Tagged: Lance Berkman

Suzuki Shoots Down Rangers With Walk-Off Blast



Two things pretty much describe what has happened with the 2013 New York Yankees: They rarely hit home runs and they have not won a game in the bottom of the ninth inning all season. Well, the Yankees hit four solo home runs and the last one gave them a walk-off victory on Tuesday.

Ichiro Suzuki connected on a 1-2 fastball from right-hander Tanner Scheppers for a lined shot that easily cleared the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center with two out in the ninth as New York brought a paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 41,674 to its feet by defeating Texas.

Suzuki’s fourth home run of the season was only his second walk-off homer of his career. His first came on April 4, 2012 as a member of the Seattle Mariners against Yankees closer Mariano Rivera.

Rivera (1-1) pitched a scoreless ninth inning to get credit for his first victory of the season.

Scheppers (5-1) was saddled with his first defeat of the season.

The game started as a battle between a pair of former Japanese baseball stars both born in Osaka. It was only the 11th time in major-league history two Japanese pitchers have faced each other and the second time for the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda and the Rangers’ Yu Darvish.

The Rangers struck first in the third inning off Kuroda when Leonys Martin lined a 2-2 pitch into the right-field bleachers with one out in the inning.

They added an unearned run in the fourth when an throwing error by David Adams on a ball off the bat of Adrian Beltre and singles by A.J. Pierzynski and Lance Berkman loaded the bases with one out and Mitch Moreland’s slow-rolling fielder’s choice grounder allowed Beltre to score.

The Yankees halved the lead when Travis Hafner blasted his 12th homer of the season, a high-arcing shot that landed in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to lead off the fourth inning.

But the Rangers added a run in the fifth when Martin connected for his second home run of the game and his fifth of season to start the frame.

But the Yankees got that run back when Brett Gardner slammed his season-high tying seventh homer of the season deep into the right-field bleachers to start the bottom of the fifth.

Jayson Nix set up the eventual victory with only second homer of the season into the bleachers in left to lead off the sixth.

Darvish, who was less than sharp, was tagged for three runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck six batters in 5 1/3 innings. It was only his second start of less than six innings this season.

Meanwhile, Kuroda yielded three runs (two earned) on five hits and a walk while fanning six in 6 2/3 innings.

With the dramatic victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 42-34 and they remain percentage points ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in second place in the American League East. They also are just 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox and one game back in the loss column.

The Rangers fell to 44-33.


  • Hafner was 2-for-4 including his solo home run. He entered the game hitting .217 but he is beginning to come around a bit at the plate. In his past six games he is 6-for-24 (.250) with two home runs and five RBIs. He has at least one hit in five of those six games.
  • Suzuki was 2-for-5 with his walk-off shot and it was his second home run in the past week. He hit a home run and drove in three runs on June 19 against the Los Angeles Angels in 6-4 victory. Suzuki is batting .299 in June and has raised his season average to .270.
  • After Kuroda gave up a second home run to Martin in the fifth, Kuroda and relievers Boone Logan, David Robertson and Rivera retired 14 of the final 17 batters they faced and struck out five. Good starting pitching and a very good bullpen is keeping the Yankees afloat in the division this season.


  • With the Yankees without the services of third basemen Alex Rodriguez and Kevin Youkilis, Adams is struggling to recapture the stroke that had him hitting .295 with two home runs and five RBIs in his first 11 games. Since then he is 4-for-46 (.087) with no homers and four RBIs. He was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and a walk on Tuesday. He is hitting .185.
  • Lyle Overbay had a night to forget. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and left a total of five runners on base. He has not delivered a hit in his last nine at-bats and his season average has slipped to .239.
  • Rookie Zoilo Almonte proved he is human. He was 0-for-4, which ended his four-game hitting streak. He is still 7-for-16 (.438) with a home run and four RBIs in his first six games. Manager Joe Girardi has temporarily benched left-fielder Vernon Wells in order to let the rookie play.


Rodriguez drew the ire of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman after he sent out a Tweet on Tuesday indicating that his hip surgeon had cleared him to begin playing minor-league rehab games. Cashman responded angrily by telling ESPNNewYork.com:  “You know what, when the Yankees want to announce something, [we will]. Alex should just shut the [expletive] up. That’s it. I’m going to call Alex now.”  . . . Meanwhile, the Yankees are fearing the worst in sending first baseman Mark Teixeira to specialist on Tuesday to look at his ailing right wrist. Teixeira’s wrist did not respond as the team had hoped to a cortisone injection last week. Season-ending surgery is a very real possibility. Teixeira has hit .151 with three home runs and 12 RBIs in 15 games this season.  . . .  The Yankees elected to keep right-hander Ivan Nova on the roster after his impressive start against the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. They are not sure what his role will be but Nova will stay nonetheless. The Yankees currently have 14 pitchers on the roster, leaving them only three bench players.


The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Rangers on Wednesday.

Andy Pettitte (5-5, 4.20 ERA) will start for the Yankees. The 41-year-old left-hander was raked for nine hits and five runs in 6 2/3 innings against the Rays on Thursday. He is 6-6 with a 4.53 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Rangers.

