YANKEES 3, RED SOX 2
If there is any place where Alex Rodriguez would hear the loudest boos it would hands down be at Fenway Park. That is exactly the way it played out on Friday when Rodriguez pinch-hit in the eighth inning. But he managed to silence the 35,444 in attendance with one historically significant swing.
Rodriguez laced a 3-0 fastball off right-hander Junichi Tazawa into the seats above the Green Monster in left to break a 2-2 tie and give New York a thrilling victory over rival Boston.
The home run also was the 660th of Rodriguez’s career, which ties him for fourth on the all-time home run list with the legendary Willie Mays.
The teams remained tied into the eighth as both Red Sox right-hander Justin Masterson and Yankee left-hander CC Sabathia ended up with similar pitching lines.
The Yankees jumped into an early 1-0 lead in the first inning on a leadoff single by Jacoby Ellsbury, a one-out walk to Mark Teixeira and a two-out RBI double by struggling veteran outfielder Carlos Beltran, who entered the game batting .162.
The Red Sox tied it in the third inning when Xander Bogaerts opened the frame with a double and advanced to third on a deep fly to center by Ryan Hanigan. He then scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts.
The Red Sox then took the lead in the fourth on a solo two-out golf shot home run to left off the bat of Allen Craig for his first home run of the season.
The Yankees knotted the score in the seventh when Didi Gregorius drew a walk off Masterson. Left-hander Tommy Layne replaced Masterson and, with two out, he struck Teixeira on the right arm with a pitch and Brian McCann followed with an opposite-field single to score Gregorius.
Masterson was charged with two runs on six hits and three walks while he fanned two in 6-plus innings. Sabathia gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks and he struck out three in six innings.
Sabathia entered the game with an 0-4 record and he has not won a regular-season game since April 14 of last season against the Red Sox.
Esmil Rogers (1-1) pitched a perfect seventh inning to get credit for the victory. Tazawa (0-1) took the loss.
As has been the case all season, the Yankees relied on the “Twin Towers” of 6-foot-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and 6-foot-7 left-hander Andrew Miller to close out the final two innings.
Betances pitched around a walk and a single to keep Boston scoreless in the eighth and Miller hurled a 1-2-3 ninth to earn his ninth save in nine chances.
The Yankees improved their season record to 14-9 and they remain in first place in the American League East one game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays. The Red Sox fell to 12-11 and they are two games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.
- A-Rod has always has had a flair for the dramatic at Fenway Park. His last homer there came off right-hander Ryan Dempster in 2013 after Dempster had deliberately hit him with a pitch in his previous at-bat. This home run came on a 3-0 pitch and strangely enough it is only the second homer of Rodriguez’s career on a 3-0 count. For the season, Rodriguez has six home runs. Rodriguez did not start the game for two reasons. The first was that manager Joe Girardi was employing an all-lefty hitting lineup against Masterson. The second is that Rodriguez entered the game 2 for his past 17 at-bats, which is a sickly .118.
- Betances and Miller have now combined to pitch 25 2/3 scoreless innings between them. They have given up nine hits and 12 walks while they have struck out 42 batters. This is shaping up to be the strongest 1-2 combination the Yankees have had since the days of Mariano Rivera setting up for John Wetteland in 1996.
- Beltran has been scuffling all season and he recorded no home runs and seven RBIs in the first month of the season. But on the first day of May he was 2-for-4 with a double, a single and an big two-out RBI in the first inning. The Yankees badly need to get the 38-year-old veteran untracked.
- The Yankees allowed Masterson and relievers Layne, Tazawa and Robbie Ross Jr. off the hook so many times that they stranded 12 base-runners. They loaded the bases with two out in the fifth inning when Masterson hit McCann with a pitch. However, Beltran hit a weak roller to second to leave the bases loaded. Fortunately for the Yankees, the Red Sox were 0-for-6 with runners in scoring position.
- Garrett Jones started as the team’s designated hitter in place of Rodriguez and he was 0-for-3 with a strikeout. Jones, 33, is 5-for-30 (.167) on the season with no homers and no RBIs in 12 games. After a poor spring Jones may be playing his way out of favor. He once was considered as a potential platoon DH with Rodriguez. But that ship has sailed and Jones is getting less and less playing time.
All the injured players the Yankees left in spring training are progressing nicely. Left-hander Chris Capuano, who is on the disabled list with a right quadriceps strain, is scheduled to throw four innings or 60 pitches at Class-A Tampa on Saturday. Right-hander Ivan Nova, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, is scheduled to throw one inning in an intrasquad game. Right-hander Jared Burton (oblique) is also scheduled to throw an intrasquad inning. Meanwhile, backup infielder Brendan Ryan (right calf strain) took an at-bat in extended spring training game on Friday. Infielder Jose Pirela (concussion) received a rehab assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre and he went 1-for-4 with a walk against Charlotte on Thursday.
The Yankees will continue their weekend series against the wicked evil Red Sox on Saturday.
Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 4.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Eovaldi, 25, surrendered four runs on seven hits while he struck out six in 4 1/3 innings in a no decision against the New York Mets on Sunday.
The Red Sox will counter with struggling left-hander Wade Miley (1-2, 8.62 ERA). Miley was torched for eight runs on five hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday.
Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 2
When you look at Jayson Nix you see a player without much power, speed, skill as a hitter and he lacks range in the field. But when you watch him play the game, all you can say is that he is just solid all-around player. He proved it on Tuesday.
Nix hit the game-tying homer with two out in the seventh inning and then delivered the game-winning RBI single in the ninth as New York swept a day-night doubleheader over Toronto with a walk-off victory in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 37,190.
With the Yankees trailing left-hander Mark Buehrle 2-1, Nix launched the first pitch he saw halfway up the left-field bleachers for only his third home run of the season and his first since June 25.
The game remained tied until the bottom the ninth when Blue Jays left-hander Darren Oliver opened the frame by walking Mark Reynolds on four pitches.
Yankees manager Joe Girardi inserted Ichiro Suzuki in to pinch-run for Reynolds and Eduardo Nunez advanced Suzuki to second with a sacrifice bunt..
With Nix at the plate, Suzuki then stole third and Nix lined the next pitch from Oliver (3-4) into left to score Suzuki with the game-winning run. It was the first walk-off hit of Nix’s career.
Mariano Rivera (4-2) pitched a scoreless ninth to earn credit for the victory, the Yankees’ eighth victory in their past 10 games. They also are 10-1 against the Blue Jays this season.
