Tagged: Michael Morse

Pettitte Handcuffs Mariners To Notch Win No. 250

GAME 62

YANKEES 3, MARINERS 1

When Andy Pettitte came up to the New York Yankees in 1995 anyone could have spotted quickly there was something different about him as opposed to most young pitchers: He was driven to succeed and he would battle with every ounce of strength he had to win.

Some 18 years later he displayed those same qualities against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday and it was something special to see.

Pettitte (5-3) completely shut down the Mariners on one run on just three hits to notch the 250th victory of his career as New York defeated Seattle in front of 38,250 fans at Safeco Field.

The 40-year-old left-hander did not walk a batter and struck out six to pass Vic Willis for 43rd place on the all-time victory list. Pettitte needed only 85 pitches and he threw 59 of them for strikes, which is a tidy 69 percent rate.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got a pair of RBI singles from Jayson Nix to make a loser out of left-hander Joe Saunders (4-6).

With the game tied 1-1 in the top of the fifth inning, Ichiro Suzuki drew a leadoff walk and, one out later, Chris Stewart singled to center. After Brett Gardner hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Stewart, Nix slapped a two-out opposite-field single to right to score Suzuki with what proved to be the game-winning run.

The Yankees chased Saunders in the seventh inning when Gardner lofted a one-out double into right-center.

Mariners manager Eric Wedge replaced Saunders with right-hander Danny Farquhar and Nix greeted him with a line-drive single to center that scored Gardner.

David Robertson pitched two-thirds of an inning of the eighth and Mariano Rivera pitched a scoreless ninth, striking out the side, to earn his 22nd save in 23 chances this season.

The Yankees opened the scoring with two outs in the first inning when Mark Teixeira doubled to left and Robinson Cano stroked a looping single into right to score Teixeira.

The Mariners managed to tie the game in the fourth against Pettitte, but it was a missed opportunity by Nix that allowed it to happen.

Jason Bay led off the frame with a single to left and Kyle Seager followed with a lined single to right.

Kendrys Morales, who left the game after this at-bat because of a back injury, then rolled a potential double-play ball to short that Nix bobbled. Nix was able to get a throw off to first to retire Morales but Michael Morse made Nix and the Yankees pay when he lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Bay.

The Yankees won their fifth out their past six games to improve their season record to 36-26. They remain in second place in the American League East 1 1/2 games ahead of the first-place Boston Red Sox. The Mariners dropped to 27-36.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his first start off the 15-day disabled list on June 3, Pettitte ran out of gas in the fifth inning and surrendered three runs to the Cleveland Indians that left the game tied at 4-4. Pettitte was determined not to let that happen again. He retired the first nine batters he faced and in six of the seven full innings he pitched he retired the side in order. This was Pettitte at his best and it bolsters the depth of the Yankees’ starting rotation.
  • Though Nix’s misplay did ruin Pettitte’s shutout, he more than made up for it at the plate by going 2-for-4 with a walk, a stolen base and two RBIs. Very quietly Nix has been one of the hottest hitters on the Yankees since May 24. In that span, Nix is 15-for-44 (.341) with a home run and seven RBIs. Nix may not be a superstar but he is a solid ballplayer. You get a professional day of work out of him and you hardly know he’s there.
  • Gardner is settling in nicely as the leadoff hitter after hitting only .252 in April. Gardner was 3-for-5 with two doubles and a run scored and is 19-for-58 (.328) since May 24 with three home runs and 10 RBIs. In fact, Gardner has 26 RBIs, which is fourth on the club, and he is doing it from the leadoff spot.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Kevin Youkilis drew a walk in the sixth inning, which extended his streak of reaching base in all 23 games he has played at Safeco Field. But he was 0-for- 3 in the game with two strikeouts and double play grounder. Since Youkilis’ return from the disabled list on May 31, he is 4-for-28 (.143) with no homers or RBIs. His season average has sunk to .239.
  • David Adams got a start at third base but his recent troubles at the plate are continuing. He was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and his season average has now dipped to .217. The Yankees opted to send out outfielder Brennan Boesch in order to keep Adams but it is looking like Adams needs more work at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete their four-game weekend series with Seattle on Sunday.

