Tagged: Lou Gehrig

A-Rod’s Slam Delivers Knockout Blow To Twins

GAME 118

YANKEES 8, TWINS 4

Great Major-League players soar to amazing peaks and yet they also can sink to some really deep valleys. The valley Alex Rodriguez was in entering Tuesday’s game was approaching the width of the Grand Canyon, having not gotten a hit in 18 at-bats and riding a 3-for-39 slide until he came to the plate in the seventh inning.

All of that changed with one big swing.

Rodriguez laced a 1-0 fastball into the Yankees bullpen in right-center for his 25th career grand slam to lead New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota in front of 38,007 fans at Yankee Stadium.

Rodriguez’s 25th home run of the season and his first since his 40th birthday on July 27 came off right-hander T.J. Graham (0-1), who had inherited a bases-loaded, one-out jam from left-hander Ryan O’Rourke.

O’Rourke entered the seventh protecting a 4-1 Twins lead but Chase Headley led off with a pinch-hit single and Brendan Ryan drew a walk on a 3-2 pitch. One out later, O’Rourke also walked Brett Gardner on a 3-2 pitch to set the stage for Rodriguez’s heroics.

Rodriguez already had passed former Yankee great Lou Gehrig for the most career grand slams with No. 24 on Sept. 20, 2013 against the San Francisco Giants. No. 25 put the Yankees in the lead for the first time since the fourth inning and received a fevered request for a curtain call from the crowd, which Rodriguez obliged.

The Yankees added three more runs in the bottom of the eighth inning off Graham to pad their lead to four runs. Headley keyed the rally with a two-run double and Jacoby Ellsbury added an RBI single.

Rookie right-hander Nick Rumbelow (1-0), who was just called up from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre earlier in the day, allowed an RBI single in the seventh but completed the inning by striking out Aaron Hicks to earn his first Major-League victory.

Left-hander Andrew Miller pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and struck out three to earn his 27th save in 28 chances this season.

The game began as a pitcher’s duel between Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia and Twins right-hander Mike Pelfrey.

Sabathia opened the game by throwing 4 1/3 innings of perfect baseball and he held a 1-0 lead after a one-out ground-rule double in the fourth off the bat of Carlos Beltran and the first Major-League RBI on a single by Greg Bird, who was in the lineup replacing an injured Mark Teixeira.

However, Sabathia allowed a one-out free pass to Trevor Plouffe in the fifth. One out later, Eduardo Escobar singled to right and Kurt Suzuki followed with a double down the left-field line that scored Plouffe.

However, Escobar was thrown out at the plate on a perfect relay from Garder in left to shortstop Didi Gregorius to catcher Brian McCann, who tagged Escobar for the final out of the inning.

The game remained tied until the top of the seventh when Sabathia issued a leadoff walk to Joe Mauer and Miguel Sano hit his next offering into the first row of the left-field bleachers for his ninth home run of the season and his third against the Yankees.

After Sabathia retired the next two batters, Escobar and Suzuki chased him from the contest with a pair of singles. Shane Robinson then greeted Rumbelow with an RBI single that extended the Twins’ lead to 4-1.

Sabathia, 35, was charged with four runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out five batters in 6 2/3 innings. Sabathia has not won a game since July 8 at home against the Oakland Athletics, a stretch of six starts.

Pelfrey, 31, was charged with one run on five hits and one walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

The Yankees have rebounded from a five-game losing streak to have posted five victories in their past six games. They are now 66-52 on the season and they have maintained their one-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Toronto Blue Jays.