The Rangers will counter with right-hander Justin Grimm (6-5, 5.57 ERA). Grimm allowed three runs on three hits in five innings to win his sixth game of the season against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday. The rookie has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN2 and locally by the YES Network.


Yankees Counting On Teixeira To Rebound In 2011

As training camp opens in Tampa, FL, the New York Yankees are looking to return to their 2009 form. We will take a look at each position and see how they stack up for the 2011 season. Just how good are the Yankees? Let’s find out:

To quote the famous Charles Dickens opening line in the “Tale of Two Cities” the Yankee portion of Mark Teixeira’s career has been both “the best of times and the worst of times.”
The championship season of 2009 could not have been better for Teixeira. He hit .292 with an American League-leading 39 home runs and 122 RBIs. He also brought the most sparkling defensive play to first base Yankee fans had seen since Don Mattingly retired after the 1995 season.
Teixiera finished second in the voting for the A.L. Most Valuable Player award while helping lead the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
His second season, however, was the worst of times.
Teixiera got off to his usual slow start. But this one was the worst of his career. On May 7, Teixiera was hitting .181 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. After briefly rebounding in May, Teixeira struggled to hit .250 in June.
At the All-Star break, Teixeira had raised his average to .254 with 17 home runs and 60 RBIs. So he was primed for a big second half and could still reach his usual targets in home runs and RBIs.
But his comeback in the second half was short-circuited by a right thumb injury he suffered diving for a ball in Chicago on Aug. 28 and a foul ball he hit off his left pinky toe on Sept. 1 in the Bronx in a game against Oakland.
Teixeira played through the pain in his thumb and his broken toe all through September. He probably would not have unless the Yankees did not need him for a pennant push. But he did and the result was disastrous.
Teixiera hit .220 from Sept. 1 on with just three home runs and 13 RBIs. Clearly, Teixiera was not the same player offensively leading into the playoffs and it showed. He hit a miserable .148 with a home run and 3 RBIs until a pulled hamstring in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series against the Rangers ended his season a game before the Yankees were eliminated themselves.
Bad times, indeed.
Teixeira ended the regular season with 33 home runs and 108 RBIs, the seventh straight season in which he had topped 30 homers and 100 RBIs. Only two other players have longer streaks: teammate Alex Rodriguez (13 seasons) and Albert Pujols (10 seasons).
But Teixiera ended up hitting .256, the lowest mark of his career. He is a career .286 hitter and had three seasons of hitting .300 or better. Clearly, 2010 was not a season to remember despite the fact Teixiera continued to play the exceptional defense he always has played.
In 149 games, Teixeira made only three errors all season and he collected his fourth Rawlings Gold Glove award in the past six seasons. His ability to scoop balls in the dirt and corral high throws also saved the Yankees’ infielders even more errors.
Shortstop Derek Jeter and second baseman Robinson Cano also won Gold Gloves, making this infield the most decorated infield in the history of baseball. The Yankees can claim either a reigning or former Gold Glove winner at every position in the infield, including catcher with the signing of Russell Martin.
Martin (2), Teixeira (4), Cano (1), Jeter (5) and Rodriguez (2, won as a shortstop) have a combined 14 Gold Gloves between them. This has to be considered one of the best defensive infields in baseball history despite the limited ranges between Jeter and Rodriguez. 
You can say two things: This infield does not beat itself with mistakes and they do not make errors on the balls to which they do reach. Tex, 30, was a huge part of that with his exceptional range at first and his ability to save throwing errors.
