BRAVES 2, YANKEES 1
TAMPA – To the Yankees and their fans, the tradition and history of the team is almost as important than the future direction of the franchise. On Saturday, the current legends of the team and the promise of the future were on proud display on Saturday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, fresh from a morning news conference to announce that 2013 will be his final season in pinstripes, and team captain Derek Jeter, rehabbing from offseason surgery to his left ankle, both made triumphant spring training debuts.
As a metaphor for the future, 23-year-old right-hander Jose Ramirez threw four shutout innings against the Braves, yielding just one hit and striking out four batters.
However, as a reminder of the team’s present, the Yankees’ offense could not match its excellent pitching and they fell to Atlanta for their fourth consecutive spring training defeat.
Rivera, 43, spurred the crowd of 10,973 to its feet as he trotted to the mound in the fifth inning serenaded by his personal anthem “Enter Sandman.”
It did not take the master long to establish his signature cutter as Dan Uggla hit a weak infield popup and Juan Francisco and Chris Johnson were caught looking in only 15 pitches. The gathered throng shot to its feet again as one of their heroes strode off the mound and tipped his cap just before he entered the dugout.
Their other “Golden Boy,” Jeter, wasted no time after his standing ovation as he stepped into the batter’s box in the first inning. He sent the initial offering from left-hander Mike Minor between the shortstop Tyler Pastornicky and the third baseman Francisco in left-field. Though Jeter’s gait appeared to be somewhat labored. It did not make a difference to the fans who cheered the captain they love so dearly.
In a spring marked by injury after injury, disappointment and mounting losses, the fans were just happy to have No. 2 and No. 42 back on the field.
Minor matched Ramirez with four shutout innings of his own. He gave up three hits and two walks.
The Braves scored their first run in the seventh inning on a one-out triple by Pastornicky and a two-out bloop RBI single to center by Uggla. They added an insurance run in the ninth on a Jordan Schaffer double and Schaffer later scored on a sac fly off the bat of Jordan Parraz.
That run proved significant because the Yankees ended a 19-inning spring scoring drought against the Braves that dates back to the team’s spring opener on Feb. 23. Thomas Neal scored Bobby Wilson on a groundout off reliever Alex Wood.
Anthony Vavaro (1-0) pitched a perfect sixth inning to get credit for the victory. Wood pitched two innings to earn his second spring save. Left-hander Francisco Rondon took the loss for the Yankees.
The punchless Yankees are now 3-11 this spring. The Braves improved to 8-8.
- Of all the young pitchers, it’s Ramirez, 23, who’s looked the best. He’s gotten two starts and has pitched a total of shutout nine innings allowing four hits with one walk and five strikeouts. “He’s been great,” manager Joe Girardi said. “The kid has thrown the ball really well. He’s throwing strikes. He’s got an outstanding changeup. His slider is a work in progress. He spots his fastball with velocity. He’s had an outstanding spring.”
- Ichiro Suzuki was 2-for-3 and a stolen base on Saturday. He is hitting .450 for the spring. It is just too bad that nobody in the No. 3, No. 4 or No. 5 spots can get enough going at the plate to score him. I bet Girardi is counting the days until mid-May when Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira are expected back. Until then it is not much of an offense. It is just plain offensive is what it is.
- Ronnier Mustelier may be built like a tank but he proved on Saturday that he can run when he stroked a two-out triple to right-center in the seventh. Mustelier, 28, is hitting a robust .375 this spring and Girardi even tried him out at third base on Saturday. Mustelier was moved to the outfield because he seems to be better there. But if he could play third well enough the Yankees might keep him because of his potent bat.
- Surprise! The Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position on Saturday. It is apparent that the team’s downfall in the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers has not been rectified. They are going to have to do better when the season starts.
- Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera, two players who are likely going to make the team and are being counted upon in the absence of Granderson and Teixeira, were a combined 0-for-6 on Saturday. Rivera is hitting a respectable .273 but Diaz is struggling, hitting just .222.
- Left-handed designated hitter Travis Hafner was 0-for- 2 and he’s hitting .167. It may not yet be time to panic but you may want to keep the Xanax handy.
Right-handers Phil Hughes, David Robertson and David Aardsma threw bullpen sessions on Saturday and all three reported feeling fine afterward. “All good news,” Girardi said. “Maybe the worm has turned.” . . . After the game right-handers Tom Kahnle and Kelvin Perez were optioned to minor-league camp.