Buehrle entered the game with a 1-10 career record and a 1-5 mark with 5.57 ERA against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. And it looked as if, until Nix’s home run, that Buehrle was in line for a rare victory over a team that has tormented him throughout his career.
The Yankees’ only touched Buehrle in the third inning when Robinson Cano delivered a two-out single to score Austin Romine to tie the game at 1-1. It was Cano’s fifth RBI of the day after he went 4-for-4 with four RBIs in the first game of the doubleheader.
Buehrle gave up six hits and walked one while striking out five in seven innings of work.
The Blue Jays, meanwhile, got to right-hander Phil Hughes in the first inning as Rajai Davis led off with a single, stole second, advanced to third on a groundout and scored on a wild pitch.
But Hughes settled in to match Buehrle until the fifth when Munenori Kawasaki laced an 0-2 curveball into the gap in right-center for a triple and Davis followed with a sacrifice fly to give the Blue Jays a 2-1 lead.
Hughes yielded seven hits and two walks while fanning six batters six-plus innings. The no-decision for Hughes runs his streak of winless starts to eight. Hughes last won a game on July 2 when defeated the Minnesota Twins in Minneapolis.
With the pair of victories the Yankees’ season record stands at 66-59 and they 6 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays and Boston Red Sox, who are in a virtual tie for first place in the American League East. In addition, the Yankees climbed to within five games in the wild-card standings. The hard-luck Blue Jays are 57-69.
- Nix was the hero of the second game of the doubleheader, going 2-for-4 with a game-tying homer, a game-winning single, a run scored and two RBIs. But he also was 1-for-2 with a single, two walks, a stolen base and two runs scored in the first game. Nix is only hitting .236 with three homers and 24 RBIs in 86 games but he is so valuable as a bench player for this team.
- Cano was 2-for-4 with a pair or singles and an RBI and he ended up 6-for-8 (.750) with a home run and five RBIs in the two games on Tuesday. That has raised his season average to .308, which leads the team along with his 23 home runs and 81 RBIs.
- Romine had himself a great day at the plate. He was 3-for-3 with two singles and a double and a run scored. In his last nine starts, Romine is 12-for-29 (.414) with a home run and two RBIs. During that span dating back to July 25, Romine has raised his season average from .165 to .231. At age 24, Romine might show the Yankees that he can be a starting catcher if he can continue to hit this way.
- Alfonso Soriano was 0-for-3 with a walk in the second game and is now 0-for-13 in his past three games. Soriano has been considered as a streaky hitter throughout his 15-season major-league career.
- Alex Rodriguez had a game he would love to forget. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he hit into a inning-ending double play to squelch a rally in the eighth inning. As each at-bat unfolded the crowd at Yankee Stadium booed louder after he drew a rousing ovation in his first at-bat in the first game.
- Brett Gardner was 0-for-4 in the second game and only managed to get one ball out of the infield. His season average dropped to .269.
Major League Baseball suspended Boston Red Sox right-hander Ryan Dempster for five games and fined him an undisclosed amount for intentionally hitting Rodriguez with a pitch on Sunday at Fenway Park. However, because of the Red Sox’s schedule, Dempster can serve the suspension without missing a start, which angers Girardi and the Yankees. It also renders a moot point if Dempster had received a longer suspension and chose to appeal it. It just shows that Commissioner Bud Selig and the baseball’s hierarchy spends most of its days with their heads lodged in their rectums and they always let the Red Sox get away with murder. . . . An MRI taken on Nunez’s left hamstring was negative and he started in the second game of the doubleheader. Nunez injured his hamstring sliding back into first base after he singled on Sunday against the Red Sox at Fenway Park. . . . Derek Jeter ran the bases for the first time in a simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Tuesday. It is not clear when Jeter, who has been sidelined with a strained right calf since Aug. 3, will be activated form the disabled list.
The Yankees will continue their four-game home series against the Jays on Wednesday.
Rookie right-hander Adam Warren (1-2, 3.57 ERA) will make only his second major-league start and his first of the season. Warren has been the team’s long reliever this season. Warren has never faced the Blue Jays.
Knuckleballing right-hander R.A. Dickey (9-11, 4.49 ERA) will start for Toronto. Dickey was touched for four runs on six hits and two walks while he struck out six in seven innings in a no-decision against the Rays on Friday. Dickey is 3-2 with a 3.25 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Hit By Pitch Early, A-Rod Spurs 4-Run Rally With Homer
YANKEES 9, RED SOX 6
Revenge may be a dish best served cold. But when Alex Rodriguez is the chef, the pot somehow boils over from a steaming cauldron.
After being deliberately hit with the fourth of four inside pitches from right-hander Ryan Dempster as he led off the second inning, Rodriguez blasted a 400-plus-foot rocket to the deepest part of centerfield at Fenway Park to lead off the sixth as part of a four-run rally that led New York to a victory over Boston on Sunday.
After Rodriguez’s second home run of the season the Yankees loaded the bases and chased Dempster from the premises. Left-hander Drake Britton came on and Brett Gardner greeted him with a three-run triple to center that turned what had been a 6-4 deficit into a 7-6 lead.
With a national television audience watching via ESPN, the sellout crowd of 37,917 that had cheered loudly when Rodriguez was hit in the second inning suddenly became eerily quiet, perhaps realizing that when their team is holding an 8 1/2 lead on the Yankees it might not have been too prudent for Dempster to awakened a sleeping lion.
Dempster (6-9) faced 22 batters after he purposely plunked A-Rod – seemingly to show his displeasure at Rodriguez’s legal right to appeal his 211-game suspension through an agreement long ago reached by the Major League Players’ Association – and he gave up seven runs on eight hits and a walk in that span before departing after pitching 5 1/3 innings.
“Whether you like me or hate me, that was wrong. It was unprofessional and silly. Kind of a silly way to get somebody hurt on your team as well. Today kind of brought us together.”
– Alex Rodriguez
Sleeping lion no more.
The Red Sox stormed out to an early 2-0 lead against CC Sabathia (11-10) in the first inning after Sabathia walked David Ortiz to load the bases. Jonny Gomes drove in Jacoby Ellsbury with a sacrifice fly and Jarrod Saltalamacchia scored Shane Victorino with a lined single to center.
But Dempster opened the second frame by tossing his first pitch so far inside at Rodriguez it sailed behind him. Dempster then followed with two pitches that backed Rodriguez from the plate. His fourth pitch was a hard fastball that grazed Rodriguez’s left elbow and struck his ribs.
