YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 0
It is an old adage but it has always proved true: Good pitching and timely hitting are a perfect recipe for baseball success.
David Phelps pitched five excellent scoreless innings and Juan Rivera was 3-for-4 including a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning as New York shut out Toronto on Sunday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Phelps (2-1) continued to stake his strong claim to the No. 5 starter spot by surrendering only three hits and a walk while striking out three batters to get credit for the victory.
Rivera’s bases-loaded double came off losing pitcher Brett Cecil (1-2) after the veteran left-hander had walked Brett Gardner, Blue Jays shortstop Mike McCoy botched a potential double play grounder off the bat of Jayson Nix and Cecil also issued a free pass to Kevin Youkilis.
The victory snapped the Yankees’ four-game spring losing streak and improved the Grapefruit League record to 4-11. The Blue Jays are now 7-8.
- Phelps, 26, is making it down-right impossible for manager Joe Girardi to send him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In his four spring starts, Phelps is 2-1 with 0.64 ERA with six strikeouts in 14 innings. Phelps is battling right-hander Ivan Nova, 26, for the final rotation spot. The loser could land in the bullpen, although Nova has virtually no experience as a reliever.
- Rivera’s 3-for-4 day with a double and three RBIs improved his spring batting average to .346 and it is looking like he is going to win a spot on the 25-man roster. Rivera is primarily an outfielder but Girardi has been using him at first base as a potential fill-in for Mark Teixeira when the season starts.
- Youkilis was 1-for-2 with a double and a walk on Sunday. His first-inning double was his first hit of the spring and his first with the Yankees. He entered the contest 0-for-9. Youkilis also has been impressive fielding his position at third base. Though Youkilis won a Gold Glove with the Red Sox as a first baseman in 2007 there does not seem to be any thought of moving him there in Teixeira’s absence.
After going 3-11 in the first part of spring the Yankees finally put together a game in which they scored on a big hit with the bases loaded, they did not allow a run and they did not commit an error in the field. So I am not going to mention anything negative. Perhaps things will start looking up now.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia, who has been recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow, will make his Grapefruit League debut on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. Sabathia, 32, threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game in Tampa on Sunday and he will be on about a 65 pitch count on Friday. . . . Left-hander Boone Logan threw some pitches off flat ground and also threw some in the bullpen on Sunday. Logan has been bothered by soreness in his left elbow. He is scheduled to threw a few more bullpen sessions and one batting practice session before he will be ready to return to game action. Girardi said Logan is still on track to be ready by Opening Day. . . . Derek Jeter, who made his spring debut on Saturday, will play on Monday and again will serve as the designated hitter. Jeter hopes to be able to play shortstop in a game on Wednesday.
The Yankees will be at home on Monday to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, 38, will make his second official start of the spring for the Yankees. His last start was Wednesday against the Dominican Republic team from the World Baseball Classic. He pitched three shutout innings in that exhibition game.
Kuroda will be opposed by right-hander Lance Lynn.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast live by ESPN.
YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 7
Let’s make this perfectly clear. This game on Thursday is not going to go down as a Yankee Classic. With both teams combining for 17 runs on 18 hits, 13 walks, two hit batters, an error, two wild pitches and two passed balls, it likely could be disseminated without the expressed written consent of the either team.
But it was a victory for the Yankees and they will take it.
Ichiro Suzuki continued his hot hitting by driving in three runs and Nick Swisher blasted his third grand slam of the season as part of seven-run fourth inning as New York outslugged Toronto to give themselves a one-game lead in the American League East over the idle second-place Baltimore Orioles.
Phil Hughes (16-12) did not so much win this game as he did not lose it. He gave up four runs on four hits and three walks while he struck out nine batters in five innings to collect his team-leading 16th win of the season.
The Yankees, meanwhile, had to wait out soft-tossing left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-6) to throw a pitch within a neighboring area code of the strike zone before they drove him out of the game in the fourth.
The Blue Jays held a slim 2-1 lead in the fourth when Laffey issued a leadoff walk to Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson reached when second baseman Kelly Johnson treated his routine grounder as if it was a hand grenade.
Laffey then issued another one of the five free passes he handed out on the evening to Casey McGehee to load the bases for Suzuki, who started the night 7-for-8 in the series and had homered in his first at-bat off Laffey to lead off the third inning.