The Yankees hope to seek a better result on Sunday on the road against the Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin, FL.
Right-hander David Phelps will make his fourth start of the spring for the Yankees. He will be opposed by J.A. Happ.
Game-time will be at 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast on tape delay by the MLB Network at 3 a.m. on Monday.
MARLINS 6, YANKEES 1
Manager Joe Girardi needs to make an emergency call to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission because on the Yankees’ road trip to Jupiter, FL, they were overrun by some extremely pesky fish and birds.
On Thursday they lost 7-6 to the St. Louis Cardinals and on Friday they fell meekly to the Miami Marlins.
Matt Downs and Adeiny Hechavarria each drove in a pair of runs and Nathan Eovaldi and four Marlins relievers held the Yankees to just one run as Miami easily defeated New York at Roger Dean Stadium.
Eovaldi (2-0) gave up four hits, walked three and hit a batter in his four innings of work but the Yankees were only able to push across a single run against the right-hander. Adam Warren (0-1) gave up four runs on six hits and a walk in four innings to take the loss.
The Yankees scored their lone run in the fourth on a two-out single by Melky Mesa and an RBI double off the wall in left-center by Thomas Neal.
The Yankees fell to 3-10 on the spring The Marlins improved to 5-5.
- The Yankees who were on this road trip – minus the players who are injured or who are playing in the World Baseball Classic – got in their exercise for the day and nary a one got injured in the game.
- Mesa had two of the Yankees’ five hits and scored the team’s only run. In going 2-for-4, Mesa raised his spring average to .261 and he leads the team in home runs this spring with two and he is tied with J.R. Murphy for the team lead in RBIs with four.
- Branden Pinder pitched a scoreless fifth inning and he was the only Yankee pitcher to record a 1-2-3 inning. The 24-year-old right-hander pitched mostly at High-A Tampa last season and was 2-6 with a 2.79 ERA. He likely will be assigned to Double-A Trenton in 2013 but he bears watching this season.
- Nobody with the Yankees will tell you this but I will: Warren is a complete waste of time as a starting pitching prospect. The 25-year-old right-hander is not a strikeout pitcher and he has to rely on trickery to get outs. The Marlins on Friday were able to exploit that and it is the main reason he gave up four runs in four innings.
- Brett Gardner was the recipient of Thursday’s Rip Van Winkle Award for getting picked off first base by Cardinals starter Joe Kelly. Friday’s recipient is Eduard Nunez, who got nailed by Eovaldi leaning too far off first after a leadoff walk. With hits and runs hard to come by this spring it is aggravating when runners get picked off.
- Kevin Youkilis was 0-for-3 on Friday and is still looking for his first hit with the Yankees. With Curtis Granderson and Mark Teixeira both out until mid-May the Yankees will be leaning on Youkilis and Travis Hafter to help produce runs. But they are a combined 2-for-19 (.105) with one RBI.
Most of the buzz around spring camp in Tampa, FL, is about the news conference scheduled for 10 a.m. in which future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera is expected to announce that the 2013 season will be his last. Rivera, for his part, has been ducking reporters questions about it. . . . Rivera, 43, is scheduled to make his 2013 spring debut on Saturday. Rivera is rehabbing from surgery on his right knee, which cut short his 2012 season in early May. . . . Left-hander Andy Pettitte pitched a simulated game on Friday in Tampa and he could make his first spring start as soon as Wednesday. . . . Reliever David Robertson, who has been shelved for a few days with right shoulder discomfort has been cleared to resume throwing. . . . Shortstop Derek Jeter returned to camp after visiting the physician who performed surgery on his fractured left ankle in Charlotte, N.C., and he could be making his spring training debut soon. The most likely date could be a home game on Monday against the Cardinals.
During Friday’s game Miami Marlins radio broadcasters Dave Van Horne and Glenn Geffner were poking fun at the Yankees’ injury woes this spring. At one point, Geffner said it was like “Who’s on first, What’s on second and I Don’t Know was at third.” Very clever, Glenn. You get some star stickers to place on your Jose Reyes lunchbox. I would think after the Marlins front office decided to ship just about every able-bodied player they had on last season’s roster to other teams I would not be taking shots at the misfortunes of other teams. Considering that the Marlins will be starting such household names as Rob Brantly behind the plate, Donovan Solano at second, Hechavarria at short and Justin Ruggiano in center, I would stick to just reporting on the Marlins and not worrying about a team in another league. Especially a team that is out of your in league in talent. I would say there are more “Who’s and What’s” on the Marlins roster than the Yankees. So just shut up, OK?
