YANKEES 3, TWINS 1
When a hitter has a chance to deliver a big hit in a key situation and he fails, most times they can’t wait for a shot at redemption. That is exactly how Brian McCann felt as he stepped to the plate in the eighth inning on Saturday.
This time he delivered.
McCann slapped a double down the right-field line with one out to score Jacoby Ellsbury from third to break a 1-1 tie as rookie Masahiro Tanaka and New York went on to defeat Minnesota in front of a paid crowd of 44,346 on a rainy afternoon at Yankee Stadium.
McCann came up in the first inning with the bases loaded and one out and right-hander Kevin Correia induced him to hit into an inning-ending double play. So the veteran All-Star catcher was more than anxious to give Tanaka and the Yankees a lead.
Tanaka (8-1) gave up an unearned run on just four hits and two walks while he struck out nine over eight innings to earn the victory. Tanaka entered the game leading the American League in ERA and he lowered that league-leading mark on Saturday from 2.29 to 2.06.
David Robertson pitched around an error, one of three the Yankees committed in the game, and he struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 12th save in 13 chances this season.
With one out in the eighth, Ellsbury stroked a single to center off left-hander Brian Duensing (1-2) to extend his hitting streak to five games. He then stole second and took third when catcher Josmil Pinto’s throw to second rolled into center.
Brian Roberts drew a walk and McCann followed by slashing 0-1 pitch into the right-field corner to score Ellsbury and advance Roberts to third. Alfonso Soriano was walked to load the bases and the skies, which had been spouting rain throughout most of the day, opened up into a deluge and the game was delayed by rain for 34 minutes.
After the delay, right-hander Jared Burton replaced Duensing on the mound and he got on a infield popup Yangervis Solarte, who had accounted for the Yankees’ only run of the game prior to the eighth with his sixth home run of the season off Correia in the fourth inning.
Kelly Johnson then provided the Yankees an insurance run when he was able to leg out a ground ball to second baseman Brian Dozier for an RBI single that scored Roberts.
Errors, both physical and mental, plagued the Yankees most of the day and Johnson’s error in the first inning set the tone for it.
Dozier hit the first pitch from Tanaka to Johnson at third but the ball ticked off his glove for an error. Dozier then advanced to second on a one of two wild pitches Tanaka uncorked on the day.
Eduardo Escobar advanced Dozier to third with a groundout and, one out later, Josh Willingham plated him with an opposite-field single to right.
Though Solarte tied it in the fourth, the Yankees were unable to get any offense going against Correia, who entered the game with a 2-5 record and an ERA of 6.34, the worst ERA among all major-league starters this season.
The Yankees squandered a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the first on McCann’s double play. Brendan Ryan also hit into an inning-ending double play in the second with two on and one out.
In the sixth, McCann was on second with two out when Solarte slapped a lined single into right. Though third-base coach Rob Thomson smartly held McCann at third, Solarte attempted to take second on right-field Oswaldo Arcia’s throw to the plate. But Pinto cut down Solarte with a perfect throw to Escobar at second base.
As a result, Correia yielded just the one run despite being touched for nine hits and one walk with three strikeouts in six innings.
In Friday’s loss to the Twins, the Yankees managed just one run on seven hits and four walks in seven innings against right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who entered the game with an ERA of 6.12, the second-worst ERA in the American League to his teammate Correia.
The victory improves the Yankees’ season ledger to 29-25. They are in second place in the American League East 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Twins dropped to 25-28.
- With the Yankees struggling to score runs, Tanaka needed to pitch a near-flawless game and he did. The Yankees are 9-2 in his starts and he now has struck out 88 batters in 78 2/3 innings. The Twins managed just four singles. Two of them were infield singles and none of the four singles were hit hard. Without McCann’s hit Tanaka was headed for a very frustrating no decision. He deserved to win this game.
