YANKEES 7, ASTROS 4
On the final day of April, a day in which the Yankees placed their ninth player on the disabled list, they did pretty much what they have been doing most of the month: Finding a way to win.
Hiroki Kuroda recovered from a shaky first three innings to complete the best April of his career and Travis Hafner continued his hot month with three RBI singles as New York downed Houston on Tuesday in front of a paid crowd of 34,401 at Yankee Stadium.
Kuroda (4-1) surrendered three hits and four walks in throwing 67 pitches in the first three innings but he stranded all seven base-runners. With Kuroda struggling with his command, pitching coach Larry Rothschild suggested the 38-year-old right-hander try pitching only from the stretch.
Over the next four innings, Kuroda gave up only a leadoff single by Jose Altuve in the fifth inning. Kuroda retired 14 of the last 15 batters he faced to earn the victory. He shut out the Astros on four hits and four walks while striking out a season-high eight batters.
Meanwhile, the Yankees wasted no time getting to Astros right-hander Philip Humber (0-6).
Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on a infield single off the bat of Ichiro Suzuki. One out later Hafner delivered the first of his three run-scoring singles, a line drive to the opposite field that left-fielder Brandon Barners trapped in his glove to allow Gardner to score.
Hafner delivered again in the third inning after Suzuki reached first on a wild pitch on a swinging third strike. Suzuki advanced to second on a stolen base and scored on Hafner’s single up the middle against an exaggerated Astros’ shift on the left-handed slugger.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the fifth after back-to-back one-out singles by Suzuki and Robinson Cano. After Humber uncorked his second of his three wild pitches of the night, Hafner was walked intentionally and Gardner scored when Brennan Boesch beat out a potential inning-ending double play.
Jayson Nix followed with an RBI single to score Cano.
Humber was touched for four runs on nine hits and two walks while he fanned two in six innings.
The Astros cut the lead in half against reliever David Robertson in the eighth inning when Carlos Pena drew a two-out walk and Chris Carter followed with an opposite field two-run home run to right-center.
The Yankees answered in the bottom of the inning when Lyle Overbay led off the inning with his third home run of the season off reliever Brad Peacock. Eduardo Nunez followed with his third hit of the game – a double to center – and Chris Stewart slapped an RBI single up the middle to chase Peacock.
After one out, Suzuki singled to right off reliever Rhiner Cruz and with two out Hafner closed out the scoring on a bloop single to the opposite field in left that scored Stewart.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, Shawn Kelley could not hold the team’s five-run cushion in the ninth.
With two out and a Marwin Gonzalez on first, Robbie Grossman singled to right-center and Altuve followed a two-run double.
Manager Joe Girardi replaced Kelley with Mariano Rivera and Rivera struck out Jason Castro swinging to earn his 10th save in 10 chances.
The Yankees have now won five of their last six games and they completed April with a 16-10 record, which puts them in second place in the American League East. The Astros fell to 8-19.
- Give Kuroda a lot of credit for shutting down the Astros despite the fact he did not initially have his best stuff. With his seven shutout innings, Kuroda lowered his season ERA to 2.25 and he is tied with CC Sabathia for the team lead in victories with four. His career ERA of 3.38 is the lowest of any Japanese pitcher in history.
- Hafner finished the month with a flourish. With his 3-for-4 night, Hafner is hitting .318 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. His three-RBI game drew him into a tie with Cano for the team lead in RBIs. That is not bad for a player who has not played a full major-league season since 2007. The Yankees have needed his power with so many players injured and Hafner has delivered.
- Two players who have been scuffling most of the month are suddenly getting hot. Suzuki was 3-for-5 and scored two runs. In his last seven games, Suzuki is 11-for-27 (.407) with three runs scored and two RBIs. His hot streak has raised his batting average to .268. Meanwhile, Nunez went 3-for-4 with two doubles and run scored. Since hitting coach Kevin Long tweaked his batting stance, Nunez is 5-for-14 (.357), which has raised his season average to .203.
- The usually reliable Robertson let the Astros back into the contest by giving up the two-run home run to Carter. Robertson had a uncharacteristically poor month in which he was touched for five runs on nine hits and two walks in 10 2/3 innings over 11 games. His 4.22 ERA is a product of giving up two homers.
- Kelley may have an excellent slider but he is really having trouble getting ahead in counts to use it. He has surrendered nine runs on 12 hits (four them home runs) and four walks in 10 1/3 innings. He has been scored upon in four of his eight appearances and he soon may be punching his own ticket to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
- In his three at-bats in the game, Boesch came up to the plate with six runners on base and he managed to score just one of them. He bounced into an inning-ending double play in the first and then two fielders’ choices. He did drive in a run by beating out a double-play relay in the fifth. The lefty swinging Boesch was 0-for-3 and he is now batting .200 on the season. He is hitting just .167 against righties and .273 against lefties, which is very odd.
