YANKEES 7, MARLINS 3
TAMPA – You can make a case that spring has not really sprung until a major-league team’s ace pitches in his first exhibition game. Well, for the Yankees it sprung on Friday as CC Sabathia toed the rubber for the first time and he pitched five solid innings.
Later the Yankees broke a 3-3 tie when Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto’s passed ball with the bases loaded in the bottom of seventh inning allowed Jose Pirela to score the tie-breaking run as New York went on to overtake Miami at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
The Yankees added another run in the frame when Realmuto was charged with an error on an attempted pickoff of Ichiro Suzuki at first base that allowed Gil Velazquez to score.
David Robertson (1-0) pitched an inning of scoreless relief to get credit for the victory. Dan Jennings (0-1) took the loss.
The Yankees initially rallied from a 2-0 deficit to take a 3-2 lead on a solo home run by Francisco Cervelli in the second inning and a mammoth two-run blast to right off the bat of Travis Hafner in the third. The home runs were the first of the spring for both Hafner and Cervelli.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their spring ledger to 8-12. The Marlins fell to 7-10.
- Hafner finally provided the power the Yankees were looking for when they signed him to a one-year contract to be the team’s left-hand designated hitter. Hafner’s home run with one out in the third inning came off former Mets right-hander John Maine, who is attempting to win a starting rotation spot with the Marlins. Hafner, 35, is now hitting .174 with a homer and four RBIs.
- The pitching line for Sabathia looks bad at first glance: Two runs on eight hits and one walk and two strikeouts in five innings. But most of those eight hits were not hard-hit balls. They included a bunt single, two bloop singles and a few others that just wriggled through holes in the infield. Sabathia, 32, was making his first start after recovering from offseason surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow.
- Pirela, 23, has very quietly had a great spring. He entered the game in the fourth inning and ended up going 2-for-3 with a triple and a single and he scored the tie-breaking run and drove in another run in the eighth. Pirela, who hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Double-A Trenton last season, is hitting .385 this spring.
- After a scorching hot start Brett Gardner is beginning to struggle a bit. He was 0-for-4 on Friday with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out the infield. In his last six starts dating back to March 7, Gardner is a miserable 1-for-18 and his spring average has plunged to .324.
- Non-roster infielder Dan Johnson is seemingly playing his way out of a chance to make the 25-man roster. Johnson, 33, was 0-for-2 on Friday and he is hitting a ridiculously low .043 this spring with seven strikeouts in his 23 at-bats. With injuries to Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira, Johnson had a great shot to make the team as backup corner infielder – the same role Eric Chavez filled last season. But it looks like that ship may have sailed unless Johnson gets awful hot in a hurry.
- Even in scoring seven runs the Yankees still did not hit well with runners in scoring position. They were 1-for-8 in the game and it remains a major concern going forward.
The Yankees have added to their outfield depth by signing Brennan Boesch, who was released earlier this week by the Detroit Tigers. Boesch, 27, hit .240 with 12 home runs and 54 RBIs in 132 games with the American League champions in 2012. He was hitting .188 in 16 at-bats with the Tigers this spring. Boesch signed a one-year major-league contract for $1.5 million and $600,000 in performance incentives and he will give the Yankees a left-handed hitting corner outfielder as Curtis Granderson recovers from broken right forearm. It appears that Juan Rivera and the newly acquired Ben Francisco are competing for the right-hand portion of the corner outfield spots. Rivera also has been playing some first base in Teixera’s absence. . . . Utility man Ronnier Mustelier was forced to leave Friday’s game with multiple contusions on both legs after he ran into a metal dugout railing chasing a foul pop off the bat of Juan Pierre in the fourth inning. Manager Joe Girardi said Mustelier likely will be out until at least Tuesday. Mustelier, 28, has been a hitting sensation this spring and the Yankees have looked him at the corner outfielder spots and at third base. . . . Yankees relief prospect Mark Mongomery and rising star outfielder Tyler Austin were presented with 2012 Kevin O’Brien Lawn awards before Friday’s game. Montgomery, 23, received the “Pitcher of the Year” award after going a combined 7-2 with a 1.54 ERA and 15 saves between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton. Austin, 21, was named “Player of the Year” after batting a combined .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs in four minor-league stops last season. The annual awards are dedicated to Kevin O’Brien Lawn – the son of longtime Yankees Vice President and Chief of Operations Jack Lawn – who passed away in 1999.
