Tagged: Junichi Tazawa

Fenway Quiet As A-Rod’s 660th Homer Bites Bosox

GAME 23

YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2

If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.

Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.

The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.

The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.

The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.

The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.

The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.

The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.

Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.

Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.

Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.

As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.

Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.

The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a  3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
  • Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
  • Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
  • Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.

BOMBER BANTER

All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.

The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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One Bad Pitch In One Bad Inning Dooms CC, Yanks

GAME 11

RED SOX 4, YANKEES 2

There is nothing in baseball more frustrating for a pitcher than to be in total command of a game and to have it all fall apart in the blink of an eye with one bad pitch in one bad inning. But that is exactly what happened to CC Sabathia on Friday.

Entering the sixth inning with a 1-0 lead, Jonny Gomes led off with a home run and four batters later Sabathia’s former teammate Grady Sizemore blasted a hanging slider for a three-run blast as Boston downed New York in front of a paid crowd of 44,121 at Yankee Stadium.

The game featured a pitcher’s duel between the two team’s aces.

Up until the sixth, Sabathia (1-2) had shut out the Red Sox on just one hit with two walks and six strikeouts. Left-hander Jon Lester (1-2) was just about as good. But he was victimized by a home run to leadoff the second inning by Alfonso Soriano.

If not for the “OBI” (one bad inning) Sabathia’s fate might have been different.

Gomes tied it with a long blast over the scoreboard in right, his first home run of the season.

One out later, David Ortiz was tied up on an inside pitch and rolled a swinging-bunt single near third base and against the shift the Yankees employ against him. Mike Napoli then laced a single up the middle and set the stage for Sizemore’s game-changing homer.

Sabathia ended up being charged with four runs on six hits and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine in seven innings.

Lester struggled in the seventh after he had retired the first two batters.

Ichiro Suzuki singled and Brian Roberts drew a walk after two close pitches home-plate umpire James Hoye called balls. Lester became visibly angry at the calls and Kelley Johnson ended Lester’s evening by stroking an RBI single to right that scored Suzuki.

Lester yielded two runs on six hits and two walks while fanning six batters in 6 2/3 innings.

Relievers Junichi Tazawa and Edward Mujica retired the final seven batters to preserve Lester’s first victory of the season. Mujica pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first save.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ season record to 5-6. The Red Sox have the same mark.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Soriano was 2-for-4 in the game including his second home run of the season. After his 0-for-17 start, Soriano has at least one hit in five of his past six games and is 8-for-21 (.381) with two home runs and three RBIs in that span.
  • Despite the fact Sabathia lost the game give the big left-hander some credit for perhaps turning a corner in which he is learning to pitch with diminished velocity. For the first five innings, he had the Red Sox flailing at his change-ups and sliders. “I look at it as one pitch  –  the slider he left up to Sizemore was the real difference in the game,” manager Joe Girardi said told reporters. “Besides that, I thought he had really good command and threw the ball well.”
  • Johnson was 0-for-14 in his career against Lester when he delivered his two-out RBI single that chased the left-hander from the game. Johnson is hitting just .258 but he has two homers and six RBIs and all six of them have come in his past six games.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The injury to Mark Teixeira forced Girardi into some odd lineup choices on Friday. He benched left-handed hitters Brett Gardner and Brian McCann, he used Derek Jeter in the leadoff spot and he had Francisco Cervelli batting fifth.  Until Teixeira returns, the Yankees are going to have a much weaker lineup against lefties.
  • Carlos Beltran entered the game on a pretty good roll with a four-game hitting streak. But he could not solve Lester. He killed a rally in the third inning by bouncing into a force play, stranding two runners. He also stranded Jacoby Ellsbury at second with one out by watching strike three on a 3-2 pitch. He ended up 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.
  • Rookie sensation Yangervis Solarte is starting to fall back to Earth as pitchers are now giving him a steady diet of breaking pitches. Solarte was 0-for-4 in the game and he is hitless in his past nine at-bats to drop his batting average to .343.

