Tagged: Justin Masterson

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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Yankees Poised To Finish Third In A.L. East

With spring training in their rear-view mirror and the 2015 season about to start, the question is where will the New York Yankees finish in the American League East. The Yankees have failed to make the playoffs the past two seasons and many experts believe it will be three. But with the additions the Yankees made could they possibly have a surprise in store. Here is how I project it.

NEW YORK YANKEES

First of all, let’s admit that this is not your father’s A.L. East. There is NO dominant team in the division and there is not much separation between any of the five teams in terms of talent.

That said, the Yankees come into 2015 building around the foundation they began with their half-billion dollar investment last winter with the signings of outfielders Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, catcher Brian McCann and right-handed pitcher Masahiro Tanaka.

Those free agents were added to the holdovers in shortstop Derek Jeter, first baseman Mark Teixeira, outfielder Brett Gardner and left-hander CC Sabathia.

General manager Brian Cashman actually started the rebuilding process for 2015 last summer by retaining a number of players they acquired around the trade deadline or later such as third baseman Chase Headley, second baseman Stephen Drew, outfielder Chris Young and left-hander Chris Capuano.

With the retirement of Jeter, the loss of free-agent closer David Robertson and right-hander’s Hiroki Kuroda’s decision to end his career pitching in his native Japan, Cashman was forced to shuffle the deck by using young pitchers like right-handers David Phelps and Shane Greene and left-hander Manny Banuelos to bring in right-hander Nathan Eovaldi, backup first baseman and outfielder Garrett Jones, starting shortstop Didi Gregorius and relievers David Carpenter and Chasen Shreve.

Cashman also used cash to lure free-agent left-hander Andrew Miller to bolster the bullpen around rookie sensation Dellin Betances.

The result is a team that features a starting lineup of eight players ranging in age from 31 to Alex Rodriguez at 39. The former starting third baseman is returning from a year-long performance-enhancing drug suspension to become the team’s designated hitter.

Only Gregarious at age 25 is considered young.

However, the rotation features a 26-year-old in Tanaka, a 26-year-old in Michael Pineda and a 25-year-old in Eovaldi. A spring injury to 36-year-old Capuano has thrust 27-year-old Adam Warren into the No. 5 slot. So the only pitcher over 27 in the Yankees rotation is Sabathia, who is 34. When is the last time you could say that about the Yankees’ rotation?

The bullpen will center around Betances, 26, and Miller, 28, who are  –  at least for now  –  going share the closing duties. If both pitch as they have up to now, it will be a very good shutdown pair because neither have been hit hard by righties or lefties.

The concern will be with the setup spots. Warren is in the rotation so the Yankees will be counting on the right-handed Carpenter, 29, and left-handed Justin Wilson, 27, who was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates with Cashman using the team’s catching surplus to deal away Francisco Cervelli.

If Carpenter and Wilson are successful, the bullpen will have a chance to be very good. If they fail, it could be a long season. Warren’s shift back to the bullpen with the return of both Capuano and right-hander Ivan Nova from Tommy John surgery in June can only be a big plus for the group.

Esmil Rogers, 29, will handle long relief. Shreve, 24, gives Girardi a third left-hander and 6-foot-8 right-hander Chris Martin has 95-mile-per-hour stuff that moves on an extreme downward plane. This trio looks solid and give Girardi credit for being a master of managing bullpens.

All spring long the Yankees struggled to score runs. It was not too much different from the way the offense struggled last season.

A pair of speed demons  –  Ellsbury and Gardner  –  are stacked on top of the lineup. The idea is to get them on base as much as possible and let them use their speed to get into scoring position for the middle of the lineup.

Both combined to steal 60 bases in what both players admittedly could call an off year. So they hope they can top 80 this season.

The whole strategy rests upon the middle of the order bouncing back from injuries and off years in 2015.

The third batter, Beltran, incurred painful bone chips in his right elbow and ended up posting the worst numbers of his career.

The cleanup hitter, Teixiera, was still limited by a sore right wrist and other injuries and posted only 22 home runs.

Although the fifth hitter, McCann, did crack 23 home runs and drive 78 runs, he only batted .232. So the Yankees would like him to hit closer to his career .272 average this season.

That is plenty of firepower but it seems like a fragile situation counting on Beltran, who will be 38 on April 24 and Teixeira, who will be 35 on April 11.

Behind McCann may be the one diamond-in-the-rough player who is primed for  huge season in Headley, 30, who hit 31 homers and drove in 115 runs for the San Diego Padres in 2012. Back issues have hampered him for the past two seasons but he seems healthy now.

He batted .305 with three homers and eight RBIs this spring and the former Gold Glove winner has been flashing some serious leather at third base.

It is unclear how much A-Rod will contribute from the DH spot. Rodriguez has not played more than 138 games since his Most Valuable Player season in 2007. Hip surgeries, nagging other ailments and the drug suspension have teamed with Father Time to make him an unknown quantity.

This spring, Rodriguez batted .267 with three homers and four RBIs and he did not look overmatched at the plate. But it is hard to know what A-Rod will provide until the bells rings on the regular season.

Nowhere did the Yankees look more vulnerable last season than at second base. After Robinson Cano took his power, his .300 average and his Gold Glove defensive skills to Seattle, the Yankees tried veteran Brian Roberts at the position.