The Yankees will play a pair of games on Saturday.
In one game the Yankees will play host to the Philadelphia Phillies. In the other game, the Yankees will send a split squad to play the Atlanta Braves at Champions Stadium in Lake Buena Vista, FL.
Hiroki Kuroda will start at home against the Phillies. He will be opposed by reliever Raul Valdes.
Game-time will be one hour earlier than usual at 12:05 p.m. EDT to accommodate an evening concert at Raymond James Stadium by country star Kenny Chesney. The game will be telecast live by the YES Network and on tape delay by the MLB Network.
David Phelps, who is still in the running to be the team’s fifth starter, will pitch in the road contest. He will square off against left-hander Paul Maholm of the Braves.
Game-time will be 5:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network.
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
LEFTFIELD – BRETT GARDNER (7 Rs, 0 HRs, 3 RBIs, .323 BA, 2 SB)
Luck has always seemed to turn its back on Brett Gardner.
When he won a job in the Yankees’ outfield in 2009, he seemed to add a new dimension to the offense with his speed. But that season was cut short (108 games) due to a severe thumb injury he suffered sliding into base on a steal attempt.
He has always shown great promise to produce a season in which he would could hit close to .300, steal 60 bases and score tons of runs hitting in front of the Yankees’ powerful home run hitters.
He hit .277 in 2010 and stole 47 bases but he regressed a bit in 2011, when he hit .259 and stole 49 bases. A wrist injury contributed a lot to his hitting woes but surgery on the wrist appeared to have him primed for a big season in 2012.
He was hitting .321 in the 11th game of the season when he hustled in for a sinking line drive in a game against the Minnesota Twins at Yankee Stadium on April 17. Gardner dove for the ball and caught it but paid dearly by suffering a right elbow injury that landed him on the disabled list. In that game, Gardner hit two doubles, drew two walks, scored three runs, stole a base and drove in a run.
Unfortunately, Gardner would have only three more at-bats the rest of the season and they would come in the Yankees’ final series of the season against the Boston Red Sox.
In between, Gardner would have to suffer a series of stops and starts in his rehab that would baffle the Yankees’ medical staff and elbow specialists alike.
Gardner would rehab the elbow and then show enough progress for a minor-league rehab assignment. However, on two occasions last season Gardner had to shelve his rehab because of recurring pain in the elbow. Finally, Gardner underwent surgery, which ostensibly ended his season.
But the Yankees did see an opportunity to get Gardner ready to play in the playoffs as a potential pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement in the outfield. Gardner entered two games in the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles as a defensive replacement and he was 0-for-8 with two stolen bases in three games in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
But, when you add it all up, basically Gardner 2012 season was just wasted.
Gardner, 29, enters 2013 with a clean bill of health on his surgically repaired elbow. That was pretty much confirmed when Gardner was allowed to hit late in the season and in the playoffs. Hopefully he will be able to return to the same durable player who played in 159 games in 2011.
The Yankees hope so because with Gardner hurt and Eduardo Nunez sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, the Yankees running game in 2012 was virtually non-existent until the Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki in a trade with the Seattle Mariners in June.
Gardner and Nunez had combined to steal 71 bases in 2011. Last season, in limited play, they stole only 13. The team leader was Suzuki with 14 despite the fact he played in just 67 games with the Yankees.
There is no doubt Gardner and 137 career steals were really missed by a Yankees’ team that had trouble scoring runs in every way except by hitting homers. Gardner provided the speed the Yankees needed and the base-running ability to make other teams make mistakes on pickoff attempts and throws.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to field a roster in 2013 that includes, Gardner, Nunez and Suzuki. They also could possibly get double-digit steals from Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson.
So the Yankees, minus power threats such as Nick Swisher, Raul Ibanez, Andruw, Jones, Russell Martin and Eric Chavez and with Alex Rodriguez out until at least June with a hip injury may have to remake their attack next season around stealing and taking extra bases to make up for the what they lack in power.
That may not be a bad thing considering the “waiting for the home run” approach did not work out so well once the playoffs began. Manager Joe Girardi has always favored a National League-style attack of getting runners on base and moving them aggressively around the bases.
But last season Gardner’s injury and Nunez’s demotion altered the attack to a power-only approach with a veteran-laden roster of players who were not fleet afoot.