BOMBER BANTER

The MLB Network and NESN showed Michael Pineda with what appeared to be pine tar on his pitching hand on Thursday and it stirred a lot of bellowing out of Boston (as one would expect anytime they lose). However, Joe Torre, baseball’s executive vice president of operations, told reporters that the right-hander will not face suspension. Because the Red Sox did have the umpires check Pineda’s hand there is nothing that can be done. Torre did say he would talk to the Yankees about the incident. Pineda claimed it was not pine tar on his hand; it was dirt.  . . .  The Yankees expect Teixeira to return from the disabled list before the end of April, however, backup infielder Brendan Ryan may be out for an extended period of time. Teixeira is progressing well recovering from a strained right hamstring. Ryan, who has a pinched nerve in his cervical spine, missed most all of spring training and he only begun some very light baseball-related activities.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend series with the Red Sox on Saturday.

The Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (1-1, 2.92 ERA) to the hill. Kuroda gave up just two runs on eight hits and struck four in 6 1/3 innings in defeating the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 on Monday.

The Red Sox will counter with veteran right-hander John Lackey (2-0, 1.38 ERA). Lackey shut out the Rangers on five hits and two walks in seven innings on Monday to keep his record perfect this season. He is 1-1 with a 7.64 ERA in three starts at the new Yankee Stadium.

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

 

Yankees, Rays Look To Be Class Of Tough A.L. East

The American League East is a division loaded with talent. It consists of a world champion, a playoff team, the winningest franchise in baseball history and two power-laden clubs with some pitching. Of those five teams it is possible that three teams could claim playoff spots. Let’s look into the magic ball and see what we can predict. In no particular order let’s look at the teams:

NEW YORK YANKEES

After an injury-marred 2013 season managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner loosened the pursestrings and allowed general manager Brian Cashman to throw out nearly $500 million to free agents. That brought in the best available pitching free agent in Masahiro Tanaka, the best in catcher available in Brian McCann, two All-Star outfielders in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, a left-hander for the bullpen in Matt Thornton and two important infielders in Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.

Needless to say the Yankees are not planning on winning 85 games and missing the playoffs as they did in 2013.

Added to what the Yankees already had, this team is loaded for a playoff run. The rotation is five deep with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka and the sensational return of Michael Pineda this spring has the other teams in the division worried. Only the Tampa Bay Rays can boast a rotation close to this and they only have four healthy starters at the moment.

The bullpen is missing Mariano Rivera and no one will tell you that David Robertson will make anyone forget the greatest closer in history. But no one can believe he can’t do as well as Rafael Soriano did in 2012. The rest of the bullpen has undergone a makeover because of the loss of Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain. Shawn Kelley and Thornton will handle the late-inning work. The addition of 6-foot-8 rookie Dellin Betances is going to give the bullpen depth because Betances might have the best stuff of the group.

Add to this corps three starting pitchers shifted to the bullpen, David Phelps, Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Phelps and Warren are holdovers from last season and Nuno, 26, gives the Yankees a second lefty to go with Thornton.

The Yankees only need to hope that Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter return to form. They both missed virtually all of the 2013 season and both are being counted upon to help the offense. They also are hoping that Johnson can fill in for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and Roberts can fill the huge hole left by the childish and petulant departure of Robinson Cano. The Yankees issued Cano’s No. 24 to spring training invitee Scott Sizemore. That tells you what they think of Cano after he left.

Ellsbury will combine with Brett Gardner to provide speed and daring on the bases. McCann and Beltran will join Teixeira and last season’s acquisition Alfonso Soriano to give the Yankees a lot of power in the middle of the lineup. Johnson and Roberts can provide double-digits power as well at the bottom of the order.

The bench features the catcher many teams wanted this spring in Francisco Cervelli, All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and a pair of hot-hitting rookie infielders in Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan starts the season on the disabled list with an upper-back injury.

Top to bottom the Yankees are loaded with talent, power, speed, a great rotation, a solid bullpen and a versatile bench. They will go a long way in deciding who wins the division and who ends up in the playoffs.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Rays are a product of a similar model that used to keep afloat the small-market Minnesota Twins. You try and keep a small corps of good young players together long enough to win until they start leaving via free agency. Of course, this method requires that you keep all the plates spinning at once for a long, long time.

If you don’t you lose.

The Rays were fortunate to keep left-hander David Price off the open market for a year. He will join left-hander Matt Moore and right-handers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer to provide the only rotation in the division that can rival the Yankees. Jeremy Hellickson begins the season on the disabled list but he has not been real effective when he has been healthy so I am not sure how his season will go.

The Rays dumped Fernando Rodney because he blew too many saves and was shaky in those he did save. Enter former Rays right-hander Grant Balfour, who was not signed by some other teams because of some medical questions. Balfour has only had one season as a closer and there is no guarantee the Rays can get another season out of him.