The Yankees placed corner infielder Kevin Youkilis on the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday after an MRI indicated a lumbar spine sprain. He is the ninth player the Yankees have placed on the DL. Infielder Corban Joseph was recalled from Scranton to take Youkilis’ spot on the roster. Youkilis had missed six games before playing in a game on Saturday. However, Youkilis re-aggravated his back injury in the game and now he can’t be activated until May 13. General manager Brian Cashman and Girardi both admitted playing Youkilis on Saturday was a big mistake. The 34-year-old veteran was hitting .266 with two homers and seven RBIs in 17 games. Joseph, 24, was hitting .273 with four home runs and nine RBIs in 22 games. . . . Injured outfielder Curtis Granderson may soon progress to playing in some minor-league rehab games. Granderson has been sidelined with a fractured right forearm suffered in his first at-bat of spring training on Feb. 24. Meanwhile, first baseman Mark Teixeira has not advanced past taking some dry swings and his return is looking more likely in June. Teixeira is on the disabled list with a partially torn sheath in his right wrist.
The Yankees can take the three-game series against Houston with a victory in the rubber game on Wednesday.
Right-hander David Phelps (1-1, 5.29 ERA) will make his first start of the season as a replacement for injured right-hander Ivan Nova. Phelps, 26, was brilliant in four innings of relief after Nova left Friday’s game with an inflamed right triceps. Phelps gave up one run and struck out a career-high nine. Phelps has never faced the Astros.
The Astros will start veteran left-hander Erik Bedard (0-2, 7.98 ERA). Bedard has not pitched more than four innings in any of his four starts. He has allowed 13 runs in 7 1/3 innings over his last three starts. He is 4-5 with a 4.32 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, WHITE SOX 2
For a team still labeled as a team without quality starting pitching, how odd is it that the New York Yankees can claim to have the best No. 6 starter in baseball?
The 24-year-old rookie right-hander without a starting spot, Ivan Nova, sparkled and shined brighter than ever under the lights of U.S. Cellular Field on Thursday to make a bold statement that he does not want to sent back to the minors again. It would be a crime if he was.
Nova (10-4) gave up only one run on six hits and no walks and struck out a career high 10 as New York completed a four-game road sweep over Chicago for their seventh straight victory and claimed a share of first place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox.
Since his recall on July 30, Nova has given up three runs on 12 hits and one walk and struck out 16 in 14 2/3 innings over his two starts. Recalled initially to fill in as a starter for a makeup doubleheader game on Saturday, Nova pitched so well against the Orioles last week he was given another start against the White Sox. Now that he has pitched brilliantly again, what will the Yankees do?
Manager Joe Girardi calls it a good problem to have but it is a problem just the same.
While Nova was dazzling the Chisox hitters, the Yankee offense got untracked early against White Sox starter Philip Humber (8-8).
With one out in the second inning, Robinson Cano hit a Humber fastball on a line down the left-field line and into the White Sox bullpen for his 18th home run and his second in two games.
The White Sox got a little help from Nova to score a run in the third to tie the game. After Alejandro De Aza reached on an infield single, the Yankees called for a pitchout as De Aza attempted to steal second. However, Nova threw high and to the left of catcher Russell Martin and it allowed De Aza to reach second safely.
Brent Morel singled to advance De Aza to third and De Aaza scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Juan Pierre.
The Yankees ended up taking the lead for good in the sixth on the bat and legs of Brett Gardner.
Gardner doubled to right to lead off the inning. Derek Jeter put down a sacrifice bunt to advance him to third. Curtis Granderson hit a one-hop smash right at Adam Dunn at first. Dunn stepped on the bag and fired immediately to home to catch a sliding Gardner, but Gardner slid into home plate just before A.J. Pierzynski applied the tag.
The Yankees tacked on two more runs and chased Humber in the seventh. Cano singled and Nick Swisher drew a walk. One out later, Jorge Posada singled to right to score Cano and advance Swisher to third. After right-hander Jesse Crain replaced Humber, Martin lofted a deep sac fly to center to score Swisher easily.
The Yankees turned the game into a rout by jumping on former teammate Brian Bruney for three runs in the ninth. Swisher and Eric Chavez started the inning with singles. One out later, Martin connected for a tape-measure three-run home run into left-center. Martin ended up with four RBIs and it was his first multiple RBI game since June 29 against the Brewers at Yankee Stadium.
David Roberston completed the eighth inning for Nova and Hector Noesi finished up in the ninth, though he was touched for a solo home run by Dunn.
While the Yankees were winning in the Windy City, former Red Sox starter Justin Masterson and the Cleveland Indians were beating the Red Sox at Fenway Park, 7-3. By virtue of the Yankee victory and the Red Sox loss the two teams are now in a tie for the lead in the A.L. East with identical 68-42 records.
That will set the stage for the weekend series in Boston when the Yankees will take on the Red Sox in a pivotal three-game weekend series.