But his batting and fielding skills eroded over four seasons of injuries and the Yankees cut him loose in July in favor of Drew, who had never played second base in the pro baseball. Drew also was dealing with a season-long hitting slump that saw him bat only .162 between the Boston Red Sox and the Yankees.

Drew started this spring very slowly but emerged to bat over .470 in the final three weeks with three home runs. Drew has been working with the Yankees’ new hitting coach Jeff Petland and it seems to have been paying some dividends. The Yankees would settle for Drew batting .250 or so with 15 homers and 65 RBIs this season. Those had been norms for Drew in his previous seasons.

Though it was sad to see the 20-year era of Jeter’s career at shortstop come to an end, the Yankees are very hopeful they have an emerging star in the making in Gregorius.

What fans immediately saw this spring is that Gregorius has outstanding range, great hands and an powerful and accurate arm. The Yankees believe his defense will be upgrade since Jeter’s range had been so limited the past several years.

Jeter batted .256 in his final season and the Yankees hope that Gregorius can possibly top that average this season largely batting ninth. When Gregorius was in Arizona, manager Kirk Gibson benched him against left-handers because he has batted only .150 in his career against them.

But the Yankees allowed him to hit against left-handers this spring and Gregorius did not seem to look bad against them. So, for now, Girardi is content with playing his young shortstop every day.

The bench is solid and features power-hitting right-hander Young and power-hitting left-hander Jones. Young, 31, had an exceptional spring and he brings athleticism to all three outfield spots he plays and a potential deadly bat against left-handed pitching.

Jones, 33, hit 15 homers for the Miami Marlins last season and he seems to have the perfect swing for Yankee Stadium. Jones will primarily back up Teixeira at first and he can also play the corner outfield spots, if needed.

Backup infielder Brendan Ryan, 33, had a spring he would rather forget. First, he was delayed at the start with a back injury he sustained lifting weights. After he returned, Ryan ended up pulling a right calf muscle last week and he will start the season on the disabled list.

Ryan brings a slick glove to second, shortstop and third base  –  although short is where he really shines in the field. But he can’t hit a lick. He has no power and he is a career .234 hitter.

The Yankees obtained infielder Gregorio Petit from the Houston Astros in exchange for cash in the last week of the spring. So Petit, 30, will assume Ryan’s role despite having played on only 62 major-league games with the Oakland Athletics and the Astros. He has batted .278 in just 151 at-bats. He will be a stopgap until Ryan is healthy again.

John Ryan Murphy, 23, managed to hold off a challenge from veteran Austin Romine this spring to remain the backup to McCann. Murphy batted .284 with a homer and nine RBIs in 32 games last season and the Yankees rave about his defense behind the plate.

But the biggest secret the Yankees are carrying with them now lies in the young players they were able to showcase this spring. For the first time in a very long time the Yankees have a number of very good prospects and some positional depth at the minor-league level that could be factors this season.

But the promise is even brighter longer term.

Right-handed starters Luis Severino and Domingo German (obtained in the trade for Phelps and Martin Prado) and left-handed starter Ian Clarkin along with left-handed reliever Jacob Lindgren and right-handed relievers Nick Rumbelow and Jose Ramirez are in the pipeline and moving quickly to the majors.

Second basemen Rob Refsnyder and Jose Pirela tore the cover off the ball this spring and their presence at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre is just a taste of what is the horizon with outfielders Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores also knocking on the door.

Right-hander Chase Whitley, 25, had a 1.17 ERA this spring and he still not crack the bullpen. You have to figure he is going to get a call-up to the 25-man roster at some point. Keep an eye also on Bryan Mitchell, who will be 24 this month. Mitchell drew rave reviews when he fanned Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez back-to-back in a five-inning effort in a split-squad game in Lakeland, FL, on April 2.

At Double-A Trenton will be prospects such as outfielder Aaron Judge and first baseman Greg Bird, both of whom looked undaunted by major-league pitching this spring.

Catching prospect Gary Sanchez, 23, is also not too far away from contributing in the major leagues.

Though Yankee fans and the Yankee front office never has shown much patience with its young prospects in the past, this group might just force the front office to use them and perhaps the revolving door of signing aging free agents will finally end.

Should the Yankees falter as what so many experts are predicting this season. The young players who are on the way could be a foundation to build around, It is there to see. It is just up to Cashman and the Yankee front office not to screw it up.

Here now is my brief assessment of the other four teams in the division and my prediction for the order of finish in 2015.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

This is a team that ran away with this division last season. But it is hard to see them as a “great” team.

Their ace is a very pedestrian Chris Tillman. Their offense lost outfielders Nelson Cruz and Nick Markakis. They also are likely to be without Matt Wieters to start the season as he recovers from Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. Ditto for shortstop J.J. Hardy, who has left shoulder injury.

With all that they still have Adam Jones, Manny Machado and they are really hoping that Chris Davis recovers his home-run stroke.

Though Tillman is not a true ace they do have Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzales and Bud Norris to form a solid foursome. The bullpen with closer Zach Britton and setup guys Darren O’Day and Tommy Hunter is top notch.

They also have one of the best managers in baseball in Buck Showalter. So in Baltimore there is hope the O’s can repeat.

