YANKEES 6, WHITE SOX 4
Through 7 1/3 innings on Tuesday the White Sox were sailing along behind left-hander Chris Sale and boasting a seemingly insurmountable 4-1 edge. But the wind got let out of their “Sale” and the Yankees got off the poop deck for an epic, exciting come-from-behind victory that kept their playoff hopes alive.
Curtis Granderson stroked a one-out, pinch-hit RBI single off left-hander Donnie Veal and, one out later, Eduardo Nunez laced a two-run double off right-hander Matt Lindstrom to cap a five-run rally in the bottom of the eighth inning as New York stunned Chicago in front of a raucous paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 33,215.
Sale, a two-time American League All-Star, had held the Yankees to an unearned run on only three hits through 7 1/3 innings until Derek Jeter slapped a 0-1 pitch into center that ignited the miracle comeback. Robinson Cano followed by lining a 1-2 pitch off the base of the left-field wall for a double to advance Jeter to third and chase Sale from the game.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura replaced Sale with right-hander Nate Jones and trade-deadline sensation Alfonso Soriano greeted Jones by lofting a 0-2 slider into center-field to score Jeter and Cano. Alex Rodriguez followed with a single to center on a 3-2 slider to advance Soriano to third.
Ventura replaced Jones with Veal and Granderson, batting in place of Vernon Wells, lined a 3-1 pitch into center to score Soriano with the tying run.
After Veal struck out Mark Reynolds on a 3-2 fastball, Ventura brought in his third reliever of the inning in Lindstrom to face Nunez.
Nunez then slapped a 1-1 fastball down the left-field line to score Rodriguez and Granderson as what was left of the huge throng stood on its feet and cheered as if the Yankees already had clinched a playoff spot. Nunez stood at second base and raised both arms to celebrate his heroic hit.
Mariano Rivera came in the ninth to earn his 40th save with a perfect frame, striking out two batters and punctuating the grand evening with a called strike three on pinch-hitter Leury Garcia.
Boone Logan (5-2) pitched a perfect eighth in relief to earn the victory. Jones (4-5) took the loss.
The game was very much a pitchers’ duel between the Chisox ace, Sale, and Yankee right-hander Hiroki Kuroda.
The White Sox opened the scoring in the first inning when Gordon Beckham blasted a one-out double off the left-field wall and Alexei Ramirez then reached on a fielding error at short by Nunez.
Adam Dunn then singled to center to score Beckham.
The Yankees resorted to some rare base-running trickery to score the tying run in the second inning.
Wells singled up the middle and advanced to second on an error by Beckham when the second baseman kicked the ball into left-field. One out later, Nunez reached first on a fielding error by third baseman Conor Gillaspie allowing Wells to move to third.
With two out, Yankees manager Joe Girardi rolled the dice and had Nunez break for second and stop midway between first and second base. When catcher Josh Phegley threw the ball to Beckham at second base, Wells broke for home and he slid in ahead of the return throw to Phegley from Beckham.
But the White Sox reclaimed the lead in the fifth off Kuroda when Alejandro De Aza singled and stole second. Beckham then drew a walk on 11 pitches. Ramirez scored by De Aza and Beckham with a triple into the left-field corner.
De Aza padded the lead to 4-1 with one out in the seventh inning when he cranked a solo homer into the short porch in right-field. That also ended Kuroda’s evening.
Kuroda was charged with four runs on seven hits and two walks while he fanned seven in 6 1/3 innings.
Sales yielded three runs (two earned) on five hits and one walk while he struck out six in 7 1/3 innings.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season ledger to 74-64 and kept them within eight games of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. However, the Baltimore Orioles lost to the Cleveland Indians, which allowed the Yankees to move back ahead of the O’s in third place in the division.
The Yankees also have climbed to within two games of the slumping Tampa Bay Rays for a wild-card playoff spot.
The White Sox, who have gave up eight runs in the fifth inning to the Yankees on Monday and five runs in the eighth inning to the Yankees on Tuesday, are now 56-81.
- The only reason Nunez was in the game at shortstop was because with Sale on the mound Girardi elected to insert Jeter as the designated hitter and have Nunez play shortstop to get seven right-handed hitters into the lineup. Despite his fielding error in the first, Nunez was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles, a stolen base and two RBIs in the game. Nunez was hitting a paltry .219 on Aug. 6 but he is 25-for-75 (.333) with a home run and 13 RBIs since then. He also has raised his season average to .255.
- Soriano’s amazing run at the plate since he was acquired by the Yankees on July 26 continued on Tuesday. He was just 1-for-4 but that single drove in two huge runs in the eighth inning that drew the Yankees to within a run of the Chisox. Soriano is hitting .261 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs in his 35 games back in pinstripes.