The White Sox loss was their sixth in a row and they are 52-58 and fading fast in the A.L. Central.
- Nova is 10-4 with a 3.81 ERA in 18 starts. He is the only rookie starter in the majors who is six games over .500 on the season and the Yankees are 13-5 in games in which he has started. His last loss was on June 3 against the Angels. How can you send this kid to the bullpen or the minor leagues? The answer is you can’t. Nova has become a much better pitcher because he is using his slider more effectively. That has made his fastball and curve less predictable. Nova also is showing unwavering confidence.
- Martin’s home run and four RBIs are an encouraging sign. He hit .292 in April but injuries sent him reeling at the plate. He batted .200 in May, .185 in June and .200 in July. It is early but he is batting .273 in August and showing signs of breaking out of his long slump. In his last 11 games he is 12-for-41 (.293) with two home runs and seven RBIs.
- Cano is on a tear of his own. In his last nine games he is 14-for-32 (.438) with two home runs and 13 RBIs. His recent streak has raised his season average to .301, the first time he has been at the .300 mark since July 14. He now has 18 home runs and 75 RBIs on the season.
- Chavez, who was 2-for-4 on Thursday, is proving to be a very valuable replacement for Alex Rodriguez at third base. In the seven games he has started since coming off the 60-day disabled list on July 26, he is 9-for-28 (.321) with a homer and six RBIs. More importantly, Chavez is playing Gold Glove-quality defense. When Rodriguez returns, Chavez and Eduardo Nunez will make up part of a very good bench heading into the playoffs.
Why carp about the team when it ties a season high with its seventh victory in a row and they claimed a share of first place in the East? Nova was just sensational.
Nova’s great pitching has left Girardi uncommitted about what the Yankees will do with him. The Yankees only have three bench players (Nunez, Chavez and Francisco Cervelli) heading into Boston. The Yankees would like to add outfielder Chris Dickerson to the roster. But that would mean they would have send a pitcher to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes-Barre. It could be Nova or it could be Noesi. Beyond that, will Nova get another start next week? Girardi is not going to say for now. . . . Rodriguez worked out for 33 minutes at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, Fl, on Thursday and he reported no problems. It was the first field workout for Rodriguez since he was placed on the 15-day DL after undergoing surgery for a torn meniscus in his right knee. It is unclear how long Rodriguez will need before he is activated.
Well, this is the big one. The series against the Red Sox at Fenway Park will determine who is first place to begin next week.
The Yankees will start 38-year-old right-hander Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.30 ERA). Colon gave up two runs on five hits in five innings on Sunday in a victory against the Orioles. He is 7-8 with a 3.89 ERA in his career against the Red Sox.
The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Jon Lester (11-4, 3.17 ERA). Lester gave up only two runs on four hits over eight innings over the White Sox on Sunday. He is 8-1 with a 3.56 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
- So many times Burnett has been handed big leads and squandered them but he deserved a better fate on Monday. Burnett retired the side in order in five of the eight innings he worked. He threw 108 pitches and 67 of them were strikes. He also kept the White Sox power hitters like Quentin, Konerko and Dunn from leaving the yard. Burnett should really sue the Yankees’ hitters fro non-support.
- Granderson extended his hitting streak to nine games with a single to lead off the ninth inning. During the hitting streak, Granderson is 15 for 36 (.417) with five home runs and nine RBIs. He also walked and stole base in the fourth inning.
- For the second game in a row, Brett Gardner made a spectacular catch. In the sixth inning he made a headlong diving catch of a sinking liner off the bat of Juan Pierre.
- For seven innings the Yankees managed to make Humber look like Roy Halliday. Humber is former No. 1 pick of the New York Mets who is only starting for the White Sox because Jake Peavy is on the disabled list. But this should be no surprise because the Yankees have a history of not hitting pitchers they face for the first time. You would have more action in old episode of the “Gilmore Girls” than when the Yankees were at-bat tonight.
- Teixeira. In the fourth inning with Granderson at second and one out he hit massive popup to second baseman Gordon Beckham. He also struck out looking and — to top off his evening — Teixeira followed Granderson’s leadoff single in the ninth by hitting into a double play started by Konerko.
- Jorge Posada. With Swisher at first after being hit by a pitch and one out, Posada promptly hit into a double play started by Konerko. He also struck out and grounded out.
- Derek Jeter. With pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez in scoring position with two outs in the eighth inning, Jeter weakly bounced out to the pitcher Santos.
- Honorable mention to Robinson Cano: In going 0-3, Cano managed to see a total of seven pitches. He flew out to left on the first pitch he saw in the second, grounded out to Konerko on the second pitch in the fifth and struck out swinging on four pitches in the seventh. The pitch he fanned on was at the bill of his batting helmet.
- Rafael Soriano is quickly becoming a target of the boo-birds after another shaky appearance in relief. He gave up two hits and a walk and was only bailed out from giving up more than the one run he did on an inning-ending double play. His ERA is now at 6.75.