The only real question leading into the 2011 season is which type of season will Teixeira have at the plate. Will it be like 2009 or will be like 2010?
All we have to go on is reports from Teixeira that all the injuries have healed and he is in good shape heading into camp. You would have to give Teixeira the benefit of the doubt there because in his eight major-league seasons, he has played less than 145 games just once. In 2007 he played in only 132 games.
But with Teixeira turning 31 on April 11, he may begin to require an occasional day off here and there during the season. The Yankees need their No.3 hitter and defensive stalwart at first base healthy all season and throughout the playoffs to have any hope of winning their 28th world title.
In 2010 Teixeira was backed up originally by DH Nick Johnson. However, the historically brittle first baseman injured his wrist on May 7, required surgery and missed the rest of the season. He was released and he currently is a free agent.
The Yankees also used Cuban-born farmhand Juan Miranda at the position. But Miranda was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks this winter. And trade deadline acquisition Lance Berkman took over as the primary backup for most of the rest of the season.
After a successful last month and a strong playoff run, Berkman chose not to re-sign with the Yankees and signed instead with the St. Louis Cardinals for the 2011 season.
So the Yankees will use right-fielder Nick Swisher as a backup to Teixeira this season. Swisher played 20 games at the position in 2009 and six games in 2010. While his glovework will not remind anyone of Mattingly or Teixeira, Swisher has committed only one error at the position and there is certainly not much of a dropoff in offensive production when he plays first base.
The Yankees also plan to use former starting catcher and new DH Jorge Posada at the position this season. Posada has been inserted into 28 games as a first baseman in his career and he started 14 of them. Although he is not considered a good defender at first, he has made only one error at the position. 
His abilities as a hitter also make the position solid if Teixeira is out of the lineup. However, the Yankees can ill afford to have Teixeira injured for a long period of time. Swisher and Posada are best used as temporary stopgaps and as late-inning replacements.
The Yankees have no young minor-league prospects at this position with Miranda having been traded. So they invited third baseman Eric Chavez to camp as a non-roster invitee.
If Chavez, 33, makes the team it will be as a reserve third baseman and first baseman. Chavez is a former Oakland A’s All-Star and Gold Glove third baseman. In fact, he won the Gold Glove award at third base for six consecutive seasons from 2001-2006. 
However, he has not played a full season in the major
leagues since 2005. Back and neck injuries have limited him to just 64 games over the past three seasons. Chavez left Oakland to try to make it in a place where there was less pressure on him to succeed.
So he signed a minor-league contract that will pay him $1.5 million if he makes the Yankees’ Opening Day roster. Chavez just needs to prove he is healthy and he can still swing a bat. From 2001 to 2005 Chavez averaged 30 homers and 98 RBIs. Staring at those numbers, the Yankees were more than willing to give him a shot to make the team and prove he still can hit off the bench.
At the Triple-A level the Yankees have Jorge Vazquez. However, the 29-year-old native of Mexico does not look to have the same promise as Miranda did. At Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Vazquez hit .310 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs. But his age leaves him out the prospect discussion.
The Yankees are very weak at the first base position in the minors. The only other prospect here is Luke Murton, 24, who hit .282 with 12 home runs and 55 RBIs in 106 games with the Charleston River Dogs of the Class-A South Atlantic League. His .361 on-base percentage was very impressive and he should progress to Double-A Trenton this season.
But with Teixeira entrenched at first base for the next eight seasons, it unlikely the Yankees will be looking for a replacement real soon.