The Yankees return George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Atlanta Braves on Saturday.
Jose Ramirez, who is 1-0 with 0.00 ERA in his first two outings this spring, will start for the Yankees. The Braves will counter with left-hander Mike Minor.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 2
When you think of perfect 10’s you might immediately conjure up images of Angelina Joile, Jessica Alba or Kate Beckinsale. Though they might not be in the same league as those women in terms of looks, the New York Yankees are now a perfect 10 themselves.
CC Sabathia pitched his first complete game in 11 months and Derek Jeter drove in three runs, including a clutch two-out, two-run single that a broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning, as New York overcame being no-hit for the first four innings on Monday to defeat Atlanta for their 10th straight victory.
Sabathia (9-3) gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk and he fanned 10 batters to join teammate Ivan Nova as the first two pitchers in the American League to win nine games.
Sabathia, however, got off to a rough start when Michael Bourn cranked his second offering into the gap and to the wall in left-center for a triple. Martin Prado pushed him across the plate on a groundout.
Four innings later, Bourn burned Sabathia for a second time.
Jason Heyward led off the fifth with a single up the middle and Andrelton Simmons reached on an infield single when his comebacker ticked off Sabathia’s glove. One out later, Bourn slapped a single up the middle to score Heyward and the Braves held a 2-0 lead with Mike Minor throwing a no-hitter through four innings.
But the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be very unkind to the 24-year-old left-hander, who shut down the Yankees on one run and four hits through 7 1/3 innings last Tuesday in Atlanta only to have the Yankees rally for six runs in the eighth inning and win the game, 6-4.
Alex Rodriguez started the inning with the Yankees first hit of the game, a solid lined single to center. Minor then walked Robinson Cano and, after one out, Russell Martin smacked a ground-rule double down the left-field line to score Rodriguez and halve the Braves’ lead to 2-1.
Jayson Nix drew a walk to load the bases and with two out Jeter smacked a single up the middle to score Cano and Martin and the Yankees grabbed their first lead of the night. A majority of the 42,709 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium finally had a chance to get to their feet and cheer.
Sabathia was not about to give up the lead either.
In the final four innings, the Braves managed only a two-out single by David Ross in the seventh inning. Sabathia retired the other 12 batters he faced – six on strikeouts, five on groundouts and one on a flyout – to nail it down down for the Yankees.
Meanwhile, the Yankees tacked on single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth.
Mark Teixeira blasted his 12th home run of the season off Minor to lead off the sixth. It was the 100th home run of the season for the Yankees, which leads the majors.
An inning later, Jeter followed a two-out double by Chris Stewart with an RBI single to make it 5-2 and Cano capped the scoring with his 13th home run of the season with one out in the eighth.
Minor (3-5) gave up four runs on four hits and three walks and he struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings.
Sabathia’s complete game was his first since an eight-inning loss to Tampa Bay on July 21, 2011. He has pitched at least seven innings in 11 of his 14 starts this season.
The Yankees’ 10-game winning streak is their longest such streak since May 2005. The Yankee starting rotation has an ERA of 2.09 during the streak and they have recorded eight of the victories.
The Yankee have improved their A.L.-best record to 41-25 and they extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to 2 1/2 games in the A.L. East. The Braves, who have now lost all four interleague contest they have played against the Yankees, are now 35-32.
- In the month of June, Sabathia actually entered the game as the starter with the worst ERA at 3.80, though he was 2-1. But after a shaky start, Sabathia settled in the minute the Yankees took the lead and was in command the rest of the way. Sabathia lowered his season ERA to 3.55 and he is on pace for another run at a 20-win season.
- Jeter two RBI hits both came with two outs and with runners in scoring position. There have not been many of those from the Yankees this season. Jeter extended his hitting streak to nine games and he is 14-for-41 (.341) over that stretch. He raised his season average to a team-best .317. Jeter also made a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Bourn to end the seventh inning.