The rest of the bullpen is good. Balfour’s fellow senior citizen, Joel Peralta, is the setup man. He is joined by lefty Jake McGee and former closer Heath Bell. Right-handers Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes and lefty long man Cesar Ramos round out a pretty solid corps.

The Rays are really lacking speed this season. Their only real base-stealing threat is Desmond Jennings, who is been doing a very bad imitation of Carl Crawford since he arrived.

Now the Rays are looking to generate lots of power with Evan Longoria and Will Myers in the middle of the lineup. The problem is Matt Joyce is coming off a disappointing season and he has not lived up to expectations at all. They also have to hope an aging Ben Zobrist can bounce back after a down 2013 campaign.

The additions of James Loney at first base and Yunel Escober at shortstop helped the offense and defense last season. They hope Ryan Hanigan can provide defense and leadership behind the plate this season.

As always, manager Joe Maddon will mix in spare parts like Sean Rodriguez, David DeJesus and Jose Molina. In addition, he will shift his defense to drive opponents nuts, But if the Rays should falter, Price will be on the trading block before the league deadline. If that happens, the Rays season is over.

In any event, this will be Price’s last year with the Rays and the Rays have to roll the dice they win the division this year. Otherwise, it’s lights out at Tropicana Field for their fan base of 7,500. If things don’t pick up at the gate the team could be headed elsewhere.

BOSTON RED SOX

Most Yankee fans forgot what happened in 2013 so we will leave it at that.

The Red Sox prospects for 2014 would seem to be bright. After all, they hope to have the same rotation they finished with back this year.

They are counting on Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront to be just as good in 2014. Problem is Lester is notch below what an ace should be. Look at most fantasy drafts this season and you will find Lester going in the middle rounds because of his high ERA and even higher walks-to-innings-pitched (WHIP) ratio.

Clay Buchholz also is going late in drafts because he has had a hard time staying healthy. His recurring back problems are not going away. He can only treat it to stay on track.

Lackey and Peavy are also on the north side of their usefulness. Both are crafty veteran pitchers and they will win their share on guile. But this group pales in comparison to the Rays and Yankees. That does not even take into account Doubront, who if you look as his 2013 numbers you wonder why the Red Sox like him so much.

To be sure, Koji Uehara was a miracle worker for them after the Bosox tried a number of unsuccessful closers since Jonathan Papelbon left years ago. But Uehara turns 39 on Wednesday and there is no net for him if he fails to do what he did late last season.

Boston does have lefty Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa back and they added Edward Mujica. But they do not have Craig Breslow at the start of the season and this bullpen is just a lot less deep than it was in 2013.

The same can be said for the starting lineup. Instead of bringing Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Daniel Nava off the bench they will have to play to fill holes when Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia left the team.

Grady Sizemore actually beat out Bradley in center but the Red Sox know they can’t just run the oft-injured former All-Star out there every day. Bogarerts at short, Will Middlebrooks at third and center are unsettled positions with unknown quantities in them. A.J. Pierzynski takes over behind the plate and should be an offensive upgrade from Salty but teams are going to run wild on him on the bases.

The Red Sox just hope they can get another year out of fading DH David Ortiz, who at age 38 is well beyond borrowed time. He had a horrible spring and players at 38 do not get better. They fade.

The Red Sox will still revolve around Dustin Pedroia at second and they just hope that Shane Victorino (who begins the season injured), Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp can still do what they did last season. But as we know it is hard to repeat as champion. The last team to do it was, well, the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Red Sox Nation remembers that period of time.

So I do not think there is going to much in the way of magic at Fenway this season. It just not in the cards.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

The Jays are all about redemption.

They gave a fading infielder out of Pittsburgh Pirates and a disappointing third baseman out of the Cincinnati Reds a place on the team and they were rewarded with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Those two players form the most feared middle-of-the-order pair in baseball. Both could easily hit more than 40 homers apiece.

The Blue Jays even rehired manager John Gibbons even after they fired him three years ago.

So the Blue Jays were the cool team to pick in 2013 after they added Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes to what they already had in Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. But their recipe for success did not count on a complete meltdown of their starting rotation.

Ace R.A. Dickey pitched with a bad back, Brandon Morrow was also hurt and former ace Ricky Romero forgot completely how to pitch successfully. Last season was just not pretty for the Jays.

