YANKEES 7, BRAVES 0
LAKE BUENA VISTA – Since 2011, Ivan Nova has been the type of pitcher who can delight a manager with his stuff while at the same time force the same manager to tear out his hair because of his inconsistency.
On Wednesday, Nova thrilled manager Joe Girardi by pitching 6 1/3 innings of shutout baseball, allowing only two hits and not walking a batter. He also had the Braves hitters pulling their hair out as he struck out five and New York blanked Atlanta in front of a sellout crowd of 10,413 at Champion Stadium.
Nova (2-1) was in total command from his first pitch to his last, throwing 49 of his 68 pitches for strikes and allowing only five balls to be hit beyond the infield. The only two hits Nova allowed was a leadoff bloop single to Andrelton Simmons in the third inning and a one-out double to pinch-hitter Ryan Doumit in the sixth.
Meanwhile, the Yankees got to work early against Braves right-hander David Hale (0-2).
Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk in the first, stole second and advanced to third on a fly ball off the ball of Derek Jeter. Carlos Beltran then scored Gardner on a sharp single to right.
The Yankees added a pair of runs after two were out in the fourth when Adonis Garcia laced a two-run double to left to score Brian Roberts and Kelly Johnson.
Beltran keyed another two-run rally in the seventh off right-hander Luis Vazquez.
After Jose Gil drew a leadoff walk, pinch-runner Antoan Richardson stole second and Gardner drew his third walk of the day. Jeter’s infield grounder took out Gardner at second but Richardson scored on an error by Simmons, who threw wildly attempting to turn a double play.
Beltran, who entered the game with only three hits all spring, delivered his third single of the day to drive in Yangervis Solarte, who was pinch-running for Jeter in what was his final appearance in a game at Champion Stadium. Jeter drew a loud ovation as he jogged back to the Yankees’ dugout.
In their last four spring games, all of them victories, the Yankees have outscored their opponents 29-5.
The Yankees improved their spring ledger to 12-9-2. The Braves dropped to 8-13.
- Nova, 27, was coming off two outings in which he was shelled for six runs on 17 hits in nine innings. But Nova looked more like the pitcher who was 7-4 with a 2.59 ERA in his final 15 starts of the 2013 season. Nova had the Braves either locked up or flailing away at the 12-to-6 break on his curveball. For those so-called “experts” who have said the Yankees’ starting rotation looks shaky in 2014 may want to reconsider that view. This rotation actually might be its strongest group since 2009 when the team won its 27th world championship.
- Beltran, 36, was 3-for-4 with two RBIs to lead the offense against the Braves. Beltran looks much more relaxed at the plate and the Yankees will look to benefit this season from the veteran switch-hitter batting in the third slot in the order. The eight-time All-Star is a career .283 hitter with 358 major-league home runs.
- The fact that Gardner drew three walks, stole a base and scored a run shows how committed he is to building upon his 2013 season. Gardner is hitting .303 but his on-base percentage is .385. It indicates that he could do some serious damage from the No. 9 spot in the batting order this year.
The Yankees have won four games in a row and they are getting great starting pitching (CC Sabathia, Masahiro Tanaka, Michael Pineda and Nova) and the offense is beginning to break out in a big way. They have averaged more than seven runs a game in their past four games. There is nothing negative to say.
The Yankees essentially brought all of their starters to Lake Buena Vista with the exception of first baseman Mark Teixeira and outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury. . . . Ellsbury remained at the Yankees’ spring complex at Tampa, FL, nursing a sore right calf and Girardi told reporters on Wednesday that the veteran outfielder will play on Friday at the earliest. Ellsbury has been shagging fly balls and hitting but has not tested his leg by running yet. . . . Girardi is noncommittal about who will be selected as the team’s backup at second base for Roberts and at third base for Johnson. Veteran Eduardo Nunez, 26, who also can play shortstop, would appear to be the front-runner. But Girardi said that Dean Anna, Scott Sizemore, Solarte and Zelous Wheeler remain in the fight. Solarte, 26, has been the sensation of the spring, leading the team in hits (15), batting .500 with two homers and a team-leading eight RBIs.