Cashman’s 2011 Moves Need To Be Better Than 2010

ORLANDO, FL – Brian Cashman is truly the New York Yankees’ version of the Teflon Man.
The team’s general manager since 1998, Cashman has outlasted any general manager in the George Steinbrenner era and he is in pretty cozy with the current Hank Steinbrenner regime.
His job is like that of circus performing plate spinner. Trying to keep negotiations going on many fronts at the same time. Sometimes, like in 2009, Cashman gets lucky. After signing CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to improve the pitching staff, Mark Teixeira’s wife suggested to her husband that he contact the Yankees if he really wanted to play for them.
That free agent haul spurred Cashman and the Yankees to their 27th world championship.
But then there are years like 2010. 
Cashman’s first big winter move was the acquisition of outfielder Curtis Granderson in a three-way trade with Detroit and Arizona that cost the Yankees starting pitcher Ian Kennedy, young outfielder Austin Jackson and left-handed reliever Phil Coke.
Granderson, 29, was dreadful out of the gate, got injured, stunk so more and rescued his season late by getting some tips from hitting coach Kevin Long. Granderson hit .249 in 2009, which spurred the Tigers to want to trade him. For the Yankees in 2010, Granderson hit .247.
The Yankees just hope the Granderson they saw in September (He hit .278 with nine home runs and 23 RBIs) is the real Granderson because they are stuck with him contractually for three more years.
In the meantime, Jackson nearly won the American League Rookie of the Year award. He hit .293 with four home runs and 41 RBIs and stole 27 bases as the team’s leadoff hitter. At age 23, Jackson has a very high upside.
Coke, 28, was 7-5 with a 3.76 ERA. But that does not tell the whole story. The Tigers were so pleased with Coke’s work out of the bullpen they are considering making him a starter next season. The Yankees big loss was Coke’s work out of the bullpen in 2009. They missed not having him in 2010.
Kennedy, 25, was 9-10 with an excellent 3.80 ERA with an offensively challenged Arizona Diamondbacks club. True, he might be one of those dreaded “National League pitchers.” But could he have been any worse than Javier Vazquez?
That brings us to Cashman’s other 2010 trade. He shipped Melky Cabrera and young left-hander Michael Dunn to the Atlanta Braves in return for Vazquez and lefty reliever Boone Logan. 
Vazquez was coming off a 15-10 season with the Braves. He finished fourth in the NL Cy Young Award voting. But Cashman made two big mistakes here.
No. 1: Cashman brought back the pitcher most associated with the disastrous 2004 ALCS series with the Boston Red Sox. Vazquez surrendered the grand slam home run to Johnny Damon and Yankee fans did not let him forget it.
No. 2: Cashman forgot that pitchers’ success in the National League does not translate to the American League. Vazquez was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and pitched less than 200 innings for only the second time since 1999. Both of those seasons Vazquez toiled for the Yankees.
To be fair to Cashman, he had no way of knowing that Vazquez would just lose his velocity on his fastball. But that is not unusual for a 34-year-old pitcher. Vazquez will not be back with the Yankees in 2010. For his sake, we hope he ends up on a team with a huge ballpark in the National League.
Cabrera was a disappointment in Atlanta. He hit .255 with four home runs and 42 RBIs. The Braves released him on Oct. 18. Meanwhile, Dunn was 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in 25 appearances with the Braves. Dunn was just packaged in a trade for Dan Uggla of the Florida Marlins. At age 25, he has a bright future as a left-handed reliever.
Cashman was just lucky that Logan did not pitch like he did in Atlanta. Logan was 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in 51 games with the Yankees. So basically the Dunn for Logan deal was a wash. Since Cabrera was released and Vazquez has pitched his way out of New York this is a deal that really helped neither club.
To really assess Cashman you have to look at his free-agent signings. Instead of the high-priced talent he sought in 2009, Cashman looked instead for some good picks among the low-hanging fruit.
To replace the eventual departures of Hideki Matsui, Johnny Damon, Eric Hinske and Jerry Hariston Jr., Cashman first signed oft-injured former Yankee Nick Johnson as a potential full-time DH.
Bad move.
Johnson didn’t even make it through the first week of spring training unscathed. He wore cleats to batting practice and they got stuck in the artificial surface around the batting cage and he wrenched his back.
Cashman should have seen that as a sign of what was to come. Johnson, 32, played in just 24 games before suffering yet another wrist injury that required surgery and shelved him for another season. Goodbye, Nick — again!
Cashman also signed veteran outfielder Randy Winn to compete with Brett Gardner for the left-field job Damon owned. Winn struggled all through spring training and he ended up being released after 61 at-bats in which he hit .213. 
Instead of a veteran utility infielder like Hairston, Cashman elected to stick with 25-year-old farmhand Ramiro Pena. Pena played good defense and he had some clutch RBIs among his 18 he drove in But he hit only .227.
Hairston hit .244 with 10 home runs and 50 RBis for a good Padres team. Meanwhile, Hinske hit .258 with 11 home runs and 58 RBis with the Braves, helping them to a wild-card spot.
So a fair assessment of Cashman’s 2010 winter moves was very, very poor. Instead of strengthening the Yankees in 2010, he made them weaker. Though he was eventually astute in allowing Damon and Matsui to walk as free agents, none of his off-season moves really made a major impact on the Yankees except for one.
His last addition to the team was to sign free-agent Marcus Thames as reserve outfielder and part-time DH. Though Thames struggled in spring training and he missed a month with a ankle injury, he provided power off the bench against left-handers. Thames hit .288 with 12 home runs and 33 RBIs.
Many of his home runs came in a stretch in August where Alex Rodriguez was injured and Thames provided the punch the Yankees needed until Rodriguez returned.
The only salvation to Cashman’s 2010 season besides Thames was his trade deadline moves to acquire reliever Kerry Wood, DH Lance Berkman and outfielder Austin Kearns. Wood was sensational as a setup man for Mariano Rivera.
Berkman, after he recovered from an ankle injury, actually provided clutch hitting down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Kearns, however, was a bust. In 102 at-bats with the Yankees, Kearns struck out 38 times. That means
he struck out just over one out of every three at-bats in pinstripes. He is free-agent this winter and he will not be re-signed by the Yankees.
So how does Cashman keep his job?
He signs Cliff Lee, gets Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera back into the fold and convince Andy Pettitte to pitch one more season. He also will likely add some arms the rotation and bullpen and pick up a few spare parts for the bench.
Cashman has proven that you are only as good as your last move. The good news is most Yankee fans have forgotten the dreadful moves he made last winter. They don’t seem to blame him for the loss in the ALCS to the Rangers.
That is Cashman’s true gift. A real Teflon Man.