But they have renewed hope in 2014. Dickey is healthy again and Mark Buehrle can still eat up innings with his soft-tossing junk. Add to that a healthy Morrow and you have the makings of a staff, But the other two spots will go to Drew Hutchison, who at 23 hopes he can establish himself as a starter this year, and an old friend Dustin McGowan, who last pitched as a regular in the Jays rotation in 2008. he is now 32 and he is an expert in rehabs.

Now that is some reclamation project.

Casey Janssen fell into the closer role when Sergio Santos was injured and now both form a nice tandem at the end of the game. Lefty Brett Cecil and hard-throwing righty Steve Delabar make the Jays bullpen one of the best in the division this season.

But bullpens have a way of wearing down when the starters do not succeed and have to be taken out early. In the rough and tumble American League East, the Blue Jays rotation just lacks the ability to hang with the big boys.

There is no doubt their offense is impressive. They will hit their share of home runs. But they also will lose a lot of games by scores of 9-7 and 8-5 because of this shaky rotation.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Cashman pointed out this spring what was painfully obvious. The luck the Orioles used to make the playoffs in 2012 was bound to be paid for in 2013. Orioles manager Buck Showalter took offense. But the truth always hurts, Buck.

The Orioles did not win those one-run and extra-inning games they won in 2012 and they finished with the Yankees in a tie for third place in 2014.

It is hard to see how the Orioles make it much better in 2014 even with the addition of right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris and outfielder Nelson Cruz.

The issue with the Orioles is the same as last season. The starters Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Norris are all fine pitchers in their own right but who, for Pete’s sake, is the ace? And is that ace better than the pitchers they face routinely like David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey or Matt Moore?

The answer is no and Showalter will learn that quickly.

Jimenez is just a middling starter and Norris just looked good compared to all the awful pitchers the Astros kept running out there. Neither make the Orioles much better.

The addition of Cruz is curious because the Orioles are loaded with offense in mega-power threat Chris Davis added to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Cruz adds to that power but it is hard to see how that helps keep runs of the board.

The Orioles bullpen also took a major hit when Jim Johnson left for Oakland and took the 101 saves he recorded for the O’s the past two seasons with him. The Orioles are asking journeyman right-hander Tommy Hunter to do a job he has never done before and close games.

They did not add much around him either. They still rely on right-hander Darren O’Day and left-hander Brian Matusz to set up. Getting to them may be an issue because none of the rest of Orioles bullpen is really proven.

So Showalter just has to hope that his team can score runs in droves night after night to cover for a weak pitching staff. The mix of this starting staff and bullpen may be the worst in the division because the Blue Jays actually boast a much stronger bullpen.

Showalter may be an excellent manager but he can’t turn cubic zirconium into diamonds. There just no magic left for the Orioles.

 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

 

1) NEW YORK YANKEES

2) TAMPA BAY RAYS 

3) BOSTON RED SOX

4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

 

I see a close race between the Rays and Yankees and both will easily make the playoffs. The Red Sox will not collapse but I do see them fading as the season progresses when their rotation routinely starts breaking down. The Blue Jays will win their share of games with their offense and bullpen. But there will be days when good pitching will beat good hitting. On those days the Blue Jays will lose. The same for the Orioles. If they do not average seven runs a game they are in a heap of trouble. No team can do that consistently enough and no one can in this tough division. They will fall to the basement with a loud thud. Sorry, Buck. The truth hurts, huh!

 

 

Red Sox Receive Their ‘Phil’ Of Yankees’ Hughes

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What’s up Yankees the Red Sox got something to say to you
It’s late September and we really should be playing golf
We know we keep you amused but we feel we’re being “Hughesed”

                          –  Apologies to Rod Stewart for the revision of his classic Maggie May

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GAME 143

YANKEES 2, RED SOX 0

From the first crisp fastball out of Phil Hughes hand to Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning the Red Sox knew they might be in for a difficult night. Seven and one-third innings later Hughes’ fastball was still crackling and the Red Sox were still staring at a big, fat zero on the Fenway Park scoreboard.

Hughes pitched a thoroughly dominant game in which he shut out the Red Sox on five hits and a walk while he struck out seven batters on his high-riding four-seam fastball as New York downed Boston to retain their share of first place in the American League East on Thursday.

For Hughes (15-12) it was his first time this season he has won back-to-back starts since June 15 while it was the first time the Yankees have won back-to-back games since they defeated Texas from Aug. 13 through Aug. 15.

