period will give them a chance to press into the lead in the division while pretenders like the Orioles and Jays are poised for a slide downward. The Rays and Red Sox look to be ready to keep pace with the Yankees moving into the summer.

The biggest keys to the Yankees’ success lies in its offense being able to turn itself around and begin to hit with runners in scoring position. The team also must get more consistent pitching from Kuroda, Hughes and Nova behind Pettitte and Sabathia.

The bullpen has held together for now and Girardi must hope it continues to hold up in the absence of Rivera.

If I was a betting man, I would not bet against the Yankees standing atop this division at the the two-thirds mark of the season. There is just too much talent on this roster for it not to start asserting itself.

The Yankees have always been a second-half team. They seem to be able to turn it on in the summer months and steam ahead of the pack. I see this happening again soon. The question is who will be with them.

The Rays, boosted by their pitching, should be one. I am not sure how much steam the Red Sox have but I do know that the Orioles and Jays do not look capable of staying with the big boys.

The Orioles are in a slide already and it appears that the ball is over for this Cinderella. The Jays have struggled all season and their pitching is not capable of keeping them in it over the long haul.

So even with no Mo, the Yankees seem to have enough “mo” (as in momentum) to carry them into the summer.

 

Pettitte Blanks Reds As Yankees’ Hitters Snooze

GAME 39

YANKEES 4, REDS 0

It took 39-year-old Andy Pettitte to figure out what a starting pitcher with the New York Yankees has to do win a game when his team’s hitters are incapable of hitting with the runners in scoring position and are spending most of the month in the baseball equivalent of the Heimlech Maneuver: You pitch your freaking butt off and throw a shutout.

In his second major-league start since coming out of retirement, that is pretty much what it took as Pettitte twirled eight innings of scoreless and surgical baseball, giving up four singles, walking one and striking nine to win his first game since a July 8, 2010 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

Pettitte (1-1) flashed vintage form on Friday to navigate his way though a Reds lineup that has been struggling just as much as the Yankees have lately as New York blanked Cincinnati in an interleague game at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte’s lone run of early support came in the fourth inning when Curtis Granderson led off the frame with a lined single to center. Robinson Cano followed with a hard bouncing single to right that momentarily bounced of the glove of Jay Bruce. Granderson reached third base easily, however, in a scene all to familiar to Yankee fans, Cano was cut down trying to stretch the hit  on a throw from Bruce to shortstop Zack Cozart.

Alex Rodriguez was able to score Granderson with a slow roller to Cozart at short.

At the precise moment Granderson touched home plate, I thought it appropriate for the game to be halted so the Yankees could actually savor a moment where they actually No. 1 scored a run and No. 2 actually held a lead in a major-league game. At the very least, the mayor should have presented the team with a trophy or something.

But, the Yankees’ problem with scoring reared its ugly head again in the sixth inning and they actually made right-hander Bronson Arroyo (2-2) look a whole lot better than he actually is.

Derek Jeter led off the inning with a lined single to center. Granderson followed with a ground single up the middle and Arroyo walked Cano to load the bases with nobody out. The majority of the 42,015 in attendance who were Yankee fans knew it was not a time to celebrate yet. The Yankees showed them just why.

Rodriguez hit a ball that smashed off the glove of third baseman Todd Frazier but Frazier was able to recover in time to cut down Jeter with a throw to catcher Ryan Hanigam at the plate for the first out. Raul Ibanez followed with a bouncer to first baseman Joey Votto, who fired home to easily force Granderson before he could reach the plate. Nick Swisher then hit a lazy pop fly to Cozart in shallow center to end the threat.

The Yankees did manage to tack on three runs off Arroyo with two out in the bottom of the ninth.

Cano launched a long blast into the right-field bleachers for his fourth home run of the season. Rodriguez followed with a single to left and Ibanez closed out the scoring with lined home run into the short porch in right for his eighth home run of the season.

So even though the Yankees did score four runs after losing their previous three games scoring a total of four runs, they were still 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.

Boone Logan pitched a perfect ninth to close out the victory for Pettitte.