- When Martin stepped to the plate in the fifth inning he was one for his last 19 at-bats, including a strikeout in this first at-bat. But he doubled and later singled to push his batting average back over the Mendoza Line to .206 for the season.
What negatives? Despite the fact it took them five innings to get a hit, the Yankees dug down deep again and pulled another game out. Sabathia looked sensational after the Yankees got the lead and not many teams can say they have won 10 in a row. This one can.
The Yankees will go for No. 11 on Tuesday against these same Braves.
Red-hot right-hander Hiroki Kuroda ( 6-6, 3.43 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda limited the Braves to two runs on nine hits and he fanned a season-high eight last Wednesday for his third straight victory. Kuroda is 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in his career against the Braves.
Kuroda will square off with Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.90 ERA) again. Hudson gave up three runs – two coming on a Curtis Granderson two-run homer in the sixth – in six innings and took the loss against the Yankees. He is 1-4 with a 3.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast on regional basis by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 1
Ask any manager and general manager in baseball to give you the three keys to winning and they all will tell that it is pitching, pitching and more pitching. The New York Yankees suddenly have the market cornered on pitching as they continue their destruction of the National League during interleague play.
Ivan Nova threw 7 1/3 innings of sparkling one-run baseball to become the first American League pitcher to win nine games as New York, on the strength of a pair of solo home runs by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, swept Washington at Nationals Park on Sunday to win their ninth straight contest.
Nova (7-2) only surrendered a solo home run to Adam LaRoche to lead of the second inning. He gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out four batters to record his fifth straight victory and he remains undefeated (12-0) over his last 15 road starts dating back to June 3, 2011.
The Yankees, meanwhile, reverted back to their old ways of failing to hit with runners in scoring position but they still were able to get to Edwin Jackson (3-4) to push across enough runs to win the game.
The Yankees loaded the bases in the first inning on Jackson on an infield single by Derek Jeter, a Granderson double and an intentional walk to Cano with one out. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly that brought Jeter home with the game’s first run.
That run held up until LaRoche tied it with his team-leading 12th home run for the Nationals.
But Granderson broke the tie leading off the fifth inning by crushing a high change-up off Jackson into the bullpen in right-field for his 21st home run of the season.
Even though the Yankees put runners on base in all six innings Jackson worked, they could not come up with the knockout blow. Jackson gave up seven hits and three walks but he kept the Yankees from adding to their lead. The Yankees were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.
The Yankees did manage to run up Jackson’s pitch count to 110 after six innings, which sent him out of the game and allowed the Yankees to tack on some runs against the Nationals’ bullpen.
They added a two runs in the seventh.
The first came on a solo home run by Cano off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for Cano’s 12th home run of the season. Three batters later, Teixeira – who doubled – scored from third with two out when rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus threw a 3-2 pitch to Andruw Jones that catcher Jhonathan Solano could not catch for a passed ball. Teixeira scored easily when Mattheus failed to cover home plate.
The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there.
Boone Logan completed the eighth inning for Nova and Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 13th save, which makes him the Yankees reliever who has saved the second-most games since Mariano Rivera became the team’s closer in 1996. Steve Karsay previously held that mark with 12.
With the victory the Yankees improved their A.L.-best record to 40-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the A.L. East. The Nationals, who came into the series on a six-game winning streak, dropped to 38-26.
- Nova pitched another exceptional game on Sunday. In his last three starts, Nova is 3-0, giving up only two runs on 16 hits and three walks and he has struck out 15 batters over 22 2/3 innings. That has lowered his season ERA from 5.60 to 4.32. He has not lost since a May 19 start at Yankee Stadium against the Reds and his career record is now 25-6. Anyone still think this 25-year-old right-hander is a fluke or his record is just a product of great run support?
- Granderson has been on a full-blown tear in his last eight games, which coincides neatly into the Yankees’ nine-game winning streak. Granderson has an eight-game hitting streak and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. In fact, Granderson has now homered in three of his last four games and his 21 homers trails only Adam Dunn (23) of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton (22) of the Rangers in the major leagues.
- Cano has been on a tear this June. He is hitting .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He has failed to get at least one hit in only two games this month. On May 5, Cano had one home run and four RBIs. Since that time, he has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs and he has raised his batting average from .255 to an even .300.
- The 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position statistic just hangs out there like an albatross on the Yankees. It can be forgotten with the nine-game winning streak but the longer it continues the harder it is going to be for the Yankees to correct it when they play tougher A.L. teams, not to mention in the playoffs.