After thrashing Boston on Tuesday 8-1 at George M. Steinbrenner Field the Yankees travel to Fort Myers, FL, to face the Red Sox again on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps (0-0, 2.63 ERA) will make his fifth start for the Yankees. Teixiera, Ichiro Suzuki, Francisco Cervelli and Nunez are scheduled to make the trip.
The Bosox plan to pitch injury-prone right-hander Clay Buchholz (2-1, 1.13 ERA).
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, TWINS 2
It came in his 401st career start and it came in his second attempt at it, but CC Sabathia was able to join a very elite club of major-league pitchers on Wednesday.
Red-hot Robinson Cano keyed the offense with a huge two-run double in the sixth inning and Sabathia struck out nine batters in seven strong innings to earn his 200th major-league victory as he and New York continued their unbelievable dominance over Minnesota in front of a sellout crowd of 38,457 at Target Field.
Sabathia (9-6) became the 27th pitcher in major-league baseball history to win his 200th game before his 33rd birthday and only the eighth pitcher to do so after 1961.
The veteran left-hander held the Twins to only two runs on seven hits and three walks to run his record against the Twins to 11-0 in his last 12 starts – which includes the playoffs – dating back to Aug. 3, 2007.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have now won three straight against the Twins after they had dropped their previous five games.
Cano entered the evening 12-for-21 (.571) with four homers and eight RBIs, three of those home runs coming against the Twins. He struck again against rookie right-hander P.J. Walters after Walters had shut out the Yankees on only one hit and two walks in the first five innings.
With the Twins ahead 2-0, Brett Gardner drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki followed by slashing a line drive that struck the wall down the right-field line just inside the foul line for a double.
Twins manager Ron Gardenhire elected to have Walters pitch to Cano with a base open and Cano made both Gardenhire and Walters pay for it when he lashed a two-run double to right-center.
Travis Hafner chased Walters (2-5) when he slapped an opposite field single to left to advance Cano to third.
One out later, Lyle Overbay plated Cano with the go-ahead by lining a sacrifice fly to center-field off left-hander Caleb Thielbar.
Walters was charged with three runs on four hits and three walks while he fanned three in five-plus innings of work.
The Twins took a 1-0 lead off Sabathia in the third inning when Brian Dozier drew a leadoff walk and Joe Mauer followed with an RBI double to the wall in left-center.
The Twins, however, missed a golden opportunity to add to their 1-0 lead in the inning when newly signed Yankee shortstop Luis Cruz airmailed a routine grounder off the bat of Ryan Doumit over Overbay’s head for an error that advanced Mauer to third with no outs.
Sabathia then struck out Justin Morneau swinging, retired Trevor Plouffe on a fly ball to shallow right and fanned Oswaldo Arcia swinging to end the threat.
The Twins did add a run with two out in the fifth inning when Plouffe connected off Sabathia for his eighth homer of the season to straightaway center.
But for the third consecutive evening the Yankees were able to come from behind to take the lead and hold it against the Twins.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Mariano Rivera shut out the Twins in the ninth for his 28th save in 29 chances this season. It was the 636th career save for the 41-year-old right-hander and 35 of them have come against the Twins.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 45-39 and they remain six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East. But they edged a half-game ahead of the Tampa Bay Rays in third place in the division. The Twins, who have now lost four in a row, are 36-45.
- It was nice to see Sabathia get his 200th victory after he threw five no-hit innings against the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday only to end up losing the game 4-3. Despite the nine strikeouts, Sabathia did have some command issues that raised his pitch count in the early innings. He ended up throwing a season-high 121 pitches.