As both benches and bullpens began to empty, home-plate umpire Brian O’Nora immediately leaped from behind the plate to warn both both benches. However, Yankees manager Joe Girardi disputed O’Nora’s failure to toss Dempster from the game since all four pitches were thrown inside. But O’Nora rejected his argument and ejected an irate Girardi from the game.
The Yankees immediately got even.
Curtis Granderson slapped a double down the right-field line and Eduardo Nunez followed with an RBI single to left-center that scored Rodriguez. Lyle Overbay then plated Granderson with a sacrifice fly to left.
The Yankees added a run in the third off Dempster thanks to Rodriguez.
Ichiro Suzuki and Robinson Cano opened the frame with consecutive singles and Suzuki was able to move up third on a flyout to right by Alfonso Soriano.
Rodriguez then got his first measure of revenge off Dempster on the night when he rolled a ball to short that scored Suzuki on the groundout to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.
However, Sabathia was unable to hold the lead.
Victorino lead off the third inning with a double and he advanced to third on a flyout off the bat of Dustin Pedroia and scored on a rollout to first by Ortiz.
The Red Sox added a pair of runs in the fourth on a sacrifice fly from Stephen Drew and a solo home run by Will Middlebrooks. They added another run in the fifth when Sabathia issued an Intentional walk to Saltalamacchia to load the bases with two out only to have Sabathia throw low on a 3-1 pitch to Daniel Nava to score the Bosox’s sixth run.
But Sabathia ended the inning by striking out Drew on three pitches to leave the bases loaded. That turned out to be THE key out of the game.
Rodriguez then opened the sixth with what proved to be the longest home run hit by a Yankee all season. Rodriguez made sure he gave a little grief back to Dempster and the booing crowd by throwing up his right fist as the ball cleared the centerfield wall and he stopped at home plate to look up and point his two index fingers skyward.
One out later, Nunez slammed a long single off the Green Monster in left. Overbay then dumped a single into right and Chris Stewart drew a four-pitch walk to end Dempster’s evening.
Britton, who was tagged for three runs on five hits in one inning by the Yankees on Friday, then was greeted by Gardner’s high-arcing drive to center that just missed landing over the wall, ending up as a bases-clearing triple that turned the game to the Yankees favor for the rest of the evening.
The Yankees added a run in the seventh when pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds blooped a single to center off left-hander Franklin Morales to score Granderson.
They added another run n the ninth off wild right-hander Rubby De La Rosa after he hit Jayson Nix to open the frame. He later uncorked a wild pitch to advance Nix to second, Nix stole third and he scored on Stewart’s one-out single to left.
Despite not pitching at his best, Sabathia got credit for the victory. He gave up six runs on seven hits and five walks while he fanned five in 5 1/3 innings.
The Yankees’ vaunted bullpen – which has been a source of strength all season – behind Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera kept the Red Sox scoreless over the final 3 2/3 innings on two hits and two walks while they punched out five batters to preserve the victory.
Rivera, who entered the game after blowing his past three saves opportunities for the first time in his 17-season major-league career, pitched around a two-out single by Ortiz and a walk to Gomes to retire the tying run in Saltalamacchia on a fly ball to left to earn his 36th save in 41 chances this season.
Dempster ended up a bigger loser than he already was in the second inning. He gave up a whopping seven runs on nine hits and one walk while he struck out three in 5 1/3 innings.
But the bigger loss is that he perhaps awoke the Yankees from a slumbering state and allowed then to rally around their controversial teammate to win a very important three-game series at Fenway.
The Yankees are now 64-59 and they are in fourth place in the American League East, 7 1/2 games behind the first-place Red Sox, who are 73-53. The Yankees are just six games behind in the wild-card standings.
- Opposing fans and even some Yankee fans can hate Rodriguez all they like, but the man is helping this team’s offense in a big way. He finished the game 3-for-4 with a home run, two runs scored and two RBIs. Since his return from the disabled list on Aug. 5, Rodriguez is hitting .319 with two home runs and six RBIs in 12 games.
- When both benches emptied in the second inning, Gardner had to be physically restrained by Cano from storming out to the mound to get Dempster. However, Gardner paid Dempster back the best way he could with that triple off Britton that added three more runs to Dempster’s ERA and turned him from a potential winning pitcher to what he really is now – a loser. Dempster’s ERA would have been 4.58 without the three-run triple. As it is, Dempster’s ERA rose to 4.77. Gardner was 2-for-5 with three RBIs and he is now hitting .315 with runners in scoring position and is .429 with the bases loaded.
- Nunez was having himself a very good game until he had to leave in the sixth inning with a tight right hamstring. Nunez was 3-for-3 with two lined shots off the left-field wall, two stolen bases and an RBI. In his past nine games, Nunez is 12-for-34 (.353) with six runs scored and six RBIs. But if Nunez is placed on the disabled list it would be the third time this season he would have missed significant time due to injury.
The only true negative is that the Yankees needed to win the game so badly that they were unable to take the opportunity to get some retribution for Dempster’s cowardly act. If you think Dempster was standing up for his fellow major-league players, he wasn’t because those same players agreed to the rules that allowed Rodriguez to appeal his suspension. If Dempster had a beef, he should have taken it up with Commissioner Bud Selig for not issuing a ban through the Collective Bargaining Agreement or the Players’ Association. Dempster made himself look like a fool, lost the game, rallied the Yankees around their embattled teammate and woke them up enough to beat the Red Sox. I can’t see any positives for Dempster or the Red Sox in it. It was stupid decision.
On the same day his manager and his teammates rallied around him, Rodriguez will not be hearing much from general manager Brian Cashman and other members of the Yankees’ front office. Cashman said on Sunday that he does not feel comfortable talking with Rodriguez other to say hello or goodbye because of Rodriguez’s lawyers intentions to file a grievance with the Players’ Association alleging the Yankees knew Rodriguez was seriously injured during the end of the 2012 season and played him anyway. One of Rodriguez’s attorney, Joseph Tacopina, told The New York Times on Saturday that the Yankees concealed MRI results that would have shown Rodriguez’s left hip was injured during the 2012 playoffs. Yankees president Randy Levine said the claim was inaccurate, adding that Tacopina “needs to put up or shut up.” . . . Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter took batting practice and fielded ground balls at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, but he will not be activated when he is eligible to come off the disabled list on Tuesday. Jeter, who is recovering from a strained right calf, still has not run the bases or participated in a simulated game, which he needs to do before he will be activated.
The Yankees will have Monday off before opening a four-game homestand on Tuesday with a day-night doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays.
The doubleheader was scheduled as a result of a rainout on May 19.