The Twins have fallen under .500 to 59-60.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia did pitch well but the Yankees never seem to score runs until after he leaves the game. It happened again on Tuesday. Though Sabathia is 4-9 with a 5.23 ERA, he has a 3.38 ERA in his past three starts. He also pitched deep into the seventh inning on a night the Yankees needed length from their starter after rookie right-hander Bryan Mitchell left Monday’s game with a nasal fracture in the second inning.
  • Rodriguez has always seemed to thrive on the big stage in the Bronx, NY, and he did again on Tuesday. It is not clear of his prolonged slump is over but he came up with a huge game-winning hit just when it was needed. With Teixeira nursing a bruised right shin the Yankees need Rodriguez to provide power and drive in runs. Though his season average has fallen to .261, he is second on the team in homers (25) and third in RBIs (67).
  • Headley came off the bench in the seventh and provided a single that began the four-run uprising in the inning and then he added a two-run double in the eighth to extend the lead to 7-4. Since the All-Star break, Headley os batting .327 with one home run and 20 RBIs. His clutch hitting has been overshadowed by McCann, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Beltran but he has been producing a lot under the radar.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Just as they did last night with right-hander Kyle Gibson, the Yankees allowed Pelfrey to lull their bats to sleep with a steady diet of breaking pitches. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Twins eventually have to use their bullpen and it is a powder keg just awaiting a spark. In the past two nights, the Yankees are 12-for-32 (.375) against Twins relievers and they scored 10 runs on them in seven innings.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees placed Mitchell, 24, on the seven-day concussion disabled list after he sustained a small nasal fracture on a line drive off the bat of Eduardo Nunez in the second inning of Monday’s 8-7 victory in 10 innings. In addition the Yankees also optioned right-hander Caleb Cotham, 27, to Scranton and recalled Rumbelow and selected the contract of left-hander Chris Capuano from the same club. Manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Tuesday that it is possible that Mitchell could pitch in seven days depending how his recovery goes.  . . .  Teixeira, 35, was held out the lineup on Tuesday with a sore right leg after he fouled a pitch off himself in the sixth inning on Monday. Both X-rays and a CT scan indicate Teixeira has a deep shin bone bruise. But Girardi said it is unlikely to result in Teixeira being placed on the disabled list. Bird, 22, started in his place on Tuesday and was 2-for-4 with an RBI.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the Twins in their three-game home series with a victory on Wednesday.

Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (12-2, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees riding an eight-game winning streak. Eovaldi yielded four runs on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against the Cleveland Indians on Thursday.

The Twins will counter with veteran right-hander Ervin Santana (2-3, 5.66 ERA). Santana, 32, was rocked for five runs on eight hits and two walks in six innings in a no-decision against the Texas Rangers on Friday.

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

 

Yankees Sweep O’s As Early Big Lead Aids Tanaka

GAME 94

YANKEES 9, ORIOLES 4

The 1927 Yankees with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig were also characterized by the term “Five O’Clock Lightning” because somewhere around that time would come a barrage that put an opponent away. The 2015 Yankees should be called “1:30 Lightning” for their penchant for their first-inning outbursts.

They did again in style on Thursday.

Chase Headley stroked a base-clearing double with two out as part of a four-run first inning and Masahiro Tanaka pitched masterfully into the eighth as New York swept reeling Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 46,875 at Yankee Staduim.

Jacoby Ellsbury added to the onslaught with three hits, four RBIs and finished the day just a triple shy of hitting for the cycle as the Yankees rapped out 13 hits to win their ninth game out of their past 11 to take a commanding 5 1/2 game lead in the American League East.

Tanaka (7-3) capitalized on the 9-1 lead his was given by the bottom of the fifth inning and cruised to victory despite yielding solo home runs to Chris Davis, J.J. Hardy and Manny Machado. Tanaka gave up three runs on just five hits with no walks and seven strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings.

The Yankees, meanwhile, immediately jumped all over right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-6) in the first as Ellsbury singled to left and Brett Gardner and Alex Rodriguez drew walks on 3-2 pitches to load the bases.

After Jimenez looked to be just about out of danger after striking out Mark Teixeira and retiring Carlos Beltran on a shallow outfield fly, Headley laced a three-run double off the center-field wall. Didi Gregorius followed with an RBI single to score Headley.

After Davis crushed a fastball into the right-field bleachers for his second home run in as many at-bats and his 21st of the season to lead off the second inning, Ellsbury delivered a long home run of his own to lead of the bottom of the inning.

The Yankees then proceeded to put the game away for good in the fourth inning after Gregorius and John Ryan Murphy reached on one-out singles. Stephen Drew delivered the knockout blow to Jimenez with a lined single to right to score Gregorius.

Right-hander Tommy Hunter replaced Jimenez and was greeted with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Ellsbury that scored Murphy to make the score 7-1.

Jimenez was charged with all seven runs on eight hits and three walks and two strikeouts in 2 1/3 innings, his shortest start of the season. In his previous outing, Jimenez also surrendered seven runs on seven hits (including three home runs) to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park last Friday.

