YANKEES 3, TWINS 2
It came in his 401st career start and it came in his second attempt at it, but CC Sabathia was able to join a very elite club of major-league pitchers on Wednesday.
Red-hot Robinson Cano keyed the offense with a huge two-run double in the sixth inning and Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven strong innings to earn his 200th major-league victory as he and New York continued their unbelievable dominance over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,457 at Target Field.
Sabathia (9-6) became the 27th pitcher in major-league baseball history to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday and only the eighth pitcher to do so after 1961.
The veteran left-hander held the Twins to only two runs on seven hits and three walks to run his record against the Twins to 11-0 in his last 12 starts – which includes the playoffs – dating back to Aug. 3, 2007.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have now won three straight against the Twins after they had dropped their previous five games.
Cano entered the evening 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs, three of those home runs coming against the Twins. He struck again against rookie right-hander P.J. Walters after Walters had shut out the Yankees on only one hit and two walks in the first five innings.
With the Twins ahead 2-0, Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki followed by slashing a line drive that struck the wall down the right-field line just inside the foul line for a double.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire elected to have Walters pitch to Cano with a base open and Cano made both Gardenhire and Walters pay for it when he lashed a two-run double to right-center.
Travis Hafner chased Walters (2-5) when he slapped an opposite field single to left to advance Cano to third.
One out later, Lyle Overbay plated Cano with the go-ahead by lining a sacrifice fly to center-field off left-hander Caleb Thielbar.
Walters was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead off Sabathia in the third inning when Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk and Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double to the wall in left-center.
The Twins, however, missed a golden opportunity to add to their 1-0 lead in the inning when newly signed Yankee shortstop Luis Cruz airmailed a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Doumit over Overbay’s head for an error that advanced Mauer to third with no outs.
Sabathia then struck out Justin Morneau swinging, retired Trevor Plouffe on a fly ball to shallow right and fanned Oswaldo Arcia swinging to end the threat.
The Twins did add a run with two out in the fifth inning when Plouffe connected off Sabathia for his eighth homer of the season to straightaway center.
But for the third consecutive evening the Yankees were able to come from behind to take the lead and hold it against the Twins.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Mariano Rivera shut out the Twins in the ninth for his 28th save in 29 chances this season. It was the 636th career save for the 41-year-old right-hander and 35 of them have come against the Twins.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 45-39 and they remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. But they edged a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the division. The Twins, who have now lost four in a row, are 36-45.
- It was nice to see Sabathia get his 200th victory after he threw five no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday only to end up losing the game 4-3. Despite the nine strikeouts, Sabathia did have some command issues that raised his pitch count in the early innings. He ended up throwing a season-high 121 pitches.
- Cano finished the evening 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs. In his past six games, Cano is 14-for-24 (.584) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. It is odd that the Twins elected to pitch to him with first base open and no outs in the sixth, but Cano is beginning to deliver the big hit. In fact, when he lined out to center in the eighth it took a diving catch by Aaron Hicks to get him out.
- Rivera is continuing his farewell tour of American League cities and he is absolutely rolling in his final season. Rivera is 1-1 with 28 saves with an amazing 1.44 ERA. At 43 years of age Rivera is a lock to be invited to his 13th All-Star Game. The odd thing is they would not be inviting him out of sentiment. Rivera honestly is STILL among the elite closers in baseball. Amazing!
- The Yankee offense was poor on Wednesday. They made the soft-tossing rookie Walters look like Greg Maddux for the first five innings. The No. 5 through No. 9 spots in the order were a combined 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. It was just lucky they strung together three of their four hits in the sixth inning to take the lead.
- Cruz, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Dodgers, was signed as a free agent earlier in the day and ended up starting at shortstop for the Yankees. He was 0-for-3 and committed a throwing error that could have been costly if Sabathia had not pitched his way out of the jam. But Cruz did drive a ball to deep left in the fifth that Arcia grabbed at the wall to rob him of at least a double.
- Chris Stewart ‘s problems at the plate continue. He was 0-for-4 and now has not gotten a hit in his past 14 at-bats. His season average continues to plummet. His 0-for-4 evening dropped his average to .238. It looks as if the career .223 hitter is falling back to his norm.
The Yankees signed Cruz because they placed infielder Jayson Nix on the 15-day disabled list as of July 2 with a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Nix sustained the injury running out a double in Monday’s game against the Twins. Crus, 29, was released by the Dodgers after hitting .127 in 45 games. He was designated for assignment on June 28 and opted to become a free agent rather than accept an offer to play for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Cruz, a right-hand hitter, can play both shortstop and third base. Cruz becomes the fifth player to play shortstop for the Yankees this season in place of Derek Jeter. Eduardo Nunez, Nix, Reid Brignac and Alberto Gonzalez have also played the position this season.
The Yankees can actually sweep the Twins in the four-game series with a victory on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Phelps was treated like a piñata by the Orioles on Sunday. He gave up a career-high nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Twins.
The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00 ERA). Gibson gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings in his major-league debut on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. Gibson will get his first look at the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TWINS 3
With his job as a starter on the line in his last outing, Phil Hughes gave up just two runs in eight strong innings against the Texas Rangers and was “rewarded” with a loss because the Yankees managed just two singles in nine innings to Derek Holland.
On Tuesday, Hughes yielded just a run in seven strong innings but he finally got the run support he needed to win his first game since June 6.
Robinson Cano hit his fourth home run in his past four games – a three-run shot in the seventh inning – and Alberto Gonzalez drove in his first three runs as a Yankee to back Hughes’ strong outing as New York continued its uncanny mastery over Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 29,019 at Target Field.