- Cano finished the evening 2-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and two RBIs. In his past six games, Cano is 14-for-24 (.584) with four home runs and 10 RBIs. It is odd that the Twins elected to pitch to him with first base open and no outs in the sixth, but Cano is beginning to deliver the big hit. In fact, when he lined out to center in the eighth it took a diving catch by Aaron Hicks to get him out.
- Rivera is continuing his farewell tour of American League cities and he is absolutely rolling in his final season. Rivera is 1-1 with 28 saves with an amazing 1.44 ERA. At 43 years of age Rivera is a lock to be invited to his 13th All-Star Game. The odd thing is they would not be inviting him out of sentiment. Rivera honestly is STILL among the elite closers in baseball. Amazing!
- The Yankee offense was poor on Wednesday. They made the soft-tossing rookie Walters look like Greg Maddux for the first five innings. The No. 5 through No. 9 spots in the order were a combined 0-for-15 with six strikeouts. It was just lucky they strung together three of their four hits in the sixth inning to take the lead.
- Cruz, who was recently released by the Los Angeles Dodgers, was signed as a free agent earlier in the day and ended up starting at shortstop for the Yankees. He was 0-for-3 and committed a throwing error that could have been costly if Sabathia had not pitched his way out of the jam. But Cruz did drive a ball to deep left in the fifth that Arcia grabbed at the wall to rob him of at least a double.
- Chris Stewart ‘s problems at the plate continue. He was 0-for-4 and now has not gotten a hit in his past 14 at-bats. His season average continues to plummet. His 0-for-4 evening dropped his average to .238. It looks as if the career .223 hitter is falling back to his norm.
The Yankees signed Cruz because they placed infielder Jayson Nix on the 15-day disabled list as of July 2 with a Grade 2 strain of his right hamstring. Nix sustained the injury running out a double in Monday’s game against the Twins. Crus, 29, was released by the Dodgers after hitting .127 in 45 games. He was designated for assignment on June 28 and opted to become a free agent rather than accept an offer to play for the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate. Cruz, a right-hand hitter, can play both shortstop and third base. Cruz becomes the fifth player to play shortstop for the Yankees this season in place of Derek Jeter. Eduardo Nunez, Nix, Reid Brignac and Alberto Gonzalez have also played the position this season.
The Yankees can actually sweep the Twins in the four-game series with a victory on Thursday.
Right-hander David Phelps (5-5, 4.95 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Phelps was treated like a piñata by the Orioles on Sunday. He gave up a career-high nine runs in 2 1/3 innings. He has never faced the Twins.
The Twins will counter with rookie right-hander Kyle Gibson (1-0, 3.00 ERA). Gibson gave up two runs on eight hits in six innings in his major-league debut on Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. Gibson will get his first look at the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 2:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, TWINS 7
As the old saying goes, what a difference a day makes. After managing just one hit at home on Thursday against the Twins the Yankees finally found their way to the bat rack on the road in Fort Myers, FL, and got a measure of payback on Friday.
Robinson Cano drove home two runs and Ben Francisco broke a 5-5 tie in the eighth inning with an RBI single as New York collected 14 hits to down Minnesota in front of a record paid crowd of 8,366 at Ed Hammond Stadium.
Cano, playing in just his second game back with the Yankees after returning as the Most Valuable Player for the World Baseball Classic champion Dominican Republic team, was the designated hitter and was 1-for-2 with an RBI double and a sacrifice fly.
Francisco’s RBI single off Tyler Robertson (0-2) in the eighth came as part of a four-run inning that put the game out of reach.
Ivan Nova started for the Yankees and surrendered five runs (four earned) on seven hits and a walk over 5 1/3 innings. Justin Morneau and Ryan Doumit hit back-to-back home runs off Nova as part of three-run second inning.
Jim Miller gave up no runs on one hit and a walk in 1 1/3 innings to earn credit for the victory. Despite giving up a solo home run to Dan Rohlfing in the ninth inning, Kelvin Perez was credited with a save.