Right-hander David Phelps (4-3, 4.17 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Phelps is coming off what could be the best start of his career on June 4 against the Indians. The 26-year-old hurler gave up just one hit over six shutout innings. Phelps also is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA in his career against the Mariners.

But Phelps draws ace right-hander Felix Hernandez (7-4, 2.58 ERA). Hernandez won his last start on June 4 but gave up four runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox. Hernandez is 8-5 with a 2.99 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

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Yankees Lose Granderson, Game On Gloomy Day

GAME 2

BLUE JAYS 2, YANKEES 0

TAMPA  –  A dark cloud hung over the Yankees before spring training even began as they lost third baseman Alex Rodriguez for half the season due to hip surgery. They opened their home exhibition season on Sunday under a blanket of gloomy dark clouds that hung over George M. Steinbrenner Field throughout the game.

But that was nothing compared to the dark cloud casting a pall over the team upon learning that starting outfielder Curtis Granderson would be lost to the team until mid-May with a fractured right forearm after he was struck by J.A. Happ breaking ball in his very first at-bat of the spring in the first inning.

While the business of spring training will continue manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman will be tasked with trying to find a way to replace Granderson’s 43 home runs on a team that is already missing 109 home runs from last season’s squad.

The game was pretty much academic. The result did not matter.

Emilio Bonifacio followed an Anthony Gose triple with an RBI single in the third inning and Sean Ochinko doubled in a run in the eighth while the Yankees pounded out 11 hits but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base as Toronto blanked New York in front of a crowd of 10,184.

Happ (1-0) gave up three hits in two innings but got credit for the victory. Cody Eppley (0-1) took the loss. Rich Thompson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • As far as we know no other Yankee starters were injured in the contest.
  • Kevin Youkilis made his debut in pinstripes and came within about 10 feet of a grand slam home run in the first inning but Jays outfielder Ryan Langerhans made a running catch on the warning track. Youkilis also slapped a screaming line drive to third with two on and two out in the third that was caught by Brett Lawrie. In his final at-bat, Youkilis led off the sixth by sending a drive to the warning track in center that was run down by Gose. That pretty much defined the Yankees’ day.
  • Robinson Cano followed his home run on Saturday with three line drives but he ended up with just one hit because his old pal Melky Cabrera robbed him of a hit in the first with a sliding catch.
  • Adam Warren, 25, started the game and pitched two scoreless and hitless innings. Warren looked sharp with his location and fanned two batters. Though Warren is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he could be factor later in the season if does well this spring.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Eppley proved why he is a specialist used primarily against right-handers. After striking out the right-handed-hitting Lance Zawadzki, left-handed-hitting Gose tripled and the left-handed-hitting Bonifacio singled him in. Eppley showed why he is exposed as a pitcher when he has to face lefties.
  • Though Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki were on base after three of their six plate appearances neither of them stole a base. Suzuki did attempt a steal in the third inning with Cano up but Cano fouled the pitch off. Neither made another attempt to steal. It would seem that as home run hitters are dropping like flies for the Yankees that running the bases a lot would be a good idea.
  • This game had the look of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. No home runs, plenty of chances with runners on base but no big hit came. This might be a repeating scenario and we will have to watch it closely this spring.

BOMBER BANTER

Derek Jeter is targeting March 10 for his first spring training action as he recovers from surgery on his fractured left ankle, Cashman said on Sunday. Jeter ran for the first on the infield at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday and he hopes to begin spring play as a designated hitter with an eye on being ready to start at shortstop at home on Opening Day on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox.  .  .  .  With Granderson out of action for 10 weeks the immediate outlook would dictate that non-roster outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz may now be vying for a starting outfield spot. The Yankees do have minor-league outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa on the 40-man roster but the Yankees may not elect to use either as starters, Almonte has not played above Double-A Trenton. Cashman could also look to engineer a trade but it is pretty clear the Yankees do not want to add much to the current payroll and other teams are going to drive hard bargain because they know the Yankees might be a bit desperate. Not making an offer for the Washington Nationals’ outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse is looking like a real bad move now. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners instead.