The Yankees added a pair of runs off right-hander Bud Norris in the fifth inning on an opposite-field single by Headley and a single off the second-base bag by Murphy. Ellsbury capped his big day with a two-out, two-run double to left to pad the Yankees lead to 9-1.

Tanaka, meanwhile, was dazzling the Orioles with pinpoint command. He yielded just the one run and three hits through 7 1/3 innings until Hardy cracked a solo home run to left and, one out later, Machado laced a shot of his own for his 21st home run of the season.

It was Tanaka’s third consecutive victory in his past three starts and he has not lost a game since the Tigers defeated him 12-4 on June 21 at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees are now a season-high 53-41 and they are 5 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the division. The Orioles dropped to 46-48 and they trail the Yankees by seven games.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ellsbury was hitting .327 on July 11, one day before the All-Star break. He immediately fell into a 3-for-26 (.115) slide until Thursday’s game. He was 3-for-4 with a single, double, home run, two runs scored and added four RBIs. In order to light the match to their offense, the Yankees need Ellsbury getting on base along with Gardner. They set the table for the hitters that follow them.
  • Headley is one of those players that just by definition is steady. From May 25 through Thursday Headley’s batting average has stayed within the .242 and .259 range. But since July 1, Headley is 17-for-50 (.340). Oddly though, Headley had no home runs and just seven RBIs during the streak. It is really hard to hit that well and have so little to show for it but Headley is hitting .259 with eight homers and 35 RBIs on the season.
  • Forget the three homers Tanaka gave up. The 26-year-old right-hander seems to be in a nice groove over the past month. In his past four starts, Tanaka is 3-0 with a 3.18 ERA and 25 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. If there is any doubt he is the ace of this staff he is quickly dispelling it.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Tanaka pitched exceptional baseball, the team scored nine runs and they swept a very dangerous division rival. There is no reason to complain about anything about Thursday’s effort. It is clear that after two injury-plagued seasons, the Yankees have gotten their swagger back. They look like they will be tough to beat for the A.L. East title.

ON DECK

The Yankees are off to Minnesota to play the Twins in a weekend series at Target Field that starts on Friday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (9-6, 3.77 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Pineda, 26, allowed four runs on six hits and two walks with two strikeouts in six innings in a 4-3 loss to the Seattle Mariners on Saturday.

The Twins will look to former Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes (8-6, 4.15 ERA). Hughes, 29, took a no-decision on Saturday against the Oakland Athletics despite giving up just one run on six hits and a walk with two strikeouts in seven innings.

Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Pinpoint Pineda Posts Win As Yankees Sweep KC

GAME 47

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 2

After giving up 12 runs (nine of them earned) in 11 1/3 innings in his past two starts, Michael Pineda was just determined to re-establish himself as the as the ace of the Yankees staff. On Wednesday, Pineda rediscovered his slider and held the hot-hitting Royals to just a single run.

The Yankees used Pineda’s strong effort over 6 2/3 innings and Alex Rodriguez stroked a three-run home run in the fourth inning to lead New York to a sweep of Kansas City in front of a paid crowd of 32,734 at Yankee Stadium.

Pineda (6-2) held the Royals to six hits and one walk with eight strikeouts to snap a two-game personal losing streak. The Royals’ lone run off Pineda came in the first inning on a one-out solo home run by Mike Moustakas, his fifth homer of the season.

The Yankees were able to tie the contest in the second inning on a leadoff home run off right-hander Chris Young (4-1) by Brian McCann. It was McCann’s sixth home run of the season and now 25 of McCann’s 29 homers hit as a Yankee have come at home.

Young entered the contest having given up just one earned run in his past four starts. But the Yankees were able to break the 1-1 tie against Young in the fourth on a leadoff double by Brett Gardner, a walk to Chase Headley and Rodriguez’s 11th home run of the season and the 684th of his career.

The three RBIs also allowed Rodriguez to pass Lou Gehrig on the all-time RBI list at 1,995. Rodriguez is in third place on the list and he is just one RBI behind Barry Bonds, who is second.

Young was charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks with seven strikeouts in seven innings of work.

Once again the “Twin Towers” of Dellin Betances and Andrew Miller closed out the game in the final two innings to nail down the sweep.

The Royals did score an unearned run off Betances in the eighth after Lorenzo Cain drew a walk and later stole second. With one out, Kendrys Morales topped a slow roller to the right of second base. Didi Gregorius fielded it but threw wildly past Mark Teixeira at first for an error that allowed Cain to score.

