YANKEES 6, RANGERS 2
The entire 2015 season has been a celebration for Alex Rodriguez because he did not play at all in 2014. On Monday, he celebrated his 40th birthday in fine style at Globe Life Park, a venue he knows very well form his days with the Rangers.
Rodriguez cranked out a home run and Didi Gregorius also homered and drove in a career-high four runs as New York continued its hot run in the heat of July by defeating Texas in front of national TV audience on ESPN.
With the Yankees leading 3-2 with one out in the sixth, Rodriguez sent a 3-1 offering from left-hander Matt Harrison (1-2) just over the wall in right-field for his 24th home run of the season and the 678th of his career.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Rodriguez joined Ty Cobb, Rusty Staub and Gary Sheffield as the only players in baseball history who homered before turning 20 and also homered after turning 40. Rodriguez also has the distinction of hitting six home runs on his birthday – four of them in Arlington, TX – which leads all Major League players.
The run support benefitted right-hander Ivan Nova (3-3), who pitched five solid innings to win his second consecutive start after losing three consecutive starts for the first time in his career.
The Rangers actually struck first with two out in the bottom of the second inning
Josh Hamilton blooped a single in left and Elvis Andrus followed with lined RBI double off the left-field wall to plate Hamilton. Leonys Martin then rolled an RBI single to center to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead.
But the Yankees responded in the top of the third on a leadoff single by Chase Headley, one of his three hits in the game, and Gregorius followed by lining his fifth home run of the season into the right-field stands.
Brendan Ryan extended the rally by lacing a triple off the left-field wall. After Brett Gardner drew a walk, Chris Young scored Ryan on a sacrifice fly to left to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.
Nova, 28, gave up two runs on five hits and two walks with three strikeouts in five innings. The bullpen comprised of Chasen Shreve, Justin Wilson and Dellin Betances did not yield a hit and struck out six batters over the final four innings to preserve the victory for Nova.
The Yankees chased Harrison in the seventh after Carlos Beltran drew a leadoff walk and Headley stroked a double to right-field.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister replaced Harrison with left-hander Sam Freeman but Gregorius greeted him with a two-run single to right to extend the Yankees’ lead to 6-2.
Harrison, making only his third start of the season after recovering from back surgery, was charged with six runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six-plus innings.
The Yankees have now won 12 of their past 15 games and they are 15-5 since July 1.
The team’s season record improved to 56-42 and they increased their lead over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles to seven games in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 47-51.
- On May 15, Gregorius was batting .202 and he was making a lot of mistakes in the field and on the bases. But very quietly Gregorius has cleaned up his play in the field and he is 20-for-68 (.294) in July with a homer and nine RBIs. That has raised his season average to . 248. Though Gregorius, 25, will never replace Derek Jeter it appears he is growing into a worthy successor.
- Headley continued his red-hot hitting by going 3-for-4 with a double, two singles and two runs scored. Headley is 24-for-69 (.389) with a homer and 11 RBIs since July 1. That has raised his season average to .268. With Headley and Gregorius hot at the bottom part of the order it has lengthened the lineup and made it tougher for pitchers to navigate through it.
- Rodriguez’s 24th homer of the season ties him with former Rangers teammate Mark Teixeira with the team lead. Though Rodriguez is batting only .251 this month, he has cranked out nine homers and he has four in his past two games.
All is well. The team is getting solid starting pitching, they are scoring runs and the bullpen is shutting down opponents cold in the late innings. You add that all up and there is simply nothing wrong with this team. They are playing like they are going to coast to the division title. No complaints.
Manager Joe Girardi said he removed Nova after only 75 pitches in five innings because Nova complained of arm fatigue. The 28-year-old right-hander was making only sixth start of the season after returning from Tommy John surgery. Girardi said Nova said he was not experiencing any pain but just thought it was better not to try to risk going out for the sixth inning. . . . Outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was not in the starting lineup a day after crashing into the wall making a great catch at Target Field but he was deployed as a defensive replacement in the eighth inning on Monday. Ellsbury jammed his right shoulder on the play but he said that Monday was a scheduled day off and the injury is not serious. . . . Teixeira was angry with third-base coach Joe Espada on Monday after Teixeira was thrown out at the plate trying to score from second on Headley’s single with two out in the eighth inning. Espada apparently said “Easy, easy” as Teixeira rounded third but Martin threw Teixeira out at the plate. The 34-year-old first baseman threw up his arms and screamed at Espada after the play. Later Teixeira was shown throwing a cooler in the dugout.
The Yankees will continue their four-game road series with the Rangers on Tuesday.
Left-hander Chris Capuano (0-4, 5.64 ERA) will come out of the bullpen to make a rare start for the Yankees in order to give Masahiro Tanaka an extra day of rest. Capuano, 36, will be making only his fourth start of the season and his first since May 29. He is expected to pitch about five innings and give way to right-hander Adam Warren.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander Martin Perez (0-1, 4.91 ERA). Perez, 24, will be making only his third start of the season after coming off the disabled list. He gave up three runs on six hits and four walks with two strikeouts six innings of a no-decision against the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally by FOX Sports 1.
When it comes to Alex Rodriguez and the impending suspension amid the Biogenesis scandal, I have been silent because it really does not concern me much.
I mean, I do write a blog about the New York Yankees but I do not consider Rodriguez a true member of the team. After all, how long has he been AWOL or virtually useless to the team? Three years?
But I got my dander up when Baltimore Orioles manager Buck Showalter decided to open his big mouth about it on Friday.
“If [Commissioner] Bud [Selig] lets them get away with that, they’re under the luxury tax,” Showalter told USA TODAY Sports. “If they can reset, they can spend again and I guarantee you in two years Matt Wieters is in New York.”
Of all the managers in Major League Baseball you would think that Showalter, who formerly toiled for the so-call “Evil Empire,” would know when he should hold his tongue before looking like the horse’s ass he now appears.