The Yankees’ Grapefruit League ledger is now at 11-16. The Twins are 12-13.
- Having a red-hot and contract-driven Cano back in the lineup is already paying big dividends for the Yankees. With all the losses to free agency and injury, Cano remains the biggest and best threat the Yankees have. Along with winning the MVP in the WBC, Cano is hitting a torrid .318 for the Yankees this spring. This could be the year he breaks out in a big, big way.
- Very quietly Francisco is having a big spring. He was hitting .333 for the Cleveland Indians when he arrived and he is continuing to hit well for the Yankees. With Juan Rivera seemingly a lock to play first in the absence of Mark Teixeira, Francisco figures to make the team as part of a platoon with the lefty-swinging Brennan Boesch in a corner outfield spot.
- Ronnier Mustelier is also knocking on the door to make the team as a third baseman and outfielder. Mustelier, 28, was 3-for-4 including a two-run double in the the Yankees’ four-run eighth inning. The Cuban defector is hitting ,313 on the spring after he hit a combined .314 with 15 home runs and 69 RBIs at two minor-league stops last season.
- It just seems the Yankees get good pitching when they don’t score runs and when they do score runs they don’t get good pitching. This one of those days they scored and could not shut the other team down. The Yankees relinquished 2-0, 4-3 and 5-4 leads before scoring four runs in the eighth and then later gave up single runs in the eighth and ninth. This is perhaps a byproduct of the fact that Mariano Rivera, David Robertson, Cody Eppley and Joba Chamberlain rarely pitch on the road and Boone Logan is just back from a sore elbow.
- Nova struggled for the second straight outing. In his last two starts, Nova has given up nine runs (eight earned) on 13 hits and two walks in 10 1/3 innings. Both David Phelps and Nova have struggled of late and they remain pretty even in their battle for the fifth starter’s spot.
- Sloppy fielding continues to plague the Yankees this spring. The team committed three errors and they all had some impact on the score. Melky Mesa bobbled a single off the bat of Wilkin Ramirez in the second that led to a run scoring later the inning. In addition, after Nova fielded a ball of the bat of Ray Olmedo in the fourth, he looked back Doumit at third and threw to Rivera at first for the second out. However, Doumit broke for home and Rivera air-mailed the throw over Chris Stewart’s head to allow Doumit to score. In the eighth, Dan Johnson misplayed a routine throw to first that later allowed another unearned run to score.
Derek Jeter tested his inflamed left ankle at a workout at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Friday and said that if it were up to him he would playing now. Jeter took ground balls and participated in batting practice with no issues with the ankle other than some mild soreness. The Yankees announced a day earlier that Jeter would not play in any more Grapefruit League games in order to preserve the team’s ability to backdate his stint on the disabled list so he could return as early as April 6, if it were necessary. The Yankees still believe Jeter can open the season with the team on April 1. . . . Of course, it is not Yankees camp without another injury. Boesch rode the team bus to Fort Myers but had to be scratched from the game with a sore left ribcage. Manager Joe Girardi said Boesch likely will not play again until Tuesday. . . . In more injury news, left-handed relief specialist Clay Rapada likely will begin the season on the 15-day disabled list with bursitis in his left shoulder. Rapada, 32, did throw 15 fastballs from a mound on Friday but he still says he will need to be able to pitch effectively for several days in a row to help the team. Rapada says he is close to being ready but it will not be at the start of the season. . . . Meanwhile fellow walking wounded right-hander Phil Hughes allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over three innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Class-A West Virginia club on Friday. Hughes was not sharp in his 57-pitch outing but he said he was just glad to be back on the mound after missing most of the spring with a bulging disk in his upper back. It seems likely Hughes will open the season on the disabled list and he will miss at least one start. . . . Jon Heyman reported on Friday that the Yankees have agreed to terms on a minor-league contract with former Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang. The 32-year-old right-hander, won 55 games in four seasons with the Yankees before a series of foot and shoulder injuries derailed his career. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 ERA in 21 games with the Washington Nationals last season. Wang drew interest from major-league teams after he threw 12 shutout innings in two starts for the Chinese Taipei team in the WBC.
