YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 3 (10 Innings)
TAMPA – When you have a team struggling to get on base and score runs it is never too late push a run across – even if it is the 10th inning.
Brandon Laird lofted a sacrifice fly in the 10th inning to score Justin Maxwell with the game-winning run as New York swept it two-game home-and-away set with Washington at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday.
The Yankees, very much like Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind,” depended greatly on “the kindness of strangers.”
Nationals right-hander Atahualpa Severino started his stint in the 10th by walking Maxwell. Pinch-hitter Melky Mesa followed by hitting a routine grounder that was misplayed by Nationals third baseman Mark Teahen, allowing Maxwell to advance to third. One out later, Laird launched a fly ball to right field that plated Maxwell with the deciding tally.
Right-hander Chase Whitley (1-0) pitched a scoreless top of the 10th to gain credit for the victory. Severino (0-1) took the loss.
The game featured a matchup of lefties in CC Sabathia for the Yankees and newly acquired Gio Gonzalez for the Nationals. However, Sabathia struggled with his command and he left after just three innings on the south end of a 3-1 deficit.
Sabathia gave up three runs on six hits and a walk while he fanned two. Gonzalez gave up a run on three hits and three walks and struck out six in 3 1/3 innings.
The Yankees managed to tie the game in the fifth inning off reliever Craig Stammen on a leadoff single by Doug Bernier and a two-out, two-run home run to deep left by Alex Rodriguez, his first home run this spring since he homered on the first pitch he saw by Roy Halladay of the Phillies on March 3.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 7-8. The Nationals fell to 5-7.
- With the battle of lefties going on most of the buzz in the sellout crowd of 10,982 was about another left-hander entirely. The news 39-year-old Andy Pettitte had elected to come out of retirement and sign a $2.5 million minor-league contract with the Yankees spread like wildfire through the Yankee faithful on hand. I would consider adding a pitcher to your roster who has 240 major-league victories (203 of them with the Yankees) has got to be considered a positive development.
- Though the Yankee regulars struck out so much they could have put out a wildfire, it was nice to see Rodriguez connect for a huge two-run home run in the fifth inning. The Yankees, if you can believe this, have only hit a total of five home runs in the first 15 games this spring. Hopefully, this may signal an end to the power outage.
- Though Sabathia struggled, Phil Hughes turned in a very sharp four innings of work in relief. Hughes, who is still competing with a group of pitchers that now will include Pettitte for a starting spot, held the Nationals scoreless on three hits, did not walk a batter and he struck three. Hughes is showing no signs of the right shoulder fatigue that plagued him last season.
- Robinson Cano doubled to the opposite field in the first inning off Gonzalez to score Curtis Granderson from first base to draw the Yankees to within a run at 2-1. Cano is off to a very slow start this spring and is hitting .190.
- Sabathia admitted after the game his fastball was “all over the place” and it cost him early. The Nationals loaded the bases to start the game on a double, single and a walk. They pushed across a run on a double-play grounder off the bat of Wilson Ramos. But they added a second run in the same frame on an RBI double by Jesus Flores. Steve Lombardozzi then touched Sabathia with a leadoff home run in the third inning to give the Nationals a 3-1 lead.
- Strikeouts, strikeouts, strikeouts. The Yankees struck out 14 times in the game. Raul Ibanez, Francisco Cervelli and Bill Hall fanned two times each. Considering the fact that the Yankees won the game after collecting just five hits in the game you would have to say they were lucky to have won at all. The pitching of Hughes was the big key. The question is when are the Yankees going to wake up and start hitting?
- Ibanez was 0-for-2 with a walk and fanned twice and he is now hitting .077. Yankee fans are getting a bit impatient with Ibanez considering he is replacing retired Yankee icon Jorge Posada at designated hitter and because the Yankees chose to sign him instead of a pair of former popular Yankees in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui.
Injuries have cropped up all over the place and it is now an epidemic in Yankee camp. Derek Jeter missed the game Friday and will not play again until Tuesday due to a tender left calf. The Yankees were quick to point out that they do not consider the injury serious and that is not the same calf that forced Jeter to the disabled list for three weeks last season. . . . Meanwhile, Nick Swisher and Russell Martin were held out of action with strained left groins. Swisher could return to the lineup on Saturday but Martin will be shelved for a couple of days. . . . Those walking wounded join the ranks of Eduardo Nunez (bruised right hand), Ramiro Pena (sprained right ankle) and David Robertson (bone bruise of right foot) who are also out of action. . . . The Yankees made their first cuts of the spring on Friday, re-assigning 14 players to minor-league camp, including top pitching prospect Manny Banuelos. Banuelos was among seven pitchers sent out. The others were Dan Burawa, Brett Marshall, Adam Miller, Ryan Pope, Graham Stoneburner and Whitley. The other cuts included catchers Gary Sanchez, J.R. Murphy and Kyle Higashioka, infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph and outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Mesa.
The Yankees will host the Houston Astros for the second time this spring on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Scheduled to start for the Yankees will be 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, who will be making his third start of the spring. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 5.40 ERA and he was displeased with his last start.
The Astros are expected to start right-hander Bud Norris.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, BLUE JAYS 3
There are some games when CC Sabathia pitches it appears he could be sitting in a LaZ-Boy recliner with a beer in one hand and the baseball in the other as he just tosses strike after strike past batters.
Sabathia will tell you that it is never that easy. But on Sunday he pitched two-run ball over 7 1/3 innings to notch his 19th victory and Derek Jeter provided five RBIs as New York pounded Toronto with three home runs to earn a sweep of their weekend series at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia needed just 111 pitches to strike out 10 batters and walk one and he finished with a flourish, retiring 13 of the last 14 batters he faced.