It was the third unearned run Betances has allowed the season but he still has not allowed an earned run this season. Morales’ infield single was the first hit Betances had allowed in the past 31 batters he had faced.

Miller pitched a perfect ninth to remain 14-for-14 in saves on the season.

The sweep of the Royals allowed the Yankees to claim the season series with the defending American League champions four games to two.

The victory also improved the team’s season record to 25-22 and  –  combined with Tampa Bay’s 3-0 loss to the Seattle Mariners  –  the Yankees have a 1-1/2-game lead over the Rays in the American League East. The Royals, who now have lost four straight games, are 28-18.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Pineda, 26, wobbled a bit in the middle innings but he was able to get out of a major jam in the fifth inning that was crucial to the Yankees winning the game. With Paulo Orlando, who had hit a one-out double, on third and Alcides Escobar on second after a single and a wild pitch, Pineda was able to strike out swinging both Moustakas and Cain with sliders that broke out of the strike zone. With his effort on Wednesday, Pineda lowered his season ERA to 3.36.
  • Rodriguez now has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs on the season, which is second on the club in both categories to Teixeira. Rodriguez was 2-for-4 in the game and also extended his hitting streak to six games. In that span the 40-year-old designated hitter is 10-for-22 (.455), which has raised his season average to .276. That as high as his batting average has been since April 20, when it was at .286.
  • Headley may have committed his 10th error of the season on Tuesday but he still can play some excellent defense at third base. He proved it in the first inning on Wednesday when he took base hits away from both Escobar and Eric Hosmer. Escobar hit a one-hop bullet to Headley’s left but Headley was able to glove it on a short hop and throw out Escobar. Hosmer later hit ball well to Headley’s right because he was shifted against the left-handed batter. However, Headley was able to dive to his right and glove the ball behind him. He then righted himself and barely nipped with the throw as Hosmer slid head first into the bag. If those two plays are not made than Moustakas’ home run would have made a multi-run inning likely. So defense DOES matter.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Gregorius committed his sixth error of the season and cost the team a run but it is hard to quibble with the Yankees after they were all but left for dead when they lost 10 of 11 games entering this series. They not only got off the mat, they also swept a team that had the best record in baseball at the time. The Yankees three starting pitchers in the series, Nathan Eovaldi, Adam Warren and Pineda, combined to yield just three runs on 18 hits and two walks in 20 innings against the hottest offense in baseball. Amazing!

BOMBER BANTER

Masahiro Tanaka gave up three runs on four hits and two walks with three strikeouts in three innings on Wednesday in his second rehab start with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre against the Pawtucket Red Sox. Tanaka threw 62 pitches and reported no issues with either tendinitis in his right wrist or tightness in his right forearm. It is not clear if the Yankees intend to activate Tanaka from the disabled list or whether he will be asked to make a third start.

ON DECK

The Yankees will begin their first West Coast road trip of the season on Thursday when they open a four-game weekend series with the Oakland Athletics at o.co Coliseum.

Northern California native CC Sabathia (2-6, 5.47 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia, 35, was charbroiled for six runs on seven hits and one walk in only 2 1/3 innings against the Texas Rangers on Friday.

Sabathia will be opposed by 24-year-old right-hander Kendall Graveman (2-2, 6.04 ERA), who blanked the Rays on three hits and two walks with six strikeouts in six innings on Friday.

Game-time will be 10:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Cano Inching Closer To Re-Signing With Yankees

When Robinson Cano fired combative player agent Scott Boras to become the first sports client for recording artist Jay-Z and his new agency, Yankee fans figured it was a given that a loyal Yankee fan like Jay-Z would steer his client to the Yankees without any problem.

Well, it has not quite been that way so far.

Cano, 31, and the Yankees still remain very far apart in negotiations on a new contract for the All-Star second baseman.

Representatives for Cano kind of stunned the Yankees and the baseball world as a whole by seeking a 10-year contract in excess of $300 million. Many observers claim that Cano’s agents are marketing him as a baseball version of Michael Jordan and it is hard to see the analogy.

Cano is a talented player with great appeal but his jersey and other gear is not even selling among the top 20 players in the sport. He even trails fellow second baseman Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox.