The Yankees will travel to Lakeland, FL, on Saturday to play the Detroit Tigers.
Left-hander Andy Pettitte will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. The Tigers will counter right-hander Anibal Sanchez.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will not be telecast.
YANKEES 8, TWINS 2
It is bad enough that the Minnesota Twins have struggled to beat the Yankees during Ron Gardenhire’s reign as manager. But when you add in the fact they have been unable to beat CC Sabathia while he has sported a Yankee uniform then you can just imagine how things went for the Twins on Wednesday.
The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate as they erupted for six runs in the third inning and Sabathia tossed eight dominant innings to collect his 14th victory as New York clinched both the season series and three-game road series against Minnesota in front of 33,251 at Target Field.
Sabathia (14-6) gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck 10 to run his record against the Twins since he joined the Yankees in 2009, including playoff games, to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA . The victory also was Sabathia’s first victory since Aug. 24 and broke a personal three-game losing streak.
The Yankees also maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East with only seven games left to play.
The Twins led the Yankees 1-0 on a one-out single by Matt Carson that scored Ryan Doumit from second in the second inning.
That lead was short-lived, however, when Chris Dickerson slapped a one-out single up the middle off Twins reliever Brian Duensing in the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki added a single to center of his own and Derek Jeter drew a walk to load the bases.
Robinson Cano then smacked a scorching line-drive double over the head of right-fielder Ben Revere in right-field to score Dickerson and Suzuki as Jeter advanced to third.
Nick Swisher blooped a single into right-field to score Jeter and Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple off the right-field wall.
Duensing then threw a pitch to Eric Chavez in the dirt that eluded Doumit and Granderson scored easily to give Sabathia and the Yankees a comfortable 6-1 cushion.
The Yankees added a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez off reliever Anthony Swarzak and a one-out, two-run home run off the bat of Dickerson for his second home run of the season.
Duensing (4-11) was pressed into service with two out in the second inning because starting pitcher Samuel Deduno was forced to leave the game with severe irritation in his left eye that impaired his vision.
Duensing gave up six runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out one in one inning of work.
The Twins scored a run in the seventh when Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla strung together a pair of two-out singles and rookie Pedro Florimon scored Carroll when he hit a ball that caromed off Sabathia’s left shin and rolled into right-field.
But, Sabathia was firmly in control of the game. Among his 10 strikeouts, the last five were called and he also struck out Joe Mauer, who entered the contest the second-leading hitter in the American League at .326, the first three times he faced him on just nine pitches. Mauer finished the game 0-for-4.
The Yankees won their 90th game of the season – versus 65 losses – and its the 11th season in the past 12 years the Yankees have won at least 90 games. They also have won the last six season series against the Twins, whose season record fell to 65-91.
- Don’t take my word for how good Sabathia was, let Mauer tell it: “That’s the best I’ve seen him, and I’ve been watching him for a long time.” Sabathia threw 108 pitches – his third highest pitch count of the season – and 89 of them were strikes. That is a 75% strike percentage. Sabathia not only registered 94 mph on his fastball but he had superior command of it through out the contest.
- Despite the fact that Gardenhire brought in a left-hander to replace the right-handed Deduno, lefty sluggers Cano and Granderson came through with a pair of two-run extra-base hits to give Sabathia all the run support he really needed. Though neither Cano or Granderson are having career years, Granderson has 97 RBIs and Cano has 82.
- Dickerson got a rare start in left-field and took advantage of it by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Because of the Yankees overload at the outfield position, Dickerson does not figure in the team’s plans with its postseason roster. But it is good to see someone from the September call-ups contribute at a crucial point of the season.