ON DECK

The Yankees head to Sarasota, FL, on Monday to face the Baltimore Orioles.

Left-hander Vidal Nuno, 24, will get the start for the Yankees. The Orioles are scheduled to start left-hander Brian Matusz.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast nationally on tape-delay at 9 p.m. by MLB Network.

 

Ichiro’s ‘Act’ In Bronx Held Over For Two Seasons

Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!

RIGHTFIELD – ICHIRO SUZUKI (28 Rs, 5 HRs, 27 RBIs, .322 BA, 14 SB)

When the Yankees made the trade to bring Ichiro Suzuki to The Bronx it was looked at initially as a temporary fix to the Yankees’ injury to top base-stealing threat Brett Gardner. After all, Suzuki’s contract with the Seattle Mariners expired after the 2012 season and the Yankees were unsure if the 39-year-old All-Star had very much left in the tank.

Suzuki seemed to fall off the proverbial cliff after he hit .315 with six home runs and 43 RBIs and 42 stolen bases in 2010. In 2011, the career .322 hitter batted only .272 with five home runs and 47 RBIs and 40 stolen bases.

In addition, Suzuki was hitting .261 with four homers and 28 RBIs and 15 stolen bases for the Mariners at the time of the trade.

But Suzuki took to New York quicker than anyone would have expected and he seemed to be rejuvenated being part of a pennant chase for the first time since his early seasons with the Mariners.

As a result of Suzuki’s renewed bounce in his step and the fact the Yankees allowed rightfielder Nick Swisher to sign a free-agent contract with the Cleveland Indians this winter, Suzuki was granted a two-year, $12 million deal to take over for him. General manager Brian Cashman was pleased Suzuki settled for much less than perhaps he was worth to stay with the Yankees.

Suzuki had made it clear that he did want to remain in New York. So it seems both sides are very happy with the deal.

Suzuki will never be able to replace Swisher’s power and production but he is an upgrade in terms of hitting, speed and defense. That is all part of the tradeoff the Yankees had to accept in order to rebuild a team that lost 94 home runs when Swisher (24), Russell Martin (21), Raul Ibanez (19), Eric Chavez (16) and Andruw Jones (14) signed elsewhere this offseason.

Suzuki will join with Gardner, Eduardo Nunez, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson as part of the group that is expected to be stealing a lot of bases in 2013 because of what the Yankees lost in terms of power. The Yankees will not be able to play station-to-station baseball while waiting for home runs.

Suzuki’s two-year deal signals the Yankees are committed to him and what he can provide at the top of the lineup by getting on base and running the bases.

Last season, Suzuki approved the trade with some conditions laid down by the Yankees. He agreed to hit lower in the batting order, to a platoon that would sit him against left-handers and agree to switch to leftfield. Suzuki accepted the stipulations and never complained about where he hit, where he played and when he was benched.

However, when Suzuki got red hot in September manager Joe Girardi stopped platooning him against lefties, moved him up in the batting order and shifted him to rightfield so Swisher could replace an injured Mark Teixeira at first base.

So expect Suzuki to be playing every day, hitting second and playing rightfield in 2013. Suzuki basically changed the manager’s mind the old-fashioned way: He played so well that Girardi had no choice but to play him and those conditions Suzuki was signed under have been tossed out the window – for good.

Suzuki’s calling card has always been his magical bat. Despite an unusual batting style, Suzuki seems to be able to know when it is best to pull the ball and when to go with a pitch. He confounds pitchers with his ability to spray the ball all over the field.

He may no longer have blazing speed as he did when he won his Most Valuable Player and Rookie of Year awards in 2001, but Suzuki can still leg out infield grounders for hits, take an extra base on napping outfielders and he can even steal a base or two when necessary.

Suzuki stole 29 bases last season between the Mariners and Yankees and he led the Yankees with 14 steals despite playing in only 67 games.