- Jeter entered the game with just four hits in his past 27 at-bats. He responded by going 2-for-3 and a run scored on Tuesday. In his two games against the Chisox, Jeter is 4-for-7 (.571) with two runs scored and two RBIs. The Yankees also took note that Jeter seems to be running much better on his formerly fractured left ankle.
The Yankees can’t be happy with Kuroda’s recent pitching slump, which continued on Tuesday. But they have to be pleased that the team mustered the wherewithal to put together that amazing eighth-inning rally when they so desperately needed a victory to keep pace for a wild-card spot. The Yankees snatched victory out the jaws of defeat and this one possibly may carry them for the next few days.
Jeter’s hit in the eight inning was the 3,315th of his career and moved him ahead of Eddie Collins in ninth place on the all-time hits list. . . . Wells’ steal of home in the second inning on Tuesday was the first of his career and it was the Yankees’ first since Mark Teixeira pulled it off against the Oakland Athletics on June 1, 2011 on an attempted pickoff throw by catcher Kurt Suzuki on Rodriguez at first base.
The Yankees can repay the Chisox for their sweep of the Yankees last month in Chicago with a sweep of them on Wednesday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (12-11, 4.91 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia gave up five runs for the sixth time in his past nine starts on Friday against the Orioles but he still was able to win the game. He is 18-4 with a 3.64 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the White Sox.
The White Sox will start right-handed rookie Erik Johnson, who will be making his major-league debut. Johnson was a combined 12-3 with a 1.96 ERA in 24 starts at Double-A Birmingham and Triple-A Charlotte. Johnson is 23 years old and he is rated as the team’s No. 2 prospect by MLB.com.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4 (12 INNINGS)
One month ago, Raul Ibanez was hitting .051 in spring training but his manager, his teammates and he never doubted that he could still contribute for the Yankees. With two out in the 12th inning on Tuesday, Ibanez stroked an RBI double that provided a hard-earned victory for his new team.
On a night when the Yankees were 1-for-17 with runners in scoring position as he stepped to the plate, the 39-year-old designated hitter drove in Robinson Cano with what proved to be the game-winning run as New York defeated Baltimore at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Former Orioles left-hander Clay Rapada (1-0) pitched a perfect two-thirds of an inning of relief in the top of the 12th to get credit for the victory. Orioles right-hander Pedro Strop (0-1) took the loss. Mariano Rivera came on to pitch a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to earn his first save of the season and the 604th of his career.
The game was knotted at 4-4 since the top of the sixth inning when the Yankees rallied for three runs off Orioles left-handed starter Wei-Yin Chen, a native of Taiwan who was making his major-league debut. Aided by a two-out error by Orioles third baseman Mark Reynolds on a hard-hit grounder by Russell Martin, Brett Gardner followed with an RBI single to right to score the tying run.
A combination of hitting futility (the Orioles were 0-for-8 with RISP) and some excellent pitching, particularly by Yankees rookie right-hander David Phelps, kept the game going until the decisive 12th inning.
Cano led off the frame with a hard-hit smash off the glove of Reynolds that rolled into shallow left for a double. Alex Rodriguez advanced Cano to third by directing a slow grounder to second baseman Robert Andino. Mark Teixeira followed with a Baltimore chop grounder to Andino in which Cano would have been thrown out. However, Cano retreated to third as Teixeira was thrown out at first.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter, perhaps remembering Ibanez’s spring problems, then ordered Strop to walk Curtis Granderson intentionally. Ibanez subsequently laced a 1-2 pitch from Strop over the head of Orioles center-fielder Adam Jones. The ball bounced over the fence for a ground-rule double and Cano trotted in with the eventual winning run.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 2-3. The Orioles fell to 3-2.
- Ibanez is proving to be an effective bat against right-handers this season. His game-winning RBI was his sixth RBI of the season and he leads the team in that category. Ibanez entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning and he was 2-for-3 and he even stole a base after he singled in the eighth.
- The Yankees’ relief pitching was spectacular and a new bullpen star is born in Phelps. The 25-year-old right-hander entered the game with two out in the fifth inning and he pitched a perfect 2 1/3 innings, striking out four batters looking. The Yankees’ relievers (Phelps, Boone Logan, Cory Wade, David Robertson, Rapada and Rivera) combined to shut out the Orioles on just two hits and two walks and fanned 12 batters in 7 1/3 innings. By the looks of Phelps this bullpen is even stronger than it was in 2011, when it was the best in baseball.
- Rodriguez was 0-for-5 in the game and is now hitting .158 on the young season. But I have to give him major props for giving himself up in the 12th inning to advance Cano to third base. So many times this Yankee team seems so loaded with stars, it looks like it is beneath them to play “small ball” or do fundamental things like this. But give A-Rod credit. He did something that helped the team win.