In a game where Sabathia was in total command and the offense scored eight runs despite the fact Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were not in the lineup you really can’t find fault with anything in this one. The Yankees’ best defense against losing the A.l. East title is just to keep winning and they have won 12 of their last 16 games.
Rodriguez was held out of the lineup and did not play on Wednesday due to a sore left foot after he fouled a ball of the foot in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game. Rodriguez stayed in the game but he said the foot stiffened up overnight. Though no X-rays were ordered, manager Joe Girardi believes Rodriguez will be available to play on Thursday. . . . Brett Gardner was used as a ninth inning defensive replacement in left-field, marking his first game action since he suffered a strained right elbow making a diving catch in a game ironically against the Twins on April 17. Both Gardner and veteran reliever David Aardsma were activated off the disabled on Tuesday and the team designated for assignment infielder Steve Pearce and left-handed reliever Justin Thomas to make room for them on the roster.
The Yankees make their final road stop of the season in Toronto to begin a four-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Nova could not make it out of the third inning in his last start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. But the Yankees won the game 10-9 in the 14th inning. Nova is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in his career against the Jays.
Right-hander Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA) will get the start for the Blue Jays. Morrow was tagged for four runs in five innings and he walked a season-high four in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, TWINS 3
Whenever manager Ron Gardenhire sees Andy Pettitte scheduled to pitch against his Twins he must cringe. After all, Pettitte last lost to the Twins in 2001 in a complete game he lost to Brad Radke 2-1.
Monday was no different for Pettitte and the Yankees took a little target practice at the outfield seats at Target Field.
In his second game back after coming off the disabled list, Pettitte threw six shutout innings and four Yankees hit home runs as New York extended its lead in the American League East by defeating Minnesota in front of paid crowd of 33,720.
Pettitte (5-3) scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out three batters to extend his record his against the Twins to 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts against them dating back to the 2009 season.
Meanwhile, the Yankee offense staked him to a first-inning lead against rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8) when Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki doubled to to right field.
One out later, Robinson Cano scored Jeter with an infield grounder and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run blast into the second deck in right-center, his 23rd home run of the season and the first of the four-homer deluge the Yankees put on the Twins. It was the most home runs the Twins have given up in a game all season.
With one out in the fourth inning, Curtis Granderson took Hendriks deep for his 40th home run of the season, becoming the only player in the major leagues who has has hit 40 or more home runs the past two seasons. He also is the fifth Yankee player to hit 40 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.
Raul Ibanez led off the seventh inning with a tape=measure blast down the right-field line and into the third deck of the stadium for his 18th home run of the season and his third in his past three games.
One-out later, Eric Chavez lined an opposite-field shot just out of the reach of left-fielder Josh Willingham for his 14th home run of the season and Hendriks’ evening was mercifully ended with him trailing 6-0.
Hendriks was tagged for eight hits, he walked one batter and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.
Though Petitte was far from perfect – he had only two 1-2-3 innings – he managed to get out of trouble on ground balls, a strikeout and with a great defensive play by Granderson.
Pettitte gave up a pair of singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to start the first inning and he walked Willingham with one out o load the bases. But he escaped any damage by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to bounce into a forceout.
Span and Mauer singled and were on first and third with one out in the third but Pettitte induced Willingham to hit into an inning-ending double play.
In the fourth, Doumit hit a one-out double to center and with two out Jamey Carroll singled up the middle. Granderson charged the ball in shallow center and fired it on one-hop home to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Doumit on the left shoulder before he could reach home plate.
The Twins ruined the shutout in the eighth when rookie Pedro Florimon hit his first major-league home run off reliever Cory Wade.
They added two runs in the ninth after left-hander Justin Thomas gave up a one-out single to Morneau and walked Doumit. David Robertson came in to strike out Trevor Plouffe but pinch-hitter Chris Parmalee cracked a triple off the wall in center to score both runners.
Robertson then ended the contest by getting Florimon to ground out to Cano at second.