First of all, the decision MLB makes concerning Rodriguez is none of his business. The second point is does he really in his right mind think the Yankees’ front office will go to Selig and request that baseball should apply the portion of A-Rod’s contract he forfeits while on suspension be applied to the team’s payroll and the luxury tax?
Geesh, to hear Showalter you would think that the Yankees have dear old Bud wrapped around their finger and they were dictating the penalty they want for A-Rod so they avoid paying him the $82 million they owe him through the 2017 season. That is just plain poppycock.
The Yankees have been MIA since 2009 in the annual free-agent signing sweepstakes. They have let free agents like Albert Pujols, Josh Hamilton and C.J. Wilson go to the highest bidders while they have filled their roster with blowout patches like Raul Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones. That suited the Old Buckeroo just fine because it allowed teams like the Orioles and the Tampa Bay Rays to play on a more even playing field.
But now that the Yankees might get to write off A-Rod’s contract for the rest of 2013 and all of the 2014 season (if A-Rod accepts the the deal baseball is offering) to get under the luxury tax threshold of $189 million in 2014. In addition, they can write off the entire $82 million if Rodriguez draws a lifetime ban.
That has Buck soiling his Pampers.
He obviously fears his team’s potential future free agents like Wieters, Chris Davis and Manny Machado may see the Yankees holding up stacks of cash and have them running from the exits at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Poor Buck sees the potential to lose his best players to the enemy and it irks him.
But there is one way to prevent any of that from happening, Buck. Pay those damn players what they worth to keep them happy. Period. Exclamation point!
In the meantime, the Bucker needs to shut his fat trap and stay out of the whole business.
The Yankees were victimized by Rodriguez. Remember in 2007 when A-Rod opted out of his $275 million deal he originally signed with the Texas Rangers (while the Buckeroo was managing them I recall)? A-Rod’s venomous agent Scott Boras was seeking a mega-deal by getting other teams to bid on his All-Star client.
Unfortunately, no bidders were looking to pony up the $200 million-plus it was going to take to get Rodriguez to put his signature on a contract.
Rodriguez sheepishly told Boras to take a hike and he put his enormous tail between his legs to crawl back to the Yankees for forgiveness. Perhaps the Steinbrenners, Randy Levine and Brian Cashman should have kicked that enormous tail of his back to the curb.
But they instead hammered out a 10-year, $252 million deal that Rodriguez for which Rodriguez is now beholden. It also is the one contract that has hung around the Yankees’ necks like an albatross ever since Rodriguez’s effectiveness as a run producer has moved from an upper tier to the level of an ordinary third baseman like Juan Uribe of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Be sure that Rodriguez wants all the money that is due him whether he plays at a respectable level or not. I honestly believe he could hold on through 2017 hitting .210 with 10 homers and 37 RBIs as a part-time player with the Yankees. A-Rod has no real pride in his craft and abilities. As long as he is being paid he has no shame.
So the partial ban and the ever-looming potential of a lifetime ban does benefit the Yankees in their ability to rebuild the ballclub going forward. But it is not if the Yankees deliberately staged the whole thing with A-Rod so they could sign Wieters in 2015, Buck!
So, Mr. Showalter, you go about patching that disaster area of a pitching staff that has your team falling like a stone in the American League East and keep your bulbous nose out of issues that do not really concern you. Come to think of it, the Orioles recent drop in the standings is likely behind much of this childish tirade.
It is perfect for the papers in Baltimore. After all, it takes attention away from his deficient managing and makes the Yankees the bad guys. That is the strategy after all, Buck. Deflect your shortcomings off to another subject.
It seems to me that Orioles owner Peter Angelos has done his share of spending on free agents over the years. If Buck is really worried about the Yankees getting his players he should just beg Angelos to open his huge saddlebags to keep the players he wants to remain as Orioles.
That would make sense, right?
After all this I actually do hope the Yankees do sign a few Orioles so the Bucker can wail like Kim Kardashian’s North West over it.
Now, now little Bucky, quiet down. Sssshhhh! Here is your pacifier. We are here to make it all better. How about some Gerber split pea? That will make it all okay.
Even Wieters thinks you are acting like a child and he is less than half your age.
PART 3: THE STARTING LINEUP
The New York Yankees enter the 2013 season with more uncertainty in their starting lineup than they have in the past two decades.
A combination of committed contracts to aging veterans, expired contracts to some helpful contributors, injuries and underperformance have left the Yankees in a real bind to fix their problems knowing they have an edict by the boss Hal Steinbrenner to trim payroll to $189 million by 2014.
The most significant issue is the impending January left hip surgery for third baseman Alex Rodriguez which will shelve him for at least half the season. Because Rodriguez has not played a full healthy season of baseball since 2007 it should not be considered that big a deal.
However, it points up the problem with offering lengthy and lucrative contracts to players past the age of 30. Players break down at a rapid rate after that and that is particularly true of players who have dabbled in the use of performance enhancing drugs as A-Rod has.
The plain fact of the matter is that Rodriguez IS NOT nor WILL HE EVER BE AGAIN the impact player he was in 2007 when he hit 54 home runs and drove in 156 runs for the Yankees. Unfortunately, the Yankees are committed to paying him through the 2017 season.
If you want to look up the definition of the euphemism “albatross around the neck” A-Rod’s picture would be displayed prominently.
Seemingly healthy to begin the 2012 season, Rodriguez neither produced with power or run production. Every day manager Joe Girardi cautioned the media that A-Rod always produced home runs in bunches and it would be any day now. But that day never arrived.
He was struck in the left hand by a pitch from Felix Hernandez of the Seattle Mariners on July 24 and the injury sidelined him until the first week of September. At season’s end, Rodriguez had 18 home runs and 57 RBIs and batted .272. He wasn’t exactly Mr. Clutch when he was healthy either.
With runners in scoring position he hit a miserable .230 and with the bases loaded he hit .200.