Suzuki brought most of the paid crowd of 40,511 at Yankee Stadium to their feet with a two-run double that gave the Yankees their first lead of the night. Little did they know they would hold the lead for the rest of the night.
Manager John Farrell mercifully ended Laffey’s evening in favor of right-hander Brad Lincoln. However, unlike the vehicles that sport his name, Lincoln was neither original or inspired.
Lincoln walked Jayson Nix to refuel the bases to full and he put it in gear to face Derek Jeter. But Jeter stroked a lined single into right to make it 4-2.
Lincoln then wished he could have put the whole thing in reverse or hit the brakes when Swisher smacked a fat 2-1 fastball into the third row of bleachers in right-center over the auxiliary scoreboard to put a serious dent in the Blue Jays’ night and give the Yankees what they thought might be some breathing room so they could rest up for their weekend series with the Oakland Athletics.
Laffey’s line read five runs given up (four earned) on just two hits but five walks and he struck out three in three-plus innings.
However, in his effort to get five innings in for his victory, Hughes surrendered a two-run home run to to rookie Moise Sierra in the bottom of the fifth.
The Yankees got those two runs back in the bottom of the frame off reliever Brett Cecil on RBI singles by Nix and Jeter to make it 10-4.
After Derek Lowe pitched two shaky but scoreless innings, manager Joe Girardi called upon Cory Wade to pitch the eighth.
Wade spent most of the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because he was unable to get anyone out consistently at the major-league level this season. That should have been a huge red flag for Girardi.
Wade opened the third by giving up a solo home run to Johnson that still might be traveling. A single, a strikeout and a double later and Wade was gone in a New York minute. Joba Chamberlain then allowed a an RBI single to Brett Lawrie and a Mike McCoy drove in another run on a fielder’s choice groundout to make it 10-7 .
Chamberlain then gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion to bring up the tying run in Adam Lind. I bet Girardi loved this part of the game.
Fortunately, Chamberlain got Lind to fly out to medium right and David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to collect his second save of the season.
It’s a good thing, too. Whew!
With the victory, the Yankees have now officially righted themselves and have won seven of their last eight games. Their season record improved to 86-63 and they have but 13 contests left to play. The Blue Jays are pretty much sucking on the tailpipe of their own Lincoln after having been swept in the series and they are now 66-82.
- All Suzuki did in the three-game series was go 9-for-12 (.750) with a home run, three doubles, four stolen bases, four runs scored and four RBIs. About the only thing he did not do was deliver margaritas in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Girardi has chosen to keep Suzuki in the lineup against left-handers because Andruw Jones seemingly has not gotten a big hit since Memorial Day.
- Swisher struck out three times and walked in the game. However, his grand slam was the biggest hit of the game and it was a game the Yankees needed to win badly. Swisher hit a franchise record-tying 10th grand slam of the season and it was his third. It also was the seventh grand slam of his career. Swisher now has 21 home runs and 83 RBIs on the season. He has hit at least 20 home runs and driven 80 runs in all four of his seasons with the Yankees.
- Hughes tied a franchise record when he struck out four batters in the fourth inning. Hughes struck out in order J.P. Arencibia, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Lawrie, however, Hechavarria reached first on one of the two passed balls charged to Russell Martin on the evening. A.J. Burnett also did it for the Yankees on June 24, 2011 against the Colorado Rockies.
- The Yankees scored 10 runs but Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with a walk. That snapped his modest four-game hitting streak and pushed him under the .300 mark this season. Cano is having an unusually quiet September, hitting just .279 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
- Wade had pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances since his Sept. 1 recall but he was tagged hard by the Blue Jays. Wade is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA on the season after he was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA for the Yankees last season. It is not likely Wade will make the postseason roster and his days with the team appear numbered.
- Martin’s two passed balls give him seven on the season, which is the most he has been charged with in any of his major-league seasons. The Yankees still rave about his defense but it is hard to imagine the Yankees will re-sign him after he thoroughly flopped at the plate this season.