Hughes and Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront traded zeros until the fourth inning when Alex Rodriguez led off the frame with his second single of the night and he stole second base.

Doubront then walked Robinson Cano and Russell Martin to load the bases and Andruw Jones launched a line drive into right that scored Rodriguez.

The game remained 1-0 until the seventh when Steve Pearce drew a one-out walk and Eduardo Nunez, starting at shortstop for a hobbling Derek Jeter, lined his second single of the night into left.

Embattled Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine then removed Doubront in favor of right-hander Junichi Tazawa to face Jeter, who was in the game as the designated hitter.

Jeter battled the hard-throwing Tazawa to a 3-2 count before lifting a bloop single into center in front of Ellsbury and Pearce scored a very important insurance run for Hughes.

In addition, the hit was personally important to Jeter. It was the 3283rd hit of Jeter’s career, which ties him with Willie Mays for 10th place on the all-time hit list.

Doubront (10-9) gave up two runs on five hits and five walks and struck out five in his 6 1/3 innings of work.

But Hughes was much better, retiring the first 10 batters he faced  and only giving up one extra-base hit during a 95-pitch outing – the 100th start of his career.

Hughes escaped trouble in the fourth when he had Scott Podsednik on third and Cody Ross on first with two out by inducing Daniel Nava into a infield groundout.

He also had Ellsbury at second and James Loney on first with two out in the sixth but retired Ross on flyout to right.

Boone Logan was summoned in the eighth to face Ellsbury after Hughes had allowed a leadoff double to Pedro Ciriaco and pinch-hitter Mauro Gomez flew out to center.

Logan retired Ellsbury on a flyout and David Robertson came in to retire pinch-hitter Ryan Lavarnway on a flyout to end the threat and keep the shutout intact.

Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 38th save in 41 chances this season.

The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 81-62 and kept them in first place in the division with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays with a 3-2 victory in 14 innings earlier in the day. The Red Sox are 60-84 and 17 1/2 games out in last place in the division. They are sinking faster than new FOX sitcom.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Hughes at age 26 has had his ups and downs in his career with the Yankees and even during the 2012 season. But his performance on Thursday has to be one of the best of his career and likely the most important. While the pundits keep disparaging the Yankees’ starting pitching, Hughes has quietly compiled a 15-12 record and a 3.96 ERA. That is not bad for someone who was considered the team’s No. 5 starter.
  • After the bullpen let the Red Sox get back into Wednesday’s game it was nice to see them bounce back with a good effort to maintain the shutout, It was the first time the Yankees had shut out the Red Sox at Fenway since the 2008 season.
  • Give Jeter a lot of credit. He hobbled through this game with a severe bone bruise on his left shin and he got the timely hit that put the Yankees up by two runs. Tying Mays on the all-time hit list is just gravy for the 38-year-old shortstop. Jeter’s .323 average speaks volumes as to what he has meant to the Yankees this season as a leader and the team’s Most Valuable Player.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I will mention the Yankees were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position but because Hughes was so dominant it did not seem to matter. The fact the Yankees won with a great pitching and without hitting a home run is kind of refreshing. So there are no negatives in this one.

BOMBER BANTER

It’s official! Andy Pettitte will start for the first time since he suffered a broken left ankle on June 27 on Tuesday in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium. Pettitte believes he will be able throw about 60 to 65 pitches in the game. Pettitte will take the rotation spot of rookie right-hander David Phelps, who will likely enter the game in relief of Pettitte should he need to leave early on Tuesday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open a vital home series against the Rays beginning on Friday.

The Yankees will send out ace left-hander CC Sabathia (13-5, 3.56 ERA). Sabathia lost in his last start against the Orioles despite the fact he entered the game with a 16-3 career record against them. He is 10-8 with a 3.12 ERA in his career against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with left-hander David Price (17-5, 2.54 ERA), who has not pitched since Sept. 2 due to shoulder soreness. He is 6-3 with a 3.84 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Yanks’ 9th-Inning Miscues Hand Victory To Bosox

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GAME 12

RED SOX 1, YANKEES 0

TAMPA – The first salvo in the 2012 Red Sox-Yankees rivalry was all it was expected to be and in the end it was just a pair of mistakes on one play that decided the winner on Tuesday.

