YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 1
Ask any manager and general manager in baseball to give you the three keys to winning and they all will tell that it is pitching, pitching and more pitching. The New York Yankees suddenly have the market cornered on pitching as they continue their destruction of the National League during interleague play.
Ivan Nova threw 7 1/3 innings of sparkling one-run baseball to become the first American League pitcher to win nine games as New York, on the strength of a pair of solo home runs by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, swept Washington at Nationals Park on Sunday to win their ninth straight contest.
Nova (7-2) only surrendered a solo home run to Adam LaRoche to lead of the second inning. He gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out four batters to record his fifth straight victory and he remains undefeated (12-0) over his last 15 road starts dating back to June 3, 2011.
The Yankees, meanwhile, reverted back to their old ways of failing to hit with runners in scoring position but they still were able to get to Edwin Jackson (3-4) to push across enough runs to win the game.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the first inning on Jackson on an infield single by Derek Jeter, a Granderson double and an intentional walk to Cano with one out. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly that brought Jeter home with the game’s first run.
That run held up until LaRoche tied it with his team-leading 12th home run for the Nationals.
But Granderson broke the tie leading off the fifth inning by crushing a high change-up off Jackson into the bullpen in right-field for his 21st home run of the season.
Even though the Yankees put runners on base in all six innings Jackson worked, they could not come up with the knockout blow. Jackson gave up seven hits and three walks but he kept the Yankees from adding to their lead. The Yankees were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees did manage to run up Jackson’s pitch count to 110 after six innings, which sent him out of the game and allowed the Yankees to tack on some runs against the Nationals’ bullpen.
They added a two runs in the seventh.
The first came on a solo home run by Cano off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for Cano’s 12th home run of the season. Three batters later, Teixeira – who doubled – scored from third with two out when rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus threw a 3-2 pitch to Andruw Jones that catcher Jhonathan Solano could not catch for a passed ball. Teixeira scored easily when Mattheus failed to cover home plate.
The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there.
Boone Logan completed the eighth inning for Nova and Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 13th save, which makes him the Yankees reliever who has saved the second-most games since Mariano Rivera became the team’s closer in 1996. Steve Karsay previously held that mark with 12.
With the victory the Yankees improved their A.L.-best record to 40-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the A.L. East. The Nationals, who came into the series on a six-game winning streak, dropped to 38-26.
- Nova pitched another exceptional game on Sunday. In his last three starts, Nova is 3-0, giving up only two runs on 16 hits and three walks and he has struck out 15 batters over 22 2/3 innings. That has lowered his season ERA from 5.60 to 4.32. He has not lost since a May 19 start at Yankee Stadium against the Reds and his career record is now 25-6. Anyone still think this 25-year-old right-hander is a fluke or his record is just a product of great run support?
- Granderson has been on a full-blown tear in his last eight games, which coincides neatly into the Yankees’ nine-game winning streak. Granderson has an eight-game hitting streak and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. In fact, Granderson has now homered in three of his last four games and his 21 homers trails only Adam Dunn (23) of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton (22) of the Rangers in the major leagues.
- Cano has been on a tear this June. He is hitting .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He has failed to get at least one hit in only two games this month. On May 5, Cano had one home run and four RBIs. Since that time, he has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs and he has raised his batting average from .255 to an even .300.
- The 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position statistic just hangs out there like an albatross on the Yankees. It can be forgotten with the nine-game winning streak but the longer it continues the harder it is going to be for the Yankees to correct it when they play tougher A.L. teams, not to mention in the playoffs.
- Raul Ibanez gets the award for choking in the clutch on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 and he left seven men on base. But, to be fair to Ibanez, he hit the ball hard three times but it just so happened that it found a glove each time. Ibanez is one of the Yankees struggling during their current winning streak. In his last 10 games he is hitting .172 with a home run and three RBIs.
- Alex Rodriguez also failed to contribute anything on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 including a strikeout. Though he has a home run and nine RBIs, he is only hitting .229 over his last 10 games. He is only hitting .222 in June.
As expected, Nick Swisher was held out of the lineup and did not play on Sunday due to a bone bruise in his left quad. Swisher was sliding into home plate when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores’ left shin guard struck Swisher on the left thigh as Flores tagged him out in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game. Swisher received treatment for the injury and he remains day-to-day. . . . Cano’s home run off Gorzelanny in the seventh inning was pretty much a given. In his career, Cano is 6-for-8 off Gorzelanny.
The Yankees completed a 6-0 road trip by sweeping two N.L. teams. They now come home to open a home series on Monday against one of those teams they swept, the Atlanta Braves.
CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia was tagged for four runs on 10 hits over seven innings against the Braves but he won the game when the Yankees came from 4-0 down in the eighth for a 6-4 victory. In his career against the Braves, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.
Lefty Mike Minor (3-4, 6.01 ERA) will face Sabathia and the Yankees for a second straight start. Last Wednesday, Minor pitched his best game of the season, limiting the Yankees to one run in 7 1/3 innings. But his bullpen – led by Jonny Venters – blew the lead and lost the game. This will be only Minor’s second start 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 6, BRAVES 4
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took out starter Mike Minor with one out in the eighth inning nursing a 4-0 lead after Derek Jeter singled and Minor had reached 100 pitches. In what looked to be a minor move at the time turned into a major catastrophe for the Braves.