However, Yankee fans, reality and circumstances may be settling in at Camp Cano now.

Cano’s representatives, Brodie Van Wagenen and Juan Perez of CAA Baseball, met with Yankees president Randy Levine on Tuesday and Cano has reportedly lowered his contract demands. However, the two sides remain far apart. After all, the Yankees were offering seven years at $160 million.

But the fact that Cano’s people are lowering his demands shows there is some wiggle room in the talks. More talks are planned and we could see the Yankees raise their offer a bit.

The Yankees were extremely fortunate to gain an upper hand in the negotiations when two prime teams Cano could have coaxed into a bidding war for his services solved their second base problems early.

The Los Angeles Dodgers signed 27-year-old Cuban star Alexander Guerrero to fill their big need at the position. That was strike one on Cano.

Then this week the Detroit Tigers dealt first baseman Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers in return for second baseman Ian Kinsler. Strike two.

That has given Yankees general manager Brian Cashman just the kind of leverage he needed to lower Cano’s very lucrative demands. Now it appears common sense will prevail and the two sides can work something out because their is one very salient fact about all this: The Yankees can’t afford to lose Cano.

Cano is simply the best player the Yankees have and on the heels of a disastrous injury-marred 2013 campaign the Yankees don’t want their franchise player to leave.

The Yankees are playing it like they are cool with it. I’m sure the rumor the Yankees were talking with free agent Omar Infante had all the hallmarks of Cashman behind the scenes fanning the flames.

But even he knows that Infante is not even a blip on the radar compared to what Cano can do for a team. But, hey, if it works, it works for Cashman.

Infante, 31, hit a robust .318 with 10 home runs and 51 RBIs for the Tigers last season. Cano, on the other hand, batted .314 with 27 home runs and drove in 107 runs and should have won a Gold Glove after just committing six errors last season. (Pedroia dives and flops around like a dying carp while Cano glides to everything and the voters think Pedroia is better. Geesh!)

Cano’s growth as a player has been immense. He came up as a colt in 2005 but he is now a bona fide thoroughbred.

He is a career .309 hitter with 204 home runs and 822 RBIs. He is four-time All-Star, he has won two Gold Gloves and five Silver Slugger awards and he is simply the best second baseman in baseball today. You don’t replace that with Infante.

Last season, the Yankees lost a huge chunk of its power when players such as Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez left as free agents. Then the team lost most of its remaining power with Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter rehabbing from offseason surgeries and Curtis Gramderson and Mark Teixeira sustaining injuries before the season even started.

The one constant the Yankees could count on all season long was Cano. Despite the fact teams pitched around him all season, Cano delivered.

The other hallmark of Cano’s career has also been his durability.

Since 2007, Cano has not played in less than 159 games in any season. Last season, he answered the bell for 160.

The only knock on Cano has been that label of “lazy” that dogged his early career and cost him a few more Gold Gloves because he made everything seem so dang easy. He has mostly beaten that rap in the field but it still dogs him as a base-runner.

Cano has a habit of coasting to first on grounders and he has been embarrassed by getting thrown out at second base on balls he thought were going out of the park. But all his positives far outweigh that negative. The sum of the parts adds up to the greatest second baseman in Yankees history.

And should Cano remain in pinstripes, he could certainly make a case for himself up against the likes of Mickey Mantle, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. He and Jeter have formed the best double-play combination in Yankees history.

There is no telling what Cano will do if he remains a Yankee.

The only question remains is will he?

There is no doubt Infante remains the only viable fallback position should Cano leave.

After all, the Yankees have some players who play the position but none of them hold a match, much less a candle, to Cano.

The Yankees dealt right-hander Ben Paullus to the San Diego Padres for second baseman Dean Anna on Nov. 20. Anna, 27, was a Triple-A All-Star at Tucson in 2013 and batted .331 with nine home runs and 73 RBIs. Another big plus in his favor is that he bats left-handed.

The word on Anna is that he is solid fielder. In fact, he also played 60 games at shortstop and seven at third base. His versatility seems to make him a player worth watching this spring. But he is not likely going to be the heir apparent to Cano if he leaves. The Yankees are not fools.

Anna is going to compete for a backup infield spot, period. He will get some stiff competition from holdover Jayson Nix.

The Yankees have not given up on David Adams but they certainly were disappointed with what he produced when he was pressed into service as a third baseman in 2014.