With the victory, the Yankees ended a three-game skid and improved their season record to 21-18. The Reds are 19-19.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pettitte was absolutely brilliant and manager Joe Girardi – with Mariano Rivera out for the season and David Robertson on the disabled list – rolled the dice and allowed his veteran left-hander pitch eight innings. Pettitte threw 115 pitches and 78 were strikes (68 percent). His toughest challenge was the first inning when Cozart reached second on a passed ball on a strikeout and a throwing error by catcher Chris Stewart. He advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt by Drew Stubbs. However, Pettitte struck out Votto and Brandon Phillips swinging to strand Cozart. No other runner reached second base on him the rest of night.
  • Cano had a walk and two hits, including his big solo home run in the eighth. That raised his batting average to .310 on the season. He and Jeter are the only two regulars who are hitting above .300 on the season. Despite the fact the Yankees are struggling as a team to score runs, Cano is hitting a sizzling .459 in his last 10 games.
  • Ibanez continues to provide the team with some dramatic big hits. His two-run shot in the eighth bounced Arroyo out of the game and provided the Yankees with a four-run cushion heading into the ninth. Ibanez has 26 hits and 24 RBIs on the season. The 39-year-old outfielder/designated hitter is hitting .273 with runners in scoring position, one of the few Yankees who is actually doing well in that category.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • In their last six games the team is 6-for-48 (.125) with runners in scoring position, including their 0-for-7 on Friday. On the season this is what six of the main regulars are doing with runners in scoring position: Granderson, .226; Swisher, .209; Teixeira, 205; Cano, .176; Rodriguez, .167; and Russell Martin, .167. Jeter is hitting an even .300 with RISP. You want to know why the offense is misfiring and it is these six guys who are the reason.
  • Swisher was 1-for-4, struck out twice and hit that weak popup that ended the sixth inning and left the bases loaded. Swisher ended April hitting .284 with six home runs and 23 RBIs. But he is hitting .196 with a home run and three RBIs in May, which has dragged his season average down 32 points to .252.
  • Girradi chose to rest Teixeira and Martin and Brett Gardner is still on the disabled list. As a result, the No. 7, No. 8 and No. 9 hitters were DH Chavez, LF Dewayne Wise and C Stewart. Against Arroyo they were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts, three weak groundouts, a weak popup and three routine flyouts. This is another reason the team is slumping at the plate.

BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira was rested on Friday because he still has a hacking cough related to an illness Teixeira picked up during the team’s first homestand. Girardi elected to play Swisher at first base and shift Ibanez into right-field on Friday. Teixeira has seen a specialist about the persistent cough and seemed encouraged with he heard. But, though the cough is not getting worse, it has persisted for more than a month. The veteran first baseman is hitting an anemic .228 with five home runs and 20 RBIs this season.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their first interleague series of the season on Saturday against the Reds.

Despite suffering a right foot contusion and a slightly sprained right ankle in his last start against the Baltimore Orioles last Monday, right-hander Ivan Nova (4-1, 5.44 ERA) is scheduled to start for the Yankees. Nova gave up five runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings of a no-decision in a game the Yankees eventually won. Nove is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his career against the Reds.

The Reds will counter with right-hander Homer Bailey (1-3, 4.35 ERA). Bailey held the Braves to six hits and one run in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision on Monday. Bailey has not pitched against the Yankees in his career, which usually spells trouble for the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:-5 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees’ Dazzling Nova Leaves Cincy Red-Faced

GAME 71

YANKEES 5, REDS 3

Ivan Nova realizes that the Yankees will get starters Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon back soon and that could mean he could lose his spot in the rotation. On Monday, he seemed to be making a bold statement that he is not coming out of the rotation without a fight.

Nova (7-4) pitched a career-best eight innings, gave up only one run on four hits, walked none and struck out seven as New York swept into Great American Ballpark and downed Cincinnati to win its ninth out of their last 11 games.

Nova threw 70 strikes out of 105 pitches thrown (67% strikes) to tie Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners with the most victories by a rookie pitcher in the major leagues.

Nova got all the run support he really needed in the first inning as the Yankees tagged substitute starter Travis Wood (5-5) for four runs on five hits. Wood was moved up a day because right-hander Johnny Cueto had to be scratched from his start because of a stiff neck.

It looked as if Wood would end up with a stiff neck of his own as he kept turning to watch Yankee hits flying past him. Nick Swisher led off the game with a single and Mark Teixeira followed with a single one out later. Alex Rodriguez then opened the seal on the scoring with a single to left to plate Swisher. Robinson Cano followed with an opposite-field double to score Teixeira. Russell Martin’s groundout brought in Rodriguez and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single to cap the four-run explosion before some of the sellout crowd of 41,173 had sampled their nachos.

The Reds looked as if they were going to answer back quickly when Drew Stubbs singled and stole second and Brandon Phillips singled Stubbs to third. However, Nova used his sinker to induce Joey Votto into a double-play in which Stubbs scored. But Nova stopped the Reds cold after that.

Stubbs reached on a swinging third strike wild pitch from Nova with two out in the third, Paul Janish stroked a two-out single in the fifth and pinch-hitter Fred Lewis singled with two out in the eighth. Nova retired the rest of the batters he faced on 17 groundouts, seven strikeouts and only three fly balls.

Wood, however, did settle down after the first inning and he retired 15 of the next 20 batters he faced. But Nova would not give in to the Reds.