With the victory the Yankees have now won seven of their last eight games and, as a result of Texas’ 11-4 thrashing of the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games.
Sabathia (19-7) only struggled in the fourth inning while trying to protect a 4-0 lead. Edwin Encarnacion hit a leadoff bloop single to center, Brett Lawrie walked and Mark Teahen doubled to the wall in leftfield to score Encarnacion. Former Yankee Jose Molina then followed with an RBI groundout to Jeter that scored Lawrie.
The Yankee offense, meanwhile, wasted no time getting started against Blue Jays left-hander Brett Cecil (4-8).
Brett Gardner led off by drawing a walk and taking second to record his A.L. leading 42nd stolen base. With one out, Mark Teixiera, who returned the lineup after missing two games with a bruised right knee, hit a ball in the hole at shortstop to Mike McCoy. McCoy dove to stop the ball but his throw to first hit the dirt and skipped past Encarnacion for an error that allowed Gardner to score.
Two innings later, Cecil got into to more trouble when rookie designated hitter Jesus Montero led off with his second major-league hit and Cecil hit Gardner with an 0-2 pitch. Jeter then connected on a 1-1 inside fastball and drove it deep into the first level of the bleachers in leftfield for his fifth home run of the season and his first since July 25.
The Yankees tacked on another run off Cecil in the sixth when Alex Rodriguez hit his 15th home run of the season into the first row of seats over the auxiliary scoreboard in right.
Cecil gave up five runs (four earned) on five hits and one walk and struck out three over six innings of work.
The Yankees put the game out of reach with four runs in the bottom of the eighth, started by a two-run home run Nick Swisher off reliever Jon Rauch, his 22nd home run of the season. Later in the inning, Jeter stroked a two-out, bases-loaded single to center as the Yankees batted around in the inning.
The Yankees had pretty much held down Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista in the weekend series. He was 0-for-3 on the day and 2-for-10 with two singles and two RBIs in the series. However, in his final at-bat he got to reliever Rafael Soriano for a solo home run on the first pitch he threw in the eighth replacing Sabathia. It was Bautista’s 40th homer of the season, which leads the major leagues.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 84-53. The Blue Jays fell two games under .500 at 69-71 and they are 17 games out in fourth place in the division.
- With the victory, Sabathia became the first A.L. pitcher to win at least 19 games in three consecutive seasons since Dave Stewart won 20 or more games with Oakland from 1987 through 1990. This was also the fourth season Sabathia has won 19 games but he has won 20 or more games only once, which was last season with the Yankees when he was 21-7.
- Jeter’s five RBIs on Sunday tied a career high. Since he was rested yesterday Kim Jones of YES Network asked if the day off helped him. Jeter would have none of it. He said there were plenty of days he had gotten hits playing in back-to-back games. Touche’.
- Rodriguez actually was angry when he hit his fly ball to right in the sixth, thinking he had missed it. But the ball carried into the first row of seats just to the right of the scoreboard. It definitely caught the “jet stream” that carries routine flies out. But Rodriguez will take it. It was his second homer since he returned off the disabled list after undergoing knee surgery in July.
- Swisher continues his hot hitting since May 31, when he had three homers, 19 RBIs and he was batting .213. Since then Swisher has 19 home runs, 60 RBIs and is batting .299 to salvage what was looking like a lost season.
- Andruw Jones has been rebounding since help from his mother at the All-Star break. However, he took a step backward on Sunda. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout looking and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Inserted into the lineup with a lefty on the mound, Jones was the only starter who did not reach base. His season average fell to .247.
- Gardner has been one of the best leftfielders in baseball this season and he has made some sensational catches lately. But he was charged with an error in the second inning when a Mark Teahen line drive skipped off the turf and hit off his right shoulder and rolled into left-center. Gardner was playing centerfield in place a resting a Curtis Granderson. It was Gardner’s third error of the season.
- Soriano’s hiccup in the eighth inning was the first time he had been scored upon since he gave up three runs in a game against Oakland on Aug. 24, a stretch of five appearances. It appears that, for now, Soriano will remain the most expensive seventh inning reliever in baseball history.
The much ballyhooed announcement about the starting rotation from manager Joe Girardi was a non-event. Girardi said the Yankees would retain the six-man rotation for at least one more turn. That means the candidates for demotion to the bullpen, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett, will have at least one more start to impress the manager. Hughes will start Tuesday and Burnett will follow on Wednesday. . . . Rookie sensation Montero is already making a positive impression in the three games he has started. He followed his game Saturday in which he got his first major-league hit with a two-hit game on Sunday. Montero singled to lead off both the third and fifth innings off Cecil and is batting .300 over that short span. General manager Brian Cashman compared his ability to hit to that of Manny Ramirez, which is high praise.
The Yankees begin a three-game home series against the Baltimore Orioles that begins with a Labor Day matinee.
The Yankees will send 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia (11-7, 3.09 ERA) to the mound. Garcia is coming off a two-hit, one-run six-inning effort against the Orioles in his first start after coming off the disabled list with a cut right index finger. Two of Garcia’s 11 victories this season have come against the Orioles. He is 6-7 with a 3.91 ERA against Baltimore in his career.
The Orioles will start young left-hander Brian Matusz (1-7, 9.07 ERA). In his three starts since being recalled from Triple-A Norfolk, Matusz is 0-3 with a 9.56 ERA. He is 2-4 with a 3.65 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.