- McCann may be starting to get out of the hitting doldrums. He was 2-for-4 with a pair of doubles and with what proved to be the game-winning hit. He now has at least one hit in his past four games and he is 6-for-15 (.400) in that span. That has raised his season average to .232, which is as high as it has been since April 29.
- Solarte had fallen into a 7-for-47 (.149) tailspin from May 15 through May 28. Now Solarte is getting hot again. After not starting in the series finale against the St. Louis Cardinals on Wednesday, Solarte was 3-for-4 on Saturday and is 5-for-8 (.625) in the two games against the Twins. After his average dipped to .283 he is now back to.299.
- After a solid April in which he hit .247 with four homers and 10 RBIs, Soriano has been virtually useless in May. Soriano was 0-for-3 with a strikeout on Saturday and he is now 4-for-30 (.133) in his past 12 games dating back to May 18. Soriano also dropped a routine fly ball off the bat of Dozier in the third inning for an error. Soriano leads the team in strikeouts with 52 in 179 at-bats.
- Bad base-running continues to plague the Yankees in this series against the Twins. Solarte’s base-running blunder brings the Yankees to four runners cut down on the basepaths in the past two games. On Friday, Derek Jeter was caught in a rundown after rounding first base too far. Roberts later in the game was thrown out at the plate by Arcia and he also was caught stealing after taking too big a lead at first. This just has to stop. Period!
- Johnson, Soriano and Solarte were also charged with errors in the game. Three errors in a close game can be very costly. Asking Tanaka to pitch around errors is asking an awful lot, even for a pitcher of Tanaka’s ability. Mental and physical errors seem to be spreading through the team like a virus. The team needs to stop pressing in the field, at the plate and on the bases.
Mark Texeira left the game in the sixth inning with a recurrence of the soreness in his surgically repaired right wrist. The Gold-Glove first baseman was administered a cortisone injection and he will miss at least the next two games, the Yankees told reporters after the game. Teixeira, 33, had missed three games and rested on the off day Thursday before returning to the lineup on Friday. He was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and three walks in that game. He struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning and grounded out in the third on Saturday before leaving in the sixth in favor of Roberts, who was 0-for-1 with a strikeout and a walk. . . . Right-hander Michael Pineda’s timetable to return to the roster from the disabled list has hit a setback. Pineda, 24, is feeling more discomfort in a muscle behind his right shoulder and an outing for him in an intrasquad game scheduled for Sunday in Tampa, FL, has been postponed. Pineda felt pain playing catch on Friday and flew to New York to have an MRI on Saturday that revealed inflammation of the teres-major muscle behind his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will be shut down and it is not clear when he will be able to resume throwing.
The Yankees will have a chance to win the three-game series against the Twins with a victory on Sunday.
Rookie right-hander Chase Whitley (0-0, 2.57 ERA) will look for his first major-league victory in his fourth start. Whitley held the Cardinals to no runs in the first five innings before being charged with three runs in the sixth on Monday. Whitley yielded eight hits and no walks with two strikeouts. The Yankees ended up winning the game and they are now 3-0 in games Whitley has started.
The Twins will start former Yankee right-hander Phil Hughes (5-1, 3.23 ERA). Hughes did not receive a decision either in his last start against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. Hughes left after surrendering three runs on eight hits with no walks and three strikeouts in seven innings. Hughes was 56-50 in seven seasons with the Yankees. He was 4-14 with a 5.19 ERA in 29 starts for the Yankees in 2014.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, CARDINALS 4
Since May 3, Jacoby Ellsbury has been struggling at the plate. So much so that his season average dipped from .346 to .259 entering Wednesday’s contest. By the time the game was over Ellsbury seemed back on track.
Ellsbury was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, two stolen bases and two runs scored to lead a seven-run, 12-hit attack to help Hiroki Kuroda and New York take a three-game series over St. Louis in front of a paid crowd of 45,267 at Busch Stadium.