A lot depends on how new outfielders Alejandro De Aza and Travis Snider do to make up for the losses of Cruz and Markakis.

BOSTON RED SOX

This team flopped in 2014 and yet many are picking them to win the title in 2015.

Most of that is based on their offense. To Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz and Mike Napoli, the Red Sox have added Hanley Ramirez, Mookie Betts and Pablo Sandoval.

They are also hoping for better seasons and health from Xander Bogaerts and Shane Victorino.

However, it is hard to look at the rotation and see anything but potential disaster.

Clay Buchholz was 8-11 with a 6.34 ERA and is considered the ace. Rick Porcello did have a 15-13 record and a 3.43 ERA with the Tigers. But Justin Masterson was 7-9 with a 5.88 with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals.

Lefty Wade Miley was 8-12 with a 4.34 ERA for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A better offense will help him but he is not anything close to Jon Lester, who the Red Sox traded last season and were unable to re-sign as a free agent.

No. 5 starter Joe Kelly (6-4, 4.20 ERA with the Cardinals) starts the season on the disabled list with right bicep injury. In addition, closer Koji Uehara, who just turned 40, is also on the disabled list with a hamstring injury so Edward Mujica and his 49 career saves are it for now.

There is no doubt that the Red Sox will be capable of scoring runs. The question is will it be enough runs to cover a pitching staff and an underbelly of a bullpen that could really exploited?

Add that up to the fact that catcher Christian Vazquez is out for the season to undergo Tommy John surgery on his right elbow and you have enough doubts about the Red Sox to make it unlikely they are a good choice to win this division.

The Toronto Blue Jays tried this approach last season and it did not work.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

This team seemingly lost everything so quickly that their home radio station, WDAE, is not very enthusiastic about them.

Manager Joe Maddon and his screwy ideas that seem to work on shifting is gone. General manager Andrew Friedman, who introduced sabermetrics and advanced scouting techniques to the organization that built this team, is also gone.

The team’s best pitcher in David Price was traded last season and now is pitching for the Detroit Tigers. Their second-best pitcher, Matt Moore, is not expected back until June because he is recovering from Tommy John surgery.

This spring they incurred injuries to their best remaining pitcher Alex Cobb. Their closer, Jake McGee, will miss the first month.

They also traded away offensive contributors such as Wil Myers, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Matt Joyce.

The team’s offense can be wrapped up in third baseman Evan Longoria and a lot of hope and praying.

They are counting on production out of rookie outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who batted .130 this spring and shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera, who the Indians discarded saying he could not play shortstop and he was not the hitter he was in 2011 (25 home runs and 92 RBIs).

They are still hoping that Desmond Jennings just shows one little spark of the long-departed Carl Crawford. But it is not looking like it will happen.

This could amount to one of the weakest hitting teams in baseball in 2015 and it could be worse without Maddon running the show.

Granted, Cobb, Moore, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi could form a solid rotation when they are all healthy. The question is can the Rays tread water long enough to see that happen?

Though McGee, Grant Balfour and Brad Boxberger form a solid trio at the back of the bullpen, the Rays are counting on a pair of former failed relievers in Kevin Jepsen and Ernesto Frieri to help out in the middle innings.

They also do not have a decent lefty beyond McGee. Ouch!

After many years of dealing with their obnoxious cowbell-ringing fans  –  all of about 7,000 of them a game  –  it appears that the bloom is off the rose and the cowbells will eventually fall silent this season unless there is some sort of miracle new manager Kevin Cash can create.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

This was the sexy choice to win the division in 2014. Funny thing is, I would have selected them to win this season if young right-hander Marcus Stroman did suffer knee injury that will force him to miss the entire season.

Stroman would have formed a nice 1-2 punch with right-hander Drew Hutchison, who at 24 has progressed so much as a pitcher he is starting on Opening Day ahead of Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey and veteran Mark Buehrle.

To that they have added a pair of young pitchers in left-hander Daniel Norris and right-hander Aaron Sanchez, who looked to be the team’s closer in waiting until the team opted to use him as a starter instead.

The bullpen is untested but it has closer Brett Cecil. There is a lot untested pitchers in the mix behind him but 20-year-old Miguel Castro may end being something special as he gets his feet wet in the majors.

Like the Red Sox, the Blue Jays never have to worry about scoring runs. Add to the thundering power of Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion the bat of third baseman Josh Donaldson, who hit 29 home runs and drove in 98 runs for the Athletics in their cavernous ballpark.

You would think Donaldson will love the Rogers Centre.

Though the Jays will miss line-drive machine Melky Cabrera, they still have Jose Reyes and they have also added catcher Russell Martin, who can hit 20 homers and run a pitching staff like a pitching coach.

So there is a lot to like.

The question is after losing Adam Lind and Colby Rasmus the Blue Jays are trotting a pair of young outfielders in Dalton Pompey (center) and Kevin Pillar (left). Much of what the Blue Jays do will revolve around what they do.

They also have a new second baseman in Devon Travis.

It is hard to pick a team to win with so many new players in the lineup like Pillar, Pompey and Travis. This team is carrying six rookies!

But the real test of how the Blue Jays do in 2015 will hinge on its pitching staff. Stroman was a much bigger loss than I think the Blue Jays can overcome.