Adams, 26, has primarily been a second baseman in the minor leagues and he will get a shot at both second and third this spring. But after hitting .193 with two home runs and 13 RBIs in 43 games with the Yankees in 2013, he will be on a very short leash if he does not produce this spring.

Meanwhile, after a very strong 2012 season, 25-year-old Corban Joseph slipped mightily in 2013 at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. He hit .239 with six homers and 19 RBIs in 47 games. With the acquisition of Anna, Adams and Joseph are quickly dropping off the radar as prospects if they were at all.

At lower levels the Yankees have hot-hitting Jose Pirela, 24, who batted .272 in 124 games at Double-A Trenton and 21-year-old speedster Angelo Gumbs, who hit .213 in 91 games at two stops at the A level last season. Though Gumbs is pretty raw with the bat the Yankees love his potential.

But all talk surrounding second base with the Yankees begins and ends with Cano. Yankee fans would just love to hear that Cano has re-signed with the team. It is hard to imagine 2014 without him.

The signs, though, are pointing toward the Yankees retaining him. The question just remains at what price. It is looking at this point that it will be the Yankees price and Cano will just have to settle on a more realistic number.

Then he can start racking up more big numbers with his bat.

 

Sori Wins Another For Yanks On Ichiro’s Big Night

GAME 126

YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2

It seemed like it was a night just like every other night for the New York Yankees on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium.

One of their future Hall of Fame players reached a rare milestone. Alfonso Soriano proved again why he is a godsend. The team lost another player for the rest of the season. And they continued to dominate the Toronto Blue Jays as they have all season.

On a night that Ichiro Suzuki collected his 4,000th hit as a professional, Soriano broke a 2-2 tie with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning with a two-run home run as New York ran its season record against Toronto to 11-1 with a victory in front of a paid crowd of 36,140.

Suzuki, who entered the game with 3,999 combined hits between Japan (1,278) and the majors (2,721), slapped a 1-1 offering from right-hander R.A. Dickey past third baseman Brett Lawrie into left-field in the first inning to join Pete Rose and Ty Cobb as the only three players who reached the 4,000-hit plateau in professional baseball.

The crowd immediately stood up to pay homage as the Yankee players and coaches streamed from the dugout to congratulate Suzuki on his achievement. The 39-year-old outfielder then tipped his batting helmet and bowed to the adoring crowd.

Once the game resumed, it became a battle of wills between the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner in Dickey and a pair of young pitchers who the Yankees used only to give 41-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte an extra day of rest in Adam Warren and David Huff.

The game was locked up into a 2-2 tie until the bottom of the eighth when Robinson Cano laced a 1-1 pitch from the knuckleball-tossing Dickey into right-field for a single. Soriano followed by blasting a belt-high 0-1 knuckler about 12 rows deep into the left-field bleachers for his 26th homer of the season and his ninth for the Yankees since he was acquired from the Chicago Cubs on July 26.

Huff (1-0), who pitched five innings of one-hit, no-run baseball in relief of Warren was credited with the victory.

Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 37th save of the season.

Dickey (9-12) was saddled with a tough-luck loss despite giving up two runs on four hits and two walks over the first seven innings. Dickey ended up yielding four runs on six hits while he struck out in eight innings. He is the first Cy Young Award pitcher the Yankees have defeated twice in a season since Barry Zito of the Oakland Athletics in 2003.

The Blue Jays opened the scoring after there were two out in the second against Warren when Anthony Gose snuck a bouncing ball just under the glove of Cano into right-field. Gose stole second and scored on a single by Munenori Kawasaki.

The Yankees tied it in the bottom of the frame when Eduardo Nunez led off with a lined single to left. He stole second and reached third on a wild pitch charged to Dickey.

One out later, Dickey struck Jayson Nix in the left hand with a pitch and Nix removed himself from the game to have tests to determine the severity of the injury. The tests indicated that Nix sustained a fractured hand and he likely will miss the remainder of the regular season.

Mark Reynolds was inserted into the game to pinch-run for Nix.

Austin Romine then tied the game with a long sacrifice fly to the wall in left that scored Nunez easily.

The Yankees staked Warren to a 2-1 lead in the third inning when Cano laced a one-out double off the right-field wall and with two out Curtis Granderson slapped a 1-1 Dickey offering into right to score Cano.