With the short porch in right-field, Suzuki can also surprise a pitcher or two by turning on an inside pitch and putting it into the seats. Suzuki’s career high in home runs is 15 that he hit in 2005 and he only has reached double digits in three seasons. But it is good bet they he could reach double digits in 2013.

He hit five dingers in only 227 at-bats with the Yankees last season.

Where Suzuki really shines is as a defender. From 2001 through 2010 he won 10 consecutive Gold Gloves with the Mariners. Granted, he has lost a step, but Suzuki can still flash some leather in the outfield. He also possesses an excellent arm in rightfield. With Granderson and Gardner, Suzuki forms a rare outfield that boasts three centerfielders.

This is an outfield that is also loaded with speed and skilled fielders. It might be the best defensive outfield the Yankees have fielded in some time.

The only potential negative with Suzuki might be if he regresses as a hitter as he did with in the Mariners in 2011. The Yankees are on the hook for two seasons with Suzuki and they would rather he continue he hit the .322 he did with the Yankees last season.

The Yankees were dealt a serious blow to the 2013 plans when Ibanez opted to sign as a free agent with his old Mariners team. The Yankees made it clear that they wanted to keep Ibanez as their left-hand designated hitter and part-time outfielder.

At the moment the plans behind Gardner, Granderson and Suzuki look a little murky.

The Yankees did claim right-hand hitter Russ Canzler off waivers from the Cleveland Indians. Canzler, 26, can play first base, leftfield and DH.

Canzler hit three home runs, drove in 11 runs and hit .269 as a September call-up with the Indians after leading the International League with 36 doubles, 22 home runs and 79 RBIs in 130 games at Triple-A Columbus.

Canzler provides the Yankees primarily with a right-hand bat who can back up Mark Teixeira at first base. But he did play 47 games with Columbus and 11 games with the Indians in the outfield. His range in the outfield is limited and he would be a significant dropoff from Gardner as a defensive outfielder.

Jayson Nix has been invited to spring training again primarily to compete with Nunez as a backup middle infielder but Nix also can play some outfield.

Nix made nine starts in the outfield last season and acquitted himself well. He committed only one error. Though he is much better as infielder, Nix provides Girardi with a lot of options on where to play him.

Nix, 30, hit .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 177 at-bats last season.

Cashman is looking to bolster the outfield before spring training camp opens next month and he has a few targets that could be on his radar.

His first option is former Met outfielder Scott Hairston, who is currently seeking a lucrative two-year deal on the free-agent market.

Hairston, 32, hit 20 home runs and drove in 57 runs and batted .263 with the Mets last season. His main calling card is his power and his ability to crush left-handed pitching.

Hairston hit .286 with 11 home runs and 30 RBIs against lefties last season. Though he has played some second base in the past, Hairston is primarily an outfielder and he only committed one error in 108 games there last season.

The Yankees covet him because he has power, which the Yankees need, and he balances out the starting outfield, which is comprised of all left-hand hitters. The Yankees see Hairston as part-time outfielder, a platoon DH and valuable pinch-hitter off the bench.

The only sticking point is the amount of money he is seeking and the Yankees are not real keen on offering him a two-year deal. They are hoping Hairston will lower his demands.

Another potential target could be 6-foot-5 first baseman-outfielder Michael Morse of the Washington Nationals.

Morse, 30, had a breakout season in 2011 in which he hit .303 with 31 home runs and 95 RBIs for the Nationals. But injuries limited him to just 102 games in 2012 in which he batted .291 with 18 home runs and 62 RBIs.

The Nationals had him scheduled to move from left-field to first base this off-season when they acquired centerfielder Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins and shifted rookie centerfielder Bryce Harper to leftfield. However, the team decided to re-sign first baseman Adam LaRoche so Morse is currently relegated to the bench.

The Nationals reportedly are looking at trading Morse for a left-handed relief pitcher and some prospects. The Yankees do have a pair of lefties in Boone Logan and Clay Rapada to offer but there is not much depth behind them in the minors. The Yankees could use Morse in the same way they planned to utilize Canzler – at first base, leftfield and DH.