Lefty reliever Jonny Venters faced the next four batters and he could not retire a single one.
Alex Rodriguez made him pay with an historic grand slam home run and, two batters later, Nick Swisher smashed a game-winning two-run shot of his own as New York got up off the mat and laid the heavy lumber to the Atlanta bullpen on Tuesday for a dramatic 6-4 comeback victory at Turner Field.
The miracle comeback was the Yankees’ fifth victory in a row and their 10th in their last 12 games, propelling the team into first place in the American League East with a 36-25 mark – the best record in the AL.
Rodriguez’s grand slam was the 23rd of his career and it ties him with former Yankee legend Lou Gehrig for first place on the all-time list.
Venters set the stage for Rodriguez and Swisher by giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, which advanced Jeter to second. Venters then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Venters threw a called strike and Rodriguez fouled off two more pitches before he connected with the low fastball and drove it out on a line about two rows into the left-field bleachers with a frozen rope you could hung all the Yankees’ laundry on for Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season and the 639th of his career.
A stunned Turner Field crowd of 41,452 was now staring at a scoreboard that read Yankees 4, Braves 4.
Venters then allowed Cano to fist a single into center and he was serenaded with a cascade of boos as he was replaced by right-hander Cory Gearrin.
Swisher greeted Gearrin by smacking a 1-0 change-up into the bleachers in right-center for his 10th home run of the season and the Yankees had their first lead of the game. Previously, the Braves had been 27-0 this season when leading after seven innings.
In Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium he said, “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” After this comeback victory, CC Sabathia should say the same thing.
Sabathia (8-3) got credit for a victory he frankly did not deserve.
Sabathia was rocked for three runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Matt Diaz. The Braves loaded the bases on him again in the seventh and pushed another run across on an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward.
In seven innings of work, Sabathia fought to command his fastball and gave up four runs on 10 hits and and two walks and he struck six batters.
Minor, meanwhile, shut out the Yankees on five hits and one walk and he struck out four in 7 1/3 innings. Many Braves fans are wondering now if Gonzalez perhaps may have taken him out just a bit too soon.
Once the Yankees took the lead, manager Joe Girardi chose to use lefty Clay Rapada for the eighth and he pitched a scoreless frame. Then Rafael Soriano, who blew his last save opportunity on Sunday against the Mets and who also was nursing a blister on right index finger, came in to pitch the ninth.
He set Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla down in order, striking out McCann and Uggla swinging, to earn his 10th save in 11 tries.
The Yankees have clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games and they are now 8-2 at Turner Field.
- Rodriguez’s historic grand slam was also a meaningful blast for the Yankees. The home run erased Minor’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and set the stage for the come-from-behind victory. It was Rodriguez’s first multiple-RBI game since June 1 and his first home run since June 3 and both of those events came in the same series against the Tigers in Detroit.
- Swisher’s blast off Gearrin was only his second home run of the month. Swisher also became the sixth Yankee to hit at least 10 home runs this season. Russell Martin has nine. His two RBIs give him 39 on the season, which still is the most on the team.
- Give Rapada and Soriano credit for shutting down the Braves in the final two innings. The bullpen was short because Boone Logan and Cory Wade were not really available and only Freddy Garcia and David Phelps could pitch for any length of time. But the pair shut out the Braves over the last two innings with no hits, one walk and they struck out three.
- The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and that one hit was Rodriguez’s grand slam. There is reason why they are last in the American League with RISP. But they are not really paying much of a price now because they use the home run to cover that weakness. But if they don’t improve soon it will bite them.
- Sabathia has really been shaky his last two starts. He has given up nine runs (seven earned) on 17 hits and three walks and struck out 18 in 14 innings. Sabathia’s problem has falling behind and hitters are teeing off on him when he has to throw a strike. Still, he is 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
- Here is the reason why Gonzalez may have made a big mistake in taking out Minor when he did. Up to that point, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano were a combined 0-for-8 against him. Teixeira drew a first-inning walk and that was pretty much it for the heart of the lineup until the eighth.
Closer Mariano Rivera had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but there was no repairable damage to his meniscus. That was cited as great news by the Yankees. Rivera suffered the injury on May 3 in Kansas City, however, he had to postpone the surgery until a blot clot in his right calf was dissolved by medication. The surgery was performed in New York by the Mets’ team physician, Dr. David Altchek. Rivera will miss the rest of the season but he said he will pitch for the Yankees in 2013. . . . All-Star setup man David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. He will rejoin the Yankees in Atlanta on Wednesday but he will not be activated until the Yankees open a weekend series on Friday with the Nationals in Washington. Robertson has missed just about one month with a left oblique strain.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep their second consecutive three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.46) will start for the Yankees. He is coming off a one-hit, seven-inning gem against the Mets although he had to leave with a bruised left foot. Kuroda is 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA against the Braves.
Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83) will oppose Kuroda. He shut out the Marlins last Tuesday but required three extra days to rest a sore left ankle. He is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.