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

1) BALTIMORE ORIOLES (92-70)

2) TORONTO BLUE JAYS (86-76)

3) NEW YORK YANKEES (84-78)

4) BOSTON RED SOX (80-82)

5) TAMPA BAY RAYS (76-86)  Hello Montreal!

The Orioles will fall back to the pack but not enough to make much difference. The Blue Jays actually could have won it with Stroman, but now they will fall short and they will not win the wildcard either. I was tempted to pick the Yankees for second because Tanaka, Pineda and Eovaldi are all primed for excellent seasons. But the offense this spring was woefully lacking and it looks as if they will lose a lot of 4-3 and 3-2 games unless make a deal for a young slugger like Giancarlo Stanton. The Yankees just do not have that stud in the middle of the order and it will hurt. The Red Sox will be the Red Flops mainly because their pitching is not as good as people believe it is. Their bullpen also is much weaker without Miller. About all that the “Kung Fu Panda” Sandoval is good for is twining with Ortiz to advertise for a doughnut shop. Ramirez is talented but he also is moody and can give up when things are not going well. Ask the Marlins and Dodgers. As for the Rays, their collapse could not have come at a worse time for them when attendance and TV viewership is dropping. The owner wants to have a new stadium built despite the fact that they are tied to dumpy and ugly Tropicana Field for many more years. That is why it is inevitable that the team will be sold and shifted to another city like Montreal soon. Tre bien!

CC Goes Route To Lead Yanks To Sweep Of Indians

GAME 59

YANKEES 6, INDIANS 4

During a long major-league season bullpens get taxed and sometimes it is up to the team’s ace pitcher to go the distance for the good of the club. That is exactly what CC Sabathia did for the Yankees on Wednesday.

Sabathia pitched his first complete game of the season and New York benefitted from a pair of early home runs to claim a three-game sweep of Cleveland in front of a paid crowd of 42,477 at Yankee Stadium.

Sabathia (6-4), bolstered by an early 6-0 lead, shut down the Indians to pitch 4 2/3 innings of perfect baseball before he surrendered a bloop single to left by Mike Aviles.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got off to quick start against right-hander Corey Kluber (3-4) when Robinson Cano reached on a two-base fielding error by center-fielder Michael Bourn with one out in the first inning. One out later, Travis Hafner blasted a tape-measure home run deep into the second deck in right-field for his 10th home run of the season and his second in as many at-bats.

Hafner hit his ninth home run on Monday in the seventh inning off Justin Masterson of the Indians, Hafner’s former team.

The Yankees added to their lead in the second inning when Lyle Overbay reached on an infield single and, one out later, Jayson Nix advanced him to third on an opposite-field double to right.

Chris Stewart scored Overbay on a lined single to left and Brett Gardner followed with his sixth home run of the season.

But Kluber settled down and allowed the Yankees only two singles until he left after seven innings having given up six runs (four earned) on seven hits and one walk while he struck out eight.

But Sabathia was the better pitcher on this day.

The Indians did score a pair of runs in the sixth inning on back-to-back one-out singles by Drew Stubbs and Bourn and an RBI single off the bat of Jason Kipnis and an RBI groundout by Nick Swisher.

They added another two runs in the seventh inning on a two-out single by Michael Brantley and a two-run home run from Yan Gomes that brought the Indians back into the contest.

The Yankees entered the game with relievers Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera all having pitched the previous two games and they preferred not to have to use them for a third straight day.

However, Sabathia only allowed a two-out walk to Swisher in the eighth and he retired the the Indians in order in the ninth to preserve the victory for the Yankees.

The veteran left-hander gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk while he fanned nine batters for his second consecutive victory in as many starts after not winning any of his previous five outings.

The series sweep gives the Yankees a 6-1 record in their season series with the Indians and they also salvaged a 4-4 homestand.

The victory also improves the Yankees’ season record to 34-25. Combined with losses by both the Baltimore Orioles and the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees broke their second-place tie with the O’s and are only 1 1/2 games behind the first-place Bosox in the American League East. The Indians dropped to 30-29.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVE

  • Sabathia pitched a whole lot better than the four runs he ended up yielding might indicate. He struck out five of the first 12 batters he faced and he did not allow a ball out of the infield until Swisher flew out to center to end the fourth inning. The hardest hit ball of the game was Gomes’ homer in the seventh. Sabathia is now 117-5 in his career with 6 or more runs of support.
  • Hafner had only four hits against the Indians in the five games he played against his former team, however, three of them were home runs. His round-tripper in the first inning took such high flight they could served a meal before it landed. Hafner’s two home runs in the series followed a homer drought of 10 games. His eighth home run came on May 20 against the Orioles at Camden Yards.
  • Gardner’s home run in the second inning was his sixth of the season, which is one away from his career high of seven in 2011, even though the Yankees are just a little over having played just one-third of the season. The home run also had nothing to do with the short porch in right. Gardner really tagged it and it would have been a home run anywhere.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Manager Joe Girardi is going to have to make a decision on what to do about the slumping Vernon Wells. The 34-year-old outfielder was 0-for-4 in the game and was 0-for-8 in the series. In the past 10 games, Wells is 3-for-34 (.088) and he is hurting the offense. Why Girardi did not elect to start Ichiro Suzuki in left against the right-handed Kluber is just beyond me.
  • Cano is also in the midst of a slump. He was 0-for-3 in the game and 1-for-12 in the series. He also is 2-for-20 (.100) since May 31. Cano’s batting average has dipped to a season low of .279 and it looks like some pitchers the Yankees will be facing in the coming few weeks may be paying a big price for it.