Mark Teixeira took swings in a batting cage at Yankee Stadium before the game on Thursday and he will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday in order to rehab his left calf strain in some Instructional League games. Teixeira is targeting a Sept 27 return date so he can get in some game action before the playoffs. . . . The Yankees elected not to activate Brett Gardner on Thursday although the move is imminent in the next few days.
The Yankees open a three-game weekend series against the A’s beginning on Friday and they have some payback in mind after they were swept in Oakland.
The Yankees send to the mound left-hander CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.63 ERA). Sabathia has allowed nine earned runs in his last two starts covering 13 innings. Though the Yankees say he is fine, Sabathia has not pitched well since his return from the disabled list with left elbow soreness. He is 8-8 with a 4.80 ERA lifetime against the A’s.
Oakland will start right-hander Jarrod Parker (11-8, 3.51 ERA). Parker allowed two runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings in a victory over the Orioles on Saturday. He is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his one career start against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.
YANKEES 2, BLUE JAYS 1
The way it has gone for 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes lately he might as well toss down a welcome mat and a recliner from his living room on the mound at Yankee Stadium. The reason is that the stadium has become a soothing and comforting “Home, Sweet, Home” to him this season.
Hughes pitched seven solid innings and the Yankees’ offense backed him with some “small ball” as New York edged the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in front of paid crowd of 42,472.
With the victory Hughes (13-11) extended his undefeated streak to seven games at Yankee Stadium dating back to June 26.
Hughes was touched for an opposite field solo home run to right by rookie third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria with two out in the fifth inning. It was Hechavarria’s first major-league home run and it was the 30th big fly Hughes has served up this season, a new career high.
But Hughes surrendered only four hits overall and three walks and fanned five batters in an outing in which he definitely had better command of his four-seam fastball.
The Yankees, without left-handed hitters Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez in the lineup as well as injured starters Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, staked him to an early 1-0 lead in the third inning off Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero.
With one out Jayson Nix singled to left and Ichiro Suzuki followed with a slow bouncer to third in which Suzuki easily beat out the throw of Hechavarria.
Derek Jeter followed with a fly to deep center that allowed Nix to advance to third and Nix scored on a lined single up the middle by Nick Swisher.
The Yankees could have easily added to their total but Robinson Cano’s hard-hit grounder up the middle was stopped by a diving stab from second baseman Mike McCoy, who threw Cano out at first to save a run.
The Yankees, who were sporting a lineup with newly signed designated hitter Steve Pearce batting cleanup and Russell Martin batting fifth although he was hitting just .196, scratched out another run in the fourth inning behind Pearce and Martin without the benefit of a hit.
Pearce drew a leadoff walk and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Martin then grounded out to McCoy at second base to advance Pearce to third. Pearce then scored on a long sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Curtis Granderson.
Like Hughes, Romero (8-12) pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks and he struck out six. With the loss, Romero has now lost 11 straight decisions.
The Yankee bullpen, which leaked like a sieve and blew the game on Monday, had a bounce-back evening on Tuesday.
David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and closer Rafael Soriano rebounded from his third blow save of the season on Monday to close out the Blue Jays 1-2-3 in the ninth with two strikeouts to earn his 34th save of the season.
With the victory the Yankees have improved their season record to 75-54. They lead the second-place Baltimore Orioles by 3 1/2 games in the American League East and the Tampa Bay Rays are in third place 4 1/2 games back. The Blue Jays are last in the division with a record of 57-71.
- Just when it looked like the starting rotation was heading south, Hughes is beginning to show signs he can pitch well in important games. In his last three starts he is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA. He also has given up only 13 hits and six walks and struck out 13 in his last 21 innings. He also is 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA at home this season. He is 3-8 with a 5.03 ERA on the road.
- Swisher’s RBI single in the third inning marked his 22rd RBI of the month. Swisher’s best month previously was April when he drove in 23 runs. Swisher was 1-for-3 in the game with a walk and he is hitting .327 in August and he has raised his average from .257 on July 28 to .276.
- On a night when the Yankees’ offense was struggling because their right-handed hitters are so much weaker than their left-handers, Nix was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a big run scored.
- Soriano certainly had a night of redemption after blowing the save on Monday. He dismissed the Blue Jays on 11 pitches, striking out Adam Lind and Yorvit Torrealba. Though Yankee fans boo him unmercifully when he fails, he remains the unsung hero of the team’s 2012 season for replacing the legendary Mariano Rivera.