The Yankees have now won 26 of their last 33 games against the Twins and, combined with the Baltimore Orioles’ split of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, they now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division with eight games left to play.
The Yankees season record is now 89-64. The Twins fell to 64-90.
- In his two starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 and he has held the opposition scoreless over 11 innings, giving up 11 hits and three walks while striking out six. Pettitte will have one more start before the playoffs and he would be in line to start either a tie-breaker game or the wild-card playoff game, if necessary.
- Jeter’s singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is 30-for-81 (.370) with a home run and 11 RBIs in those 16 contests. Suzuki’s double in the first extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over than span, Suzuki is 16-for-30 (.533) with two home runs, four doubles and five RBIs. With Jeter and Suzuki at the top of the order the Yankees have been rolling.
- After looking absolutely lost at the plate for most of the past month, Ibanez looks to be coming out of his long slump with a flourish. In the past three games, Ibanez is 7-for-12 (.583) with three home runs and five RBIs.
I could quibble about the Yankees giving up three runs late but Wade and Thomas are two pitchers who will not be on the team’s playoff roster. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to rest Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Robertson, but he was forced to bring in Robertson in the ninth. That was the only real negative.
Mark Teixiera took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases at half-speed at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, on Monday as he tries to recover from a Grade 1 strain of his left calf. Though general manager Brian Cashman targeted Thursday for Teixeira’s return, Girardi expressed concern about playing Teixeira on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto. . . . Veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma was with the team on Monday and he could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Aardsma, 30, has not pitched not pitched in the major leagues since he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2011 and he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in February. Aardsma recorded 31 saves for the Mariners in 2010 after saving 38 games with a 2.53 ERA in 2009. . . . Chavez was highly critical of the current members of his former Oakland Athletics club and their antics over the weekend. Chavez was not happy with the way the team was celebrating in the visitor’s dugout after they hit three home runs to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th inning of Saturday’s game. Chavez called the display immature and unprofessional. The Yankees, however, had the last laugh by scoring four runs in the bottom of the 13th before scoring the winning run in the 14th on a bases-loaded error.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series in Minneapolis with the Twins on Tuesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (16-12) will start for the Yankees. Hughes earned his third straight victory, despite giving up four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his last start. Hughes is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA lifetime against the Twins, including a victory against them on April 19 in which he gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Vasquez, 28, has failed to turn in quality start in any of his four outings this season, including his last start against the Cleveland Indians. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.
YANKEES 7, TWINS 6
When he stepped to the plate in the first inning on Thursday, Curtis Granderson was hitting .208 with three home runs and six RBIs and the fans at Yankee Stadium were wondering if he was headed for a fall after his magical 2011 season.
Three hours later, Granderson was walking off to a loud ovation after going 5-for-5 with three home runs and four RBIs as he led New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota to salvage a split of the four-game series.
With the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the first, Granderson hit the first of his three home runs into the right-center stands beyond the bullpen off Twins starter Anthony Swarzak (0-3). Mark Teixeira added a two-run, two-out home run – his first of the season – in virtually the same spot Granderson hit his to bring the Yankees to within a run at 4-3, just as the Yankees had done in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss.
However, unlike Wednesday night, the Yankees claimed the lead in the second inning starting with a two-out double by Eduardo Nunez, whose error in the first inning led to four unearned runs being scored off Yankees starter Phil Hughes (1-2).
Derek Jeter, who is off to the best start of his major-league career, followed with a slashing single to right to score Nunez. That hit gave him 3,11o hits in his career and tied him for 18th place on the all-time hit list with his boyhood idol Dave Winfield.
Granderson then stepped to the plate and he planted a 3-1 Swarzak fastball into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a lead they never would relinquish.
Granderson made it 7-4 with his third round-tripper of the night with one out in the fourth inning off reliever Jeff Gray. It was a lined shot three rows back in right-field. Most of the 40,327 fans in attendance came to their feet and exhorted Granderson to a take a curtain call, which he did.