Unfortunately, the Yankees may be saddled with A-Rod for the remainder of his contract because his skills have eroded so fast no team would be willing to take him and his bloated contract now that he is 37.
So all the Yankees can do is look to find a replacement for him for 2013 because there is no guarantee he will be able to come back in July.
Last year’s insurance policy, Eric Chavez, who hit 16 home runs and drove in 37 runs in 278 at-bats, has signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Eduardo Nunez fielded to so poorly at third base he was demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and the Yankees have vowed to keep him primarily at shortstop.
So the Yankees have signed free-agent Kevin Youkilis.
Youkilis, 33, has had some injury issues of his own. He does not have a season in which he has played more than 147 games. He had not played but one season in which he passed 136 games in four seasons. His all-out style was popular in Boston but it also led to some significant injuries and a decline in production.
After a 2011 season in which he hit only .258 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs, Youkilis ran afoul of then Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine and he was dealt to the Chicago White Sox. He ended up hitting a career-low .235 with 19 home runs and 60 RBIs.
But the Yankees hope he can help fill the void at third while Rodriguez is out and fall into a right-handed designated hitter and corner infield backup role when Rodriguez returns. Though it may seem odd that the heart and soul of the Red Sox would be wearing pinstripes, Johnny Damon had no trouble adapting to life in the Yankee Universe. Neither did Wade Boggs or Roger Clemens. “Youk” would seem to be in the same mold.
There is an issue at shortstop as well.
Though Derek Jeter vows his broken ankle will be healed and he will be ready to go by Opening Day of 2013, he also is 38 years old. So the Yankees will want their captain and emotional leader to be cautious in spring training.
Jeter’s injury in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers pretty much sounded the death knell for a team that was already reeling in the midst of an horrific team batting slump.
Jeter was one of the few who actually contributed positively to the offense in 2012.
He led the major leagues in hits with 219 and he ended up hitting .316 with 15 home runs and 58 RBIs. Though this is the not the Jeter who hit .349 with 24 home runs and 102 RBIs in 1999, the Yankees are happy to have this more mature Jeter, who has learned how to adapt to his age and still produce positively to the team.
He simply was the team Most Valuable Player last season and the Yankees seem to have stopped talking nonsense like moving him to center-field or resting him two days a week. He will rest some but he will play a lot in 2013 because the Yankees need him at the top of the lineup.
The Yankees’ best player is also one who poses the most uncertainty heading into 2013. Robinson Cano, 30, is simply the best second baseman in baseball both with his glove and his bat. He also hit a career-high 33 home runs in 2013 while batting over .300 (.308) for the seventh time in his eight major-league seasons.
However, Cano hardly could call 2012 his “breakout” season because he drove in a paltry 94 runs hitting in the heart of baseball’s top run-scoring team. The reason: He hit poorly most of the season with runners in scoring position. Also, in a huge reversal in a trend, Cano hit just .239 against left-handers.
That will have to change in 2013 because he figures to continue to see a steady diet of them.
There is a big incentive for Cano to improve. His contract for 2013 was renewed by the Yankees but he can become a free agent after this season. With the Yankees looking to trim payroll, Cano’s impending free agency presents a huge challenge. Will general manager Brian Cashman have the financial backing to present a package that can keep Cano in pinstripes for the rest of his career?
That is huge question only the Steinbrenner family can answer. But one thing is certain: The Yankees would certainly regress in 2014 without their best player.
Speaking of regression, Mark Teixeira has found out just how fast a career can regress when you follow former Yankee first baseman Jason Giambi’s pull-happy approach at Yankee Stadium.
Teixeira, however, changed his tune about it in 2012. Instead of trying to change back as he did at the start of the 2012 season, he decided to keep the “pull” approach figuring the Yankees pay him to hit home runs and drive in runs. So he hit 24 home runs and drove in 84 runs in a season that was cut to just 123 games due to a calf injury he suffered in August.
He hit just .251 but that is coming off seasons in which he hit .256 (2010) and .248 (2011). So Yankee fans are just going to have to accept lower batting averages and big production out of Teixeira. He more than makes up for it with his glove.
He and Cano both won Gold Gloves in 2012 and they form the best right side of an infield in baseball history from a fielding and production standpoint. Can you name a better pair?
The Yankees will have one huge hole filled in their lineup in left-field with the return of Brett Gardner and having to fill two more at catcher and in right-field.
Gardner’s loss last season proved to be more problematic in hindsight than it was at the time. With Gardner, 29, sidelined and Nunez in the minors the Yankees lost their two best base-stealers for most of the 2012 season. That made the Yankees much more of a station-to-station team and brought to the forefront their reliance on the home run to win games.
It also goes beyond saying that Gardner’s Gold-Glove quality in defense in left was missed, too. The Yankees need Gardner to come back healthy, get on base consistently and be disruptive to the team’s opponents on the bases.
For the past two seasons, the Yankees have reaped the benefit of having a stalwart defensive catcher in Russell Martin, who actually deterred teams who like to run the bases with reckless abandon. Though Martin struggled most of the season hitting under the “Mendoza Line” until he got hot in September, his power will be missed also.
But Martin has signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Yankees are looking for a new catcher in 2013.
At the moment, the Yankees list Francisco Cervelli as the heir apparent. Cervelli, 26, was the primary backup for three seasons from 2009 through 2011 until the Yankees acquired San Francisco Giants catcher Chris Stewart in a trade just as spring training drew to a close.
Because Stewart, 30, was out of options, the Yankees elected to keep Stewart as the backup catcher in 2012 and shipped Cervelli to Scranton.
Cervelli hit .246 with two home and 39 RBIs in 99 games at Scranton in 2012. His defense is fine but his throwing can be erratic at times.
Stewart surprisingly hit .241 with a home run and 13 RBIs in 55 games with the Yankees. His defense and throwing are superior to Cervelli but his offense is severely lacking.