BOMBER BANTER

Suzuki entered the game as a defensive replacement for Overbay in the seventh inning and he singled to lead off the eighth inning. That single gave him 2,655 career hits and allowed him to pass Ted Williams for 72nd place on the all-time hits list. Suzuki also has 1.278 hits from his career in Japan, which means he is just 67 hits away from a combined total of 4,000 hits.

ON DECK

The Yankees will embark on their longest road trip of the year beginning with a four-game weekend series in Seattle against the Mariners.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-4, 5.37 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off an outing in which he gave up five earned runs on seven hits and two walks in just 4 1/3 innings against the Red Sox on Sunday. He is 4-3 with a 4.29 ERA in his career against the Mariners.

The Mariners will counter with veteran right-hander Aaron Harang (2-5, 5.82 ERA). Harang has allowed only one run in his past 15 innings covering two starts. Harang has never faced the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Tex Guns Down Tribe With Another Big Home Run

GAME 58

YANKEES 4, INDIANS 3

Yankee fans were very worried that when Mark Teixeira returned to the lineup on May 31 that he would get off to the same slow starts he always did in April. Well, after hitting a grand slam home run on Monday, Teixeira added a three-run shot on Tuesday.

So much for that slow-start theory.

Teixeira connected on a 3-1 change-up off left-hander Scott Kazmir with one out in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead and David Phelps pitched six innings of one-hit shutout baseball to lead New York to another victory over Cleveland in front of a paid crowd crowd of 36,208 at Yankee Stadium.

Teixeira’s second home run in as many nights followed a leadoff double by Lyle Overbay, an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki and a single by Jayson Nix off Kazmir (3-3). Teixeira laced a line-drive just inside the foul pole in left to give him two home runs and seven RBIs against the Indians in the first two games of the series.

Meanwhile, Phelps (4-3) redeemed himself for his previous start against the New York Mets on May 30 in which he was tagged for five runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks in only one-third of an inning in what was easily the worst effort of his major-league career.

Phelps only allowed a hustle infield single to Drew Stubbs with one out in the third inning. Phelps walked four and struck out seven in an 102-pitch outing before giving way to right-hander Joba Chamberlain in the seventh.

The Indians were able to rally against Chamberlain, who issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana before he retired the next two batters. Mike Aviles then stroked a single to center and Stubbs clubbed a home run to right that just cleared the wall into the bleachers.

Left-hander Boone Logan then came on to strike out Michael Bourn swinging to end the inning.

The Indians did manage to put the first two batters on in the eighth against right-hander David Robertson. Jason Kipnis drew a leadoff walk and Michael Brantley dumped an opposite-field single to left.

But Robertson induced former Yankee Nick Swisher to line into a double play and Santana grounded out weakly to end the Indians’ threat.

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the first two batters, to record his 21st save in 22 opportunities this season.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 33-25 and they remain tied with the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the American League East, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. The Indians fell to 30-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After going 1-for-9 in his first three games back from the disabled list, Teixeira is 3-for-6 with a walk and two home runs and seven RBIs in his two games against the Indians. The Yankees were hoping that Teixeira’s return would add a legitimate power threat to the middle of the order and he has done just that. Teixeira also has hit homers on both sides of the plate. His grand slam on Monday came while he was batting left-handed. His three-run shot on Tuesday came batting right-handed.
  • Phelps may have walked too many batters and he got mired in some deep counts that forced him to leave after six innings. But he was absolutely determined not to give an inch to the Indians’ batters. Phelps was a hard-luck 1-0 loser to right-hander Justin Masterson and the Indians on May 13. If you discount his awful outing against the Mets on May 30, Phelps is 4-2 with a 2.77 ERA in his other six starts this season.
  • Suzuki, who batted leadoff and started in center-field in place of Brett Gardner, extended his hitting streak in the past games in which he has started to 10 with a 1-for-3 night. Suzuki has had at least one hit in each of 10 starts since May 25 and is 13-for-35 (.371) in that span. That has raised his season average from .238 on May 25 to .262.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Though the return of Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis on May 31 should be helping Robinson Cano. It pretty much has had the opposite effect. Cano was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he hit into an inning-ending double play in the eighth inning with the bases loaded. In the past five games with Teixeira and Youkilis available to play, Cano is 2-for-17 (.118) without either an extra-base hit or an RBI.
  • Vernon Wells has been pretty much useless to the Yankees dating all the way back to May 15. He was 0-for-4 on Tuesday with a strikeout and he is 7-for-61 (.115) with no home runs, 1 RBI and 12 strikeouts since May 15. Wells, 34, is not getting the high fastballs he was smashing earlier in the season and he is being fooled by breaking pitches out of the strike zone.
  • Chamberlain was roughed up for the first time since he came off the disabled list on May 28. It was a bit curious why manager Joe Girardi had rookie Preston Claiborne warming in the sixth but elected to use Chamberlain for a second consecutive night instead to start the seventh inning. Claiborne deserves to be used in the seventh and it would allow Chamberlain to get some rest between outings.