Ibanez and Jones pretty much took over for Gardner in left field. Ibanez, 40, and Jones, 34, combined to hit 33 home runs and drive in 96 runs but they only combined to steal three bases and all of those were from the older Ibanez.
Neither Ibanez or Jones could match Gardner’s range and fielding prowess, despite the fact Jones won 10 Gold Gloves when he was a young star with the Atlanta Braves. This is where Gardner was truly missed.
There are scouts who believe that Gardner should have won a Gold Glove in 2011. It instead was awarded to Alex Gordon of the Kansas City Royals. Gardner has superior range, better instincts and a better arm than Gordon.
He had seven assists and he deterred a lot of base-runners rounding third for heading for home because he threw out 12 runners in his first season in 2009.
In fact, Gardner is so well thought of as a defensive outfielder that the Yankees are toying with the idea of moving him to centerfield this season and moving Granderson to left. Though Granderson does have excellent speed and he plays hard, the Yankees are not happy about how he tends to get late jumps and misreads fly balls.
Girardi is low-keying this idea but do not be surprised to see Gardner playing center this spring on the days Granderson is not. It also would not surprise me if Granderson plays some in left under the guise that the team “wants to see” rookie Melky Mesa in center.
Then Girardi likely will make an announcement late in the spring that Gardner and Granderson will switch. He would do this in order to make sure Granderson’s feelings aren’t damaged and he can probably justify it by saying leftfield is just as important to cover than center in Yankee Stadium, which is true.
Though speed and defense are constants in Gardner’s game, he still has some warts, too.
His bat can be erratic. Pitchers love to overpower him with hard stuff up and try to tie him up inside because of his past wrist issues. So instead of hitting line drives, Gardner hits weak pops and grounders.
Gardner also, for all his blinding speed, has never really developed into a very good bunter.
Gardner’s bunting is still a work in progress, which is hard to believe for a player who has played a combined seven major- and minor-league seasons. Juan Pierre practices bunting every day and he is the most accomplished bunter in the major leagues. If Gardner is not doing it than why not? And if he is practicing every day why is he not getting better?
Those are fair questions.
The other maddening part of Gardner’s game is that he does not have an aggressive nature on the bases. Gardner loves to wait for the right pitch and the right jump before taking a base. It sometimes rankles the hitters who are up when he is on because he just waits and wait and waits.
It is admirable that Gardner does not want to get thrown out but base-stealers have to have a riverboat gambler approach to it or they lose the intimidation factor on the bases. Rickey Henderson had the attitude that no one could throw him out. If you did manage to get him, he would dare you to do it again.
Gardner is much more passive and it shows. The Yankees will need him to develop that attitude and perhaps Suzuki could be of some help to him with it.
Even with these weaknesses in his game, Gardner is still going to be very important to the Yankees in 2013. Having him healthy will give the Yankees a genuine 50-plus base-stealing threat and a superb defensive outfielder roaming the vast expanses of Yankee Stadium.
After suffering through a frustrating year with that nagging elbow injury, Gardner seems primed for a big season. For Yankee fans often it is when you are sorely missed that fans take a better appreciation for what you do. My guess is they are going to really appreciate what Gardner gives them this season – if he can just stay healthy.
PHILLIES 9, YANKEES 3
Hector Luna cracked a bases-clearing double in the sixth inning to cap a six-run rally as Philadelphia defeated New York in a Grapefruit League contest on Monday at Bright House Field in Clearwater, FL.
Phillies right-hander Austin Hyatt (1-0) pitched two innings and got credit for the victory in relief despite the fact he gave up two runs that gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead heading into the sixth. Yankees right-hander Adam Miller (0-1) took the loss after facing six batters and not retiring one of them.
Reserve infielder Mike Martinez, who misplayed three ground balls in a 7-4 loss to the Yankees on Sunday, added a two-run home run in the seventh inning off left-hander Juan Cedeno.
The Yankees are 2-1 in Grapefruit League play. The Phillies are 1-2.
- Michael Pineda, who was acquired by the Yankees in the trade with the Seattle Mariners for Jesus Montero, made his spring debut for the Yankees and looked sensational. Pineda gave up one hit and struck out two in his two innings of work, throwing 19 of his 30 pitches for strikes. Pineda’s highlight was fanning veteran Jim Thome in the first inning on a high fastball.