- Raul Ibanez gets the award for choking in the clutch on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 and he left seven men on base. But, to be fair to Ibanez, he hit the ball hard three times but it just so happened that it found a glove each time. Ibanez is one of the Yankees struggling during their current winning streak. In his last 10 games he is hitting .172 with a home run and three RBIs.
- Alex Rodriguez also failed to contribute anything on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 including a strikeout. Though he has a home run and nine RBIs, he is only hitting .229 over his last 10 games. He is only hitting .222 in June.
As expected, Nick Swisher was held out of the lineup and did not play on Sunday due to a bone bruise in his left quad. Swisher was sliding into home plate when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores’ left shin guard struck Swisher on the left thigh as Flores tagged him out in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game. Swisher received treatment for the injury and he remains day-to-day. . . . Cano’s home run off Gorzelanny in the seventh inning was pretty much a given. In his career, Cano is 6-for-8 off Gorzelanny.
The Yankees completed a 6-0 road trip by sweeping two N.L. teams. They now come home to open a home series on Monday against one of those teams they swept, the Atlanta Braves.
CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia was tagged for four runs on 10 hits over seven innings against the Braves but he won the game when the Yankees came from 4-0 down in the eighth for a 6-4 victory. In his career against the Braves, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.
Lefty Mike Minor (3-4, 6.01 ERA) will face Sabathia and the Yankees for a second straight start. Last Wednesday, Minor pitched his best game of the season, limiting the Yankees to one run in 7 1/3 innings. But his bullpen – led by Jonny Venters – blew the lead and lost the game. This will be only Minor’s second start against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, BRAVES 4
Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez took out starter Mike Minor with one out in the eighth inning nursing a 4-0 lead after Derek Jeter singled and Minor had reached 100 pitches. In what looked to be a minor move at the time turned into a major catastrophe for the Braves.
Lefty reliever Jonny Venters faced the next four batters and he could not retire a single one.
Alex Rodriguez made him pay with an historic grand slam home run and, two batters later, Nick Swisher smashed a game-winning two-run shot of his own as New York got up off the mat and laid the heavy lumber to the Atlanta bullpen on Tuesday for a dramatic 6-4 comeback victory at Turner Field.
The miracle comeback was the Yankees’ fifth victory in a row and their 10th in their last 12 games, propelling the team into first place in the American League East with a 36-25 mark – the best record in the AL.
Rodriguez’s grand slam was the 23rd of his career and it ties him with former Yankee legend Lou Gehrig for first place on the all-time list.
Venters set the stage for Rodriguez and Swisher by giving up a single to Curtis Granderson, which advanced Jeter to second. Venters then walked Mark Teixeira to load the bases.
Falling behind Rodriguez 3-0, Venters threw a called strike and Rodriguez fouled off two more pitches before he connected with the low fastball and drove it out on a line about two rows into the left-field bleachers with a frozen rope you could hung all the Yankees’ laundry on for Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season and the 639th of his career.
A stunned Turner Field crowd of 41,452 was now staring at a scoreboard that read Yankees 4, Braves 4.
Venters then allowed Cano to fist a single into center and he was serenaded with a cascade of boos as he was replaced by right-hander Cory Gearrin.
Swisher greeted Gearrin by smacking a 1-0 change-up into the bleachers in right-center for his 10th home run of the season and the Yankees had their first lead of the game. Previously, the Braves had been 27-0 this season when leading after seven innings.
In Gehrig’s legendary speech at Yankee Stadium he said, “Today, I am the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” After this comeback victory, CC Sabathia should say the same thing.
Sabathia (8-3) got credit for a victory he frankly did not deserve.
Sabathia was rocked for three runs in the first inning, keyed by a bases-clearing double by Matt Diaz. The Braves loaded the bases on him again in the seventh and pushed another run across on an RBI groundout by Jason Heyward.
In seven innings of work, Sabathia fought to command his fastball and gave up four runs on 10 hits and and two walks and he struck six batters.
Minor, meanwhile, shut out the Yankees on five hits and one walk and he struck out four in 7 1/3 innings. Many Braves fans are wondering now if Gonzalez perhaps may have taken him out just a bit too soon.