BOMBER BANTER

Many of the Indians were angry over the balls and strikes calls of home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo throughout the game and it culminated with the ejection of Aviles after he made the final out against Rivera. Aviles was angered by a strike-one call that he thought was low. After he flew out he followed Randazzo toward the third-base dugout and was ejected. Indians manager Terry Francona also had some harsh words for Randazzo but was not ejected.  . . .  Chris Stewart returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with dizziness. Stewart was 1-for-1 with a walk and he also threw out Brantley at second base as part of a “strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out” double play in the fourth inning. Stewart has nailed seven of 14 potential base-stealers this season. Of course, Stewart did pull a base-running blunder in the third inning when he rounded second base too far and got thrown out in a rundown.  . . .  Suzuki’s RBI single in the third inning was the 2,654th hit of his major-league career, which ties with him Ted Williams for 72nd place on the all-time hits list.  . . .  Eduardo Nunez sustained another setback in his bid to return from a left oblique strain, which landed him of the 15-day disabled list on May 12. Nunez was unable to swing a bat without experiencing pain and his return will be delayed further.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for a sweep of their three-game home series against Cleveland on Wednesday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (5-4, 3.71 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off what was his best start of the season on Friday, a one-run, 10-strikeout performance over 7 1/3 innings against the Red Sox. Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA against his former team.

Sabathia will be opposed by right-hander Corey Kluber (3-3, 4.36 ERA). Kluber struck out three and walked one but had his outing against the Tampa Bay Rays cut to just two innings because of rain. He has no record and 1.80 ERA 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.

 

Teixeira, Gardner Lead Yankee Uprising Over Tribe

GAME 57

YANKEES 7, INDIANS 4

Though Andy Pettitte’s return from the disabled list on Monday was not exactly what he would have had in mind the New York Yankees got just what they were looking for from Mark Teixeira in his recent return to the lineup.

Teixeira cranked out a grand slam home run off Justin Masterson in the third inning and Brett Gardner added a two-out, two-run single in the sixth inning that broke a 4-4 tie as New York finally got its offense out of neutral to defeat Cleveland in front of a paid crowd of 40,007 at Yankee Stadium.

Teixeira’s home run, his first of the season, came after the Yankees loaded the bases on back-to-back singles by Reid Brignac and Austin Romine and a four-pitch walk of Gardner. After Robinson Cano hit into a force out of Brignac at home, Teixeira slapped a lined shot into the first row of the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

However, Pettitte found it difficult to hold the lead in the fifth inning. The 40-year-old left-hander, who had not started in 18 days due to a strain in his left trapezius muscle, gave up a lined double to Drew Stubbs and an infield single to Michael Bourn.

Mike Aviles scored Stubbs on a sacrifice fly to shallow center that Cano caught off balance and was unable to get a sliding Stubbs on his throw to home plate. Pettitte then gave up consecutive four-pitch walks to Nick Swisher and Mark Reynolds before Carlos Santana drove in two runs to tie it at 4-4 on hard-hit ball that ricocheted off the glove of third baseman David Adams and bounded into the stands for a ground-rule double.

That ended Pettitte’s night. He yielded four runs on seven hits and three walks while he fanned three batters over 83 pitches in 4 1/3 innings.

But the Yankees bailed out Pettitte by rallying the sixth inning off Masterson (8-4), who had defeated the Yankees on a 1-0 complete-game shutout on May 13.

Ichiro Suzuki led off the frame with a walk and he took second on a groundout off the bat of Adams. After Brignac struck out, Romine bounced a hard-hit grounder off Masterson’s right bicep for an infield single.

After Romine stole second, Gardner delivered a lined single up the middle to score Suzuki easily but Masterson probably cost himself a run by cutting off the throw to the plate by Bourn that likely would have beat Romine.

The Yankees finally chased Masterson in the seventh inning when Travis Hafner, who is mired a horrible batting slump like most of the Yankees, cranked out a one-out solo home run into the bleachers deep in right-center for his ninth home run of the season.

Masterson was charged with seven runs on nine hits and three walks while he struck out five in 6 1/3 innings.

Meanwhile, the Yankees relied on their bullpen to close out the game.

Shawn Kelley (3-0) pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.

Mariano Rivera, the last of the Yankees’ four relievers they employed in the game, pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 20th save in 21 chances this season.