Morse is a right-hand hitter but his power is intriguing.

This is hard to believe but – in the absence of the Yankees making a deal or signing an outfielder – the Yankees will actually be giving long looks to two of their own minor-league outfielders this spring.

Melky Mesa, 25, hit a combined .264 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs and 22 stolen bases between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. However, Mesa hit only .230 at Scranton after hitting .277 at Trenton so he may require an additional season before he is ready.

Mesa’s combination of power and speed would be a big boost to the Yankees and he does fill a need for right-hand hitting outfielder. Mesa is also a natural centerfielder and he can easily play all three outfield spots if needed.

The downside is the Yankees are unsure of he can hit major-league pitching. They hope to get some more definitive answers this spring. Mesa figures to play a lot after only getting 13 at-bats and hitting .231 last spring.

The Yankees also have a very intriguing young outfield prospect in Zoilo Almonte, who is a power-hitting switch-hitter.

Almonte, 23, impressed Girardi last spring when he hit .286 in only 14 at-bats. Almonte then followed that up by hitting .277 with 21 home runs and 70 RBIs in 106 games with Trenton.

Unlike Mesa, Almonte is primarily a corner outfielder and he has just average speed (15 steals in 19 attempts last season). Defensively, he is still a work in progress. His range and fielding are just average but he does have a pretty good arm (10 outfield assists last season).

Almonte does have a slim chance of making the jump from Double A but he will need to have a monster spring training that forces Girardi to keep him on the roster. It is all up to Almonte  to see if can handle the rigors of the major leagues. But it will be tough to ask him make the jump because it rarely happens in the major leagues and it even more rarely happens with the Yankees.

The Yankees seem to not even care about a player unless he is 34 with years of major-league experience. Almonte would be in a locker room of players he watched while he was in grade school. That would be a lot of pressure on him but his power potential makes him a very viable prospect to watch this spring.

The Yankees are actually loaded with some very special outfield prospects further down in their minor-league system.

Mason Williams, 21, is the team’s second-ranked prospect behind catcher Gary Sanchez. He hit .298 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs and 20 stolen bases in 91 games between Class-A Charleston and Class-A Tampa before a torn labrum ended his season early.

Williams is an excellent left-handed hitter who should develop more power as he gains experience. He also looks as if he will be a very good base-runner and he is above average defensively as a centerfielder. Williams is 6-feet tall and weighs just 150 pounds but he should gain weight and strength and may even draw comparisons to another centerfielder Williams by the name of Bernie.

The Yankees are also excited about No. 3 prospect Tyler Austin, 21.

Austin hit a organization-best .354 combined in 2011 and he followed that up by hitting .322 with 17 home runs and 80 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in four minor-league stops last season.

After playing first and third base his first two seasons, the Yankees moved him to right field last season and he played very well there. While Sanchez and Williams get most of the attention, Austin is considered a very good prospect and 2013 could propel him into the Yankees’ plans in 2014 and beyond.

The Yankees also have a pair of young slash-and-dash hitters who have a chance to make the parent team down the road in Slade Heathcott and Ramon Flores.

Heathcott, 22, was the team’s first draft pick in 2009 but has been hampered by on- and off-the-field problems. But the left-handed hitter got back on track by hitting a combined .302 with five home runs and 29 RBIs and 19 stolen bases in the Yankees team in the Gulf Coast League and with Tampa in the Florida State League.

Heathcott is an aggressive player with excellent speed. If he can be more selective at the plate and on the bases he could turn out to something very special.

Flores, 20, is a left-handed hitting machine who batted a combined .303 with seven home runs and 41 RBIs and 24 stolen bases between Tampa and Trenton. He lacks Heathcott’s speed but still stole more bases. He is primarily a leftfielder but can play all three outfield spots and first base.

Fielding will never be his strong suit because his bat is so good. It will carry him the rest of the way to the majors.