- The Yankees scored their first run without the benefit of a hit off Hyatt in the fifth. Russell Martin worked a leadoff walk and Hyatt then struck Eduardo Nunez on the right hand with a pitch. Martin advanced to third on a fly ball off the bat of Bill Hall and he scored on a sacrifice fly by Jayson Nix. The Yankees scored in the following inning because of more shoddy Phillies fielding. Brett Gardner’s fly ball to left was misjudged by left-fielder Domonic Brown and the ball then caromed off the knee of center-fielder Tyson Gillies and rolled to the left-field wall. Gardner was attempting to slide into third when second baseman Kevin Frandsen’s relay throw got past Luna at third and Gardner ran home on what was scored as a triple and a throwing error on Frandsen.
- The Yankees have no real jobs open but they have been very impressed with the bat of 22-year-old outfielder Zoilo Almonte. Almonte did it again on Monday. In the seventh inning he delivered a two-out, bases-loaded single off right-hander Brian Sances to score Brandon Laird with the Yankees’ third run. Almonte had four RBIs in Friday’s 11-0 exhibition victory against the University of South Florida. In his three games against the Phillies he is 3-for-3 with three RBIs. Almonte hit a combined .276 with 15 home runs and 77 RBIs in 116 games with Single-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
- Reliever Ryan Pope looked good in the final 1 2/3 innings of the game. He retired all five batters he faced and fanned two. In a day when Miller and Cedeno combined to give up eight runs, Pope was a godsend.
- Miller looked terrible in his Yankee debut. The former Indians prospect was signed on Jan. 4 as a free agent. Miller’s progress was delayed after he suffered ligament damage in his right finger that forced him two miss two seasons. Miller opened the sixth with a 2-1 lead and he gave up a leadoff single to Jim Thome. Thome was replaced by pinch-runner Juan Pierre but catcher Gustavo Miolina nabbed him attempting to steal second. Then the roof caved in for Miller. He walked Scott Podsednik, Ty Wigginton and Brown in succession. Erik Kratz followed with a RBI single and Miller forced in another run by hitting Frandsen with his next offering. Girardi then removed him.
- Cedeno, the pitcher who replaced Miller, is among four lefties vying for a bullpen spot on the team. He has some work to do because in relief of Miller in the sixth he gave up a sac fly to Freddy Galvis, walked Gillies and then gave up a bases-loaded double to Luna that broke the game open. The following inning he gave up a two-run home run to Martinez.
- David Robertson did not look sharp in his spring debut. After retiring the first two batters, he walked Jimmy Rollins and Rollins made him pay by stealing both second and third base. Rollins then scored the game’s first run on a sharp single up the middle by Placido Polanco.
The only real good news from Monday’s game was that X-rays on the right hand of Nunez were negative for a break. Nunez had swelling and pain but the injury is not considered serious and he is listed as day-to-day. . . . For all intents and purposes the battle for the backup catcher spot behind Martin is over. The back injury suffered by Austin Romine will put him so behind Francisco Cervelli that he will not be able to win the job. Manager Joe Girardi said the Yankees want to take a cautious approach with Romine’s back because it is a recurrence of an injury he suffered last season at Double-A Trenton. Girardi told Romine it would better for him to rest now and clear up the problem rater than have it crop up again later in the season. . . . For the first time this spring, the Yankees played a game in which the wind was not howling and became a factor in the game. Temperatures were in the upper 60s and the wind was blowing in from center-field at just 5 mph. That was likely good news for the players and the crowd of 9,956 that attended the game at Bright House Field.
After winning two of three in their opening series with the Phillies, the Yankees travel to Bradenton, FL, to play the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday.
The Yankees plan to start ace left-hander CC Sabathia and right-hander Phil Hughes is also scheduled to pitch. The Yankees will bring their starting infield of Mark Teixeira, Robinson Cano, Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to the game.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will not be broadcast on television.
YANKEES 7, WHITE SOX 2
For a team still labeled as a team without quality starting pitching, how odd is it that the New York Yankees can claim to have the best No. 6 starter in baseball?
The 24-year-old rookie right-hander without a starting spot, Ivan Nova, sparkled and shined brighter than ever under the lights of U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday to make a bold statement that he does not want to sent back to the minors again. It would be a crime if he was.
Nova (10-4) gave up only one run on six hits and no walks and struck out a career high 10 as New York completed a four-game road sweep over Chicago for their seventh straight victory and claimed a share of first place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox.