Once the Yankees took the lead, manager Joe Girardi chose to use lefty Clay Rapada for the eighth and he pitched a scoreless frame. Then Rafael Soriano, who blew his last save opportunity on Sunday against the Mets and who also was nursing a blister on right index finger, came in to pitch the ninth.
He set Martin Prado, Brian McCann and Dan Uggla down in order, striking out McCann and Uggla swinging, to earn his 10th save in 11 tries.
The Yankees have clinched the three-game series by winning the first two games and they are now 8-2 at Turner Field.
- Rodriguez’s historic grand slam was also a meaningful blast for the Yankees. The home run erased Minor’s 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball and set the stage for the come-from-behind victory. It was Rodriguez’s first multiple-RBI game since June 1 and his first home run since June 3 and both of those events came in the same series against the Tigers in Detroit.
- Swisher’s blast off Gearrin was only his second home run of the month. Swisher also became the sixth Yankee to hit at least 10 home runs this season. Russell Martin has nine. His two RBIs give him 39 on the season, which still is the most on the team.
- Give Rapada and Soriano credit for shutting down the Braves in the final two innings. The bullpen was short because Boone Logan and Cory Wade were not really available and only Freddy Garcia and David Phelps could pitch for any length of time. But the pair shut out the Braves over the last two innings with no hits, one walk and they struck out three.
- The Yankees were 1-for-5 with runners in scoring position and that one hit was Rodriguez’s grand slam. There is reason why they are last in the American League with RISP. But they are not really paying much of a price now because they use the home run to cover that weakness. But if they don’t improve soon it will bite them.
- Sabathia has really been shaky his last two starts. He has given up nine runs (seven earned) on 17 hits and three walks and struck out 18 in 14 innings. Sabathia’s problem has falling behind and hitters are teeing off on him when he has to throw a strike. Still, he is 8-3 with a 3.80 ERA on the season.
- Here is the reason why Gonzalez may have made a big mistake in taking out Minor when he did. Up to that point, Teixeira, Rodriguez and Cano were a combined 0-for-8 against him. Teixeira drew a first-inning walk and that was pretty much it for the heart of the lineup until the eighth.
Closer Mariano Rivera had surgery on Tuesday to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee but there was no repairable damage to his meniscus. That was cited as great news by the Yankees. Rivera suffered the injury on May 3 in Kansas City, however, he had to postpone the surgery until a blot clot in his right calf was dissolved by medication. The surgery was performed in New York by the Mets’ team physician, Dr. David Altchek. Rivera will miss the rest of the season but he said he will pitch for the Yankees in 2013. . . . All-Star setup man David Robertson pitched a scoreless inning for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Tuesday. He will rejoin the Yankees in Atlanta on Wednesday but he will not be activated until the Yankees open a weekend series on Friday with the Nationals in Washington. Robertson has missed just about one month with a left oblique strain.
The Yankees will have an opportunity to sweep their second consecutive three-game series against the Braves on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (5-6, 3.46) will start for the Yankees. He is coming off a one-hit, seven-inning gem against the Mets although he had to leave with a bruised left foot. Kuroda is 2-0 with 0.82 ERA in his last three starts. He is 1-4 with a 2.10 ERA against the Braves.
Veteran right-hander Tim Hudson (4-2, 3.83) will oppose Kuroda. He shut out the Marlins last Tuesday but required three extra days to rest a sore left ankle. He is 1-3 with a 3.78 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, BRAVES 0
In the Mad Max film “The Road Warrior,” Mel Gibson (Max) protects a band of survivors in post-apocalyptic Australia. If they did a current version, they would need to cast Ivan Nova as Max because his pitching on the road has protected a Yankee roster ravaged by injuries.
Nova twirled seven shutout innings en route to 11th career road victory with no defeats in 14 starts as New York stormed into Turner Field and blanked Atlanta for their ninth victory in their last 11 games.
Nova (8-2) gave up just five hits – all of them singles – and one walk and struck out six to tie Matt Harrison of Texas, David Price of Tampa Bay and Chris Sale of Chicago for the American League lead in victories. Nova’s victory also lifted the surging Yankees into a tie with the Tampa Bay Rays for first place in the American League East.
The Yankees offense, meanwhile, was able to score single runs in the first three innings off Braves right-hander Randall Delgado (4-6).
With two out in the first inning, Alex Rodriguez smacked a line-drive double over the head of left-fielder Martin Prado and to the wall. Robinson Cano followed with a single up the middle to score Rodriguez.