- Derek Jeter was 2-for-5 in the game, including a leadoff home run in the first inning. In his two games at Camden Yards, Jeter is 6-for-10 with a home run, a double and four singles, two runs scored and two RBIs. Jeter has more RBIs against the Orioles than any active player.
- The usually reliable Freddy Garcia was anything but on Tuesday. The Orioles actually scored only one run via an RBI – a solo home run in the first inning by J.J. Hardy off Garcia. Another scored on a dropped throw, which was scored an error, by Martin. The other two runs scored on wild pitches by Garcia. In fact, Garcia uncorked a career-high five wild pitches in his 4 2/3 innings of work. He threw only four wild pitches all of last season. Garcia surrendered four runs (three earned on four hits, three walks and he hit one batter. Garcia said after the game the cold weather conditions left him unable to grip his split-finger pitch properly.
- I have to give a “What Was He Thinking” Bronx cheer to third-base coach Rob Thomson for a decision he made in the seventh inning. On a cold night, Nick Swisher was struck in the left toe on a pitch from Matt Lindstrom and he limped all the way to first base. When Cano followed with a double into the left-field corner, Thomson waved Swisher home from third and he was thrown out at the plate on a relay from left-fielder Endy Chavez to Hardy to Matt Wieters. That decision likely lengthened the game to the 12 innings the teams eventually played.
- Rodriguez, Teixeira and Granderson combined to go 1-for-15 in the game. All three are hitting below .200 on the season. Teixeira and Granderson are both hitting .150. But ice cold starts in April and Teixeira are no strangers, as Yankee fans are already aware.
If you perhaps were wondering why manager Joe Girardi did not use Rafael Soriano in the game, it was because of a split fingernail on his pitching hand. Soriano tore the nail on the middle finger of his right hand as he was warming up in the bullpen in the seventh inning. Girardi said he is unsure if Soriano would be available to pitch on Wednesday. . . . Tuesday actually marked the 99th birthday of the Yankees. On April 10, 1913 the New York Highlanders became the New York Yankees.
The Yankees will have a chance to sweep the Orioles in their own park on Wednesday night.
CC Sabathia (0-0, 7.50 ERA) hopes for some better luck than his 2012 debut against the Rays where he gave up five runs on hits and three walks in six innings. After a start like that the Orioles are the perfect team for Sabathia to face. He is 16-2 with a 2.74 ERA against them in his career.
Right-hander Jake Arrieta (1-0, 0.00 ERA) will pitch for the O’s after shutting out the Twins for seven innings in Baltimore’s opener. He is 2-1 with a 3.99 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
As spring training camps open it is time to look at the American League East competition for the New York Yankees. How will the other teams fare as they gear up to dethrone the 2011 division champions? Do these teams have the pitching? Is there enough offense? Let’s see.
PART 1 – BALTIMORE ORIOLES
The 2011 season began with a lot of optimism because of the great job Buck Showalter did in turning around the Orioles at the end of the 2010 season.
But 2011 was much like every season for the Orioles since 1999. It fizzled into frustration in a hurry. They finished with a record of 69-93 and they were a distant fifth in the A.L. East, 28 games behind the Yankees.
This coming season promises to pretty similar because the Orioles have not made a lot of changes to their roster. With the exeption of Jeremy Guthrie, Luke Scott and Derrek Lee, this pretty much the same group that floundered through much of 2011.
One big reason is that the Orioles banked their future hopes on a collection of young starting pitchers like Brian Matusz, Zach Britton, Jake Arrieta and Chris Tillman. They progressed through the minors but none of them have established themselves as major-league quality starters. And if you want to compete in this division, you have to have good starting pitching.
The Orioles compounded that issue by trading their best starting pitcher, Guthrie, to the Colorado Rockies for starter Jason Hammel and reliever Matt Lindstrom. As a result, the Orioles’ “ace” is former Rangers right-hander Tommy Hunter, who was 4-4 with a 4.68 ERA in an injury-shortened season.
The Orioles, led by general manager Dan Duquette, are now shifting their sites overseas and the team signed two pitchers from the Japanese League in Wei-Yin Chen and Tsuyoshi Wada.
Chen, 26, is a left-hander from Taiwan who has compiled a 36-30 record and a 2.48 ERA in four seasons with the Chunichi Dragons. He also has pretty good stuff with 500 career strikeouts in 631 1/3 innings.
Wada, 30, is another left-hander and he has overcome two injury-plagued seasons to compile a combined 33-13 record with a 2.29 ERA in the last two seasons with Fukuoda Softbank Hawks. While Chen has better stuff, Wada is considered to have better control.
