TWINS 6, YANKEES 1
TAMPA – When Robinson Cano returned from the World Baseball Classic to the Yankees’ clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field he must have looked around and said to himself “Who are these guys?” Cano and “those guys” then proceeded on Thursday to lose to a team of nobodies on the Twins.
Drew Butera hit a bases-clearing double as part of a five-run fourth inning and Liam Hendriks gave up one unearned run in four innings of one-hit baseball as Minnesota embarrassed New York in front of a paid crowd of 10,698.
Phelps (2-3), who is vying to be the fifth starter this spring, could not locate any of his pitches and he was hammered for six hits, he walked three and he struck out six in 3 2/3 innings until he was mercifully removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi.
Hendriks (2-1) gave up the Yankees’ lone run in the fourth inning when Cano picked up the team’s first hit with a single. After Kevin Youkilis walked, left-fielder Joe Benson misplayed Travis Hafner’s opposite field fly ball to allow Cano to score.
With the loss the Yankees are now 10-16 in Grapefruit League play. The Twins, minus Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau, improved to 12-12.
- Cano returned to the lineup and was 1-for-2 with a run scored. He better get used to being the team’s lone contributor this season because that was the only hit the Yankees picked up in the entire game.
- Mariano Rivera gave up a leadoff single in the fifth inning and then he got serious and struck out Benson, Butera and Pedro Florimon in succession to end the inning. It may be comforting for Yankee fans to Rivera in the closer’s role for one last season. It is hard to see how he will have many games to save the way the team is playing now.
- One would guess that in only getting one hit that the players are now well rested and ready to get a few more hits on Friday.
- In his first four starts, Phelps was sailing along with a 2.37 ERA. In his last two starts, he has given up nine runs on 13 hits and four walks in 8 2/3 innings. His battle to unseat Ivan Nova as the No. 5 starter appears to be in great jeopardy at the moment.
- Players always say when they don’t hit a certain pitcher that you have to “tip your cap to them.” Well, the Yankees have been tipping their cap to a lot of ordinary pitchers this spring. Hendriks was 1-8 with a 5.59 ERA in 16 starts with the Twins last season. Cole De Vries and Pedro Hernandez no-hit them over the final five innings. The sad thing is the Yankees were playing what will be most of their Opening Day lineup if Derek Jeter starts the season on the disabled list.
- In addition to his shoddy pitching, Phelps did not help himself with a pair of poor pickoff throws. He was charged with just one error because the other error was charged to Cano. But Phelps allowed the Twins to force him into making a lot of mistakes and he paid for them.
General manager Brian Cashman said Thursday that Jeter will not play in any more spring training games to allow the team to be able to backdate him to the earliest date should he be placed on the disabled list to start the season. Jeter will play in minor-league games so the team could have him available for an April 6 game against the Detroit Tigers. Jeter is recovering from surgery to repair a fractured left ankle and he suffered a setback this week which required him to receive cortisone injection to alleviate soreness in the ankle. The Yankees are still hopeful Jeter will be able to play on Opening Day.
The Yankees will a complete a home-and-home short series against the Twins with a road visit to Fort Myers, FL, on Friday.
Nova, who is 1-0 with a 3.21 ERA his four spring starts, will pitch for the Yankees. He will be opposed by the world famous Vance Worley, who figures to be the Twins’ Opening Day starter. If Worley no-hits the Yankees it will be time for Yankee fans to panic.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. and the game will not be broadcast. That could spare the Yankees a lot of public embarrassment.
YANKEES 6, TWINS 3
Whenever manager Ron Gardenhire sees Andy Pettitte scheduled to pitch against his Twins he must cringe. After all, Pettitte last lost to the Twins in 2001 in a complete game he lost to Brad Radke 2-1.
Monday was no different for Pettitte and the Yankees took a little target practice at the outfield seats at Target Field.
In his second game back after coming off the disabled list, Pettitte threw six shutout innings and four Yankees hit home runs as New York extended its lead in the American League East by defeating Minnesota in front of paid crowd of 33,720.
Pettitte (5-3) scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out three batters to extend his record his against the Twins to 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts against them dating back to the 2009 season.
Meanwhile, the Yankee offense staked him to a first-inning lead against rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8) when Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki doubled to to right field.