The Yankees did sign former Los Angeles Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, 29, to a minor-league contract. Wilson was non-tendered a contract by the Blue Jays after he hit .211 with three home runs and 13 RBIs with the Angels in 2012. Wilson is excellent defensively but is a career .208 hitter in the majors. So it is hard to see how he will figure in as anything but a potential backup and insurance in case the Yankees need to trade a catcher or sustain an injury.
The Yankees do have very high hopes for 24-year-old rookie Austin Romine. They believe his defensive skills make him a major-league ready receiver but his bat and his chronic back issues have been delaying his progess. He missed most all of the 2012 season with a back injury.
He has been cleared to come to spring training and he has a shot at supplanting either Cervelli or Stewart if he can show some improved skills with the bat. But realistically, the team may take a more cautious approach with Romine and he could head back to Scranton to convince the front office his back issues are over.
This area seems ripe for a deal to obtain a free agent. Cashman did have former Chicago White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski in mind. Pierzynski, 35, would fit in with the Yankees because he hits left-handed and he has some power. He hit .278 with 27 home runs and 77 RBis in 2012.
But Pierzynski elected to sign a contract with the Texas Rangers. So unless the Yankees elect to make a trade they will be choosing between the four catchers they have now.
The biggest hole in the Yankees lineup and perhaps the biggest blow to the bleacher bums in right-field will be the loss of fan favorite Nick Swisher.
Swisher might not have been a superstar but his consistency was his calling card. What you saw was what you got.
Swisher, 32, has played four seasons in pinstripes and did not deviate from between 24 through 29 home runs and between 82 and 93 RBIs. There are not many outfielders who can claim that and the Yankees would be hard-pressed to find anyone at the level, except perhaps the oft-injured star Josh Hamilton.
The Yankees did have an opportunity to sign the former Texas Rangers’ star if they wanted. But they have some restriction to them doing so.
If the Yankees were to sign Hamilton, Cano’s departure would be a foregone conclusion unless there was a major dump of salary after the 2013 season. Hamilton signed with the Angels and the Yankees played it safe.
The Yankees instead decided to bring back Ichiro Suzuki, who came over in a trade in June and sparked the Yankees down the stretch. At age 39, Suzuki is no longer the player he was when he was the American League MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001 but he showed a renewed vigor in the Bronx in 2012, hitting over .300 after the deal.
He ended the season hitting. 283 with nine home runs and 55 RBIs and he stole 29 bases.
It is obvious if the Yankees want to return to a slash and dash attack Girardi favors, Suzuki would be the correct choice.
Center-field is an interesting situation for the Yankees.
The team renewed Curtis Granderson’s contract for 2012 but there are all kinds of rumors swirling around about him.
The Yankees first floated the idea they could move Gardner from left to center and put Granderson in left next season. They also sent Granderson to an eye specialist to check his vision because of his habit of losing balls in flight to the outfield and his penchant for swinging at pitches that bounced in front of home plate.
Granderson struck out a team record 195 times last season. The Yankees can live with the strikeouts for his 43 home runs and 106 RBIs, which were both team highs in 2012. But his .232 average is 30 points below his career average of .262 and he hit just .218 against left-handers last season. Granderson is also in the final year of his contract.
The Yankees also seemed intent on keeping outfielder and left-handed DH Raul Ibanez.
Ibanez, 40, was forced to play more than he was expected in the outfield because of Gardner’s injury. But Ibanez came through with 19 home runs and 62 RBIs while hitting .24o in 384 at-bats. But Ibanez’s biggest impact was the clutch home runs he hit down the stretch against the Oakland Athletics and Boston Red Sox to get the Yankees into the playoffs.
He carried that into the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles.
His clutch hitting was not lost on the front office and they wanted him back badly in 2013. But Ibanez dealt a blow to the Yankees by electing to sign with his old Mariners team so the Yankees now have a huge hole at the DH spot.
The Yankees made it clear that right-hand DH Andruw Jones would not retained for the 2012 season and Jones shopped himself to a team in Japan. The Yankees likely will use a veteran free agent to fill the role until A-Rod returns in July. Rodriguez figures to DH a lot when he returns and Youkilis can fill the role when A-Rod does play third.
Nunez figures to have an opportunity to win the right-hand DH role until A-Rod returns. The left side of the equation might come down to an offer to Jim Thome or a similar veteran.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, most of their best minor-league hitting prospects are a few years away of making an impact at the major-league level.
The top prospect in the organization, catcher Gary Sanchez, is only 20. But he may be worth the wait because he hit a combined .290 with 18 home runs and 85 RBIs with Class-A Charleston and High-A Tampa in 2012. Sanchez is being touted as “Jesus Montero with defense.” However, his glovework slipped a notch last season.
But the Yankees still believe he is their future behind the plate.
Outfielder Mason Wiiliams, 21, had a torn labrum ended his season his August. However, Williams was able to flash some five-tool talent by hitting a combined .298 with a 11 home runs and 35 RBIs and stole 20 bases at Charleston and Tampa.
Some are comparing him to another Williams named Bernie. He has a good bat and he is developing power as he progresses through the system. The Yankees absolutely love his high ceiling for improvement. The lefty swinger looks like a future center-fielder for the Yankees.
Somewhat lost in all the talk about Sanchez and Williams is 21-year-old outfielder Tyler Austin, who hit an organization-best .354 in 2011 and hit .322 in four minor-league stops in 2012. He hit 17 home runs and drove in 80 runs while stealing 23 bases.
Austin played his first two minor-league seasons at the corner infield spots but was moved to right-field last season and the Yankees see him as the real deal as a right-hand hitter.
The Yankees also have a trio of promising outfielders in power-hitting Zoilo Almonte, 23, who hit 21 bombs at Double-A Trenton, and slash-and-dash hitters in 2009 No. 1 draft pick Slade Heathcott, 22, and Ramon Flores, 20.