Ivan Nova (6-4, 2.99 ERA) will start the day game and Phil Hughes (4-12, 4.97 ERA) will pitch in the nightcap. Right-hander Esmil Rogers (3-7, 4.91 ERA) will pitch in the afternoon contest for the Blue Jays while Mark Buehrle (9-7, 4.29 ERA) will pitch the late game.
Game-time for the opener is 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network. The night game will begin at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by MY9.
YANKEES 5, RED SOX 2
There were some eyebrows raised from some Yankees when Hiroki Kuroda was not selected to pitch for the American League in last week’s All-Star Game. But Kuroda never said a word and just used the time to get rested up for the second half of the season.
That was bad news for the Boston Red Sox.
Kuroda (9-6) shut down the Red Sox on two runs on five hits over seven strong innings and the Yankees got three hits each from Lyle Overbay, Brett Gardner and Eduardo Nunez as New York downed Boston in front of a paid crowd of 37,601 at Fenway Park.
For Kuroda, 38, it was his firs career victory at Fenway and his first triumph in three starts against the Red Sox this season. The veteran right-hander walked one and struck out four while benefitting from some excellent Yankee defense that cut down two runners at home plate.
Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at Red Sox right-hander John Lackey (7-7) until they were able to chase the veteran from the game in the seventh inning.
The Yankees used a “Plan B’ offense to score their first run in the fifth inning when Nunez led of the frame with a lined single to left and he later stole second. Chris Stewart then laid down a perfect sacrifice bunt to advance Nunez to third but Luis Cruz slapped a ground ball right at Stephen Drew that allowed Drew to cut down Nunez at the plate.
But with Cruz at first, Lackey uncorked a wild pitch that permitted Cruz to move into scoring position and Gardner scored him with a two-out single to center.
The Yankees’ seventh began much like the fifth with Nunez opening the inning with a double off the Green Monster in left-center. Stewart advanced him to third with a slow bouncing groundout to first and Cruz delivered an RBI single to center that scored Nunez.
After Gardner singled, Red Sox manager John Farrell replaced Lackey with veteran left-hander Matt Thornton.
Thornton did get Ichiro Suzki to hit into a fielder’s choice that erased Gardner at second but Robinson Cano laced a opposite-field RBI single to score Cruz and Overbay followed with an RBI single of his own to give Kuroda and the Yankees some breathing room with a 4-0 lead.
Lackey was touched for four runs on 10 hits and he struck out seven in 6 1/3 innings for the Red Sox.
The Red Sox did manage to score a pair of runs off Kuroda in the bottom of the seventh after a leadoff single from David Ortiz and a double off the bat of Mike Carp. Jonny Gomes scored Ortiz on a sacrifice fly and, after Carp advanced to third on a groundout, he scored on a wild pitch from Kuroda.
But the Yankee bullpen tandem of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shut out the Red Sox in the eighth and ninth innings to preserve the victory for Kuroda. For Rivera, his save in the ninth was his 31st in 33 opportunities this season and his 639th career save.
The Yankees added an unearned run off right-hander Pedro Beato in the ninth without the benefit of a hit.
Beato hit Cruz with a pitch to start the inning and Gardner reached on an fielding error by second baseman Dustin Pedroia.
Then with Suzuki at the plate, Cruz was caught taking too big a lead off second. But Cruz dashed to third on Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s throw to second and he just beat Drew’s throw to third to get credit for a stolen base.
He then scored on a sac fly off the bat of Cano.
But the Yankees really owe their victory to some sterling plays in the field that frustrated the Red Sox all afternoon.
In the first inning, Daniel Nava was on second with two out when Ortiz laced a single to left-field. Nava stumbled as he rounded third and was thrown at the plate on a throw by Vernon Wells.
In the fifth inning, the Red Sox threatened with a pair of leadoff singles by Carp and Gomes. But Saltalamacchia and Drew were retired, leaving Carp at third and Gomes on second with two out.
Kuroda then tossed a 1-2 pitch to Jose Iglesias in the dirt that rolled away from Stewart, allowing Carp to head for home. But Stewart was able to corral the ball quickly and he made a perfect throw to Kuroda at home plate in time to nail a sliding Carp.
Stewart then capped off his day behind the plate with a spectacular play in the eighth inning.
Nava reached first on Robertson with a one-out single. Pedroia then fouled off a 0-2 pitch to the left of the screen. Stewart lunged into the first row of the stands to catch the ball and then fired a perfect one-hop throw to Cano at second base to easily nail a sliding Nava for a rare 2-4 double play.
The victory evened the three-game series at a game apiece and drew the Yankees to within six games of the first-place Red Sox in the American League East with a 52-45 record. The Bosox dropped to 59-40.
- If there was any doubt that Kuroda has been the Yankees’ best and most consistent pitcher of the season then his performance on Saturday had to be the clincher. Kuroda held a lineup that boasted six hitters sporting batting averages of .287 or better to only five hits – including two hits each for Ortiz and Carp. He really was never threatened other than in the fifth and the seventh, but he limited the damage to preserve an important victory that keeps the Yankees in the pennant race.
- Overbay was moved up in the batting order to cleanup and he delivered three hits – two of them doubles – and drove in a run. Other than Cano, Overbay has been the most consistent run producer the Yankees have had all season. He is now hitting .259 with 11 home runs and 43 RBIs. Though Overbay, 36, is not producing Mark Teixeira-type numbers, he is doing yeoman work for the team at the plate and in the field.
- Nunez’s 3-for-4 day with two doubles, a run scored and a stolen base must have Yankee fans wondering where he has been all season. Nunez was handed an opportunity to show what he could do at shortstop in the absence of Derek Jeter and up to now he has blown it. Nunez is hitting .226 with no home runs and eight RBIs in 38 games this season.
- Though Travis Hafner was dropped to the sixth spot in the order he still could not produce anything. With a right-hander pitching the lefty designated hitter was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. His season average is now down to .215. At age 36, it appears Hafner’s bat is too slow to catch up with fastballs and he has no clue when he is thrown tough breaking pitches. He needs to be benched.
- Though Wells was 1-for-4 on Saturday he looks similarly overmatched at the plate. He has not homered in his last 49 games and the pitches he was able to drive are now being fouled back to the screen. And when pitchers need Wells out they just throw him either a high fastball or a slider on the outside corner for a guaranteed strikeout. Lackey fanned him twice – once on the slider and once with the high fastball. Wells is hitting .239 on the season.