The victory for the Yankees halted a spell in which the Yankees had lost seven of their previous eight games. The Yankees are 32-25 on the season and they, along with the Baltimore Orioles, gained a half-game on the idle first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. Both teams are 2 1/2 games back in second place. The Indians are 30-27.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Teixeira’s home run was a welcome site for manager Joe Girardi and the fans, who have seen this team struggle to score runs over the past two weeks. It was only the second hit of the season for the 33-year-old first baseman but it was a big one. Teixeira, who rarely shows much emotion on the field, actually pumped his right fist when he realized the ball had reached the seats.
  • The bullpen of Kelley, Joba Chamberlain, David Robertson and Rivera shut down the Indians over the final 4 1/3 innings on one hit and two walks while they struck out five. Despite the fact the bullpen blew two 1-0 leads late to the New York Mets at Citi Field a week ago, the bullpen remains the strength of this team.
  • Give Romine credit. Pressed into service because Chris Stewart is recovering from dizzy spells due to severe dehydration, Romine was 2-for-3 plus a sacrifice bunt and he scored two runs. He was .100 entering Sunday but in his past two starts he is 3-for-4 to raise his season average to .154.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Pettitte looked rusty after 18 days of inactivity and it caught up to him with two outs in the fifth inning. The Yankees did not send Pettitte out for a rehab start and they limited his side sessions in the belief that it was too much work for the veteran left-hander. Pettitte was sharp early in the game so perhaps he just needs to regain some stamina to pitch longer into games.
  • The Yankees opted to keep Adams on the roster and he failed to reward them in this game for their decision. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he misplayed two balls in the game that could have been caught but were not scored as errors. Adams was hitting .324 on May 24 but is 5-for-31 (.161) since then and his average has dropped to .242.

BOMBER BANTER

When the Yankees activated Pettitte on Monday they opted to send outfielder Brennan Boesch back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and they started veteran first baseman Lyle Overbay in right-field. It was Overbay’s first major-league start in the outfield. He was 1-for-3 with a single and a walk at the plate and he fielded his position flawlessly before leaving the game in the eighth inning when Suzuki was shifted from left to right and Vernon Wells was inserted in left.  . . .  Stewart was available to play after missing two games due to dizziness. But after having tests at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital that were negative, Stewart said he is ready to play and is suffering no ill effects.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home set with the Indians on Tuesday.

Right-hander David Phelps (3-3, 4.65 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Phelps, 26, is coming off the worst outing of his career. He was tagged for five runs in just one-third of an inning against the Mets last Wednesday. Phelps was the loser in the 1-0 game Masterson won on May 13 in his only appearance against the Tribe.

Veteran left-hander Scott Kazmir (3-2, 5.13 ERA) will start for Cleveland. Kazmir is 1-0 with a 2.25 ERA in his past two starts. In 16 starts (17 games) against the Yankees, Kazmir is 7-6 with a 3.34 ERA.

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

 

Hiroki Dokey: Kuroda Clips Blue Jays’ Wings Again

GAME 42

YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 0

While the injuries seem to mount for the New York Yankees on a daily basis there are pretty much three things the team had going its favor on Friday: They were playing the Toronto Blue Jays, they had Hiroki Kuroda on the mound and they have not lost more than two games in a row this season.

Kuroda pitched two-hit shutout baseball over eight innings as New York  snapped a two-game losing streak by defeating Toronto for the seventh time in eight games this season in front of paid crowd of 40,008 at Yankee Stadium.

Melky Cabrera led off the game with a double and Edwin Encarnacion laced a one-out single in the seventh and those were the only two hits the Blue Jays could muster off of the 38-year-old right-hander. Kuroda walked one and struck out five batters to run his career record against the Blue Jays to 4-1.

Meanwhile, the Yankees scored the only run they really needed in the bottom of the first inning when Brett Gardner rolled a leadoff triple to the wall in left-center off left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-3), who entered the game with a 1-9 record against the Yankees and his last victory against them was way back in 2004.

After Buehrle walked Jayson Nix, Robinson Cano scored Gardner with a infield groundout.

The rookie tandem of David Adams and Austin Romine sparked the rest of the Yankees’ offense.

Adams led off the fifth with a single to left-field and Romine followed one-out later with a single to left that advanced Adams to second. After Gardner drew a walk to load the bases, Nix drove in Adams with a sacrifice fly.

The Yankees added three runs by getting to Buehrle and reliever Aaron Loup in the seventh.

Adams again started the rally with a leadoff double off the wall in left-field and Ichiro Suzuki dropped down a bunt single that advanced Adams to third. Romine then chased Buehrle with an RBI double in the left-field corner.

Loup came in and Gardner greeted him with an RBI single to left to score Suzuki and Nix closed out the scoring with his second sac fly of the game.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 26-16 and they hold a one-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Boston Red Sox. The Blue Jays fell to 17-25 and they are nine games out in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Kuroda, if it seems possible, is pitching even better than he did last season when he established his career high with 16 victories. For Kuroda it was his seventh straight quality start dating back to April 14. Kuroda also lowered his season ERA to 1.99, which is fourth best in the American League. His six victories are tied for third in the league. I will say this and believe me when I do: CC Sabathia may be the team’s ace but Kuroda is the Yankees’ best pitcher.
  • It may have seemed like an insignificant move at the time when the Yankees designated for assignment infielder Chris Nelson and recalled the 26-year-old Adams from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. But there was a big reason for the move: Adams can flat-out hit. He is proving it, too. He was 2-for-4 with two runs scored on Friday and he is 4-for-11 (.364 ) with two doubles and an RBI in his first three major-league games. Adams was hitting .316 in 27 games at Scranton and he is a .296 career minor-league hitter.
  • Romine came into the game hitting .063 but he took advantage of an injury to Chris Stewart to go 2-for-3 with a run scored and an RBI. Romine, 24, is going to be a work in progress as a hitter but his defense and throwing are top-flight. So when he contributes to the offense he deserves to be applauded for it.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Cano is absolutely lost at the plate lately. He was 0-4 with a a strikeout despite his 27th RBI, which leads the team. He is 6-for-32 (.188) in his last eight games, which has lowered his season average from .314 to .291. Cano is getting back to his old habit of swinging at pitches way off the outside corner and in the dirt.
  • Vernon Wells came into the game owning the Blue Jays this season and Buehrle throughout his career. But he ended up going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball past the infield. He is 0-for-7 with four strikeouts in his past two games.
  • In fact, Buehrle and the Blue Jays shut down the No. 3 through No. 6 hitters in the Yankees’ lineup (Cano, Wells, Ben Francisco and Lyle Overbay) were 1-for-16 with one RBI but the No. 7 through No. 2 hitters (Adams, Suzuki, Romine, Gardner and Nix) were 6-for-13 with five runs scored and four RBIs.