CC’s Grit And Yankees’ Guile Force Texas Into Game 6


It was not pretty. In fact, as victories go this one was just about as gloomy as the weather in the Bronx on Wednesday afternoon.
But ace left-hander CC Sabathia and the Bombers will take their backs-to-the-wall 7-2 victory over the Texas Rangers that forces a Game 6 in Arlington, TX, on Friday night.
Sabathia (1-0) may have been less than Cy Young worthy this postseason, but he battled and fought the Rangers for seven tough innings. He gave up two runs on 11 hits while walking none and striking out seven.
The big difference between the Rangers of the last three games was they failed to get any extra-base hits, they hit into two double plays and they had another runner picked off. On the night the Rangers were a 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position.
Sabathia’s last two innings of work were symbolic of the Rangers’ struggles to get the key hits they seemingly dialed up at will the past three games.
The Rangers were trailing 5-0 when backup catcher Matt Treanor lofted a fly ball into left-field that carried into the seats. Mitch Moreland followed with a single. After Elvis Andrus struck out, Michael Young battled Sabathia for a single into right.
The Yankee fans that dominated the 49,832 in attendance all of s sudden were nervous as Roy Hobbs, er huh, Mickey Mantle, er huh, Josh Hamilton strode to the plate. If any one player in the Rangers’ lineup has sucked the life out of the defending world champions it has been this modern-day Dr. Jack Kevorkian with a Louisville Slugger.
But, alas, on this night, “The Natural” grounded into an inning-ending double play. 
In the sixth, Sabathia worked his way into another huge jam, despite the Yankees getting him a run back in the bottom of the fifth that made it 5-1.
With one out, David Murphy started a conga line of runners with a single to right. Ian Kinsler and Jeff Francouer followed with singles of their own to load the bases.
Manager Joe Girardi, showing how important the situation was, ordered Kerry Wood to start throwing in the bullpen.
But, with Yankee fans bundled up in the cold, saying their prayers and gritting their teeth, Sabathia induced Moreland to bounce out to Alex Rodriguez for the second out, although Murphy managed to score on the slow roller.
Then Sabathia battled Moreland in a tense eight-pitch at-bat in which the rookie Rangers first baseman ended up watching strike three whisper high and inside. If the Yankees were indeed on life support, they got some breathing room with that big out.
It also seemed to take starch out of the Rangers.
In the last two innings, Sabathia gave up two runs on six hits and threw 55 pitches. But, like the pillar of strength he has been all season, he bent but never broke.
The Yankees offense this series pretty much has consisted of one player: Robinson Cano. Everybody else has been in need of the Heimlach Maneuver. The prospect of playing Game 5 and the rest of the postseason without an injured Mark Teixeira did not really lighten the dire mood either.
But he Yankees were fortunate enough to get a wild and unhinged C.J. Wilson (0-1). Unlike his impressive series-opening performance, Wilson showed pretty early he would need a road map, a GPS, a compass and floodlights to find the strike zone and the Yankees took advantage.
In the second inning, Wilson walked Rodriguez and Teixeira’s replacement Lance Berkman on four pitches, sandwiched by one out. Jorge Posada made Wilson pay for his wildness by lacing an 2-0 pitch for a single to left that scored Rodriguez.
Curtis Granderson followed with a lined single to left to score Berkman and then the Rangers started treating the baseball like a hand grenade. Right-fielder Jeff Francouer, attempting to throw out Posada at third, air-expressed his throw over Young’s head.
Posada unwisely tried to make it home even though Young had caught the ball on a carom and had him dead to rights at home plate. However, Young’s throw home similarly sailed over Treanor’s head and Posada gave the Yankees an early 3-0 cushion.
The Yankees added to their lead in the third inning when Nick Swisher and Cano greeted Wilson with back-to-back home runs to start the inning. For Cano, it was his fourth home run of the series.
The Yankees added another run off Wilson in the fifth. They loaded the bases with one out on a leadoff walk to Swisher, Rodriguez smacked a ground-rule double to left-center and the Rangers elected to walk Marcus Thames in order to face Berkman.
Bad idea.
Though Berkman has struggled against left-handers batting right-handed all season, he delivered a long sacrifice fly to center that scored Swisher. That made the score 6-2.
Wilson gave up six runs on six hits and four walks and he struck two in his five innings of work. Three of the four batters he walked eventually scored.
Wilson was 15-8 with a 3.35 ERA in the regular season, but in his five starts against the Yankees (three in the regular season and two in this series) he is 0-2 with a 5.81 ERA.
Granderson capped the Yankees’ scoring in the eighth with a one-out line-drive home run to right-center off rookie reliever Alexi Ogando.
The Yankees, taking no chances in the final three innings, turned the game over to Wood and Mariano Rivera. Wood pitched two scoreless innings, striking three and picking off Andrus at second base for his second pickoff of the series.
Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth and the Yankees lived to fight another day.
But do not get too carried away with this victory. The Yankee offense still could improve. Despite the victory they were 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees hope to shake some more cobwebs off their bats on the trip to Arlington. The patient is beginning to show some signs of life. Don’t tell Dr. Kervorkian.

The Yankees are working out at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington today. Trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven series, the Yankees will turn to 18-game winner and All-Star right-hander Phil Hughes to get them even in the series.
Hughes (0-1) was blasted for seven runs on 10 hits and three walks in four-plus innings last Saturday. Before that, he had pitched 15 1/3 scoreless innings against the Rangers in Arlington. The one big statistic in Hughes’ favor is that he never lost two starts in a row during the regular season.
His opponent again will be right-hander Colby Lewis (1-0). Lewis pitched a solid, but not dominant, 5 2/3 innings against the Yankees in Game 2, giving up two runs on six hits and three walks and fanning six batters. Despite the fact Lewis threw a wild pitch, hit a batter and lacked command at times, the Yankees were 1-for-11 with runners in scoring position.
In order to beat Lewis to win the game and force a Game 7, the Yankees will have to do better in that category. The Yankees are a dreadful 8-for-50 (.160) with RISP in the series.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by TBS.