The Yankees seem to be deeper in outfield prospects than any other position and that seems to be a good thing considering the team has already lost Swisher and Granderson seems to be headed out the door soon. That would leave Gardner and an aging Suzuki.

So to say the Yankees could stand to have a few of these prospects make an impact in the next few years would be putting it mildly.

There have been rumors the Yankees have talked about possibly trading Williams and Sanchez. But that would seem to be something Cashman would be leery about since he really did get fleeced badly in the Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda deal last winter.

My guess is the Yankees will be very careful which young players they deal but it would seem to make sense that they could trim some of their outfield depth if they need help with their 25-man roster.

Though the Yankees are lucky to be starting three center-fielders with excellent speed in the outfield in 2013, they all hit left-handed and the Yankees will miss Ibanez.

Cashman likely will make some sort of deal to add depth to the outfield and they need someone who can hit right-handed. Canzler and Nix provide some depth but they are not long-term solutions.

Mesa and Almonte provide Girardi with a pair of young options but both are going to have to produce a lot this spring in order to make the leap to the major leagues.

Hopefully, the puzzle pieces can be put together before the start of the 2013 season.

NEXT: CATCHER

 

Yankees Swat Nats In 14 On Tex’s Two-Run Double

GAME 64

YANKEES 5, NATIONALS 3 (14 INNINGS)

As Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate in the 14th inning on Saturday with a runner on third and a runner on first and one out, he was 0-for-5 and he struck out his first three times to the plate. With reliever Brad Lidge on the mound determined to get him out he only thought of one thing: Look for a slider and let it rip.

Fortunately for Teixeira and the Yankees, with a 2-1 count he got a hanging slider from Lidge and he smacked it hard off the wall in the right-field corner of Nationals Park for a double to score two runs and New York held on to take a hard-earned win over Washington, which extended the Yankees’ winning streak to eight games.

Forgotten bullpen long reliever Freddy Garcia (1-2) set the stage for Teixeira’s heroics by pitching two scoreless innings to get credit for his first victory of the season. Rafael Soriano pitched around two hits in the bottom of the 14th to retire Bryce Harper on a routine groundout to get credit for his 12th save in 13 opportunities.

Lidge (0-1) was saddled with the loss.

Jayson Nix started the winning rally by shooting a seeing-eye single in the hole between shortstop and third base. Nix later stole second and Derek Jeter, who was 0-for-6 as he stepped in, also singled to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Nix was held at third.

After Curtis Granderson strrck out, Teixeira then connected for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

The Yankees actually held a 3-2 lead after scoring two runs in the sixth inning that erased a 2-1 deficit to the Nationals.

Raul ibanez tied it with an infield groundout that scored Robinson Cano. After Nick Swisher was cut down at the plate on a comebacker to starter Jordan Zimmermann off the bat of Russell Martin, Eric Chavez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game with a double off the scoreboard in right-center that scored Martin.

The game stayed that way until Cory Wade entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of starter Andy Pettitte. Wade retired Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse on two pitches, however, Ian Desmond smacked a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers to knot the game at 3-3..

Two batters later, Adam LaRoche slapped a single to right-field off Boone Logan and Tyler Moore, who was on second with a walk and a stolen base, attempted to score. But he was cut down at home plate on a throw from Dewayne Wise. The Yankees caught a break, too. Replays showed Moore actually touched the plate with his left hand on a head-first slide just before Martin tagged him on the left hip. But home-plate umpire Tim Timmons called him out.

So the game played on through another six very long innings.

Pettitte, who was in line for his fourth victory in his seventh start of the season, gave up two runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out six batters in seven innings.

His only blemish was giving up a two-run double to left-center by Jesus Flores in the second inning on a pitch that was up and out of the strike zone and broke Flores’ bat.

Zimmermann left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he struck out six.