Third baseman Dante Bichette Jr., 20, the team’s first selection in the 2011 draft, hit only three home runs at Charleston in 2012 but the Yankees believe he will develop into the kind of power hitter his father was. Called up to appear in an exhibition game against the Astros last March, Bichette hit a pair of solo home runs in only two exhibition at-bats. His star is definitely on the rise.
The Yankees also have a trio in promising infielders in Angelo Gumbs, 20; Jose Pirela, 23; and Austin Aune, 19. However, only Pirela has advanced as far as Double A and Gumbs and Aune may eventually be moved to the outfield. For now Gumbs and Pirela are second basemen and Aune is power-hitting shortstop.
YANKEES 14, RED SOX 2
Most baseball experts pegged the Yankees to win the American League East and to have the best record in the American League in 2012. However, those same experts were not counting on them needing 162 games to accomplish it.
But in a season in which the team lost baseball’s best closer ever, a 24-year-old hard-throwing starting pitcher, their best base-runner and defensive outfielder and their All-Star third and first basemen for long stretches of games while they blew a 10-game lead they owned on July 18. But they held on to win their division and maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Robinson Cano was 4-for-4 with two mammoth home runs and six RBIs and Curtis Granderson added a pair of home runs and four RBIs as the New York erupted with some heavy lumber to throughly thrash a hapless, listless and joyless Boston team on Wednesday in front of a jubilant paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,393.
Combined with the Oakland Athletics’ 12-5 victory over the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays’ 4-1 defeat of the Baltimore Orioles earlier, the Yankees’ victory gave them the dual prize of champions of their division and the best record in the league. It was the Yankees’ third division title in the past four seasons and they made the playoffs for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons.
The Yankees will open their postseason quest for their 28th world championship on Sunday when they play on the road against the winner of the Baltimore-Texas inaugural one-game Wild-Card playoff game, which will be played on Friday in Arlington, TX.
After Freddy Garcia struck out the side in the ninth inning, the stadium broke into delirious cheers as the team and coaches celebrated on the field and put on their charcoal-gray American League East champion shirts and caps.
Though the journey was a long one and it was fraught with many ups and downs, the Yankees came into the game confident they held their fate in their own hands. They only needed to win this one game.
The Red Sox put up a run in the first inning off Hiroki Kuroda on a Jacoby Ellsbury single and he scored – after advancing to third on two groundouts – on Cody Ross’ sacrifice fly.
The rest of the night belonged to Cano, Granderson and some booming hits all over the turf off Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and a tattered Red Sox bullpen.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, the real Matsuzaka (1-7) appeared in the second when Cano ignited the fireworks with a single to center and Nick Swisher drew a walk. One out later, Granderson launched his 42nd home run of the season into the bleachers in right-center to give the Yankees a lead they would not dare give up the rest of the evening.
An inning later, Alex Rodriguez rolled a one-out single into left and Cano crushed a Matsuzaka change-up into the second deck in right-field for his 32nd home run of the season. After a Swisher single, Bobby Valentine – rumored to be managing what will be his last game with the Red Sox – removed Matsuzaka after he gave up five runs on six hits and a walk in just 2 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Matsuzaka’s fellow countryman Kuroda (16-11) settled in nicely after the first frame to pitch a solid seven innings in which he gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out four batters. Kuroda’s 16 victories are a career high since he came to the United States in 2008 and he also evened his career record to 57-57.
The Yankees were determined, however, to keep the pressure on the Red Sox and they did in the fifth when Rodriguez slapped a one-out double in the corner in left and Cano hit the first offering he saw off reliever Clayton Mortensen even deeper that his first homer into the second deck down the right-field line.
Though Cano entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he had multiple hits in each game and he was hitting an unbelievable .571 over that stretch, he was not through punishing Boston’s beleaguered pitching staff.
With reliever Pedro Beato on the mound in the sixth, the Yankees rallied again when Russell Martin reached base when he was struck in the left elbow on a 3-2 pitch. Derek Jeter singled and, after Suzuki forced Jeter on a groundout and stole second, Rodriguez drew a walk to load the bases.
Valentine removed Beato in favor of Scott Atchison and Cano said hello to him with a single into right to score Martin and Suzuki. The Yankees were up 9-1 and Cano had six RBIs.
After the Red Sox scratched out a two-out run in the seventh on a Pedro Ciriaco double and a Jose Iglesias RBI single, the Yankees put the game away by sending 10-men to the plate and scoring five runs on the Red Sox in the bottom of the frame.
Granderson keyed that inning with his 43rd home run of the season, a solo-run shot over the Yankee bullpen wall in right-center to start the uprising. The home run was also a historic one for the team. Granderson’s blast was the 245th home run for the team this season, which broke the previous record of 244 by the 2009 Yankees, who won their 27th world championship that season.
By that time, the Orioles had already lost to to the Rays and the Yankees already knew they reached their goal. That just left playing out the string of the next few innings against a dispirited Red Sox team, which were outscored 28-7 over the three-game series sweep.
The loss of Mariano Rivera and Michael Pineda for the season and the injuries that shelved starting left-fielder Brett Gardner for most of the season and took Rodriguez and Teixiera out the lineup for key parts of the campaign are but a distant memory now.
The next step will be to rest the wounds of the season and await manager Joe Girardi’s difficult choices for a 25-man playoff roster.
But the champagne still flowed freely in the clubhouse, the smiles were genuine and there is, no doubt, a lot of relief that their epic struggle to get to this point was finally over. As Jeter said it after the game, “Now the real season begins.”
- Is it possible for the Yankees to send Cano to play some games somewhere so his red-hot bat does cool off before Sunday? In his final nine games, Cano was 24-for-39 (.615) with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. Cano finished the season hitting .313 with a career-high 33 home runs and 94 RBIs. In his last at-bat, Valentine brought in left-hander Craig Breslow to face him with one out and two on. Breslow walked him on four pitches to load the bases. Smart move!