The Yankees scored a run in the seventh inning due to the very giving nature of the Reds. Reliever Jose Arredondo walked Curtis Gramderson. Granderson stole second but was able to take third when Janish dropped a throw from catcher Ryan Hanigan and the ball rolled past him into shallow center-field. Granderson then scored on an Arredondo wild pitch.

The Reds did take advantage of Nova’s departure in the ninth when Phillips singled off Luis Ayala to begin the inning. Boone Logan was summoned to face the lefty Votto but Logan plunked Votto with his first and only delivery. Manager Joe Girardi then decided to go to Mariano Rivera with the tying run on deck.

Rivera retired Jay Bruce on a grounder that moved Phillips to third and Votto to second. Scott Rolen scored Phillips on an infield single and Chris Heisey then scored Votto by beating out what could have been a 1-6-3 double play. But Heisey was ruled safe. But Rivera ended the Reds faint comeback hopes by fanning pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria to notch his 18th save of the season in 21 chances.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their record to 42-29 and they remain 1 1/2 games in back of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Reds are 38-36 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova was never any better this season than he was on Monday night. He had only three three-ball counts and he did not walk any of them. Nova also lowered his ERA to 4.13. It is obvious that when Colon and Hughes do return they will be starters. The question is what will happen to Nova when they come back? On the basis of this effort, it would appear inconceivable they would put him in the bullpen.
  • Rodriguez continues to hit with a 2-for-4 night with a run scored and an RBI. Though Rodriguez admits he is nursing a sore shoulder it is not interfering with his play at all. He also made a nice diving stab to rob Heisey of a hit in the second inning. Rodriguez is hitting .292 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.
  • Cano is beginning to get his average back over .300. He also was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Cano now has a nine-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-38 (.395) with two home runs and six RBIs. He is now hitting .295 on the season with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs.
  • Swisher is doing his job in the leadoff spot against left-handers. He was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored against Wood. He is 4-for-13 (.308) from the leadoff spot since Derek Jeter was injured.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • With David Robertson unavailable to pitch, Girardi decided to close the ninth with Luis Ayala and Boone Logan. However, Ayala gave up a leadoff single to Phillips and Logan hit Votto with a pitch to put the Reds in position for their major league-leading 23rd comeback victory. Fortunately, Rivera restored order. But it does show the Yankee bullpen does have a soft underbelly than can be exploited. The Yankees would love to have a healthy Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano back soon to shore up the bullpen.
  • Andruw Jones had a severe brain cramp in the third inning and it short-circuited a potential big inning. With one out, Cano and Martin hit back-to-back singles. Jones then sent a slow bouncer to Rolen at third. Rolen forced Martin at second but Martin was able to upend Philips. However, Jones did not run the grounder out because he thought there were already two outs. Phillips got back up and threw Jones out by 50 feet. Jones is already on thin ice with the Yankees with his lack of production. Now it looks as if he is going to be a bit lighter in the wallet.
  • Eduardo Nunez got caught leaning after he singled to lead off the fourth inning and Wood picked him off first. These silly mistakes allowed Wood to survive that shaky first inning and pitch seven innings.

ON DECK

The Yankees will play the second of their three road contests against the Reds on Tuesday.

The Yankees will start veteran minor-league right-hander Brian Gordon (0-0, 3.38 ERA) in his second major-league start for the Yankees. In his first start, Gordon, 32, gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Thursday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees did win the game. The former outfielder will get to test his hitting skills against the Reds.

The Reds are starting right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA), who could not pitch on Monday due to a stiff neck. He has been the Reds best pitcher since being activated from the disabled list in May. He is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.

Yankees’ Dazzling Nova Leaves Cincy Red-Faced

GAME 71

YANKEES 5, REDS 3

Ivan Nova realizes that the Yankees will get starters Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon back soon and that could mean he could lose his spot in the rotation. On Monday, he seemed to be making a bold statement that he is not coming out of the rotation without a fight.

Nova (7-4) pitched a career-best eight innings, gave up only one run on four hits, walked none and struck out seven as New York swept into Great American Ballpark and downed Cincinnati to win its ninth out of their last 11 games.

Nova threw 70 strikes out of 105 pitches thrown (67% strikes) to tie Michael Pineda of the Seattle Mariners with the most victories by a rookie pitcher in the major leagues.

Nova got all the run support he really needed in the first inning as the Yankees tagged substitute starter Travis Wood (5-5) for four runs on five hits. Wood was moved up a day because right-hander Johnny Cueto had to be scratched from his start because of a stiff neck.

It looked as if Wood would end up with a stiff neck of his own as he kept turning to watch Yankee hits flying past him. Nick Swisher led off the game with a single and Mark Teixeira followed with a single of his own one out later. Alex Rodriguez then opened the scoring with a single to left to score Swisher. Robinson Cano followed with an opposite-field double to score Teixeira. Russell Martin’s groundout scored Rodriguez and Andruw Jones followed with an RBI single to cap the four-run explosion before some of the sellout crowd of 41,173 had sampled their nachos.