BOMBER BANTER

NOTE: If you are absolutely fed up and ready to slit your wrists over the mounting injuries of the Yankees, please do yourself a service by not reading the following information.

Just before the game started the Yankees announced they have placed left-hander Andy Pettitte on the 15-day disabled list and they recalled rookie left-hander Vidal Nuno from Scranton to replace him in the rotation. Pettitte left his start on Thursday in the fifth inning with what was later diagnosed as a strain of the left trapezius muscle, located below in the neck in the back. General manager Brian Cashman said the injury is not serious and that he expects Pettitte to be back with the team after the 15 days are up. Pettitte becomes the 13th player to land on the DL this season.  . . .  Stewart, however, was able to dodge the disabled list for now. Cashman said Stewart suffered a mild strain in his left groin in the eighth inning of Thursday’s game against the Seattle Mariners and he is listed as day-to-day. In fact, Stewart would be able to catch in an emergency, Cashman told reporters. Romine will continue to start at catcher until Stewart recovers.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try get through another game without an injury as they continue their weekend three-game series against Toronto on Saturday.

Right-hander David Phelps (1-2, 4.33 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Phelps gave up just one run in 6 2/3 innings against the Cleveland Indians on Monday but he lost because Justin Masterson shut out the Yankees. Phelps is 1-0 with a 4.37 ERA lifetime against the Jays.

Toronto will counter with right-hander Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.69 ERA). Morrow has missed his past two starts with back and neck issues. He is 5-3 with a 4.01 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Masterson Goes 9 To Blank Injury-Depleted Yanks

GAME 37

INDIANS 1, YANKEES 0

Justin Masterson pitched a complete-game shutout and Jason Kipnis backed him with a one-out solo home run in the first inning as Cleveland edged New York in the first game of a doubleheader on Monday at Progressive Field.

Masterson (6-2) gave up four hits and three walks while striking out nine to get credit for the victory.

David Phelps (1-2) took the hard-luck loss, despite giving up only the one run on four hits and five walks while striking out seven in 6 2/3 innings.

Already beset by a boatload of injuries, manager Joe Girardi decided to rest starters Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay and Jason Nix and the Yankees were never really able to mount much of a challenge to Masterson after the second inning.

With two out, Chris Nelson reached on an infield single and rookie Corban Joseph  –  who was called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre as the team’s 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader  –  drew a walk. Chris Stewart then slapped a single up the middle that Asdrubal Cabrera dove to stop from rolling into the outfield, which would have scored Nelson as the tying run.

Alberto Gonzalez, who was just activated to the active roster on Sunday when Eduardo Nunez was placed on the 15-day disabled list, struck out swinging and left the bases loaded.

The Yankees did not get a runner past second base the rest of the game.

The loss snapped the Yankees’ five-game winning streak and their season record is now 23-14. The Indians improved to 21-15.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Phelps really deserved a better fate because, despite the five walks, Phelps held the Indians to one run on only four hits. That would be enough to win most games but the Yankees played this doubleheader with one hand tied behind its back because Girardi wanted to make sure his team was rested properly with the team in the middle of a stretch of 17 games scheduled within 16 days without a day off.
  • Brennan Boesch stroked a two-out single to left in the ninth inning and he was the only Yankee player to actually get a single into the outfield. Nelson’s and Stewart’s second-inning singles were infield hits and Brett Gardner added a leadoff bunt single in the sixth. That was the extent of the Yankees’ offense.
  • Boone Logan and Preston Claiborne combined to pitch 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief of Phelps to keep the Yankees to within a run for a potential rally. Logan helped Phelps out of seventh-inning jam with runners on second and third and two out by fanning Kipnis swinging. Claiborne tossed a scoreless eighth and the rookie right-hander has not been scored upon in 4 2/3 innings of relief.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 in a game the Yankees sorely needed him to help the offense. Cano looked as if the pressure was on him all day by swinging at pitches out of the strike zone. He was called out on strikes in the third after he swung at two pitches out of the zone. In the sixth, Nix was aboard with one out and Cano flew out to center.
  • Ichiro Suzuki is cooling off with the bat again. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield all day. He is 0-for-12 in his past three games and his season average has slipped back down to .254.
  • Wells came on to pinch-hit in the ninth with Boesch on first and two out and he promptly struck out swinging on four pitches. Wells has had trouble all season with sliders and he swung and missed at the final two pitches that were sliders in the dirt.

The features Bomber Banter and On Deck will appear in my next post about the second game of the doubleheader.