- Granderson’s two home runs and four RBIs give him a team-leading 43 home runs and 106 RBIs on the season despite the fact he struck out a career-high 193 times and hit just .232 this season. It goes without saying the Yankees’ lineup is a deep one but Granderson was hitting seventh on Wednesday despite the fact his 43 homers tied him with Josh Hamilton of the Rangers for second in the majors to Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, who hit 44.
- Kuroda put in a good performance in advance of his next start behind CC Sabathia in the playoffs. Kuroda had struggled somewhat in September (3-1 but with a 5.22 ERA). His outing was very sharp and he pitched very well once the Yankees had staked him to a big lead. Kuroda was, by far, the Yankees’ best and most consistent pitcher this season. The Yankees need him to pitch well in the playoffs.
A typical New Yorker might have found some faults here or there in this game. Yankee fans are a hard bunch to please. But I am not going to go there. They needed to win this game and they did it. Why be negative?
After some questioning from the media about his lineup on Tuesday, Girardi moved Suzuki back to the second spot, shifted Cano up to fourth and batted Teixiera sixth. Good thing, too, because Teixiera still does not have his timing at the plate down and he was 0-3 with a walk and a run-scoring fly ball. Cano, meanwhile, cleaned up in the cleanup spot. . . . It will be interesting to see how Girardi selects his bench and bullpen for the playoffs. Backup catcher Chris Stewart, outfielder Raul Ibanez, corner infielder Eric Chavez and middle infielder Eduardo Nunez are assured of spots but Andruw Jones may lose his spot in favor of Gardner. There also is a good possibility that Derek Lowe will make the roster and Garcia won’t because Lowe has proven to be valuable as a reliever.
The Yankees will open their playoff series in either Baltimore or Texas on Sunday. Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees.
The best-of-five American League Division Series will be telecast nationally by TBS.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 1
On a night where Japan’s Hajime Motegi hit a walk-off two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth to beat Taiwan, 2-0, in the International Bracket of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, two of the team’s major-league heroes were putting on a show on the big stage at Yankee Stadium.
Hiroki Kuroda turned in yet another stellar outing on the mound and Ichiro Suzuki homered twice as New York sent Boston packing from the Bronx, N.Y. on Sunday looking up out of a huge 13 1/2-game hole with just 41 games left to play.
Kuroda (12-8) gave up only a one-out solo home run to Adrian Gonazalez in the seventh as he shut down the listless Red Sox offense on just four hits and no walks over eight very breezy innings.
The 37-year-old right-hander ran his scoreless-inning streak to 16 2/3 innings before Gonzalez connected with his meaningless solo shot. Kuroda is 8-2 with a 2.73 in his last 20 starts dating back to May 27.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at the Red Sox’ disappointing ace Josh Beckett (5-11), scoring single runs in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.
The runs in the fourth and sixth came on the sixth and seventh home runs of the season from Suzuki, marking his first multi-homer game as a Yankee. After Suzuki’s second home run of the night, many in the paid crowd of 48,620 chanted “Ichiro, Ichiro” until the 37-year-old veteran came of the Yankees’ dugout to take a curtain call.
The Yankees opened the scoring with Derek Jeter leading off the game with a ringing double to the wall in center, the first of three hits on the night for Jeter. With two out, Curtis Granderson stroked a lined double off the right-field wall to score Jeter.
Two innings later, Jeter again opened the inning with a ground-rule double to center off Beckett. Nick Swisher drew a walk and both Jeter and Swisher pulled off a double steal. Jeter then scored when a pitch from Beckett to Robinson Cano bounced in the dirt and eluded catcher Ryan Lavarnway, allowing Jeter to score easily.
Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth, punctuating the victory by retiring Gonzalez by striking out him swinging. Soriano saved two of the three games in the series and he has 31 saves in 33 chances this season.
With the loss, the Red Sox’s nightmarish August continues. They are 6-12 this month and they now trail in the wild-card standings by 7 1/2 games. If it is not time to stick a fork in the Bosox it is not far away.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to an American League-best record of 72-49 and they are five games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East. The Red Sox are now 59-63 and their playoff chances are about as bright as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson winning the 2012 presidential election as the Libertarian candidate.
- In the absence of CC Sabathia, Kuroda has turned out to be a true ace over his last 20 starts. Kuroda retired 16 of his 24 outs on 12 ground balls and four strikeouts. Out of his 112 pitches, 75 (67 percent) were strikes. He could not have looked in more command against the Red Sox if he were throwing from a La-Z-boy recliner.
- Suzuki came to the Yankees with only four home runs but he now has three in his 26 games with the team. On his current pace, Suzuki possibly could become the 11th Yankee to reach double digits in home runs. The Yankees lead the major leagues in home runs with 189. Suzuki also has only failed to record at least one hit in just two of his starts since he was acquired on July 23.
- Jeter was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. The three hits give him 163 on the season, which leads the majors. Though he had his 13-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, Jeter is hitting .351 with two home runs and 11 RBis in August. His season average is now .321.
Nothing to say here. Any win over the Red Sox is pretty much devoid of negatives.
Mark Teixeira, who has been sidelined throughout the three-game Boston series with a sore left wrist, hopes to return to action on Monday. Teixeira took ground balls on Sunday wearing a compression brace on his wrist. Teixeira missed games from July 31 through August 2 with the same problem and took a cortisone shot to ease the pain. . . . Left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano threw a scoreless inning for the Gulf Coast Yankees on Saturday and there is a strong possibility he could pitch some for the Yankees in September. Feliciano signed a two-year contract with the Yankees before the 2011 season and he has not pitched an inning for the Yankees because he had to undergo surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.
The Yankees travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago White Sox in a three-game series beginning on Monday.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.68 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Garcia is 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA in his eight starts replacing left-hander Andy Pettitte in the rotation. In his last time out, he gave up two home runs to Josh Hamilton but still beat the Texas Rangers for his third straight victory. Garcia is 5-5 with a 4.46 ERA in his career against the Chisox.