Outfielder Zoilo Almonte misplayed Pedro Ciriaco’s ninth-inning single into a two-base error and Ciriaco was able to slide home safely on David Adams’ throwing error as Boston nipped New York in a nationally televised exhibition game from George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Vicente Padilla (1-0) pitched three hitless innings and fanned four batters to get credit for the victory. David Phelps (0-1), who pitched 2 2/3 innings of brilliant relief, was tagged with the hard-luck loss. Junichi Tazawa struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to pick up a save.

Both starting pitchers, Ivan Nova of the Yankees and Felix Dubront of the Red Sox, pitched four scoreless innings to set the tone for the game. Nova gave up two hits, walked none and struck out three. Dubront gave up two hits, walked one and fanned three in his stint.

With the loss, the Yankees’ spring record dropped to 5-7. The Red Sox are 7-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova entered the contest with an 11.57 ERA in his first two starts so this was a much-needed improvement. Nova was only touched by a two-out double by Jacoby Ellsbury in the first inning and a leadoff infield roller that hit the third-base bag by Dustin Pedroia. Nova showed much better command of his fastball and his secondary pitches were working for him as well. Though Nova won 16 games last season and he seems to a lock to be one of the Yankees’ five starters, manager Joe Girardi has not named Nova a starter because he wants him to earn the role by pitching well in spring training.
  • Mariano Rivera made his second appearance of the spring in the fifth inning and after receiving another huge standing ovation he went about breaking bats. Rivera worked around a two-out error and stolen base to throw a scoreless inning. He broke three bats in the process and fanned Alex Hannan to complete the frame in 13 pitches (nine of them were strikes).
  • Phelps is one of five young pitchers who likely will open the season at Triple A but the former Notre Dame star is making a good impression with the coaching staff. Phelps pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and struck out two batters. In the eighth he worked around a leadoff single and a stolen base by Darnell McDonald to retire the next three batters in order. Though he gave up the single to Ciriaco, it was played into a three-base error by two misplays. After that he fanned the next two batters. Phelps is 25 and he will be pitching his first full season at Triple A. He bears watching because he could pitching in the Bronx soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees are simply not hitting consistently well this spring. They managed only four hits in the game and it is not because of Dubront. They forced the left-hander to throw 75 pitches in four innings and just could not mount any offense. They only managed three hits the evening before against the lowly Houston Astros. The Yankees are one-third of the way through their spring schedule and it is time they start hitting the ball with authority. There is not only a lack of hits. There also is a lack of power, too. It is a big concern.
  • One of the major culprits in the hitting drought has been newly signed designated hitter and outfielder Raul Ibanez. Ibanez, 39, is a career .280 hitter but is coming off a season in which he hit just .245. He was allowed to become a free agent by the Phillies when the Yankees signed him on Feb, 21. He was 0-for-3 on Tuesday and is now hitting .095. Ibanez is unconcerned about his slow start but the question is when does he become concerned?
  • It is kind of odd that Girardi chose not to play Derek Jeter, Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Nick Swisher and yet he is playing all the team’s starters with the exception of Russell Martin and subbing Eric Chavez for Alex Rodriguez at third base with Rodriguez acting as the DH in a game against Toronto on Wednesday. In the days of George Steinbrenner this would be unacceptable. It makes me curious also.
  • The Red Sox pitchers used the 7.8 and 9 hitters to attack aggressively all night and it paid off for them. Bill Hall, Jason Nix and Doug Bernier each had two at-bats and they combined to go 0-for-6 and fanned five times. That is the reason i pointed out the previous item about not playing four starters.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees originally had Eduardo Nunez in the strating lineup against the Red Sox but he had to be scratched again because of recurring pain in his right hand. Nunez was struck on his right hand on March 5 on a pitch from the Phillies’ Austin Hyatt and he been unable to shake the pain despite the fact X-rays on the hand show no broken bones. The Yankees say the bruise is deep and it will take time to heal. Nunez will not attempt to hit again until Saturday.  . . .  Girardi had high praise for three of his left-handed reliever candidates: Clay Rapada (0.00 ERA), Cesar Cabral (3.38 ERA) and Juan Cedeno (10.12 ERA). One of them could make the bullpen depending how they pitch the rest of the spring.

 

Garcia, Montero Send Red Sox Further Into Abyss

GAME 157

YANKEES 9, RED SOX 1

“It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.”

                                                                                                                                           – Charles Dickens from “Tale of Two Cities”

If any tidbit of prose could describe the end of this pre-autumn battle between two proud franchises this Dickens line would surely be appropo.