The victory was the first time this season the Yankees won a game without the benefit of a home run. They were 0-12 in games without hitting a home run coming into the contest.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 39-25 and they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Nationals dropped to 38-25.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the home run Wade surrendered to Desmond, the bullpen was excellent and the true key to the victory. Wade, Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Garcia and Soriano combined to give up just the one run on four hits and two walks and struck out five in seven innings. Garcia escaped the 13th inning with the winning run on third by retiring Roger Bernadina on a groundout and Soriano got Harper to end the game as he represented the potential game-winning run at the plate. That is great relief pitching.
  • Pettitte deserved to have won the game a day after his 40th birthday. He turned in his third straight quality start and he and his deadly cutter set the stage for Harper, a 19-year-old rookie sensation, to endure one of his worst days as a major leaguer. He struck out five times in the game and was 0-for-7 overall. Of the five hits Pettitte surrendered, one was an infield hit and three others – including Flores’ double – were broken bat hits. Pettitte’s ERA was lowered to 2.77.
  • A substitution mistake by manager Joe Girardi in the eighth inning probably led to two things that actually allowed the Yankees to overcome the Nationals. When Wade entered the game to pitch in the eighth inning, Wise was brought off the bench to replace Ibanez in left. They were supposed to have been switched in the order so Wade would hit in Ibanez’s sixth spot and Wise would bat ninth. However, that was not communicated to the umpires. So when Logan was brought into the game with two outs in the eighth, Girardi was forced to bring in Jayson Nix to play left and Wise was moved to right-field. That was done so Logan could hit in Jones’ fifth spot and Nix could bat ninth. So when LaRoche singled to right, Wise (and not Jones) threw out Moore at the plate. Nix led of the 14th inning with a single, stole second and scored the lead run on Teixeira’s two-run double. Wise’s outfield assist and Nix’s hit and steal would not have happened had Girardi not made the substitution error. I guess Girardi would rather be lucky than good.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Going into the 14th inning, the Yankees were 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position. They scored their first run in the fourth inning on a two-out error by Desmond. Ibanez’s infield groundout in the sixth tied the game and, later that same inning, Chavez doubled in Martin from first to score the third run. Jeter’s single in the 14th and Teixeira’s double were the only two hits the Yankees got all day with RISP.
  • Although he walked three times, Granderson was 0-for-4 and had his six-game hitting streak stopped.
  • After Chavez’s two-out double in the eighth, the Yankees did not get another hit until the 14th inning when Nix led off with a single. They were 0-for 19 while drawing five walks and reaching once on an error.

BOMBER BANTER

Swisher was removed from the game in the sixth inning after he sustained a bone bruise in his left quad sliding into the plate and colliding with left shin guard of Flores. Swisher was called out on the play and he immediately limped into the Yankees’ dugout and was replaced in right-field by Jones. Swisher likely will miss Sunday’s finale of the series against the Nationals and he is listed as day-to-day.  . . .  The Yankees did not start third baseman Alex Rodriguez in order to give him a day off. Rodriguez did pinch-hit in 10th inning for Logan and grounded out.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the series and the entire six-game road trip with a victory against the Nationals on Sunday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64 ERA) will toe the slab for Yankees. Nova shut out the Braves on just five singles and a walk over seven innings on Monday in his last start. He will be starting against the Nationals for the first time.

Right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals. Jackson, who the Yankees have faced many times before, logged his fifth consecutive quality start in a victory over the Blue Jays his last time out. He is 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

Nationals Feeling ‘Hughesed’ By Red-Hot Yankees

GAME 63

YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2

When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.

But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.

Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.

Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.

Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.

Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.

The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.

Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.

Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.

Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.

Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.

The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
  • Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
  • Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez’s RBI single in the third inning was the 1,924th RBI of his career, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list.  . . . Girardi made it clear to reporters that Cano did not start on Friday because he wanted to give him two days off, including Thursday’s off day. Cano was spiked on the left ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Braves but he was not seriously injured. Cano did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and he drew an intentional walk. He stayed in the game as the second baseman and singled in the ninth inning.  . . .  Robertson gave up two hits and a run in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. David Phelps was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre  to make room on the roster for Robertson.
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ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.