Both figure prominently in the Orioles plans for 2012 and both likely will be in the rotation this season, depending on how they progress in the spring.
Hammel, 29, was 7-13 with a 4.76 ERA last season with the Rockies. The tall right-hander figures to be slotted as the No. 4 starter.
The Orioles still have high hopes for Matusz, Britton, Arrieta and Tillman. But it appears Britton and Arrieta are going to get most of the attention this spring. The lefty Britton suffered a shoulder injury last season and he finished the season 11-11 with a 4.61 ERA. Arrieta was 10-8 with 5.05 ERA.
The bullpen was a strength of this team when Koji Uehara was around but he was dealt to the Rangers at the trade deadline last July.
The closer job is up for grabs between incumbent closer Kevin Gregg, who saved 22 games but blew seven chances and was 0-3 with a 4.37 ERA, and Jim Johnson, who saved nine games and was 6-5 with a 2.67 ERA. Lindtsrom, who saved 23 games for the Astros in 2010, can also be shifted into the closer role.
The rest of the bullpen will likely be made up with lefty Darren O’Day and former starters Alfredo Simon, Brad Bergesen and Jason Berken.
A few years ago, the Orioles seem to invested their future into second baseman Brian Roberts, right-fielder Nick Markakis and center-fielder Adam Jones and have built around those players.
Unfortunately, Roberts has suffered through injury after injury and Markakis and Jones have underperformed expectations.
With the Orioles lack of ability to attract high-priced free-agent talent, the Orioles have to rely on that trio as the core of the team again.
The Orioles may also begin getting what they expected out of catcher Matt Wieters, who hit 22 home runs and won a Gold Glove for his defensive work behind the plate. The former No. 1 pick also is showing some signs of leadership on the team.
Shortstop J.J. Hardy finally shook off injuries that plagued him since he was with the Brewers in 2008 as he hit 30 home runs and drove in 80 runs.
Third baseman Mark Reynolds was pretty much as advertised. He did not hit for average and struck out 196 times but he also hit 37 home runs and drove in 87 runs.
Former Rangers first baseman Chris Davis is pretty much a carbon copy of Reynolds at first base only he does most of his striking out from the left side.
The Orioles will likely platoon veterans Endy Chavez and Nolan Reimold in the outfield and look for the Orioles to make a late bid for a DH.
They could re-sign veteran Vladimir Guerrero or chose from among Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui to replace Scott.
Former Yankee Wilson Betemit will be the top reserve on the infield and middle infield reserve Robert Andino will return to provide glovework behind Roberts and Hardy. Former Rangers backstop Taylor Teagarden will be the backup to Wieters.
The Orioles could use the spring to look for some veteran help in the outfield to bolster their bench a bit.
With Jones, Wieters, Hardy, Reynolds and Davis the Orioles seem to have plenty of firepower. Plus when Roberts is healthy and Markakis is going good, they can get on base and steal a base or two. But the overall offense may be too geared towards power over putting the ball iin play and advancing runners.
The Orioles, as a team, strike out way too much and it cost them because their pitching is not that strong.
The Orioles are gambling on two Japanese League pitchers and two journeyman American starters (Hunter and Hammel) to give them time to develop their young pitchers like Britton and Arrieta. The jury is still out on Matusz, who looked like a surefire star in the making in 2010.
Without a consistent starting rotation, any effort Showalter makes in the bullpen could prove futile. A good bullpen only limits the damage. The bullpen should be strong but it is obvious they are going to tire quickly if they are constantly coming in the fourth or fifth inning.
Barring another Showalter miracle, this team is headed for more frustration in 2012. They simply can’t compete with the big boys (Yankees, Rays, Red Sox) and they merely hold their own against the Blue Jays. If I were a betting man, I would suspect that the Orioles will finish fifth again.
It is a spot for which they are built.
ON TUESDAY – PART 2 TORONTO BLUE JAYS
The New York Yankees lost their ace starting pitcher, later they lost their 3-1 lead in the game, then their furious ninth inning rally fell short on Sunday but they may have not lost to the Florida Marlins 6-5 — not just yet anyway.
“We’re going to file an incident report, and all that,” umpire Jeff Kellogg told MLB.com. “The protest is over the pitcher should have been removed from the game, or the pitch should not have counted. That’s the protest. Either or. One or the other should have happened.
“It goes to the league, and they will review everything. They will make a determination after that.”
MARLINS 2, YANKEES 1
“I didn’t execute, that’s the bottom line,” Jeter told MLB.com later. “It was a big part of the game, and I didn’t get the bunt down.”
“Both guys were really good,” Joe Girardi said. “Our guy, A.J., I thought he threw the ball great. It’s unfortunate that Josh Johnson was really good, too.”