One out later, Robinson Cano scored Jeter with an infield grounder and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run blast into the second deck in right-center, his 23rd home run of the season and the first of the four-homer deluge the Yankees put on the Twins. It was the most home runs the Twins have given up in a game all season.
With one out in the fourth inning, Curtis Granderson took Hendriks deep for his 40th home run of the season, becoming the only player in the major leagues who has has hit 40 or more home runs the past two seasons. He also is the fifth Yankee player to hit 40 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.
Raul Ibanez led off the seventh inning with a tape=measure blast down the right-field line and into the third deck of the stadium for his 18th home run of the season and his third in his past three games.
One-out later, Eric Chavez lined an opposite-field shot just out of the reach of left-fielder Josh Willingham for his 14th home run of the season and Hendriks’ evening was mercifully ended with him trailing 6-0.
Hendriks was tagged for eight hits, he walked one batter and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.
Though Petitte was far from perfect – he had only two 1-2-3 innings – he managed to get out of trouble on ground balls, a strikeout and with a great defensive play by Granderson.
Pettitte gave up a pair of singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to start the first inning and he walked Willingham with one out o load the bases. But he escaped any damage by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to bounce into a forceout.
Span and Mauer singled and were on first and third with one out in the third but Pettitte induced Willingham to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the fourth, Doumit hit a one-out double to center and with two out Jamey Carroll singled up the middle. Granderson charged the ball in shallow center and fired it on one-hop home to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Doumit on the left shoulder before he could reach home plate.
The Twins ruined the shutout in the eighth when rookie Pedro Florimon hit his first major-league home run off reliever Cory Wade.
They added two runs in the ninth after left-hander Justin Thomas gave up a one-out single to Morneau and walked Doumit. David Robertson came in to strike out Trevor Plouffe but pinch-hitter Chris Parmalee cracked a triple off the wall in center to score both runners.
Robertson then ended the contest by getting Florimon to ground out to Cano at second.
The Yankees have now won 26 of their last 33 games against the Twins and, combined with the Baltimore Orioles’ split of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, they now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division with eight games left to play.
The Yankees season record is now 89-64. The Twins fell to 64-90.
- In his two starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 and he has held the opposition scoreless over 11 innings, giving up 11 hits and three walks while striking out six. Pettitte will have one more start before the playoffs and he would be in line to start either a tie-breaker game or the wild-card playoff game, if necessary.
- Jeter’s singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is 30-for-81 (.370) with a home run and 11 RBIs in those 16 contests. Suzuki’s double in the first extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over than span, Suzuki is 16-for-30 (.533) with two home runs, four doubles and five RBIs. With Jeter and Suzuki at the top of the order the Yankees have been rolling.
- After looking absolutely lost at the plate for most of the past month, Ibanez looks to be coming out of his long slump with a flourish. In the past three games, Ibanez is 7-for-12 (.583) with three home runs and five RBIs.
I could quibble about the Yankees giving up three runs late but Wade and Thomas are two pitchers who will not be on the team’s playoff roster. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to rest Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Robertson, but he was forced to bring in Robertson in the ninth. That was the only real negative.
Mark Teixiera took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases at half-speed at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, on Monday as he tries to recover from a Grade 1 strain of his left calf. Though general manager Brian Cashman targeted Thursday for Teixeira’s return, Girardi expressed concern about playing Teixeira on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto. . . . Veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma was with the team on Monday and he could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Aardsma, 30, has not pitched not pitched in the major leagues since he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2011 and he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in February. Aardsma recorded 31 saves for the Mariners in 2010 after saving 38 games with a 2.53 ERA in 2009. . . . Chavez was highly critical of the current members of his former Oakland Athletics club and their antics over the weekend. Chavez was not happy with the way the team was celebrating in the visitor’s dugout after they hit three home runs to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th inning of Saturday’s game. Chavez called the display immature and unprofessional. The Yankees, however, had the last laugh by scoring four runs in the bottom of the 13th before scoring the winning run in the 14th on a bases-loaded error.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series in Minneapolis with the Twins on Tuesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (16-12) will start for the Yankees. Hughes earned his third straight victory, despite giving up four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his last start. Hughes is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA lifetime against the Twins, including a victory against them on April 19 in which he gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Vasquez, 28, has failed to turn in quality start in any of his four outings this season, including his last start against the Cleveland Indians. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.