The Yankees scored four runs in the third and three in the fourth against right-hander Shelby Miller and Ellsbury had a hand in both rallies.
With one out in the third, Brett Gardner drew a walk and Brian Roberts followed with a single up the middle. Ellsbury then scored Gardner with the game’s first run with a single to right-center as Roberts hustled into third.
Ellsbury stole second without a throw from catcher Yadier Molina and Brian McCann walked on four pitches to load the bases because Miller was pitching around him to face rookie catcher John Ryan Murphy.
But Murphy spoiled the strategy by delivering a single to center to score both Roberts and Ellsbury and Ichiro Suzuki capped the scoring by beating out a potential double-play grounder to score McCann.
With two out in the fourth and Kelly Johnson on first base after a single, Roberts doubled into left-center and Ellsbury scored both of them with a lined single to center. Ellsbury then stole second, again without a throw from Molina, and McCann followed with a single to right to score Ellsbury, giving the Yankees a 7-0 lead.
Miller (6-4) was charged with seven earned runs on nine hits and two walks with one strikeout in five innings.
Kuroda (4-3), who has spent most of major-league career as a pitcher who has received very little run support, suddenly has an abundance of runs provided by his teammates.
Unfortunately, the Cardinals took advantage of Kuroda’s desire to limit walks and keep his pitch count down by teeing off on Kuroda’s fastball.
The Cardinals managed to score single runs in the fourth, fifth and sixth and they chased Kuroda from the game in the sixth when Matt Carpenter laced an RBI double off the wall to score pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta from first with two out.
Kuroda yielded three runs on nine hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees bullpen quartet of Matt Thornton, Dellin Betances, Adam Warren and David Robertson were knocked around a bit, giving up four hits and two walks in 3 1/3 innings. In fact, after Warren was chased by a two-out double by Carpenter, Kolten Wong greeted Robertson with an RBI single, his fourth hit in five at-bats on the night.
But Robertson ended the eighth by striking out Matt Holliday looking.
Then in the ninth, Robertson was touched by a leadoff single by Allen Craig and he walked Molina to bring up the potential tying run.
But Robertson ended the night with a flourish by striking out in succession John Jay, pinch-hitter Matt Adams and Daniel Descalso.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 28-24. They are in second place in the American League East, three games behind the first-place Toronto Blue Jays. The Cardinals fell to 29-24.
- Ellsbury’s night also included an impressive sliding catch of a sinking line drive off the bat of Craig in the second inning. Ellsbury is an extremely talented player who was responsible for carrying the team through the first month of the season. He now has at least one hit in four of his past five games and is 7-for-20 (.350) with a homer and seven RBIs in that span.
- Murphy was 1-for-5 in the game but that single drove in two big runs with the bases loaded in the third inning. It raised a few eyebrows when manager Joe Girardi had him batting fifth in the lineup. But the 22-year-old rookie is batting .357 with a home run and eight RBIs in limited playing time behind McCann.
- Give Roberts credit for doing well in the second spot in the order replacing a resting Derek Jeter. Roberts was 2-for-4 with a double and a walk and two runs scored. Roberts also extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 7-for-19 (.368) in that span. He has raised his season average to .248.
- It was hard to judge whether the Cardinals were knocking Kuroda around or if he was losing his competitive edge because he had such a big lead. Kuroda is 4-3 and he has not lost a start since May 1. But his ERA is hovering now at 4.57 and his highest ERA since he came to the United States was in his first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2008 when it was 3.73. The Yankees need him to pitch better.
- The Yankees had a chance to extend their lead in the eighth when they loaded the bases on right-hander Sean Maness. But left-hander Randy Choate struck out Gardner and Roberts smacked a 3-0 pitch to Carpenter at third and ended up in an inning-ending double play. The Yankees have to stop coming up empty in bases loaded and no out situations.