- The Yankees are 27-9 against left-handers this season but, with Teixeira and Rodriguez out of the lineup, your grandmother could throw left-handed and get some of these Yankee right-handed batters out. Nix, Jeter and Swisher had four of the five hits and Suzuki was only lefty to get a hit.
- The main culprit from the right side is Andruw Jones, who was 0-for-3 and he did not get a ball out of the infield against Romero. Jones is paid to mash lefties yet he is just 5-for-38 (.132) in August. He has only one homer and three RBIs for the month. Jones better pick it up soon or he could be replaced as the right-handed part of the platoon with Raul Ibanez.
- Despite Martin’s giving himself up to advance a runner, he was 0-for-3 in the game and his average has slipped back to .195. He is not exactly a fearsome presence in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. So the Yankees better hope Rodriguez and Teixeira come back soon.
Teixeira was not placed on the 15-day disabled list because the Yankees are hoping he can return from his strained left calf within the next seven to 10 days. An MRI of the injury Teixeira suffered in fourth inning of Monday’s game against the Blue Jays indicated it is mild (Grade 1) strain. Since the team’s roster will expand on Sept. 1, the team wanted to be sure not to lose Teixiera for the full 15 days if they had placed him on the disabled list. . . . Rodriguez took a major step forward in his rehab of a fractured left hand by taking live batting practice on the field on Tuesday. The 37-year-old third baseman plans to take additional batting practice on Wednesday with hopes of being sent out a short rehab assignment next week. . . . Pearce was acquired on Monday from the Houston Astros for cash considerations and he was immediately inserted into the cleanup spot on Tuesday. Pearce, 29, hit .318 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he opted out of his contract. Pearce then later played for Baltimore and Houston this season, hitting .254 with three home runs and 49 games with the two teams. To make room for Pearce on the roster, the Yankees sent infielder Casey McGehee to Class-A Charelston. McGehee will be recalled on Friday when the rosters are allowed to expand.
The Yankees will complete their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Wednesday with the series tied at one apiece.
The Yankees will have their best on the mound in left-hander CC Sabathia (12-3, 3.44 ERA). Sabathia came off the disabled list to hold the Cleveland Indians to one run on Asdrubal Cabrera’s home run in 7 1/3 innings in a victory last Friday. Sabathia fanned nine batters to prove his left elbow is just fine. He is 13-3 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Jays.
The Blue Jays will continue the left-handed pitching parade by sending out J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.15 ERa). Happ gave up one run on four hits while striking seven to beat the Detroit Tigers last Thursday. He is 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA against the Yankees in his two career starts against them.
Game-time will be 1:05 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 2 – TORONTO BLUE JAYS
When you think of the Blue Jays these days, just one name comes to mind: Jose Bautista. The Blue Jays basically rode Bautista to an 81-81 record last season, the first season for manager John Farrell.
Though Bautista was able to slug his way to 43 home runs and 103 RBIs and a .302 average despite being pitched around and walked 132 times, the Blue Jays offense could not cover up problems in the Jays’ starting rotation and bullpen.
This season Bautista figures to have a lot more help with the offense but the Jays were unable to bid successfully for Japanese League star right-hander Yu Darvish. As a result, their pitching remains a big question mark heading into 2012. If they get some good pitching from their starters they could actually be much better than they were in 2011.
Left-hander Ricky Romero begins the 2012 season as the unquestioned ace of this team after compiling a 15-11 record and a 2.92 ERA with 178 strikeouts in 225 innings. Romero’s deadly change-up is his best pitch and he keeps hitters off-balance working off his low 90s fastball. At age 27, he has made great strides in just two major-league seasons.
Once again, right-hander Brandon Morrow will be the No. 2 starter, though he actually would be more valuable as a closer. Morrow, 27, throws high-octane gas but has a habit of missing the strike zone and getting bogged down in deep counts. That raises his pitch count and Morrow tends to tire quickly. Hence, he was 11-11 with a 4.72 ERA despite striking out 203 batters in 179 1/3 innings.