The Yankees were forced to place outfielder Zoilo Almonte on the 15-day disabled list on Saturday with a sprained left ankle. Almonte, 24, suffered the injury hitting the first-base bag hard running out a ground ball in the fourth inning of Friday’s game. The Yankees also designated for assignment infielder Alberto Gonzalez. Almonte was hitting .261 with a home run and nine RBIs in 26 games with the Yankees and the rookie switch-hitter had taken over as the team’s starting left-fielder for Wells. Gonzalez, 30, hit .176 with no home runs and four RBIs in 13 games with the Yankees. To fill the two roster spots the Yankees recalled outfielders Thomas Neal and Melky Mesa from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Neal, 25, was hitting .314 with two homers and 29 RBIs in 66 games at Scranton, In a previous stint with the Yankees, Neal hit .182 in four games. Mesa, 26, was hitting .249 with nine home runs and 22 RBIs at Scranton. . . . Alex Rodriguez was shifted from third base to designated hitter on Saturday for Scranton due to a tight left quadriceps. The Yankees, at this time, still plan to activate Rodriguez from his 20-day rehab assignment on Monday in time for the Yankees’ game in Arlington, TX against the Rangers.
The Yankees can win the three-game series against the Red Sox and draw to within five games of first place with a victory on Sunday.
Left-hander CC Sabathia ( 9-8, 4.07 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off a horrible first half that culminated with a game in which the team’s defense let him down against the Minnesota Twins on July 13. Sabathia gave up eight runs (only three of them earned) on eight hits and two walks in four-plus innings. He is 1-1 against the Red Sox this season, including a victory on 7 1/3 innings of one-run ball on May 31.
The Red Sox were forced to scratch left-hander Jon Lester with an undisclosed injury. Right-hander Ryan Dempster (5-8, 4.24 ERA) will start in Lester’s place. Dempster did not make it out of the fourth inning of his last start against the Seattle Mariners on July 11. He was tagged for four runs on nine hits and a walk. He is 0-4 with a 7.22 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 2
Most major-league teams conduct “Turn-Back-The Clock” nights to feature vintage era teams. The New York Yankees held their own version of “Turn-Back-The-Clock” night on Thursday and they did it only with a 40-year-old starter and a 43-year-old reliever.
Andy Pettitte threw eight dominant innings of one-run ball and Mariano Rivera began his final season in Major League Baseball with his first save as New York recovered from an 0-2 start to the season to beat Boston in front of a paid crowd of 40,611 on another chilly night at Yankee Stadium.
Pettitte looked to be in vintage 1996 form, when he won 21 games for the Yankees. Using his patented style of peering over the edge of his glove, Pettitte (1-0) scattered eight hits, walked one and struck three while holding the hated Bosox scoreless through six innings.
Their lone score off Pettitte came with two out in the seventh inning when Will Middlebrooks punched an opposite-field single and Jackie Bradley Jr. plated him with a double high off the wall in right-center.
Much earlier in the game, the Yankees finally took their first lead of the season in the second inning when Travis Hafner led off the frame with a single off veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster (0-1). Two outs later, Eduardo Nunez blasted a ground-rule double in right-center and Lyle Overbay scored Hafner and Nunez with an opposite-field single to left-center.
Though the Yankees are missing a lot of power with Mark Teixeira, Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez injured, the Yankees broke out the long-ball on Thursday from two of their least likely “Bronx Bombers.”
Brett Gardner led off the third inning with a first-pitch golf shot off Dempster that just scraped over the wall into the first row of the right-field bleachers for his first home run of the season and only the 16th of his career.
With the Yankees leading 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Francisco Cervelli touched off a mammoth shot to left-center on a 3-1 offering from reliever Clayton Mortensen for Cervelli’s first home run of the season and only the fifth of his career. The ball actually struck high off the wall in the Red Sox bullpen and nearly landed in the bleachers.
Pettitte left after eight innings and handed the ball to a familiar teammate, Rivera.
The future Hall-of-Fame closer did give up a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and a one-out double down the left-field line by Jonny Gomes. Pedroia scored on a groundout by Middlebrooks but Rivera struck out Bradley looking to record the 609th save of his 19-season career.
It also was the 69th time that Rivera had saved a victory for Pettitte, which is tops in the majors since the statistic was first recorded in 1969.
Though the Red Sox won the series, the Yankees at least got a measure of payback to improve their record to 1-2.
- For those who thought Pettitte might be through at age 40, you are dead wrong. Though Pettitte did allow nine base-runners, he kept the ball in the ballpark and used three double plays to prevent the Red Sox from manufacturing any offense. Pettitte threw 64 of his 94 pitches for strikes (68 percent) and he never was seriously in much danger of losing his 3-0 lead.
- Overbay, 35, came through with a huge two-out hit in the second inning and general manager Brian Cashman’s decision to sign him after the Bosox released him in the final week of spring training may prove to be a good move while the Yankees await Teixeira’s return from a torn tendon his right wrist.
- Gardner and Cervelli showed that the Yankees do not always have to rely on “little ball” to win games. But don’t expect this pair to be piling up a lot of dingers this season. The Yankees won this game with good pitching, good defense and some opportunistic hitting.
- If the Yankees are going to have to rely on more of a running game this season it would nice if their top base-stealers would not get thrown out on the basepaths. Gardner was thrown out at second base in the first and Nunez was nabbed the same way in the sixth. Both of them were nailed by backup Red Sox catcher David Ross.
- After his 3-for-4 night on Wednesday, the Red Sox made sure Vernon Wells did not get a fastball to hit on Thursday. Wells did not adjust and was 0-for-4 with a strikeout.
- In this series the Red Sox trotted out a new shift on Robinson Cano in which they shifted third baseman Middlebrooks into short right-field. It evidently bothered Cano because he hit two balls right to Middlebrooks and was 0-for-3 with a walk and is hitting .091 after three games.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda told reporters on Thursday that he still is feeling discomfort in his bruised right middle finger but that he still hopes to be able to be ready for his next start in Cleveland on Monday. Kuroda was struck on the finger as he reached up to stop a hard line drive off the bat of Shane Victorino in the second inning and he later was forced to leave the game. Kuroda is scheduled to throw a bullpen session in Detroit on Friday and he will know then if he will be able to pitch. . . . Manager Joe Girardi changed the lineup to have Cano batting second and Kevin Youkilis batting third. Girardi said he decided to make the change to break up three left-handed hitters at the top of the lineup against Dempster. . . . The Yankees decided to give right-hander David Aardsma his unconditional release on Thursday. Aardsma, 31, had a 3.52 ERA this spring, but he was designated for assignment because the team preferred right-hander Shawn Kelley, who could offer multiple innings out the bullpen.