Since his recall on July 30, Nova has given up three runs on 12 hits and one walk and struck out 16 in 14 2/3 innings over his two starts. Recalled initially to fill in as a starter for a makeup doubleheader game on Saturday, Nova pitched so well against the Orioles last week he was given another start against the White Sox. Now that he has pitched brilliantly again, what will the Yankees do?
Manager Joe Girardi calls it a good problem to have but it is a problem just the same.
While Nova was dazzling the Chisox hitters, the Yankee offense got untracked early against White Sox starter Philip Humber (8-8).
With one out in the second inning, Robinson Cano hit a Humber fastball on a line down the left-field line and into the White Sox bullpen for his 18th home run and his second in two games.
The White Sox got a little help from Nova to score a run in the third to tie the game. After Alejandro De Aza reached on an infield single, the Yankees called for a pitchout as De Aza attempted to steal second. However, Nova threw high and to the left of catcher Russell Martin and it allowed De Aza to reach second safely.
Brent Morel singled to advance De Aza to third and De Aaza scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Juan Pierre.
The Yankees ended up taking the lead for good in the sixth on the bat and legs of Brett Gardner.
Gardner doubled to right to lead off the inning. Derek Jeter put down a sacrifice bunt to advance him to third. Curtis Granderson hit a one-hop smash right at Adam Dunn at first. Dunn stepped on the bag and fired immediately to home to catch a sliding Gardner, but Gardner slid into home plate just before A.J. Pierzynski applied the tag.
The Yankees tacked on two more runs and chased Humber in the seventh. Cano singled and Nick Swisher drew a walk. One out later, Jorge Posada singled to right to score Cano and advance Swisher to third. After right-hander Jesse Crain replaced Humber, Martin lofted a deep sac fly to center to score Swisher easily.
The Yankees turned the game into a rout by jumping on former teammate Brian Bruney for three runs in the ninth. Swisher and Eric Chavez started the inning with singles. One out later, Martin connected for a tape-measure three-run home run into left-center. Martin ended up with four RBIs and it was his first multiple RBI game since June 29 against the Brewers at Yankee Stadium.
David Roberston completed the eighth inning for Nova and Hector Noesi finished up in the ninth, though he was touched for a solo home run by Dunn.
While the Yankees were winning in the Windy City, former Red Sox starter Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians were beating the Red Sox at Fenway Park, 7-3. By virtue of the Yankee victory and the Red Sox loss the two teams are now in a tie for the lead in the A.L. East with identical 68-42 records.
That will set the stage for the weekend series in Boston when the Yankees will take on the Red Sox in a pivotal three-game weekend series.
The White Sox loss was their sixth in a row and they are 52-58 and fading fast in the A.L. Central.
- Nova is 10-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 18 starts. He is the only rookie starter in the majors who is six games over .500 on the season and the Yankees are 13-5 in games in which he has started. His last loss was on June 3 against the Angels. How can you send this kid to the bullpen or the minor leagues? The answer is you can’t. Nova has become a much better pitcher because he is using his slider more effectively. That has made his fastball and curve less predictable. Nova also is showing unwavering confidence.
- Martin’s home run and four RBIs are an encouraging sign. He hit .292 in April but injuries sent him reeling at the plate. He batted .200 in May, .185 in June and .200 in July. It is early but he is batting .273 in August and showing signs of breaking out of his long slump. In his last 11 games he is 12-for-41 (.293) with two home runs and seven RBIs.
- Cano is on a tear of his own. In his last nine games he is 14-for-32 (.438) with two home runs and 13 RBIs. His recent streak has raised his season average to .301, the first time he has been at the .300 mark since July 14. He now has 18 home runs and 75 RBIs on the season.
- Chavez, who was 2-for-4 on Thursday, is proving to be a very valuable replacement for Alex Rodriguez at third base. In the seven games he has started since coming off the 60-day disabled list on July 26, he is 9-for-28 (.321) with a homer and six RBIs. More importantly, Chavez is playing Gold Glove-quality defense. When Rodriguez returns, Chavez and Eduardo Nunez will make up part of a very good bench heading into the playoffs.
Why carp about the team when it ties a season high with its seventh victory in a row and they claimed a share of first place in the East? Nova was just sensational.