Hughes (4-7) was only touched for a run in the bottom of the third inning on a leadoff double by Aaron Hicks and a two-out RBI single by Joe Mauer.
He gave up six hits and two walks while he struck out three as he won his first game in four starts since he defeated the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field just less than a month ago.
The key inning for Hughes was the bottom of the fourth when Trevor Plouffe drew a leadoff walk and Oswaldo Arcia laced an opposite-field double to left. Hughes responded by fanning both Chris Parmelee and Hicks looking and retired Pedro Florimon on a routine groundout to escape the jam.
Meanwhile, the Yankees finally solved right-hander Samuel Deduno in the fifth inning after managing just one hit and a walk and being retired on 10 groundouts over the first four frames.
Lyle Overbay led off with a swinging bunt single and David Adams followed one out later with a single up the middle. Gonzalez, who was 0-for-13 since he was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on June 26, delivered an opposite-field double down the right-field line to score Overbay and Adams.
After Gonzalez advanced to third on a groundout off the bat of Brett Gardner, Ichiro Suzuki rolled a dribbler down the first-base line that Deduno was unable to field that was scored as a single that allowed Gonzalez to make it 4-1.
Deduno (4-3) left after having given up three runs on five hits and one walk while striking out one in five innings.
But just as the Yankees were able to score seven runs off the Twins’ bullpen on Monday, they added four runs off their relievers on Tuesday.
Adams, who had been mired in a dreadful slump since May 20, collected his second hit of the game with a one-out double off right-hander Anthony Swarzak that the right-fielder Parmelee misplayed to allow him to reach third. Gonzalez then slapped a opposite-field roller into right-field that scored Adams.
Suzuki then added a two-out single into left-field that tipped off the glove of the shortstop Florimon and Cano then launched an 0-1 fastball deep into the upper deck in right-field for his 20th home run of the season.
The Twins added a pair of runs off reliever Preston Claiborne in the ninth inning on a two-out, two-run double by Brian Dozier before Mariano Rivera came on with two on and two out to retire Ryan Doumit on a groundout to earn his 27th save in 28 chances this season.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season ledger to 44-39 and they were able to remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in fourth place in the American League East. The Twins dropped to 36-44.
- Cano has stopped swinging at pitches out the strike zone and it has paid off in that in his past five games he is 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs. Cano now holds the team’s Triple Crown, leading the team in average (.295), home runs (20) and RBIs (54). His resurgence also has helped the Yankees score 17 runs in the past two games after scoring just 13 in losing their previous five games.
- Gonzalez and Adams finally came through for the Yankees in a big way in the No. 8 and No. 9 spots in the order, which have been unproductive all season. The pair combined to go 4-for-8, scored four runs and drove in three. Gonzalez also contributed with his glove by making a sensational diving catch in shallow left to rob Mauer of a base-hit in the fifth inning.
- Hughes has now put together two very good starts and he seems to have put aside any talk of shifting him to the bullpen for now. Hughes has given up just three runs on 11 hits and three walks while striking out eight batters in 15 innings. That is an ERA of 1.80, which has lowered his season ERA to 4.55.
- Travis Hafner was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he is struggling to produce anything behind Cano in the cleanup spot. Hafner hit .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs in April. Since then he is hitting .174 with six home runs and 19 RBIs. It is beginning to look as if the 36-year-old designated hitter may not even get close to his career average of .275. He is hitting an anemic .219.
- Chris Stewart was 0-for-4 in the game as his slide at the plate continues. Stewart was hitting .284 on June 11 but is just 9-for-45 (.200) since then, which has dropped his season average to .245. Because Austin Romine is hitting only .145 the Yankees could sure use a return from starting catcher Francisco Cervelli, who was hitting .269 when he broke his right hand on June 26.
- It may seem like Claiborne pitched poorly in allowing two runs on three hits in the ninth inning but it actually was manager Joe Girardi’s fault for using him in the ninth after he had pitched the eighth. Claiborne three 30 pitches in the ninth and simply wore down because he is more of a one-inning pitcher like David Robertson.
First baseman Mark Teixeira had the tendon sheath in his right wrist repaired successfully on Tuesday at New York University Hospital and he is expected to be ready for spring training. Teixeira, 33, played in only 15 games this season, hitting .151 with three homers and 12 RBIs. Teixeira originally injured his wrist in March preparing to play in the World Baseball Classic. . . . Third baseman Alex Rodriguez made his long-awaited debut in a rehab game on Tuesday with Class-A Charleston (SC) and he went 0-for-2 and played three innings at third base. Rodriguez is on a 20-day assignment as part of his rehab from left hip surgery in January. He could return to the Yankees on July 22 at the latest. . . . Gonzalez subbed at shortstop for Jayson Nix, who was held out of Tuesday’s game with a sore right hamstring. Nix, 30, strained his hamstring legging out a double in Monday’s game and is listed as day-to-day. . . . Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda flew back to New York on Tuesday to have an MRI performed on his left hip flexor. The MRI was negative but Kuroda’s spot in the rotation will be filled by right-hander Ivan Nova on Friday against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium.
The Yankees can clinch the four-game series against Minnesota with a victory as the series continues on Wednesday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia (8-6, 4.15 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia was sailing along in his start on Friday until the Orioles scored four runs late to hang him with a loss after he held a 3-0 lead entering the sixth and he was pitching a no-hitter. Sabathia has dominated the Twins in his career. He is 16-8 with 2.97 ERA.
The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander P.J. Walters (2-4, 6.03 ERA). Walters coughed up six runs on six hits and a walk in only three innings in his shortest start of the season against the Kansas City Royals on Friday. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.