The Yankees travel to Detroit on Friday for the Tigers’ 2013 home opener.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0, 4,19 ERA this spring) will start for the Yankees seeking redemption from a 2012 season in which he was 12-8 with a 5.02 ERA. In his short career, Nova is 0-1 with a 9.24 ERA against the Tigers.
He will be opposed by right-hander Doug Fister (2-3, 5.68 ERA this spring), who pitched 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series against the Yankees. He is 1-2 with a 5.18 ERA versus the Yankees in the regular season.
Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
RED SOX 7, YANKEES 4
Yankee fans realize there is something wrong with this team but they just can’t seem to put a finger on it. On Wednesday night, Hiroki Kuroda put a finger on a screaming line drive in the second inning and it ended his evening – and with him went pretty much any chance of a victory.
Clay Buchholz pitched seven innings of one-run baseball and the Red Sox took advantage of Kuroda’s early departure as Boston downed New York on a crisp, cold and windy evening at Yankee Stadium.
Already down 1-0, Kuroda (0-1) opened the second frame by giving up a lined single up the middle off the bat of Shane Victorino. Unfortunately, Kuroda threw up his pitching hand and the ball grazed his right middle finger as it zipped into centerfield. After a few warmup tosses, Kuroda elected to stay in the game.
However, the normally pinpoint control Kuroda displays was gone. He hit the next batter, Jackie Bradley Jr., and – after recording an out – he walked Jacoby Ellsbury to load the bases and then hit Daniel Nava to force in a second run. Kuroda was then forced to leave the game.
The Red Sox subsequently pounced on a less-than-sharp Cody Eppley in the third after he induced an inning-ending double play in the second.
The Red Sox pounded Eppley for four runs on four hits, scoring all four runs after two were out in the inning. The big blow was a two-run single by Ellsbury off reliever Adam Warren.
Buchholz, meanwhile, held off the Yankees, giving up only a solo home run to Travis Hafner with two out in the fourth inning.
Buchholz (1-0) surrendered six hits and two walks while he struck out four batters.
The Yankees did manage to rally in the eighth inning off left-hander Andrew Miller and right-hander Alfredo Aceves.
Miller opened the frame by hitting Ichiro Suzuki with a pitch and Aceves entered the game one out later and gave up a single to Kevin Youkilis. After Hafner grounded out, Vernon Wells launched a line-drive blast into the left-field bleachers to bring the Yankees to within three runs.
But it was the proverbial too little and too late for the Yankees.
Joel Hanrahan pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his first save as a Red Sox closer.
- Warren pitched well in his 5 1/3 innings of work in relief. He gave up one run on five hits and a walk while he fanned four. But his real contribution was saving the rest of the bullpen from having to pitch after Kuroda was forced to leave the game so early. Though I still think Warren is not a great long-term solution to the Yankees’ pitching puzzle, you have to give him kudos for this outing.
- Hafner was 1-for-2 in the opener and he was 1-for-4 on Wednesday with his first home run in pinstripes. Hafner’s blast was a legitimate Yankee Stadium home run. It landed in the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center. Now if he could only connect with men on base we might have a good designated hitter here.
- Wells collected three of the team’s eight hits and all of them came off fastballs. Wells was 3-for-4 with his first Yankee homer and three RBIs. The Yankees’ scouting department noticed this spring that Wells had a much quicker bat than he had shown the past few years and the gamble to sign him may be paying off.
- Eppley pitched poorly after not pitching well this spring. The 27-year-old side-winding right-hander was a valuable piece to the bullpen in 2012, going 1-2 with a 3.33 ERA and limiting right-handers to a .227 average in 46 innings. Of course, manager Joe Girardi exposed him by having him pitch to two switch-hitters in Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Victorino and the lefty-swinging Bradley in the third inning. All three got hits off Eppley.
- It is hard to get runners on base and score runs when your leadoff hitter goes 0-for-5. Brett Gardner did not have a good night. He struck out twice and looked overmatched at the plate in just about every at-bat.
- The Yankees were 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position and they are 3-for-15 in the first two games of the season. You can blame it on the free-agent defections and injuries if you like, but the bottom line is it is going to have to improve if the Yankees want to contend in 2013.
Kuroda underwent X-rays and CT scan of his right hand after the game and the tests only showed a bruised middle finger. However, Kuroda told reporters he is not sure if he will be able to make his next start. Kuroda is scheduled to throw a bullpen session on Friday in Detroit and he should know more then. Warren would likely make the start of Kuroda is unable to pitch. . . . Mark Teixeira told reporters that he believes he could be ready to play for the Yankees by May 1. Teixiera is recovering from a torn tendon sheath in his right wrist. He was expected to miss eight to 10 weeks but Teixeira said he thinks he could be ready by the first of the month. That is roughly the same time Curtis Granderson (broken right forearm) and Derek Jeter (recovering from a surgery on a fractured left ankle) are expected to be back. . . . Right-hander Phil Hughes (bulging disk in his upper back) was cleared to pitch on Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a rehab start. Hughes will likely rejoin the rotation after that start. . . . The Yankees elected to release left-handed reliever Clay Rapada after designating him for assignment last week. Rapada, 30, has been sidelined with bursitis in his left shoulder but the Yankees decided they needed to make room on the 40-man roster. Rapada was 3-0 with a 2.82 and limited left-handers to a .186 in 38 1/3 innings.
The Yankees will try to salvage the last game of the opening homestand on Thursday against the Red Sox.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte (2-0, 3.52 ERA) will toe the rubber for the Yankees. Pettitte, 40, was 5-4 with a 2.87 ERA in 12 starts with the Yankees last season, a season cut short by fractured right ankle. Pettitte is 15-9 with a 4.16 ERA in the past 10 seasons against the Bosox.
He will opposed by veteran right-hander Ryan Dempster (1-2, 3.74 ERA). Dempster, 35, was a combined 12-8 with a 3.34 ERA between the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers last season. He is 0-4 with a 7.62 ERA in five career starts against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
The New York Yankees open defense of their American League East championship on Monday against the Boston Red Sox with pundits and even their own fans criticizing them for their many injuries and their reluctance over the past few years for opening their wallets to get quality young players. I will try to examine how I believe the division race stacks up and predict how it might go. You may be surprised by my conclusion.
REAL LIFE GAME OF THRONES
If you are a fan of HBO’s series “Game of Thrones” you might notice that the American League East is a lot like the many kingdoms in the show.
The Yankees, with their money and dominance, are a lot like the Lannisters. The Boston Red Sox are a lot like the Starks, highly principled and loyal folk who fight the good fight only to suffer myriad indignities and failures. Of course, you also have those teams like the Toronto Blue Jays, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Baltimore Orioles who also are swirling around the periphery of Kings Landing believing they have a rightful claim to wear the crown.