Perception Yankees Tanked A.L. East May Be Wrong

There is a perception that the Yankees deliberately lost games in order to face the Twins in the American League Division Series.
Of course, if it were true it worked like a charm. The Yankees entered the ALDS as the wild card and played the Twins, who seem to play the Yankees like they are in such awe they are eliminated before they even realize the national anthem is over.
Meanwhile, the first-place Rays of the A.L. East were left to have to battle the A.L.. West champion Texas Rangers and Cliff Lee. The Yankees seem to hit Lee as if they do not realize the national anthem is over, too.
So while the Twins were being swept out of the playoffs like a dust mite and the Yankees were a Hoover vacuum, the Rays and Rangers were left tied at two games apiece and both team’s aces (Lee and David Price) will pitch Tuesday night to determine which team will face a well-rested Yankee team.
Lee or Price, depending on which team wins, will be limited top pitching Game 3 and Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. The Yankees, meanwhile, have their rotation set up with CC Sabathia, Andy Pettitte and Phil Hughes ready to pitch in the same order.
However, I am not so sure the Yankees really did throw the opportunity to finish in first place as much it was manager Joe Girardi and the organization determining that September was a time to get their players healthy for the playoffs.
Remember the Yankees entered September with a significant number of injuries. 
Alex Rodriguez, Lance Berkman and Pettitte were each on the disabled list. But, in addition, the Yankees had some walking wounded like Mark Teixeira, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner.
Berkman was activated Sept. 3 and Rodriguez was activated on Sept. 5. Pettitte was activated on Sept. 19 and he made three tune-up starts to prepare him for the playoffs.
Teixeira played most of September despite two injuries: a sore left thumb that made it hard for him to hit and a broken little toe on his right foot, which also affected his swing.
Swisher missed seven starts in the field and had to DH twice due to recurring inflammation in his left knee. Swisher fouled a ball off his left knee in August and spent nearly a month trying to rehab the injured knee, which affected his swing and hurt his mobility in the outfield.
Gardner also has had recurring issues with his left wrist and thumb. Gardner broke his thumb last season and missed two months of the season. It never has properly healed. This season Gardner revealed his wrist also was bothering him.
Both issues cropped back up and Gardner sat out four games in September at the same time Swisher was out of the lineup. That means for four games the Yankees were without two-thirds of their starting outfield.
In addition, Girardi was obligated to continue to rest Jorge Posada two games each week to keep his 39-year-old body ready for the postseason.
Girardi also was dealing with a starting lineup that featured two everyday players well over 30: Derek Jeter and Rodriguez. They required regular rest. In Rodriguez’s case it was because of his hip surgery in 2009 as well as his calf injury.
In Jeter’s case it was less about health that it was about a terrible slump at the plate. Girardi hoped by resting Jeter some in September, he would come around with the bat.
The starting rotation, already minus Pettitte, was also dealing with issues since Pettitte’s injury in July. The most important ones were the ineffectiveness of A.J. Burnett and Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez was removed from the rotation in September and replaced by 23-year-old rookie Ivan Nova. Burnett was left in the rotation but he continued to struggle.
There also was an innings limit placed on Hughes, which forced the team to skip him a few starts in September. The Yankees used Dustin Moseley to replace him and he was inconsistent at best in those starts.
Nova showed promise in his early starts but he continued to struggle the second time through the batting order and had to be removed from games early because of rising pitch counts. 
The flux in the starting rotation forced Girardi to use his bullpen more than he ever had all season. It also took a toll in September. The overwork ended up taxing the staff and they, in turn, were ineffective at times.
It is no wonder that the Yankees from Sept. 6 through the end of the season recorded a record of 9-17, given all the injuries, the flux in starting rotation and the overuse of the bullpen.
Girardi had to make a choice heading into the last week of the season: Do I continue to play my starters, run out my best pitchers and continue to use up my bullpen to win the division. Or do try to win these games the best I can while resting players and not taxing the bullpen and keep an eye on getting the rotation ready for the postseason.
He did the latter and it has paid off.
The Yankees entered the playoffs as healthy as they have been in months. To be sure, Teixeira, Swisher, Gardner and Rodriguez feel tweaks every now and again. But, by and large, they are all able to perform at their best when it counts.
It also worked wonders for Pettitte to make sure his groin injury and subsequent back issues were not a problem when he faced Minnesota.
The same can be said for Hughes, who looked refreshed and renewed in pitching seven dominant innings to put the Yankees into the championship round. It could arguably be called the best start of his young career.
So the pundits and critics can still keep harping on Girardi and the Yankees for deliberately losing the A.L. East in order to avoid Cliff Lee. 
The truth is that the rest the injured and the veterans received in September allowed the Yankees to get well at just the right time and put their best foot forward in the playoffs. Isn’t that what is really important anyway?