Unfortunately, Warren could not hold the lead for long because the Blue Jays tied it back up in the fourth inning when light-hitting catcher Josh Thole smacked a 2-0 fastball off the back wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center for his first home run of the season.

Warren left one batter later after giving up two runs on four hits and two walks while he fanned four batters over three-plus innings.

But Huff became the story by coming in and shutting the Blue Jays out over the next five innings. He only gave up a high-hop infield single to Lawrie as he led off the eighth inning. He walked four and struck out two before giving way to Rivera in the ninth.

The Yankees have now won four straight games and nine of their 10 of their past 13 games.

The team’s season record now stands at 67-59 and they are 6 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. They are just four games back in the wild-card standings. The Blue Jays have now dropped all nine road games to the Yankees and are 57-70 on the season.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Soriano was the hottest player in baseball through a five-game stretch from Aug. 13 through Aug. 17 when he was 15-for-22 (.682) with five home runs and 18 RBIs. But he then went into a 0-for-17 tailspin that he broke with his two-run homer in the eighth. Soriano is hitting .260 with 26 home runs and 76 RBIs on the season. But he is hitting .284 with nine homers and 28 RBIs in just 24 games with the Yankees.
  • Cano looks to be on one of his patented late-season hitting tears. Cano was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and two runs scored on Wednesday. Since Aug. 5, Cano is 28-for-61 (.459) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. In that 16-game span he has failed to get a hit in only one game and he has raised his season average from .288 to a team-leading .310.
  • Huff, who turns 29 on Thursday, was picked up off waivers from the Cleveland Indians in May and he was 1-6 with a 3.84 ERA in 13 games (12 starts) at Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre when the Yankees selected his contract on Aug. 15 and placed him on the 25-man roster.  He gives the Yankees a left-handed option out of the bullpen and he looked impressive on Wednesday.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

It is hard to criticize Brett Gardner and Lyle Overbay for going a combined 0-for-7 in the game because Dickey’s knuckleball was dancing pretty good. The fact the Yankees have turned things around by winning four straight series is encouraging to a team that looked destined for fourth place in the division. Things are starting to look up.

BOMBER BANTER

Though it would seem with Nix going on the disabled list on Thursday, it is unlikely the Yankees will recall shortstop Derek Jeter just yet. Jeter is scheduled to begin a minor-league rehab assignment on Thursday with the Scranton RailRiders. Jeter, who is recovering from a mild strain in his right calf, will likely play two games and return to the team in St. Petersburg on Saturday for a game against the Tampa Bay Rays.  . . .  Suzuki’s 4,000th hit also gave him 2,722 in the United States, which ironically allowed him to pass Yankee legend Lou Gehrig on the all-time hits list. Suzuki said that although 4,000 hits means a lot to him he still would like to reach 3,000 hits in the major leagues.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the four-game series and go 10-0 at home against the Blue Jays this season with a victory on Thursday.

Pettitte (8-9, 4.39 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Pettitte won his first game in more than month on Friday against the Red Sox allowing three unearned runs in 6 1/3 innings. He is 14-10 with a 4.66 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will start left-hander J.A. Happ (3-2, 4.93 ERA). Happ gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings in a victory against the Rays on Sunday. He is 2-0 with a 5.16 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Pettitte Wins Again As Yanks Take Target Practice

GAME 153

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

A-Rod, Swisher Give Braves’ Pen Major Headache

GAME 61

YANKEES 6, BRAVES 4

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took out starter Mike Minor with one out in the eighth inning nursing a 4-0 lead after Derek Jeter singled and Minor had reached 100 pitches. In what looked to be a minor move at the time turned into a major catastrophe for the Braves.

Lefty reliever Jonny Venters faced the next four batters and he could not retire a single one.

Alex Rodriguez made him pay with an historic grand slam home run and, two batters later, Nick Swisher smashed a game-winning two-run shot of his own as New York got up off the mat and laid the heavy lumber to the Atlanta bullpen on Tuesday for a dramatic 6-4 comeback victory at Turner Field.

The miracle comeback was the Yankees’ fifth victory in a row and their 10th in their last 12 games, propelling the team into first place in the American League East with a 36-25 mark – the best record in the AL.

Rodriguez’s grand slam was the 23rd of his career and it ties him with former Yankee legend Lou Gehrig for first place on the all-time list.