The big disappointment was left-hander Brett Cecil, who was 15-7 with a 4.22 ERA in 2010 but was 4-11 with a 4.73 ERA in 20 starts last season. Cecil, 25, regressed so badly he was sent back to the minors for a part of the season. Because the Jays have few options for their rotation, Cecil likely will be given another shot to stick in 2012. If he succeeds, as he did in 2010, the Jays will have a solid top three pitchers.
Right-hander Henderson Alvarez came up in the middle of the season and finished with a 1-3 record and a 3.53 ERA in only 10 starts. Alvarez, only 21, is an excellent control pitcher and he could end up making a huge leap forward if he can secure the No. 4 spot this season.
The Blue Jays are also counting on old friend to be their No. 5 starter in Dustin McGowan, who pitched briefly last season for the first time since the 2008 season. Shoulder problems derailed what looked to be a promising pitcher in 2007 when he was 12-10 with a 4.08 ERA for the Jays. The Jays are counting on him bouncing back this season.
The pressure is on McGowan, too. There is little depth behind him.
In short, this Blue Jays rotation looks to be a bit suspect but it has the potential to exceed expectations.
The most signifcant moves the Jays made was the signing 36-year-old right-hander Francisco Cordero as a free agent and acquiring 28-year-old right-hander Sergio Santos from the White Sox.
Leaky middle relief and the lack of a consistent closer cost the Jays dearly last season.
Cordero likely was signed to be a setup man for Santos despite the fact Cordero nailed down 36 saves in 43 chances with the Reds last season. Cordero was 5-3 with 2.45 ERA with the Reds but he still will to defer to Santos.
Santos came out of nowhere last season to become the White Sox closer with 30 saves in 36 tries and a 4-5 record with a 3.55 ERA. Should Santos falter for any reason, Cordero could easily slide into that role by virtue of his 327 career saves.
The Blue Jays also bolstered their bullpen by adding seemingly ageless left-hander Darren Oliver (who is 41) to a bullpen that already includes steady right-handers Jason Frasor and Casey Janssen. Former starter Jesse Litsch and long man Carlos Villanueva add depth to what now looks to be a strong group in 2012.
Bautista will not be shuttling from right-field to third base as he has in the past. The reason is the Jays think they have their third baseman for the forseeable future in Brett Lawrie.
Lawrie came up late in 2011 and showed he was ready for prime time by hitting nine home runs and driving in 25 runs with a .293 batting average in only 150 at bats. Projected over a full season, Lawrie’s numbers would approach Bautista’s. So Lawrie bears watching as a star of the future if he isn’t already.
Adam Lind also helped the Jays by slugging 26 home runs and driving in 87 runs hitting behind Bautiista. Though Lind could stand to hit better than the .251 mark he posted, the Jays have to be encouraged that he hit .243 against left-handers last season.
The Jays gave up on second baseman Aaron Hill and acquired Kelly Johnson from the Diamondbacks in a trade of Hill. However, Johnson and Hill are virtually alike in they are both mid-average power hitters. Johnson hit 21 home runs in 2011 after hitting 26 in 2010. Johnson also can steal bases. He swiped 16 last season.
The Jays also traded for troubled Cardinals outfielder Colby Ramus, who rejected hitting advice from coaches in St. Louis while posting a .225 batting average with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs. Because the Jays have failed in developing prospect Travis Snider into a major-league hitter the team has moved on hoping Ramus fulfills his early promise.
Rounding out the outfield is left-fielder Eric Thames, who hit .282 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs in just over half a season.
The Jays did seem to strike gold by prying shortstop Yunel Escobar from the Braves. Escobar, 29, hit .290 with 11 home runs and 48 RBIs as a leadoff hitter for most of the 2011 season.
The DH spot likely will go mostly to Edwin Encarnacion, who hit .272 with 17 home runs and 55 RBIs in 134 games last season.
This Blue Jay offense is laden with power but Farrell introduced the concept of the stolen base to the formerly station-to-station Jays. However, the team leader, Rajai Davis, stole 34 bases but is now cast in a bench role so I am not sure how much stealing this team will do in 2012.
The Jays also developed a young catcher in J.P. Arencibia, who had 23 home runs and 78 RBIs in a his rookie season. But even with all that production, Arencibia hit just .219. He needs some work on defense too but the Jays are hopeful because he is only 26.