Berkman, Pettitte Lead Yankees To Win Over Cursed  Twins


When Andy Pettitte joined the Houston Astros as a free agent he became good friends with Lance Berkman. When Berkman agreed to waive his no-trade clause to join the New York Yankees on July 31, Berkman quickly renewed his friendship with Pettitte.
On Thursday night the two friends wreaked havoc on the Minnesota Twins and put the defending champions to within one game of their second straight American League Championship Series.
Pettitte (1-0) took care of the pitching. 
He gave up two runs on only five hits and one walk and struck out four batters in seven innings of masterful work. Pettitte also increased his major-league-leading postseason win total to 19 games.
Even better than that, he silenced doubters throughout the media who said he could not be counted upon to pitch effectively with only three tune-up starts after coming off the disabled list with a groin injury.
Berkman took care of the clutch hitting.
With the game tied at one and with one out in the fifth inning, Berkman connected off Twins’ starter Carl Pavano for a long majestic opposite field blast into the Twins’ bullpen in left-center. The home run was the seventh postseason home run for Berkman and his first since 2005.
Unfortunately for Berkman and Pettitte, Twins second baseman Orlando Hudson dialed it up a solo home run of his own with one out in the sixth inning. To say Pettitte was shocked is putting it mildly. Hudson has only 86 career home runs in nine seasons and he hit only six this season.
The blast to left was only Hudson’s second postseason home run. In other words, Albert Pujols has nothing to worry about.
Berkman merely shook off the setback and went to work in the seventh inning. Jorge Posada opened the inning by drawing Pavano’s only walk. It cost Pavano dearly, too.
Berkman quickly fell behind Pavano in the count 1-2. Pavano then threw the most controversial pitch of the evening. Pavano’s two-seam or sinking fastball went whistling toward the inside corner and home-plate umpire Hunter Wendelstedt called it a ball.
Pavano, manager Ron Gardenhire and the rest of the Twins thought they had strike three. But now the count was 2-2. Pavano then tried a change-up but Berkman merely waited for it and smashed it over the head of Denard Span in center-field for a double to score Posada from first with what proved to be the game-winning run.
Gardenhire then went to the mound, ostensibly to talk to Pavano. But his real reason was to induce Wendelstedt to break up the conference on the mound so Gardenhire could light into him for the missed strike call. Wendelstedt, as is his duty when a manager argues balls and strikes, ended Gardenhire’s evening by dismissing him from the game.
A note about the umpiring: To be fair to Wendelstedt, he did not call inside corner strikes for either team throughout the game. The TBS network pitch tracker showed that time after time during the game. Wendelstedt did, however, give Pavano and Pettitte leeway on the outside corner. 
I doubt this fact is of much consolation for the Twins fans who made up the vast majority of the Target Field record crowd of 42,305.
Play then resumed with a bunt single by Brett Gardner to move Berkman to third. Derek Jeter then scored Berkman with a bloop RBI single to right.
That ended the evening for the Yankees’ former malingering right-hander, Pavano (0-1). He pitched six-plus innings and gave up four runs on 10 hits and a walk and he struck out three.
The Yankees changed their usual approach on hitting Pavano by trying to swing at fastballs early in the count rather than let Pavano use his breaking pitches in deeper counts.
The strategy paid off and Pettitte and the Yankees have now defeated Pavano in two straight ALDS games. Pettitte outdueled Pavano in Game 3 of the 2009 ALDS as the Yankees swept the Twins.
Payback is a b—-, huh, Carl?
The Yankees added an insurance run in the ninth when Curtis Granderson blooped a single into center off Twins closer Matt Capps to plate Gardner from third. It was Granderson’s third hit of the night and he is hitting a robust .500 in the series.
The Yankees bullpen, which has been a pillar of strength for the Yankees in the second half of the season, came through again to shut down the Twins in the final two frames.
Kerry Wood struck out two batters while pitching a perfect eighth and Mariano Rivera  . . .  excuse me  . . .  yawn!  . . .  came in and put the Twins to sleep for the second straight evening with a scoreless ninth aided by a double play off the bat of Delmon Young that Rivera started himself.
Rivera notched his second save of the series and he now has major-league-best 41 career postseason saves.
The Yankees have now defeated the Twins in 11 of their last 13 postseason meetings dating back to 2003 and they also have won an astounding 10 postseason games in a row from this sad lot from Minneapolis. The Twins have also never beaten the Yankees in Minnesota, whether it be the Metrodome or the new Target Field.
Pettitte, making his major-league-best 41st career postseason start, extended his majors-topping postseason innings pitched total to 256. In giving up a sacrifice fly to Danny Valencia in the second inning that gave the Twins a 1-0 lead, Pettitte started a streak of 12 batters in a row he retired until Hudson touched him for his home run the sixth.
Their Twins are now in a serious 0-2 hole as the best-of-five series now shifts to the Bronx for Game 3 on Saturday. Of the 19 teams that have gained a 2-0 lead in the ALDS, 15 of them have won the series (79%).
In order to change the luck of the Twins on Thursday, Gardenhire reportedly burned everything he wore in Wednesday’s game  — even his underwear and shoes. I hope he doesn’t burn down Target Field to break this wicked playoff curse the Yankees hold on the Twins.
What can we call it? Hmmm! How about Curse of the Pav-bino?
The Yankees, who now sit in the driver’s seat in this ALDS, will look to put the pedal to metal on Saturday with the keys going to right-hander Phil Hughes (18-8, 4.19 ERA). Hughes did not face the Twins this season and he has a 1-1 mark with a 5.25 ERA in postseason play. But that work was all as a reliever.
The Twins will look to break the Curse of the Pav-bino behind left-hander Brian Duensing (10-3, 2.62 ERA). Duensing did not become a starter for the Twins until July 23. He was 7-2 with a 3.05 ERA in 13 starts. He is 0-1 with a 9.64 ERA in the postseason and he was the losing pitcher in Game 1 of the 2009 of the ALDS against the Yankees.
While they are in the Northeast, maybe the Twins can seek out Connecticut Republican Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell to whip up a satanic ritual to rid them of this curse. It could not hurt.
Game-time will be 8:30 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by TBS.