Birthday boy Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees after he turned 40 on Friday. Pettitte gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out eight in six innings against the Mets on Sunday before leaving the game with a bruised left hand he sustained fielding a hard-hit comebacker in the sixth. But the hand is fine and Pettitte declared himself ready to go. He is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in his career against the Nationals.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA). Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park against the Red Sox in his last start. Zimmermann has never faced the Yankees in his career.
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.
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Despite 8-Run Fourth, CC And Yankees Lose To Nationals

GAME 8
NATIONALS 10, YANKEES 8
TAMPA — 42-year-old journeyman Matt Stairs laced a pinch-hit ground-rule double to tie the game and Bradley Suttle’s fielding error on Kevin Barker’s grounder allowed the lead run to score in the top of the seventh inning as Washington downed New York at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday.
The Nationals actually pounded Yankee starter CC Sabathia and Joba Chamberlain for eight hits and four walks in 3 2/3 innings to take a 7-0 lead. However, former Yankee Chad Gaudin and reliever Josh Wilkie gave up six hits and one walk to allow the Yankees to come back to take an 8-7 lead in the bottom of the fourth inning.
But the Yankees could not hold it.
Daniel Turpen (0-1) was tagged with the loss. Craig Stammen (2-0) pitched two scoreless innings for the victory and Adam Carr pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to earn a save.
The Yankees dropped to 2-5-1 on the spring and the Nationals improved to 4-2.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES
  • Jorge Vazquez continued his fine hitting this spring with two hits in the game, including a big two-run double in the fourth inning off Wilkie that tied the score at 7-7. Vazquez is hitting a robust .583 with two homers and five RBIs.
  • Brett Gardner started the fourth inning off with a ground-rule double to left and scored on a fielding error by Brian Bixler. He then laced a one-out triple to right in the same inning to drive in Vazquez with the lead run to make it 8-7. 
  • Jesus Montero, who is now the frontrunner to back up Russell Martin at catcher, added two hits and an RBI to raise his spring average to .273.
  • With the Yankee pitchers giving up 10 runs it is hard to single out a pitcher, but left-hander Robert Fish pitched two solid innings of scoreless relief after the Yankees took their 8-7 lead. 
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Sabathia could not locate his fastball and he paid for it dearly. He faced 15 batters and gave up six hits (including two doubles and home run), walked two and struck out one. He threw 53 pitches and 25 of them were balls. Sabathia told reporters after the game, “I just didn’t have it today.” 
  • Sabathia has now given up exactly five runs in his second start of the spring in three consecutive seasons with the Yankees. 
  • Chamberlain was not much better. After ending the third inning in relief of Sabathia, Chamberlain gave up two runs on two hits and two walks. 
  • Turpen gave up two doubles and hit a batter but was not helped by Suttle’s error that allowed the tie-breaking run to score.
  • The Nationals first four batters — Jerry Hairston, Ian Desmond, Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse — combined to go 7-for-14, they scored five runs and drove in six. 
BOMBER BANTER
Francisco Cervelli’s broken left foot has been placed in a boot and it will not removed for four weeks. Cervelli is expected to miss at least six weeks with the spring injury, something of which he is all too familiar. In 2008, Cervelli was involved in a home-plate collision with the Rays’ Eliot Johnson and suffered a broken wrist. In 2009, he was slowed throughout the spring with pneumonia and last season he suffered a concussion when he struck by a pitch from the Blue Jays’ Zech Zincola.  . . .  Right-hander Andrew Brackman, coming back from a strained groin, threw 10 bullpen tosses and then threw a simulated inning on Saturday. He will get a chance to pitch in a game next week. Brackman, 25, had hopes of making the team this spring but he likely will begin the year as a starter at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.  . . .  Despite the work at the plate by Vazquez, Eric Chavez still appears to be frontrunner to back up at first and third base because of his defensive skills at third.  . . .  Montero took a foul tip off a knuckle on his right hand on Saturday but he stayed in the game.
ON DECK
The hard-luck Yankees will hit the road to Kissimmee, FL, on Sunday to meet the Houston Astros for the second time this spring. Phil Hughes will make his second Grapefruit League start for the Yankees. He will be opposed by veteran right-hander Brett Myers.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will not be telecast.