They added a run in the second inning on a leadoff home run into the right-field bleachers off the bat of Raul Ibanez, his 10th of the season.
In the third inning, the Yankees loaded the bases on Delgado with one out on a walk to Rodriguez, a double by Cano and a four-pitch walk to Mark Teixeira. The Yankees have had trouble all season scoring runs with the bases loaded but this time they received some help from Delgado.
With two out and Nick Swisher at the plate, Delgado bounced a change-up into the dirt past Braves catcher Brain McCann and Rodriguez scored from third standing up.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they were unable to take advantage of the eight hits and seven walks they earned off Braves pitching. They were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they left 11 runners on base.
Instead, Nova leaned on the Yankees’ defense to keep the Braves off the board.
Swisher made a sensational leaping catch at the wall in right-field to rob McCann of a potential two-run home run in the fourth inning. Cano then ended the fourth with a deft stab of a scorched one-hopper off the bat of Freddie Freeman. The Yankees also turned in a pair of double plays, including one by Nova in which he snared a liner off the bat of Andrelton Simmons and doubled up Jason Heyward at first.
The Yankees’ bullpen – minus a resting Rafael Soriano – shut down the Braves the last two innings as manager Joe Girardi played mix-and-match with righties Cody Eppley and Cory Wade and lefties Clay Rapada and Boone Logan. They retired all six batters they faced and they did not allow a ball out of the infield.
With the interleague victory, the Yankees ran their major-league-best record to 162-109 for a .596 winning percentage. The Yankees are also 7-2 at Turner Field.
The Yankees season record improves to 35-25. The Braves drop to 34-27.
- Nova’s seven shutout innings lowered his ERA to 4.64. In his last two starts, Nova is 2-0 with a 0.60 ERA having given up one run on nine hits and two walks and fanning 11 over 15 innings of work. His career record is now 24-6. Despite the talk about his early-season ERA, the home runs he has given up and the run support he gets, there can be no denying this 25-year-old right-hander has a brilliant career ahead of him.
- Cano extended his hitting streak to nine games and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. His 2-for-4 night brought his season average back to .300.
- Rodriguez’s base-running was crucial to the Yankees scoring a third run off Delgado. He was on first when Cano laced a ball into left-center. Rodriguez chose to challenge the arm of Braves center-fielder Michael Bourn and he slid into third just ahead of the tag of Chipper Jones. He then scored on Delgado’s wild pitch.
- I am going to keep harping on the poor performance of Yankee hitters with runners in scoring position because it will cost them dearly in close games against good teams and in the playoffs.
- Russell Martin popped out with the bases loaded in the fourth and he hit into an inning-ending double play in the seventh with the bags full. He ended up leaving a total of eight base-runners in going 0-for-4. Martin was yesterday’s big hero, but on Monday he did not deliver when he had chances to break the game open. Of course, he was not alone.
- Ibanez struck out with one out and runners at second and third in the third inning. Not making contact in that situation is an absolute no-no.
Reliever David Robertson will make one more rehab appearance on Tuesday at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he could rejoin the team this weekend in Washington when the Yankees face the Nationals. Robertson has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 15 with a left oblique strain. . . . Despite sporting a bruise on his left hand he sustained on Sunday by bare-handing a hard-hit ball, left-hander Andy Pettitte said he will be able to pitch in his next start on Saturday against the Nationals. . . . The Yankees will not know if Brett Gardner’s troublesome right elbow will need surgery until after he is examined by a specialist on Thursday for a second opinion. Dr. James Andrews examined Gardner’s right elbow on Monday but is it unclear if surgery would be necessary until Dr. Timothy Kremchek has a chance to examine Gardner on Thursday. Gardner has played in only nine games this season and on two occasions just before being activated Gardner has felt recurring pain in the elbow.
The Yankees will look to take the series and extend their winning streak to five games against the Braves on Tuesday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (7-3, 3.69 ERA) gets the call for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a loss to the Rays in which he gave up five runs in seven innings. He is 1-1 with a 3.24 ERA in two career starts against the Braves.
The Braves are throwing a lefty of their own in Mike Minor (3-4, 6.57 ERA). Minor held the Marlins to one run on four hits over five innings to earn his first victory since April 19. Minor has never pitched against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by MY9.