Nova’s great pitching has left Girardi uncommitted about what the Yankees will do with him. The Yankees only have three bench players (Nunez, Chavez and Francisco Cervelli) heading into Boston. The Yankees would like to add outfielder Chris Dickerson to the roster. But that would mean they would have send a pitcher to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. It could be Nova or it could be Noesi. Beyond that, will Nova get another start next week? Girardi is not going to say for now. . . . Rodriguez worked out for 33 minutes at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, Fl, on Thursday and he reported no problems. It was the first field workout for Rodriguez since he was placed on the 15-day DL after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee. It is unclear how long Rodriguez will need before he is activated.
Well, this is the big one. The series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park will determine who is first place to begin next week.
The Yankees will start 38-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.30 ERA). Colon gave up two runs on five hits in five innings on Sunday in a victory against the Orioles. He is 7-8 with a 3.89 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Jon Lester (11-4, 3.17 ERA). Lester gave up only two runs on four hits over eight innings over the White Sox on Sunday. He is 8-1 with a 3.56 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 the YES Network.
YANKEES 18, WHITE SOX 7
The Yankees’ offense is lot like a volcano. It can lie dormant for days at a time, spew a bit of fire suddenly and then it finally erupts. On Wednesday night, the 23,873 in attendance at U.S. Cellular Field witnessed an eruption of Mount St. Helen’s proportions.
Curtis Granderson produced four hits and five RBIs and Robinson Cano and Eric Chavez each contributed a home run among their three hits and four RBIs apiece as New York terrorized Chicago pitching for a season-high 18 runs and their second-best season hit total of 23 to win their sixth game in a row.
The onslaught began very innocently in the very first inning with back-to-back bunt singles by Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter, who ended up with five hits in a game for the fourth time in his career and the first time since he collected his 3,000th hit on July 9. Cano punctuated the inning by launching a three-run home run off White Sox starter and loser Gavin Floyd (9-10).
Granderson added two runs off Floyd in the second inning with a two-out, two-run triple. Chavez added a two-run home run in the third and Jeter later that inning rolled a two-run single up the middle off reliever Will Ohman. After hitting a sacrifice fly that scored the game’s first run in the first inning, Mark Teixeira lined a ball that center-fielder Alex Rios misplayed into a triple that scored two runs as the Yankees erupted for seven big runs in the third inning alone.
Floyd, who entered the game as the hottest pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break with a 3-0 record and a 0.81 ERA, was blasted for 10 runs on nine hits, a walk, a hit batter and he struck out two in 2 1/3 innings. It was his shortest outing of the season.
By the time Ohman struck out Nick Swisher looking to end the third inning, the Yankees had a 13-1 lead.
This is where the Yankees’ story takes a very odd turn.
Veteran right-hander A.J. Burnett for some reason was unable to pitch effectively enough to last the necessary five innings to win what would have been his first victory in August as a Yankee. He entered the game 0-6 in his last two seasons with the Yankees. Burnett also has not won a game since June 29.
After giving up a solo run in the first on a Carlos Quenton sac fly, Burnett was touched for five runs in the fourth on RBI singles by Brent Morel and Juan Pierre and a three-run home run by Quentin.
Alexsei Ramirez opened the fifth inning with a double and A.J. Pierzynski scored him with a double of his own. One out later, Alejandro De Aza stroked one of his four hits on the night to advance Pierzynski to third and De Aza took second on the throw from Nick Swisher.
Manager Joe Girardi had seen enough and pulled Burnett, who gave up seven runs on 13 hits and he struck out three in 4 1/3 innings. Since July, Burnett has an ERA of 6.00.
Cory Wade (2-0) pitched 1 2/3 innings of perfect relief and was credited for the victory. Wade, Luis Ayala and Rafael Soriano combined to pitch 4 2/3 innings of scoreless one-hit relief to allow the Yankees to tack on four runs in the seventh and one more in the eighth to put the game out of reach.
Granderson drove in three of those runs with a two-run single in the seventh and a RBI double in the eighth for a huge five-RBI night.
Each Yankee starter recorded at least one hit and each also were able to score a run. The Yankees have now scored 10 or more runs in four games since July 22.
With the victory the Yankees have already clinched the four-game series with the White Sox and they ran their season record to 67-42, a season-high 25 games over .500. The Yankees also remain a game behind the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The hard-luck White Sox have now lost five in a row and they are sinking fast in the A.L. Central with a 52-57 season mark.