The 2013 season will play out a lot like the television series and I can tell you why I believe that.
A DOMINANT KING
Since 1995 the Yankees have only missed the American League playoffs once (in 2008) and they have won the division championship in 16 of the past 17 seasons. If that is not dominance than what is? Like the Lannisters, the Steinbrenner family has lavished riches of the kingdom on the best knights to defend the realm and their loyal subjects have been a fairly happy lot for the most part.
But their knights have grown old and their battle wounds have been severe. Some are ready for the fight in 2013 but others are not. Their apparent weakness has given their rivals confidence they take the crown away and you saw that play out this spring.
THE KING NORTH OF THE WALL
The Blue Jays had a legendary team in the early 1990s and they won two world championships during that period. But since then they have fallen into a barren abyss of failure. But their general manager Alex Anthropoulos engineered a winter campaign to load his roster with the best players the Miami Marlins and New York Mets could offer him.
They boast a starting lineup with the speedy Jose Reyes and a line-drive hitting machine in Melky Cabrera to add to their long-ball threats Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. They also pried away National League Cy Young Award-winner R.A. Dickey from the Mets to add to right-hander Josh Johnson and left-hander Mark Buerhle from the Marlins to form a strong rotation with their own holdover Brandon Morrow.
The kings of North think they now have a team that storm the wall protecting the kingdoms that lie s to the south such as Kings Landing in 2013.
But there are some warning signs that could give them pause before they are able to proclaim victory.
One is the Blue Jays’ bullpen. I was listening to their broadcasters this spring lamenting about how weak this group appears to be.
Closer Casey Janssen is coming off shoulder surgery and they HOPE he will available for Opening Day. Behind him is failed closer Sergio Santos and his awful 7.88 spring ERA and Esmil Rogers and his 6.39 ERA.
Of all the teams in the A.L. East, this bullpen projects to be the worst in the division, especially if Janssen is unable to capture lightning in a bottle and return as the closer he was last season when he saved 22 of 25 games. The Blue Jays may have to cover there bullpen weakness by asking their starters to go longer than they should.
That tends to weaken the starters and it also could be discouraging when the offense builds a 6-1 lead after six innings and they end up losing the game 7-6. That will get mighty old for the Rogers Centre faithful this summer.
The offense has its own issues.
Third baseman Brett Lawrie plays the game all out and he also tends to get hurt a lot. He enters the season banged up and there are questions about how good centerfielder Colby Rasmus, catcher J.P. Arencibia and designated hitter Adam Lind really are. They have yet to establish themselves as quality major-league players.
There also is a major questions about whether Reyes, whose talents in the past have been held back by leg issues, will be able to play a full season on the hard artificial surface of Rogers Centre without issues at age 29.
So instead of automatically installing them as the kings of this division, you may want to look deeper into these drawbacks. Teams do not win championships on paper. Just ask the 2012 Marlins.
THE LORDS OF BALTIMORE
The Orioles remind me of the twisted and tortured King Stannis, who attacked Kings Landing in season two of the “Game of Thrones” only to be turned back at the gates by the eldest of the Lannisters and his men just as if seemed they were winning.
Stannis had a magical sorceress behind him convincing him that he could win the battle, but he failed in the end. She later told him he still could prevail even as he was licking his wounds in defeat. Manager Buck Showalter is much like this sorceress. His skill of masking weaknesses and enhancing strengths of a ballclub made the Orioles seem much stronger than they appeared to be in 2012.
They won such a ridiculous amount of one-run and extra-inning games that they qualified for the playoffs as a wild card only to be dispatched in Game 5 of the American League Division Series by the CC of Sabathia. They were at the gates of the kingdom of The Bronx only to be turned away by their elders, Prince Derek Jeter and the eldest of Lannisters, Raul of of the House Ibanez.
Showalter still believes his charges can storm the gates of the castle and take the throne in 2013. But, unlike most teams in this division, he did not add much of anything to this team. He is largely counting on the same black magic of 2012, which rarely happens.
Those one-run victories in 2012 can easily turn into one-run losses in 2013. Those extra-inning miracles can become extra-inning nightmares a year later.
Their rotation of Jason Hammel, Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Jake Arrieta really scares no one. Nobody is going to get up out of bed at the hotel and say “Oh no, we have no chance of winning because Arrieta is pitching tonight!”
The bullpen with closer Jim Johnson is solid but hardly merits superlatives.
The team largely returns the same cast in 2012 minus Mark Reynolds and with the return of second baseman Brian Roberts, who has not played a full season in the majors since 2009.
Adam Jones and Matt Wieters are marvelous talents and Nick Markakis is healthy after missing the stretch run. But I have to wonder if all the magic Showalter spun in 2012 really will return in 2013. Teams like this usually fall back to the pack and that is what I see for the Birds.
DRAGONS AT THE PORT CITY
The Tampa Bay Rays remind of the Targaryens, who once sat upon the throne in 2008 when they faced the Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series but have been unable to mount the offensive to get back there.
They have been trapped wandering in a hot climate in Florida and they have been restricted by the lack of soldiers and a lack of money to really win it all.
One year they lose Carl Crawford and Matt Garza. Another year they lose B.J. Upton and James Shields. They try to compensate with their own farm system because they lack money to compete with the Lannisters or the Starks of this division.
They only have the fire of their small but growing dragons who someday might destroy the mightier armies they have to face. For now, it appears the dragons are way too small and too inexperienced to go the entire distance.
The Rays rely on a pitching staff led by the American League Cy Young Award-winner David Price. How ironic that a team that has to pinch its pennies would be beholden to man named Price.
Behind him on promising youngsters like Matt Moore, Jeremy Hellickson and Alex Cobb. But there are problems here.
Hellickson spent most of the spring throwing much less than fire at opposing batters. He was rocked often and ended up with a 6.75 ERA. Moore did not fare much better. His velocity was way off and his command was even worse. He finished the spring much better but his once-high promise has faded some.
The Rays have to rely on these pitchers and their bullpen led by reclamation project Fernando Rodney and his 48 saves because the offense leaves a lot to be desired.
Without Upton, the Rays will have to rely on Evan Longoria even more for power. Longoria himself has a problem staying healthy and, if he is missing for any portion of the season, the Rays can kiss their hopes bye-bye.
They have a semblance of an offense with Longoria, Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings and new shortstop Yunel Escobar. But they also are starting guys like Matt Joyce and Luke Scott, who have not proven they can establish careers for themselves and help a team win.