The White Sox will counter with right-hander Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.43 ERA). Floyd notched his first career victory in Toronto and only his second road victory of the season by downing the Blue Jays in his last outing. He is 2-3 with a 6.07 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, RANGERS 2
The final score on Wednesday should read Yankees 3, Rangers 0, Josh Hamilton 2.
On a night where a pair of mammoth solo home runs by Hamilton was all Texas could muster for an offense, Freddy Garcia and New York held on to take the first three games of a four-game series between the two top teams in the American League.
The Yankees scored three runs in the third inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-8) on an RBI double by Nick Swisher, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Curtis Granderson and a big two-out RBI single by the red-hot Eric Chavez.
That was all Garcia eventually would need. But Hamilton made it interesting by launching a 400-foot blast off Garcia into the second deck in right with one out in the fourth inning. It was the first regular-season home run Hamilton has hit in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.
The home run also ended a drought of 20 innings in which the Rangers were held scoreless in this series by the Yankees.
The Rangers were able to load the bases on Garcia right after the Hamilton homer. However, Garcia was able to wriggle out of further trouble by inducing Geovany Soto to hit into an inning-ending double play.
But with one out in the sixth, Hamilton was able to connect off Garcia again with a moon shot measured at about 455 feet into second deck in right. It was his major-league leading 34th home run of the season.
But Garcia was able to complete 6 2/3 innings. Other than the two home runs, Garcia shut down the Rangers on just two other hits and a walk and he struck out six to win his third straight start. Garcia now has won five games since he was inserted into the rotation on July 2, which leads the team.
Garcia also is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last seven starts against the Rangers, dating back to 2004.
Jayson Nix, playing in place of an ailing Robinson Cano, opened the third against Feldman with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third on a lined single by Derek Jeter. Swisher, who was 3-for-8 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series, added to the Rangers’ misery with a bloop opposite-field double that landed just inside the line in left-field to score Nix while Jeter made it to third.
Granderson followed with a high fly to deep center that easily scored Jeter. Then, one out later, Chavez, who entered the day hitting .550 in his last five games, stroked an opposite-field single that scored Swisher.
But after that inning, Feldman got stingy and pitched around a lot of danger to keep the game close.
Feldman left after six innings having given up thee runs on seven hits and four walks and he struck out seven. After going 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position in the third, the Yankees were held to 0-for-8 the rest of the game and they stranded 10 runners.
Boone Logan replaced Garcia with two out and nobody on to retire pinch-hitter Michael Young to end the seventh. David Robertson then pitched a 1-2-3 eight, striking out two batters.
Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and struck out Hamilton swinging and retired Adrian Beltre on a deep line drive to the warning track in left.
On a play in which Swisher dug out a one-hop throw from Chavez and stayed on the bag on a grounder off the bat of Nelson Cruz, first-base umpire Marty Foster incorrectly ruled that Swisher came off the bag for what was scored an error on Chavez. That added a bit of drama for the crowd of 45,921 who braved an hour and 45 minute rain delay in the Bronx to see this clash of A.L. titans.
But Soriano pitched around the error and retired David Murphy on a ground-ball force out to pick up his 29th save in his 31 opportunities this season.
With the victory, the Yankees have won seven out of their last eight games. They also have a streak of eight straight home victories over the Rangers that dates back to last season.
Their season record is now 70-47, the best record in the American League. The victory also gives the Yankees a six-game edge over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-49.
- What has been the biggest knock on the 2012 Yankees? Their supposedly suspect starting pitching, of course, with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list. But David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda and Garcia have combined to give up just four runs on 12 hits and four walks and fanned 13 batters in 18 2/3 innings against a very good hitting Rangers team. That is a starters’ ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.86. This staff is better than they might seem just looking at their ERAs. In his nine starts since July 2, Garcia has not given up more than three earned runs in eight of them and he has an ERA of 3.69 in those starts.
- Chavez continues to turn back the clock to his 2001 season with Oakland in which he hit .288 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs. Chavez was 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the game. In his last six starts, Chavez is 14-for-23 (.609) with three home runs and seven RBIs. The 34-year-old veteran is doing more than his share filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez.
- Swisher is just about as hot as Chavez. In the series he is 4-for-13 (.308) with two home runs and eight RBIs. In his last nine games, he is 13-for-39 (.333) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. His hot streak has raised his season batting average to .263.
- Some poor strategy and some poor execution of a bunt cost the Yankees a few potential chances to tack on to their lead. Ichiro Suzuki led off the sixth with an infield single. Instead of having Suzuki steal or having Nix bunt Suzuki over, manager Joe Girardi had Nix swing away and he hit into a double play. In the eighth, Nix did bunt after another leadoff infield single by Suzuki and Nix reached first because the bunt was so well placed. However, Jeter popped up his bunt attempt and reliever Mike Adams let it drop and turned it into a double play that killed the rally.
- Mark Teixeira had a night to forget. He was 0-for-4, struck out three times and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Teixeira entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 11-for-32 (.344) with three homers and five RBIs.
- Russell Martin’s season from hell continues. The Rangers’ pitchers pretty much used the catcher, who entered the game hitting .199, as an escape hatch to big innings. Martin was 0-for-3 with a walk and he stranded seven runners. Martin lined out to right on the first pitch off reliever Alexi Ogando with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.
Cano was held out of Wednesday’s game due to a stiff neck, but Girardi said he did not think it was anything serious. Nix replaced Cano at second base and was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored. . . . In Rodriguez’s absence, Chavez, Nix and Casey McGehee have gone a combined 26-for-68 (.382) with seven homers, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 19 starts at third base.
The Yankees can take out their brooms and complete a four-game sweep of the mighty Rangers on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova gave up two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. He is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Rangers.