Injuries Short-Circuit Tex’s Second-Half Surge At Plate

With the end of the season it is time to hand out the final report cards for the New York Yankees for 2010. The Yankees reached the halfway point with the best record in baseball but with much promise to even improve in the second half. But some key injuries and some inconsistency with the starting pitchers dragged this team down a few notches. They qualified as a wild card but to defend their 2009 title they will have to dig deep. Here are the grades:


Mark Teixeira (33 HRs, 108 RBIs, .256 Avg.)

In 2009, Mark Teixeira was the second-best player in the American League, according to the writers who voted Joe Mauer the league’s Most Valuable Player. Tex finished second in the voting after a season in which he hit 39 home runs, drove in a league-best 122 runs and hit .292.
Despite a 2010 season in which he hit just six fewer home runs and drove in 14 less runs, Teixeira won’t likely garner a single MVP vote this season.
The reason is that his habitually slow start with the bat extended well into May and Teixeira ended up hitting a paltry .256, some 30 points below his career .286 average. Even Teixeira would admit that he was disappointed in his performance this season.
One area of concern is that Teixiera hit only .247 batting left-handed this season and opposing managers actually kept right-handers in to face him and Alex Rodriguez this season. That is something that did not happen often in 2009.
The 30-year-old first baseman did hit a respectable .273 with runners in scoring position and he batted a ridiculous .533 with the bases loaded. But somehow it seemed that in key situations, when the Yankees really needed a hit, Teixiera did not come through as consistently as he had in the past.
Fortunately, for Yankee fans, Teixeira contributes so much more than hits and home runs. Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman in baseball and he had another stellar season with the glove this season.
Teixeira committed only three errors at first base and he boasts the largest range of any first baseman in baseball. Getting a ball past him is tough to do. In addition, Teixeira cuts down on errors by taking balls to the bag rather than flipping to the pitcher and by his amazing dexterity at scooping balls in the infield.
Robinson Cano made only three errors, Derek Jeter committed only six and Alex Rodriguez was charged with seven. One of the reasons this infield commits so few errors is because Teixeira saves so many with his ability to catch anything close to him.
Teixeira is simply the best fielding first baseman the Yankees have had since Teixeira’s hero Don Mattingly. So, low batting average or not, Teixeira still contributed greatly to the Yankees’ success.
What really hurt Teixeira’s season was a pair of injuries he suffered with a few days each other in late August. In a game at Chicago, Teixeira jammed his left thumb diving for a foul ball. A few days later he was struck by a pitch on his right little toe. He has been playing with a broken toe ever since.
Though Teixiera said the toe and thumb injuries did not inhibit him in any way, his .220 average with three home runs and 13 RBIs after Sept. 1 tell a different story. In the previous two months Teixiera produced 17 home runs and 47 RBIs while hitting .316.
So Teixeira enters the playoffs with a huge question mark. The Yankees count on him for power and production in the No. 3 spot in the batting order and they have not been getting it lately.
Teixeira received a grade of C for his first half, largely because he hit .243. His second half surge was well under way when suffered those two injuries. It likely cost him an A for the second half. He gets a B- for his second half.
But the overall grade of C+ is disappointing to him and to the Yankees. His A+ fielding could not make up for the long droughts at he plate.
In the first half of the season the Yankees used Nick Johnson at first base to spell Texeira for two games. But a season-ending wrist injury took Johnson out the equation at first base. So Nick Swisher filled in there for game. Juan Miranda was called up from the minors and he started there for four games.
But the Yankees acquired Lance Berkman at the trade deadline as a DH and part-time first baseman and he started there in seven games. Teixiera started 148 games at first, which is down from last season largely due to the thumb and toe injuries.
Neither Berkman, Swisher or Miranda can come anywhere near Teixeira’s prowess in the field and only Swisher can match his production at the plate. But they all provided adequate backup for the veteran first baseman.
Miranda. 27, likely will not make the playoff roster. Berkman and Swisher will back up Teixeira in the playoffs. Miranda hit .285 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre with 14 home runs and 65 RBIs in 80 games. He split time with Jorge Vazquez, 28, who hit .270 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs in 78 games. 
Neither Miranda or Vazquez are considered long-term major-league prospects given their age. Both obviously are blocked by Teixeira, who has six years remaining on his contract. 

Teixeira said that his broken toe likely would not heal until after the season is over. That is too bad because the Yankees need Teixeira’s bat in the playoffs. The ill-timed injuries spoiled a nice comeback second half for him.
The Yankees know they can count on Tex to field his position. He simply is the best in baseball and that won’t change despite the injury. But his production at the plate is sorely needed and the Yankees have to hope he provides it.
No matter what happens in October, Teixeira knows he must do a lot better in 2011 than he did this season. The late starts are okay as long they come with great finishes. This season there was no late kick and the Yankees really needed it in September.