- Robertson looked a little shaky in yielding two hits and a walk but he made up for it with recording all four of his outs on strikeouts. The Yankees know that comparing Robertson to Mariano Rivera is not fair but it is inevitable. The fact that Robertson has one blown save in 12 tries and a 2.20 ERA in 16 appearances is pretty darn good.
It is amazing that the Yankees got seven runs out of their offense with Mark Teixeira nursing a sore right wrist, Jeter sitting out to rest and slumping Alfonso Soriano and Yangervis Solarte held out of the lineup. McCann even started his first professional game at first base. But it all worked. Solarte was benched after hitting just .152 since his nine-game hitting streak was stopped on May 15. So Johnson moved to third, which opened first base for McCann. . . . Teixeira will have his right wrist examined on Thursday by Dr. Keith Raskin, who performed Teixeira’s surgery to repair the torn sheath in the wrist in the offseason. Teixeira will also have precautionary ultrasound. However, the Yankees are saying the stiffness and soreness are normal after this type of surgery and Teixeira is expected to be back in the lineup soon.
The Yankees will have Thursday off and they return home to begin a three-game weekend series against the Minnesota Twins on Friday.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno (1-1, 5.49 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off what was his best start of season on Saturday. Nuno gave up three runs in the first inning to the Chicago White Sox but did not give up another run in the following six innings. Nuno walked one and struck out five.
Veteran right-hander Ricky Nolasco (2-5, 6.12) will get the nod for the Twins. Nolasco has lost his past two starts and was shelled by the San Francisco Giants on Sunday. Nolasco was tagged for seven runs on nine hits and a walk in 4 2/3 innings.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 11, ASTROS 9 (RAIN SHORTENED)
KISSIMMEE, FL – A week or so ago it just seemed the Yankees were not scoring any runs. After Saturday’s Grapefruit League game against the Astros you have to wonder are they ever going to stop scoring.
Raul Ibanez homered and drove in four runs and Robinson Cano added a home run of his own and two RBIs as New York pounded out 16 hits – four of them homers – to down Houston at Osceola County Stadium in a game that was called with one out in the ninth inning due to rain.
Right-hander Adam Warren (1-0) was the winning pitcher despite the fact he gave up six runs on 10 hits in 5 2/3 innings. The Yankees made life miserable for Astros starter Jordan Lyles (0-3), who was knocked around for eight runs on 11 hits and he walked one batter in 4 2/3 innings.
Preston Claiborne gave up two runs in the ninth inning but still got credit for a save.
In their last two spring training contests the Yankees have scored 24 runs on 31 hits and 11 walks.
With the victory the Yankees improved their spring record to 15-11 and that means they can finish the spring with no worse than a .500 record. The Astros completed their Florida portion of spring training and ended up 14-15.
- The story of the week has been the resurrection of Ibanez. In his last five games, Ibanez is 6-for-14 (.429) with three home runs and eight RBIs. Not to mention he had another potential home run taken away by a leaping grab at the wall by Justin Heyward of the Braves on Wednesday. Ibanez has raised his once dismal spring average from a low of .054 to a still poor, yet encouraging, .157. It looks like the extra work Ibanez has been putting in with hitting coach Kevin Long is paying dividends at the right time.
- Cano also had a slow start to the spring but he is gearing to put up a monster season from the No. 3 spot in the batting order. Cano singled and scored in the first and preceded Ibanez’s two-run home run in the fifth with one of his own as the Yankees rallied from a 5-4 deficit to 8-5 lead, a lead they did not relinquish. Cano is hitting .236 with two home runs and a team-leading 12 RBIs.
- Curtis Granderson is also primed for another big season. Granderson was 3-for-3 with a double and two runs scored. Granderson is hitting a sizzling .381 this spring and it seems he is determined to show 2011 was not a fluke.
- It also bears mentioning that the Yankees’ firstup draft pick in 2011, Dante Bichette Jr., served notice on Saturday that he is a force to be reckoned with in the future. Bichette entered the game in the fifth inning and promptly hit a solo home in the sixth off right-hander Ruben Alantz. He followed that with another solo home run in the eighth off Astros closer Brandon Lyon. Both home runs came on the first pitch.