The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA). Holland was locked in a pitching duel with Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Holland struck out nine and retired 22 of the 24 batters he faced, but he settled for a no-decision. He may want to wear a batting helmet on the mound Thursday because he is 0-5 with a 9.26 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, RED SOX 3
It took four hours and two minutes and 371 pitches were thrown but the New York Yankees were able to defeat the Boston Red Sox to win the four-game series at Fenway Park 3-1 and begin the All-Star break with both the best record in baseball and the biggest lead of any of the division frontrunners.
Two players stood out for the Yankees in this Sunday marathon in front of national TV audience and a sellout crowd of 38,270.
Ivan Nova pitched six superlative innings to notch his 10th victory of the season and Andruw Jones drove in three runs and hit his fourth home run of the series in the seventh inning to put the game out of reach.
Nova (10-3) gave up two runs (one earned) on six hits and two walks and struck out 10 very befuddled Red Sox to give the Yankees a 5-1 record against Bosox, all of the those games in Beantown.
Jones, who entered the series against the Red Sox with only three homers in 91 career at-bats at Fenway, finished the four-game series (he did not play in the opener on Friday) 5-for-13 (.385) with four home runs and six RBIs.
The Yankees opened the game much like they have in the first three games of the series – by scoring runs early. They jumped on left-hander Jon Lester for two runs in the first inning.
Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson stroked back-to-back singles and Mark Teixeira drove in Jeter with a double down the left-field line.
After one out, Robinson Cano walked to load the bases and the the Yankees cashed in another run as Red Sox third baseman Mauro Gomez fielded Nick Swisher’s bouncer stepping on the bag but he threw a three-hopper to first to allow Swisher to reach and Granderson to score.
During the four-game series, the Yankees scored 14 of their 28 runs in the first inning.
The Red Sox received a gift-wrapped run the bottom of the inning courtesy of a rare misplay by Jeter.
The Red Sox had Pedro Ciriaco on second and David Ortiz on first with two out when Cody Ross lifted a routine infield popup that Jeter dropped and Ciriaco scored to halve the Yankee lead.
The Yankees added a lone run in the third after Jayson Nix led off with a double to left-center and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia committed a passed ball just before Chris Stewart lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Nix.
The Red Sox nicked Nova for a run in the third when Ciriaco singled with one out and Ortiz followed with a double off the Green Monster in center.
But the Yankees chased Lester in the fifth when Alex Rodriguez followed a Teixeira single with a 410-foot triple to the cutout in center in which center-fielder Ryan Sweeney crashed his head against the padded wall attempting a sliding catch. Sweeney was able to stay in the game.
After a one out walk to Swisher, Jones stroked a single in the hole between third and short to score Rodriguez and Lester’s night was over.
Lester (5-6) gave up five runs (four earned) on nine hits and two walks and fanned six in 4 1/3 innings.
While Nova settled into a groove, the Yankees put the Red Sox away in the seventh when Swisher doubled off reliever Scott Atchison and Jones followed with his 11th home run of the season, which landed well into the seats above the Green Monster.
Though the Yankees relievers showed a bit of arm weariness by giving up six walks over the final three innings, they managed to hold the Red Sox to just one run. Rafael Soriano closed it out in the ninth inning by striking out the side despite walking two batters.
The Yankees’ victory gives them a record at the All-Star break of 52-33 and they extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East to seven games. The Red Sox, meanwhile, fell to 43-43 and they are tied with the the Toronto Blue Jays for last place 9 1/2 games back while playing with mostly reserves and minor-league call-ups.
- I have said it before but it bears repeating: Nova is the Yankees’ second-best pitcher behind CC Sabathia because he has such an awesome assortment of quality pitches. Though his slider was a bit shaky on Sunday, he used his 12-to-6 curve to devastating effect against the Red Sox. Eight of his 10 strikeouts were on swings and misses and most of them came on the curveball that broke out of the strike zone. His major-league career record is now 26-7 and it is not all due to run support. This 25-year-old right-hander can pitch.
- Jones entered the weekend hitting .230 with seven home runs and 16 RBIs and he leaves hitting .244 with 11 home runs and 22 RBIs. His 11 home runs in just 127 at-bats means he hitting a home run on average every 11.5 at-bats. Josh Hamilton of the Texas Rangers, who leads the major leagues with 27 home runs, is hitting homers at a rate of one for every 11.1 at-bats. So Jones is doing well in limited playing time.
- Jeter collected another three hits on Sunday and he finished the weekend in Boston 8-for-20 (.400) to raise his season average to .308. After hitting .232 in June, Jeter is hitting .344 in July.
- Though Jeter shone brightly with the bat his fielding in the series left a lot to be desired. Besides his dropped popup he also misplayed a grounder off the bat of Ciriaco in the third that was mercifully scored a single. His error in the sixth inning on Saturday, one of four the Yankees committed, led to a three-run inning.
- It is obvious that the loss of Mariano Rivera is taking a toll on the bullpen when they are forced to work so much against teams like the Red Sox and Rays. Cody Eppley, David Robertson and Soriano walked two apiece and they threw an amazing 76 pitches in just 2 2/3 innings of work! They can use the break to rest their weary limbs.
- The Yankees were 3-for-14 (.214) with runners in scoring position and they stranded 11 base-runners. It is something they just have to improve upon in the second half.
Sabathia threw a bullpen session on Sunday and he is on track to return to the Yankees’ rotation in the second series after the All-Star break. Sabathia has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 28 with a left groin strain. The All-Star left-hander threw 43 pitches and he told reporters that he has not experienced any discomfort from the injury. Sabathia is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Tuesday at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City and a simulated game at Yankee Stadium on Friday. If all goes well, the Yankees will activate him on July 17 so he can start at home against the Blue Jays.
Jeter, Granderson, Cano and Sabathia are headed to the All-Star Game in Kansas City on Tuesday. The rest of the Yankees will get some well-deserved rest until Friday when the Yankees will host the Los Angeles Angels.
Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.50 ERA) will start the game for the Yankees. The Angels have not named a starting pitcher.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.