While the Yankees have clinched the American League East and they are getting prepared for the playoffs the Red Sox are praying they still can reach the playoffs as they seemingly implode like a proud skyscraper that is now obsolete. These are two cities and two teams headed in diametrically different directions.

Freddy Garcia pitched six scoreless innings in his effort to win a postseason starting slot, Jesus Montero hit a homer and drove in four runs to stake a claim for a postseason roster spot and Derek Jeter added a home and three RBIs to silence those early-season critics that thought his career was over as New York humiliated Boston on Saturday in front of national TV audience at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees jumped all over Red Sox left-hander Jon Lester (15-9) with one out in the second inning.

Robinson Cano started the onslaught innocently enough with a single to left. Nick Swisher then coaxed a walk. Andruw Jones reached when his bouncer to shortstop Marco Scutaro could not be turned into an out. Scutaro’s throw to second reached Dustin Pedroia after Swisher hit the bag.

Montero then showed the Red Sox what can happen when you actually hold onto your prospects by slashing a sharp single between third and short into left to score Cano. Russell Martin, who stated on Thursday that he hated the Red Sox and would like to oust them from the playoffs, followed with s sinking liner to left that clanked off  the glove of free-agent flop Carl Crawford that scored Swisher and Jones.

Jeter capped the six-run explosion with a typical Jeter opposite-field home run to right-center over the auxiliary scoreboard and into the bleachers. It was only his sixth home run of the season but it was probably just as big as his 3,000th hit home run off David Price of the Rays.

Much like a English muffin on a nippy winter morning, Lester was toasted.

The Yankees added two more runs in the third inning and chased Lester to the showers – all coming after two were out.

Swisher looped a single to right and Jones lashed a lined single to left. Montero, 21, then further built upon his near-legend status in the Bronx with a long blast to left-center that bounced off the wall for a double and scored both Swisher and Jones.

Now Lester was burnt toast and manager Terry Francona removed him from the heat of the game.

With an 8-0 lead, Garcia (12-8) was free to toy with the overaggressive Red Sox hitters by giving them a little bit of this and a little bit of that at slow and even slower speeds. Garcia scattered six hits, walked one and struck three as the 34-year-old right-hander won at least 12 games for the ninth time in his 13 major-league seasons.

With Bartolo Colon and A.J. Burnett struggling and Phil Hughes battling back issues, Garcia seemed to all but lock up a spot in the Yankees’ postseason rotation with his 102-pitch effort on Saturday.

Montero, meanwhile, added to his day with his fourth home run in just 52 at-bats, a solo shot to the opposite field in right off Red Sox reliever Junichi Tazawa to lead of the sixth inning. Montero raised his batting average to .346 and in his last two games, Montero is 6-for-7 (.857) with a home run and six RBIs.

With backup catcher Francisco Cervelli still recovering from concussion symptoms, Montero has an opportunity to make the postseason roster as the backup to Martin and he could draw some starts as a right-handed designated hitter.

The Red Sox instead are looking for something or someone to stop their calamitous tailspin that has seen them record a 5-17 mark in September. The combination of their loss and victories by the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Angels leave the Red Sox just 1 1/2 games ahead of the Rays and 2 1/2 games in front of the Angels in the wild-card standings with five games left to play.

The Yankees improved their record to 96-61 and they need just one victory and a loss by the Texas Rangers or Detroit Tigers to clinch home-field advantage throughout the American League playoffs.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Brian Cashman is generally praised for not trading Jesus Montero, don’t forget that Cashman included Montero in a proposed deal to the Mariners for Cliff Lee last July. It was only because Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik also had asked for Ivan Nova and Eduardo Nunez that nixed the deal. So Yankee fans actually have the greed of Zduriencik to thank for the fact the Yankees have held onto Montero and let him blossom into what appears to be sure superstar status. Think of Montero this way: He could the best power-hitting prospect the Yankees have brought up from their minor-league system since Mickey Mantle in 1951. That is 60 years!
  • Garcia’s good outing came at the perfect time because he was 0-1 with a 10.95 ERA in his last three starts. Garcia is 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA this season, which should earn him strong consideration for a starting spot for the Yankees in the postseason. With CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova already assured spots, Garcia becomes very important to the Yankees this postseason.
  • Jeter’s home run was his first since Sept 4 at Yankee Stadium against Toronto. He is hitting .304 this month and his season average is at .297. So he has a good chance to reach the .300 mark before the season ends. Jeter was hitting .260 on June 13 when he was placed on the disabled list with strained calf muscle.