- The top of the batting order — Gardner, Jeter and Granderson — were 12-for-17 (.706) with 10 runs scored and seven RBIs. Gardner and Jeter quickly set the tone by getting aboard on bunt singles off Floyd. The Yankees just steamrolled the veteran right-hander until he was removed from the game in the third inning.
- Granderson’s five RBIs give him 84 on the season, which is one behind Teixeira, who drove in three runs himself on Wednesday. Teixeira and Granderson are third and fourth in the majors in RBIs, respectively. Granderson needed only a home run to hit for the cycle.
- Jeter’s five hits give him 3,027 for his career, moving him past Lou Brock into 23rd place on the all-tie hits list. Jeter’s five hits raised his average to .280 on the season which is three points below his season high of .283 he was hitting on May 10.
- Wade has pitched exceptionally well since he was brought up on June 15. He is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his 16 appearances. He has not given up a run in 13 of those games. His most impressive statistics are his 0.95 WHIP and his 13 strikeouts with only four walks in 19 innings of work.
Rather than report on the negatives, which are pretty few in a rout like this, I would rather comment on the huge problem A.J. Burnett is now becoming. Last year, Burnett was 10-15 with a 5.26 record on a team that won a division title and made the A.L. Championship Series. It was the highest ERA ever for a Yankee starter on a championship team. So A.J. was supposed to work with new pitching coach Larry Rothschild this spring to improve his mechanics and get a more consistent release point. The idea was we would see more of “Good A.J.” and much less of “Bad A.J.” Well, the wheels fell off the Burnett wagon after his last victory on June 29. He was 8-6 with a decent 4.05 ERA then. After that, he has been a disaster. He is 0-3 with a 6.00 ERA in his last six starts. The Yankees currently have six starters on the roster. Ivan Nova is 9-4 with a 4.01 ERA and he was poised to replace Phil Hughes in the rotation until Hughes pitched six innings of brilliant shutout baseball in 6-0 rain-shortened victory over the White Sox on Tuesday. So Yankee fans are probably thinking that Burnett should be shifted to the bullpen and Nova should replace him. Alas, it will never happen. Burnett makes $82 million through the life of his contract with the Yankees and they will not take him out of the rotation for any reason. They can’t trade him through waivers either without picking up almost all of the tab. And if you think Burnett is shaky as a starter, imagine how bad he could be out of the bullpen. So with the Yankees at a critical juncture of the season and with them breathing fire down the necks of the Red Sox, Burnett will remain a thorn in our sides the rest of this season. It was a mistake that general manager Brian Cashman made in believing a .500 career pitcher could be a No. 2 starter for the Yankees. It may prove to be the most costly mistake Cashman has made. It also really stinks that Nova may be sent back to the minors or the bullpen because of a underachieving starter like Burnett. The Yankees will remain cursed as long he stays in pinstripes.
The Yankees can sweep their four-game road series with the White Sox on Thursday.
The Yankees will start Nova, who is unclear what his role will be with the Yankees should he pitch well. In his last start, he gave up only two runs over seven innings in a huge rout against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday night. It was his first major-league start since July 1. Nova is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA against the White Sox.
The White will counter with right-hander Philip Humber (8-7. 3.44 ERA). Humber gave up four runs in the fifth inning and was chased by the Red Sox in a loss on Saturday. Humber has given up 14 earned runs in his last 14 innings, spanning his last three starts. He is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, WHITE SOX 2
There is an old baseball axiom that states the best way to measure a great pitcher is not when he is pitching at his best but how effective he can be pitching without his good stuff. Never was that old saying more true than on Monday night at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.
CC Sabathia was handed an early 3-0 lead and he had to finesse and reach deep into his arsenal to pitch eight innings and win a major league-best 16th game as New York edged Chicago to bring them within one game of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East.
Sabathia (16-5) was touched for two runs on 10 hits and he walked none and struck out six over eight innings. Alexei Ramirez accounted for the two runs in the fourth when he followed a leadoff infield single by Juan Pierre with line drive home run deep into the left-field bleachers for his 10th home run of the season.
Protecting that slim one-run lead over the next four innings proved difficult because the White Sox put a total of six base-runners on during that stretch. However, Sabathia wriggled off the hook each time.
In the fifth, the White Sox had runners on first and second with no outs but Sabathia induced a popup from Brent Lillibridge and Brent Morel lined into a double play. In the sixth, Ramirez cracked a one-out double but Sabathia got Carlos Quentin on a flyout and he struck out Adam Dunn swinging for the second time. In the seventh, A.J. Pierzynski stroked a one-out double and one out later Lillibridge reached on an infield single. Sabathia ended the inning by getting Morel to fly out.