They also are still counting on Jose Molina to do a bulk of the catching at age 37.
The Targaryens in the television series did not have enough money to purchase the ships to ford the sea leading back to Kings Landing. That kind of jives with the subjects who live in Tampa, FL, who are unwilling to lay down their riches or mount their horses to ford the bridge that leads to the Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.
The low attendance puts even more stringent strains on the team’s coffers to keep players like Price in the kingdom for their entire careers.
The Rays, with their young dragons, should remain afloat long enough to mount a serious challenge to take the throne. But the rich Lannisters in the Bronx still have the wisdom and wherewithal to stem the tide. Like in the series, men do not blindly follow the bravest warriors but remain loyal to the men with the gold.
The gold remains in the Bronx.
THE STARKS OF BOSTON
In Season Two of “Game of Thrones” the elder Stark loses his head, the eldest daughter is enslaved to the Lannister king, the youngest daughter is lost in the hinterlands, the two youngest boys have their home burned while the man’s widow and the eldest son plot to overthrow and vanquish the Lanisters to avenge the patriarch’s death.
That pretty much wraps up the Red Sox of 2012. Winterfell befell Landsdowne.
Their king (Bobby Valentine) had his head lopped off and served to the media, they abandoned their home fans and cast adrift a lot of their high-priced talent in order to restock and rebuild to defeat their arch-enemy in the rich Bronx. It was indeed a completely lost season for the Red Sox and the Starks.
They hold out hope that a new manager (Jon Farrell) and a team built around Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury will help get them back to the promised land they have failed to reach since 2007. In fact, they have failed to make the playoffs in the last three seasons.
They want left-hander Jon Lester and right-hander Clay Buccholz to pitch better while young Felix Doubront develops and they pray retreads Ryan Dempster and John Lackey (all kingdoms must have their lackeys) have something left. The problem is that this was the division’s worst pitching staff in 2012 and no swordsmanship will make it much better in 2013.
The bullpen has undergone a two purges since Jonathan Papelbon rode off for the riches of the Phillies. They are now hoping a Pirate can plug the leaks in the hull of the bullpen. Joel Hanrahan has come over from Pittsburgh to be the closer while former closer Andrew Bailey and lost child Daniel Bard try to figure out what happened to their talent.
Bailey is the team’s setup man while the Bard (in true Shakespearean fashion) has been cast into the dungeons of the minor leagues. For shame, for shame!
It also appears that the kingdom’s version of Hodor, David Ortiz, is finally showing signs that those seasons of carrying excess weight have a price. He has a bad heel and he can’t even trot, let alone run. Without Ortiz, most of the power and production will fall upon first baseman Mike Napoli.
There are lots of weaknesses everywhere, including shortstop (Stephen Drew, really?) and catcher, where Jarrod Saltalamacchia hits home runs in small bunches and strikes out in major droves.
Though young outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. promises to give the Fenway faithful something to cheer about when the team is dredging the bottom depths of the division, the ponderous weight of the anchor of this foundering team will keep them from even getting a whiff of the roses near the Iron Throne.
THE RICHES OF KINGS LANDING
The Evil Empire in the Bronx has paid its knights Alex Rodriguez, Jeter, Sabathia, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Mark Teixeira handsomely over the years. Along with the reward of titles and championships, the team has also fallen short of its goals of late due to injury and the age of these players.
It actually started last season when spring injuries to Michael Pineda and Joba Chamberlain was just a mere hint of what 2012 would bring. Rodriguez missed time, CC pitched with a sore elbow, Pettitte was lost for a time, Jeter hobbled until he broke in the playoffs,
Speedy outfielder Brett Gardner played in only 18 games.
So why should 2013 be any different?
The rich Lannisters are already missing Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Ibanez, Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones because payroll concerns were such they were ordered to cut back on their excesses.
Injuries to Teixera, Curtis Granderson, Phil Hughes and a slow recovery by Jeter this spring heightened the concerns of fans who have loyally followed this team over the years. The town criers, the scribes and pundits all denounced this team and said it was dead. They would not win the title in 2013.
They may even finish last.
But an odd thing happened on Friday. The team that was battered all spring played a Washington Nationals team that many say will win the world championship in 2013 fell to the Yankees. Oh, it was just an exhibition game. I know it did not count.
But what you saw in the Yankees was a semblance of a very good team. Pettitte pitched well and the bullpen proved to be as strong as ever.
The major surprise was the offense with Robinson Cano, Kevin Youkilis, Eduardo Nunez and Vernon Wells seemed to respond and it all seemed to come together in one cohesive package.
Rays manager Joe Maddon said earlier this spring that he fails to believe that the Yankees will be bad in 2013. He said he thinks they will be as difficult to beat as they always have been. I agree.
You see injuries do heal. The Yankees will get Jeter, Hughes, Granderson and Teixeira back at some point this season. They also might get Rodriguez back.
They are a team that has always gotten off to slow starts and got better as the season moved along. I see the same scenario this season.
The pitching with Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Pettitte, Hughes, Ivan Nova and David Phelps is deep. They have Rivera in the bullpen for one last season and David Robertson, Chamberlain and Boone Logan form a strong setup group for the King of Closing.
The offense features the two best singles hitters of their generation in Ichiro Suzuki and Jeter along with the speedy Gardner. Cano, who is due to become a very rich free agent signing after the 2013 season, is poised for breakout season of offense and defense. He could very well win the Most Valuable Player award this season.
Youkilis looks like the Youkilis of 2007, when he led the rival Red Sox to their last championship. You add Granderson and Teixera to that and you have a good offense to go along with strong pitching.
The “new guys” Wells, Brennan Boesch, Ben Francisco and Travis Hafner will have pressure on them to keep the team afloat until the stars come back. They might fail but they can’t be any worse than last season’s Yankees that failed to hit with runners in scoring position.
It also behooves manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman that the Yankees are looked upon as dead meat awaiting a fork to be thrust into them. Perhaps lower expectations is a good thing for the Yankees after always being the team expected to win.
Girardi has a chance to really manage this season and Cashman has staked his reputation by finding these veteran pieces to fill in while the wounded heal in the tent.
That is why I truly believe that some how, some way the Yankees, the rich Lannisters of the Bronx, will have just enough to win this division again.
They may stumble in the playoffs. That is almost as much expected by their fans. But I do see victory here.
- BLUE JAYS
- RED SOX
For fans of the show “King of Thrones” I must add a note that Season Three premieres tonight at 9 p.m. EDT on HBO. If you liked this analogy to the A.L. East please pause a moment miladies and milords to send me a raven.