BOMBER BANTER

Hughes threw a 35-pitch bullpen session on Saturday and reported no pain in his back. Hughes, who missed his last start due to back spasms, is in line to make a start on the final day of the regular season on Wednesday against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. Because of the timing of the injury, Hughes likely will be relegated to the bullpen when the Yankees open their postseason schedule.  . . .  Cervelli exercised for a second consecutive day on Saturday but the Yankees do not expect him to be available for the American League Division Series. Cervelli has been sidelined since Sept. 8 with concussion symptoms after a home-plate collision with Orioles underachieving outfielder Nick Markakis.  . . .  The Yankees paid tribute on Saturday to the 50-year anniversary of Roger Maris’ 61st home run, which broke Babe Ruth’s 1927 single-season record of 60. Members of the Maris family were on hand for the ceremony before the game.

ON DECK

Because of the ninth rainout of the season on Friday, the Yankees will play the Red Sox in a day-night doubleheader on Sunday.

The Yankees will start the opener with Burnett (10-11, 5.28 ERA). Burnett faltered in the fourth and fifth innings of his last start against the Minnesota Twins on Monday. He gave up four runs in his four-plus innings, although he did strike out seven batters. He is 5-4 with 5.07 ERA against the Red Sox in his career.

The Red Sox will counter with ancient knuckleballer Tim Wakefield (7-7, 5.08 ERA). Wakefield gave up two runs in five innings in a loss to the Rays last Sunday. He is 8-13 with a 5.08 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

In the nightcap, the Yankees will call upon Rookie of the Year candidate Nova (16-4, 3.62 ERA). Nova is coming off 7 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball against the Rays on Tuesday to win his 12th straight decision. Nova is 0-2 with a 7.15 ERA against the Red Sox.

The Red Sox will counter with overpaid and underwhelming right-hander John Lackey (12-12, 6.49 ERA). Lackey was tagged for eight runs on 11 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Orioles on Monday. Lackey is 8-9 with a 4.69 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

The second game is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by MLB Network and locally by YES.

 

Prediction: Pitching Matchup Favors Yankees

GAME TWO PREDICTION


The Yankees proved their recent four-game sweep of the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago was not a fluke. On Friday night they pounded Brad Penny and Michael Bowden for 15 runs over six innings en route to a 20-11 victory at Fenway Park.
I do not like to brag but I think my Game 1 prediction was right on the mark:

“The Red Sox will have to hope that Penny can, at least, keep the Red Sox in the game long enough for their hitters to solve Pettitte and his newly rediscovered cutter. If not, it could be a long night for the Bosox. 

If Pettitte settles in while the Yankees pound Penny, the game could be over early.”

Now will see if my crystal ball is still working for Game Two.
GAME TWO: Burnett vs. Tazawa

The pitching matchup is grossly one-sided. A.J. Burnett, when he is on his game, is simply nasty to face. His fastball is 96 mph and he has a devastating slider and curveball to go with it. He matched Josh Beckett pitch-for-pitch in a classic Aug. 7 matchup at Yankee Stadium. The game ended in 15 innings with the Yankees winning 2-0.
One thing Red Sox manager Terry Francona usually does before series with the Yankees is to stagger his rotation in such a way to make sure his best starters face the Yankees. Leading into this series, Francona did not do it.
As a result, Penny and rookie Junichi Tazawa are pitching the critical first two games. Why? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz might have been wiser choices now considering what happened to Penny and what is facing Tazawa.
THE GAME PLAN

The Red Sox had better hope that Burnett pitches like he did on June 9 at Fenway Park when Beckett beat him 7-0. If not. it could be a long and somber afternoon for Red Sox Nation. The Yankees are simply too hot not to be able to get to Tazawa.
It might not be as bad the beatdown they gave Penny, but it could be close today. Tazawa was unable to contain the hard-hitting Rangers last Sunday so there is no expectation he will be able to keep the Yankees off the board for long.
The question is will he be able to contain the damage enough to keep the Red Sox in it.
I am saying Tazawa likely will be able to do that, at least. But I think Burnett and Yankees bullpen will be able to keep the Red Sox from nettlesome rallies this afternoon, too.
I see a game that may end up with a 7-2 score. The Yankees win the series and will be just one game from ending all Red Sox hopes of first place in the AL East.