The Reds looked as if they were going to answer back quickly when Drew Stubbs singled and stole second and Brandon Phillips singled Stubbs to third. However, Nova used his sinker to induce Joey Votto into a double-play in which Stubbs scored. But Nova stopped the Reds cold after that.

Stubbs reached on a swinging third strike wild pitch from Nova with two out in the third, Paul Janish stroked a two-out single in the fifth and pinch-hitter Fred Lewis singled with two out in the eighth. Nova retired the rest of th ebatters he faced on 17 groundouts, seven strikeouts and only three flyouts.

Wood, however, did settle down and he retired 15 of the next 20 batters he faced after the first inning. But Nova would not give in to the Reds.

The Yankees scored a run in the seventh inning due to the giving nature of the Reds. Reliever Jose Arredondo walked Curtis Gramderson. Granderson stole second but was able to take third when Janish dropped a throw from catcher Ryan Hanigan and the ball rolled past him into shallow center-field. Granderson then scored on an Arredondo wild pitch.

The Reds then took advantage of Nova’s departure in the ninth when Phillips singled off Luis Ayala to begin the inning. Boone Logan was summoned to face Votto but the erratic lefty plunked Votto with his first and last delivery. Manager Joe Girardi then decided to go to Mariano Rivera with the tying run on deck.

Rivera retired Jay Bruce on a grounder that moved Phillips to third and Votto to second. Scott Rolen scored Phillips on an infield single and Chris Heisey then scored Votto by beating out what could have been a 1-6-3 double play. But Heisey was ruled safe. But Rivera ended the Reds comeback hopes by fanning pinch-hitter Edgar Renteria to notch his 19th save of the season.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their record to 42-29 and they remain 1 1/2 games in back of the second-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The Reds are 38-36 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova was never any better this season than he was on Monday night. He had only three three-ball counts and he did not walk any of them. Nova also lowered his ERA to 4.13. It os obvious that when Colon and Hughes do return they will be starters. The question is what will happen to Nova when they come back? On the basis of this effort, it would be inconceivable they would put him in the bullpen.
  • Rodriguez continues to hit with a 2-for-4 night with a run scored and an RBI. Though Rodriguez is nursing a sore shoulder it is not interfering with his play at all. He also made a nice diving stab to rob Heisey of a hit. Rodriguez is hitting .292 with 13 home runs and 44 RBIs.
  • Cano is beginning to get his average back over .300. He also was 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Cano now has a nine-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-38 (.395) with two home runs and six RBIs. He is now hitting .295 on the season with 14 home runs and 47 RBIs.
  • Swisher is doing his job in the leadoff spot against left-handers. He was 1-for-3 with a walk and a run scored against Wood. He is 4-for-13 (.308) from the leadoff spot since Derek Jeter was injured.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • With David Robertson unavailable to pitch, Girardi decided to close the ninth with Luis Ayala and Boone Logan. However, Ayala gave up a leadoff single to Phillips and Logan hit Votto with a pitch to put the Reds in position for their major league-leading 23rd comeback. Fortunately, Rivera restored order. But it does show the Yankee bullpen does have a soft underbelly than can be exploited. The Yankees would love to have a healthy Pedro Feliciano and Rafael Soriano back soon to shore up the bullpen.
  • Andruw Jones had a severe brain cramp in the third inning and it short-circuited a potential big inning. With one out, Cano and Martin hit back-to-back singles. Jones then sent a slow bouncer to Rolen at third. Rolen forced Martin at third but Martin was able to upend Philips at second. However, Jones did not run the grounder out because he thought there were already two outs. Phillips got back up and threw Jones out by 50 feet. Jones is already on thin ice with the Yankees with his lack of production. Now it looks as if he is going to be a bit lighter in the wallet.
  • Eduardo Nunez got caught leaning after he singled to lead off the fourth inning and Wood picked him off first. These mistakes allowed Wood to survive that shaky first inning and pitch seven innings.
ON DECK
The Yankees will play the second of their three road contests against the Reds on Tuesday.
The Yankees will start veteran minor-league right-hander Brian Gordon (0-0, 3.38 ERA) in his second major-league start for the Yankees. In his first start, Gordon, 32, gave up two runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Thursday. He did not get a decision but the Yankees did win the game. The former outfielder will get to test his hitting skills against the Reds.
The Reds are starting right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2, 1.68 ERA), who could not pitch on Monday due to a stiff neck. He has been the Reds best pitcher since being activated from the disabled list in May. He is 0-1 with a 1.80 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.