In the eighth, Quentin reached on a two-out single. But Sabathia closed out his night by striking out Dunn swinging for the third time.
Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth to preserve the victory for his 28th save of the season, which ties Tigers hotdog closer Jose Valverde for the American League lead in saves.
The Yankees scored two runs early off White Sox starter Jake Peavy (4-5).
Brett Gardner opened the game with an infield single and he scored on Curtis Granderson’s double into the right-field corner. One out later, Robinson Cano sliced a ball past Dunn at first and into right-field to score Granderson and the Yankees led 2-0.
They added a run in the third inning after Granderson doubled and Mark Teixeira followed with single to right to move Granderson to third. Cano hit into a double play but Granderson scored from third and Peavy got tough the rest of the way, limiting the Yankees to just two hits and a walk over the next four innings.
But the Yankees’ ace left-hander and their Hall-of-Fame closer managed to shut down the White Sox as well.
With the victory the Yankees are a season-high 23 games over .500 at 65-42. They also now have won four games in a row and, by virtue of the Red Sox’ 9-5 loss to Cleveland, they have drawn to within one game of Boston in the division despite the fact that the Red Sox recorded their best July record in their history. The White Sox fell to 52-55.
- Granderson hit two doubles and scored two more runs as he continues to make a joke out of the runs scored category. He has a major league-best 94 runs scored, which leads Boston’s Jacoby Ellsbury by 13. Taking into account his 28 home runs and 79 RBIs and his excellent play in center-field this season, he is becoming a bone fide MVP candidate.
- Sabathia may have given up 10 hits and he only had one 1-2-3 inning (the first) in the game), but he showed his mettle by buckling down whenever the White Sox mounted a threat. Sabathia is now 9-1 since June 14 and he lowered his season ERA to 2.55, which is fourth in the American League.
- Rivera looked especially sharp in recording his 28th save. He needed only nine pitches to retire the White Sox in order in the ninth. Rivera lowered his season ERA to 1.74 and he now has 587 career saves, 14 away from tying Trevor Hoffman for the top spot.
- Cano may have singled in a run in the first inning but in his next three at-bats he grounded into a pair of double plays and struck out swinging. After his five-hit night against the Orioles on Saturday, Cano is 1-for-6.
- Nick Swisher also struggled, going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield. After his 3-for-6 night on Saturday, Swisher is 1-for-7.
- Francisco Cervelli was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts looking.
Derek Jeter did not play on Monday because of bruise on his right middle finger. Jeter was struck on the knuckle on a pitch from Orioles right-hander Jake Arrieta in the third inning of Sunday’s game at Yankee Stadium. Jeter was removed from the game in the fourth inning and X-rays taken later showed no broken bones. Manager Joe Girardi said the injury does not appear to be serious and Jeter should be able to play on Tuesday. . . . The Yankees have elected to keep Ivan Nova on the roster and he is scheduled to pitch the finale of the four-game series against the White Sox on Thursday. Nova (9-4, 4.01 ERA) may actually be auditioning for the No. 5 spot in the rotation against right-hander Phil Hughes, who has not pitched well since his return form the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. If Nova pitches another good game, Hughes may be shifted to the bullpen. . . . Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to begin baseball-related workouts at the Yankees’ minor league complex in Tampa, FL, on Thursday. There is no date for his return but the Yankees believe he could be ready by the second week of August. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee on July 11. . . . Brian Cashman told reporters on Monday that he was not upset the Yankees were unable to make deal for pitching and a bench player. Cashman said teams were looking at the Yankees’ most prized minor-league prospects and Cashman said he would rather keep them for what was being offered in return.
The Yankees will continue their four-game road series with the White Sox on Tuesday and it will be an important day for Phil Hughes.
Hughes (1-3, 8.24 ERA) will be pitching to retain his spot in the rotation. He is 1-2 with a 5.48 ERA in his four starts since coming off the disabled list. He is 1-1 with a 1.00 ERA in his career against the White Sox.
The White Sox will start left-hander John Danks (4-8, 3.79 ERA). Danks has not allowed more than two runs in any of his last five starts. He is 4-0 with 0.86 ERA since June 6. However, lifetime he is 2-2 with a 7.36 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.