The 31-year-old center-fielder added a one-out single to right in the sixth inning off Alex Burnett and a two-out infield single off Glen Perkins in the ninth to become the first Yankee player in history to have a 5-for-5 game with three home runs.
With the three home runs, Granderson became the first Yankee player to hit three in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.
Hughes did not pitch his best but he did survive a nightmarish first inning in which Nunez threw high and up the first-base line on a routine grounder off the bat of Joe Mauer after Jamey Carroll slapped a one-out single. That led later to a base-loaded single by Ryan Doumit and a two-run double by Danny Valencia.
Hughes actually pitched well after that until Doumit blasted a 1-0 change-up into the right-centerfield bleachers for a two-run home run that brought the Twins to within a run at 7-6.
But, as they have done all season, the bullpen of Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow a run in the last 3 2/3 innings to provide a much-needed victory to the Yankees in advance of their six-game road trip to Boston and Texas before coming home to play three games against Detroit.
Rivera needed only seven pitches to notch his third save of the season.
With the victory the Yankees are now 7-6 on the season. The Twins dropped to 4-9.
- Seeing Granderson come alive at the plate on Thursday was pure magic to watch. Granderson’s three home runs put him in the lead in the American League in that category. His 5-for-5 night raised his batting average from .208 to .283. The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 14, 2010 against the Royals in Kansas City.
- Jeter was 1-for-5 with a runs scored and an RBI and it was considered an off night. He has been that hot. Jeter was robbed of a single in the first inning on a diving stop by Carroll at shortstop and he laced a line drive to right in the fourth that was hit right at Doumit. In his two other at-bats he bounced out to the pitcher. OK, so he is human.
- Despite not pitching since April 11, Rivera looked very sharp in recording a well-earned save. Carroll, Mauer and Josh Willingham failed to get a ball out the infield. The bullpen entered play with a 1.99 ERA on the season and that is the best mark in baseball.
- Teixeira is showing signs of life with the bat for once in April. Since April 15, he is 8-for-17 (.471) with a home run and four RBIs. He is now hitting .286 and that is encouraging for Yankee fans who are accustomed to watching Tex struggle through April for the past three seasons.
- I now have the perfect nickname for Nunez: Eduardo Scissorhands. When you see him make careless errors in the field it makes you wonder what would happen if he played every day. Manager Joe Girardi opted to DH Robinson Cano and use Nunez at second base and it cost the Yankees four runs in the first inning. Nunez looks to be stiff and unsure of himself in the field and I just don’t know why because he is a great athlete.
- Hughes is still a work in progress. He gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks and he fanned four in 5 1/3 innings. But, look at it this way: He was two outs away from what is considered a quality start and minus the Doumit two-run homer we would be singing his praises for not giving up any earned runs.
- It is official: Russell Martin is in a full-blown funk at the plate and it seems to be getting worse. He was 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, including hitting into a 1-4-3 double play with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Martin is hitting an anemic .133 with no home runs and one RBI.
The Yankees are very happy to playing in Boston on Friday as part of the 100th birthday for Fenway Park. As part of the festivities, the Yankees and Red Sox will don throwback uniforms without numbers to commemorate the event on Friday. The players feel it is only fitting that the Red Sox play their longtime rivals on the special occasion.
Well, it is Red Sox versus Yankees on Friday on Fenway’s 100th birthday. How perfect!
The Yankees are scheduled to start right-hander Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.50 ERA). Nova has won 14 consecutive decisions dating back to his rookie season in 2011. In his last start against the Angels on Sunday he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and fanned eight batters in six innings in an 11-5 thrashing on ESPN. He is 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in his career against the Bosox.
Boston will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0, 9.00 ERA). Buchholz went seven subpar innings with a high pitch count in his last start. He is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA lifetime against the Bombers.
Game-time will be 3:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.