- The pitching was atrocious but manager Joe Girardi wanted to make sure his rotation was lined up for the start of the regular season on Friday so Warren was pressed into action. The 24-year-old former North Carolina Tarheels star had trouble locating his fastball and he paid dearly for it. He gave up four runs in the fourth, three of them on a three-run home run by Justin Ruggiano.
- It had to happen sooner or later but left-hander Clay Rapada surrendered his first run of the spring on Saturday. Called on to relieve Warren with two outs in the sixth, Rapada gave up a solo home run to Brian Bogusevic, a left-handed batter. Rapada, 30, will likely make the 25-man roster as a lefty specialist in the bullpen. His spring ERA is 0.93.
- Eduardo Nunez was the only Yankee starter to not get a hit on Saturday. Nunez was 0-for-3 but he still has had an excellent spring, hitting at a .381 clip.
An MRI conducted on Saturday on 23-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda’s sore right shoulder indicated he merely has tendinitis. However, he will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list. Pineda complained of soreness behind his right shoulder after he was blasted for six runs on seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against the Phillies on Friday night. The Yankees said Pineda will rest the shoulder and then resume throwing until he is ready to return. Pineda was acquired along with right-hander Jose Campos from the Mariners in a trade for top catching prospect Jesus Montero this winter. With Pineda on the disabled list, manager Joe Girardi set the rotation as follows: No. 1 CC Sabathia, No. 2 Hiroli Kuroda, No. 3 Phil Hughes, No. 4 Ivan Nova and No. 5 Freddy Garcia. . . . With Pineda on the DL, the loser in the six-man fight for five rotation spots will not be headed to the bullpen. That opens the door for young right-handers David Phelps, D.J. Mitchell and Warren as candidates for a long-relief role. . . . Left-hander Cesar Cabral has a stress fracture on the tip of his left elbow and he also will begin the season on the disabled list. Cabral, 23, was in considerable pain after pitching an inning against the Phillies on Friday. An MRI, an X-ray and a CT scan was conducted on Saturday and Cabral’s left arm was placed in a splint. The silver lining in this is that with Cabral on the disabled list the Yankees will not have to offer the Rule 5 selection back to the Kansas City Royals. . . . In a procedural move the Yankees released first baseman/DH Russell Branyan on Friday and signed him to a new minor-league deal on Saturday. Branyan, 36, has been unable to play in any games this spring due to a herniated disc in his back. Branyan will stay in Tampa, FL, after spring training ends to work back into shape for about four weeks.
The Yankees will travel to Miami, FL., on Sunday to play the Marlins in a pair of games and open their brand-new retractable roof stadium, Marlins Park.
In the Sunday opener the Yankees will start Sabathia in his final tuneup before his April 6 start against the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Petersburg, FL. The Marlins will counter with right-hander Ricky Nolasco.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
ESPNNewYork.com is reporting that the New York Yankees have agreed to a one-year contract with right-hander Freddy Garcia.
This was not a surprise to me because I posted a story on Nov. 21 headlined: “Yankees Could Retain Garcia If Deals Fall Through.”
Though some Yankee fans might be skeptical of the signing because Garcia does not throw 95-mile-per-hour bullets at opposing hitters and he is 35 years old on a team loaded with players who have crept way past their 30th birthdays, the signing still makes a lot of sense.
The first reason is the deal is just a one-year deal paying between $4 million and $5 million. This is about what the Yankees signed free-agent catcher Russell Martin for last winter. The Yankees also have to be cognizant of the fact the starting staff they have behind CC Sabathia is a pretty shaky group consisting of rookie Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes coming off right shoulder trouble and the command and control challenged A.J. Burnett.