Davis, a speedster who had hit .284 with 50 steals for the A’s in 2010 fell off to hit .238 for the Jays in 2011. So he is locked in a battle with former Phillies outfielder Ben Francisco for a backup spot.
Though Snider has been a disappointment for the third straight season, the left-handed slugger just turned 24 and the Jays remain hopeful he someday will put it together. He may land back in Triple-A for the 2012 season, however.
Mike McCoy will be the primary infield reserve. He lacks range but is solid at second, short and third.
Jays backup catcher and defensive wizard Jose Molina left as a free agent for the rival Rays so the Jays acquired former Angels catcher Jeff Mathis to back up Arencibia.
The Jays figure to hit more home runs and still fewer bases in 2012. It is team that you can shut down if you have good stuff. But it also is a team that can destroy a pitcher who continually falls behind in the count and does not have good stuff.
The biggest weakness on the team looks to be in the thin starting rotation. Romero is the only real quality pitcher because Morrow has yet to take the next step in his development into a starter, Cecil is a biq question mark, Alvarez needs to prove he belongs and McGowan is pitching after three mostly inactive seasons rehabbing after major shoulder surgery.
The bullpen should be improved and both Santos and Cordero have experience closing. The Blue Jays have some good relievers besides them in Oliver, Frasor and Janssen.
With some real improvement the Jays could contend for the division this season. But in this division, their starting pitching could prevent them from staying competitive as the season unfolds.
I see the Jays perhaps creeping over the .500 mark but still finishing fourth.
ON WEDNESDAY – PART 3 TAMPA BAY RAYS
YANKEES 7, BLUE JAYS 6
Mariano Rivera not only reached a personal milestone for himself by recording his 601st save, he rescued a Yankee team that was just happy to get out of Rogers Centre in Toronto with a victory.
Rivera managed to tie Trevor Hoffman for the all-time saves lead and the Yankees got a pair of huge home runs from a returning Alex Rodriguez and a slumping Curtis Granderson to overcome a 6-1 deficit and rebound to beat the Blue Jays on Saturday.
The victory by the Yankees, combined with the 4-3 defeat of the Boston Red Sox by the Tampa Bay Rays, has reduced the team’s magic number to clinch a payoff spot to four and their magic number to clinch the American League East is now eight.
As the early innings unfolded, it looked as if starter Bartolo Colon and the Yankees were going to get crushed by the Blue Jays. Colon was tagged for four runs in the second inning, keyed by RBI doubles by Colby Rasmus and Jose Molina.
The Blue Jays added two more runs and chased Colon in the fourth on a two-run double of the right-field wall by Mike McCoy.
Colon gave up six runs on seven hits and a walk and struck out three in four innings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees could not get a rally going against 21-year-old Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez.
They did have a promising comeback going in the fourth inning when Granderson opened the frame with a walk and Mark Teixeira doubled to the gap in left-center to advance Granderson to third. Granderson then scored when Robinson Cano lofted a sacrifice fly to left-field, which was dropped for an error by Adam Loewen. Teixiera advanced to third and Cano reached second.
Then the Yankees, who have had all sorts of problems scoring runs on this road trip, short-circuited the rally with a colossal base-running blunder.
Nick Swisher smacked a drive into center that was caught by Rasmus. For some reason, Cano ran around third base and passed Teixeira as he was tagging up to score what would have the second run of the inning. Cano was declared out and the Blue Jays escaped the the threat only giving up the one run.
But the Yankees long-slumbering bats awoke in a big way in the sixth. Granderson, who entered the game hitting .176 for the month, blasted a ground-rule double to right. Teixeira followed with a single to center in which Rasmus bobbled to allow Granderson to score and Teixeira to reach second.
Cano was then hit in the right hip with a pitch to put two runners on with no outs.
Rodriguez, who had missed the team’s previous eight games resting a sore left thumb, rocketed a first-pitch fastball into the left-field bleachers for a three-run home run that brought the Yankees to within a single run. For Rodriguez it was his 16th home run of the season and his first using a unique ring on his bat to protect the thumb and a new batting grip separating his top hand from his left thumb.
Alvarez was removed after the sixth inning having given up five runs on nine hits and a one walk and he struck out one batter.