Venters set the stage for Rodriguez and Swisher by giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, which advanced Jeter to second. Venters then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.

Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Venters threw a called strike and Rodriguez fouled off two more pitches before he connected with the low fastball and drove it out on a line about two rows into the left-field bleachers with a frozen rope you could hung all the Yankees’ laundry on for Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season and the 639th of his career.

A stunned Turner Field crowd of 41,452 was now staring at a scoreboard that read Yankees 4, Braves 4.

Venters then allowed Cano to fist a single into center and he was serenaded with a cascade of boos as he was replaced by right-hander Cory Gearrin.

Swisher greeted Gearrin by smacking a 1-0 change-up into the bleachers in right-center for his 10th home run of the season and the Yankees had their first lead of the game. Previously, the Braves had been 27-0 this season when leading after seven innings.

In Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium he said, “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” After this comeback victory, CC Sabathia should say the same thing.

Sabathia (8-3) got credit for a victory he frankly did not deserve.

Sabathia was rocked for three runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Matt Diaz. The Braves loaded the bases on him again in the seventh and pushed another run across on an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward.

In seven innings of work, Sabathia fought to command his fastball and gave up four runs on 10 hits and and two walks and he struck six batters.

Minor, meanwhile, shut out the Yankees on five hits and one walk and he struck out four in 7 1/3 innings. Many Braves fans are wondering now if Gonzalez perhaps may have taken him out just a bit too soon.

Once the Yankees took the lead, manager Joe Girardi chose to use lefty Clay Rapada for the eighth and he pitched a scoreless frame. Then Rafael Soriano, who blew his last save opportunity on Sunday against the Mets and who also was nursing a blister on right index finger, came in to pitch the ninth.

He set Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla down in order, striking out McCann and Uggla swinging, to earn his 10th save in 11 tries.

The Yankees have clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games and they are now 8-2 at Turner Field.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Rodriguez’s historic grand slam was also a meaningful blast for the Yankees. The home run erased Minor’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and set the stage for the come-from-behind victory. It was Rodriguez’s first multiple-RBI game since June 1 and his first home run since June 3 and both of those events came in the same series against the Tigers in Detroit.
  • Swisher’s blast off Gearrin was only his second home run of the month. Swisher also became the sixth Yankee to hit at least 10 home runs this season. Russell Martin has nine. His two RBIs give him 39 on the season, which still is the most on the team.
  • Give Rapada and Soriano credit for shutting down the Braves in the final two innings. The bullpen was short because Boone Logan and Cory Wade were not really available and only Freddy Garcia and David Phelps could pitch for any length of time. But the pair shut out the Braves over the last two innings with no hits, one walk and they struck out three.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and that one hit was Rodriguez’s grand slam. There is reason why they are last in the American League with RISP. But they are not really paying much of a price now because they use the home run to cover that weakness. But if they don’t improve soon it will bite them.
  • Sabathia has really been shaky his last two starts. He has given up nine runs (seven earned) on 17 hits and three walks and struck out 18 in 14 innings. Sabathia’s problem has falling behind and hitters are teeing off on him when he has to throw a strike. Still, he is 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
  • Here is the reason why Gonzalez may have made a big mistake in taking out Minor when he did. Up to that point, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano were a combined 0-for-8 against him. Teixeira drew a first-inning walk and that was pretty much it for the heart of the lineup until the eighth.

BOMBER BANTER

Closer Mariano Rivera had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but there was no repairable damage to his meniscus. That was cited as great news by the Yankees. Rivera suffered the injury on May 3 in Kansas City, however, he had to postpone the surgery until a blot clot in his right calf was dissolved by medication. The surgery was performed in New York by the Mets’ team physician, Dr. David Altchek. Rivera will miss the rest of the season but he said he will pitch for the Yankees in 2013.  . . .  All-Star setup man David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. He will rejoin the Yankees in Atlanta on Wednesday but he will not be activated until the Yankees open a weekend series on Friday with the Nationals in Washington. Robertson has missed just about one month with a left oblique strain.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep their second consecutive three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday.

Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.46) will start for the Yankees. He is coming off a one-hit, seven-inning gem against the Mets although he had to leave with a bruised left foot. Kuroda is 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA against the Braves.

Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83) will oppose Kuroda. He shut out the Marlins last Tuesday but required three extra days to rest a sore left ankle. He is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.