Garcia gives the Yankees a fifth starter who was 12-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 26 games in his first season in which he was paid $1.5 million. Garcia is an insurance policy for the starting staff and it gives general manager Brian Cashman the ability to either “go big” after free agents like left-hander C.J. Wilson and Japanese right-hander Yu Darvish or “go small” to sign left-hander Mark Buerhle and right-hander Edwin Jackson.
The signing of Garcia also takes the pressure off the Yankees from having to promote a collection of six young starting pitchers they have advancing through the minor leagues: lefty Manny Banuelos and right-handers Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Hector Noesi, Adam Warren and D.J. Michell. If Cashman was unable to sign any free-agent starters this winter, the Yankees would likely have to choose from among these young pitchers to fill out the staff. They now can be patient with them.
Garcia may not be sexiest name the Yankees could have signed but it is a practical one. There are decidely worse free-agent pitching options out there and Garcia did manage to throw a lot of quality starts keeping the Yankees in most all of all his appearances.
But, make no mistake about it, the pressure is on for Cashman to sign at least one quality free-agent pitcher. The reason is obvious: In order to compete in the American League East and advance in the playoffs the Yankees need to have a solid core of at least three quality starters. The Yankees appear to have just one in Sabathia. Nova or Hughes could be another but Burnett has been a disaster the past two seasons.
I find it rather troubling that the Yankees seem to be committed to Burnett simply because he has two years remaining on his contract paying him $16.5 million per season. Cashman said there is no reason to put Burnett in the bullpen and he cited Burnett’s ability to pitch 200 innings. Cashman trotted out this stat as if it was a virtue or badge of honor.
However, a number of other major-league pitchers threw 200 innings last season including: Jeremy Guthrie of the Orioles (7-14, 4.33 ERA), Brett Myers of the Astros (7-14, 4.46 ERA), Ricky Nolasco of the Marlins (10-12, 4.67 ERA) and Ryan Dempster of the Cubs (10-14, 4.80 ERA). It does not mean the Yankees would be better off with Burnett than any one of these others. In fact, Burnett’s ERA was 5.15 over 190 1/3 innings.
The real reason the Yankees seem to be sticking with “Bad A.J.” is that they know that any trade the make to ship him out would mean the Yankees would still be on the hook for most, if not all, of Burnett’s salary and they likely would not receive much in return from the other team.
I know if I was a general manger of another team I would not exactly be beating my fists on Cashman’s door to acquire a pitcher who is just as likely to walk seven batters, hit three, give up four home runs and toss a pitch into the dugout as he is to throw a no-hitter while walking nine batters as Burnett did earlier in his career.
So the Yankees might be facing the fact that they can’t rid themselves of Burnett or obtain a top-dollar free agent because of how much they are paying him. But Cashman must realize that Burnett is like a albatross tied around the Yankees necks right now. If the team is committed to winning they need to rid themselves of anyone standing in the way of that.
That means Cashman must have the permission of Hal and Hank Steinbrenner to “dump” Burnett and as much of his salary as they can to whatever team is willing to try to take on Burnett. Then they need to have the guts to “go big” and spare no dollars in trying to sign Wilson or Darvish.
Burnett is a huge anchor that is about to sink the Yankees’ hopes for the next two years as long as he is around. So bite the bullet and rid yourselves of him before he takes the ship deeper into the murky waters.
I was stunned to read Yankees MLB correspondent Bryan Hoch’s mailbag on Nov. 22 stating the Yankees had just “lukewarm” interest in Wilson and Darvish. This is a travesty.
If the team requires a starting staff worthy of going deep into the playoffs and possibly winning a World Series, they better not have “lukewarm” interest in the two pitchers that could help them the most in reaching that goal. If Burnett and his bloated contract and his substandard pitching are standing in the way, you got to cut him out like a cancer NOW!
Get rid of Burnett and sign Wilson or Darvish or the team will surely have sealed its fate before the first pitch of spring training is even thrown.
That would be very sad.