The Yankees bullpen, who have been victimized four times in four different cities by walkoff losses, took over and shut down the Blue Jays for the rest of the game. Scott Proctor, Aaron Laffey, Hector Noesi, Rafael Soriano and Rivera each pitched a scoreless inning. Combined they gave up no hits and one walk and fanned six batters to hold the Blue Jays at bay long enough for the Yankees offense to grab the lead.
They did that in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter led off against right-handed reliever Carlos Villanueva with an infield single to deep short. Granderson then battled Villanueva into an extended 2-2 count in which he fouled off seven straight pitches. On the Villanueva’s 12th offering, Granderson punched a fastball over the center-field wall for his 40th home run and gave the Yankees their first lead of the game.
Laffey (3-2) was credited with the victory. Villanueva (6-4) took the loss. Rivera posted his 42nd save of the season in 47 chances.
The Yankees’ season ledger is at 91-59 and they now lead the Red Flops, uh, Sox, by 4 1/2 games with just 12 games left to play. The Blue Jays are 76-75 and are 15 1/2 games out of first in fourth place in the A.L. East.
- Granderson had a perfect afternoon at the plate. He was 3-for-3 with a bunt single, a double, a home run and he drew two walks. Despite his recent struggles at the plate this month, Granderson is two home runs behind the Blue Jays’ Jose Bautista (42) in the major leagues in home runs. His two RBIs drew him into a tie with the Phillies’ Ryan Howard for the major-league lead at 113. He leads Ian Kinsler of Texas for major-league lead in runs scored 131 to 112. So if Granderson can make a big push over the last 12 games, he could still advance his MVP credentials.
- Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a single, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs in his first game back. The thumb was not an issue and Rodriguez said his surgically repaired knee is not hurting him. Obviously, he felt comfortable at the plate. Rodriguez batted fifth for the first time since the 2006 season and it is unclear whether manager Joe Girardi will keep him that spot for the rest of the season and the playoffs.
- Teixeira also entered Saturday’s game in a slump. He was 6-for-35 (.171) in his last nine games. But he showed signs of life with a 2-for-5 game with a single and a double. Barring an extremely hot finish to the season, Teixeira will easily set a season-low batting mark this season. He is hitting just .246.
- Colon is becoming hard to figure out. On July 30, he was 8-6 with a 3.82 ERA. He is winless in his last eight starts and yet his ERA is just a tick lower at 3.81. He also has been good one start and not so good in the next. If the Yankees are to progress in the postseason the Yankees need more consistent pitching from Colon.
- Cano is easily the most gifted hitter and all-around player on the team. However, along with it comes some pretty bad rockhead plays. Twice on this current road trip, Cano has made serious base-running blunders that have cost the Yankees dearly. This one on Saturday was incredibly stupid. Even if he mistakenly thought the ball was in for a hit, he should have looked to see where Teixeira was on the bases before he ran past him. If the Yankees play this way in the playoffs they can forget winning their 28th world championship.
- During this road trip the Yankees have also been hitting into a lot of double plays. Besides the Cano mistake that was scored as a double play, the Yankees hit into two double plays in the first two innings. One by Teixeira and another by Swisher. It is easy to understand that they are not deliberately hitting into double plays but they are killing the offense when they are not careful on hitting over the ball instead of getting under the ball. It has to stop.
Phil Hughes felt back spasms after he completed his bullpen session on Friday and he will not pitch on Monday as scheduled. A.J. Burnett will pitch against the Minnesota Twins on that day instead. Girardi said the spasms were minor and Hughes likely will pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday or in one of the doubleheader games scheduled for Wednesday.
The Yankees will look to win the three-game series against the Blue Jays on Sunday.
The Yankees will start 34-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia (11-7, 3.71 ERA). Garcia was not sharp in his last start on Sept. 11 against the Angels. He gave up five runs on seven hits and three walks in five innings of a no-decision game in which the Yankees rallied to win 6-5. He is 7-7 with a 6.10 ERA in the lat 10 seasons against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will start right-hander Brandon Morrow (9-11, 5.23 ERA). Morrow allowed seven runs on seven hits and one walk in 5 1/3 innings against Boston. Morrow has allowed five or more runs in four of his last five starts. He is 3-2 with a 4.66 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be at 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast 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.