YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 3
If the Yankees could play the Blue jays every day they would never have to worry about making the playoffs. After sitting out a three-hour and thirty-two minute rain delay on Thursday the Yankees showed Canada’s team that trying to beat them these days is pretty much a futile exercise.
The Yankees got six strong innings out of Andy Pettitte and they used some timely hitting in the middle innings to sweep Toronto in the four-game series and end the 2013 season with a 10-0 record against them at home in front of a paid crowd of 40,116.
The Yankees not only have won five in a row and 11 of their past 14 games, but they also moved to within 3 1/2 games of an American League wild-card spot with 35 games left to play in the season.
Pettitte (9-9) held the Jays to just one run on four hits and three walks while he fanned three to win his second straight start after not having won in his previous five starts. Pettitte also evened his record as he has never recorded a losing season in his 18 years in the majors.
The Blue Jays scored their only run off Pettitte when J.P. Arencibia led off the fifth inning with a home run into the left-field bleachers.
But the Yankees quickly evened it up at the start of the bottom of the fifth when Curtis Granderson launched a rocket of his own into the second deck in right-field off left-hander J.A. Happ (3-3) for his fourth home run of the season.
In a sense it was a bit of retribution for Granderson because it was Happ who hit him in the right forearm on the first pitch he saw in his first spring training game on Feb. 24 and it forced him to miss the first six weeks of the regular season.
The Yankees ended up taking the lead later in the inning but how it unfolded and how they scored the run was just about as bizarre as it can get.
With one out, Happ walked Eduardo Nunez and Chris Stewart followed with a single to center. The Yankees then loaded the bases when Happ issued a walk to Ichiro Suzuki.
Vernon Wells then slapped a sinking line drive into center-field that replays showed was caught on a sliding attempt by Rajai Davis.
However, first-base umpire Scott Barry ruled the ball was trapped and Davis threw the ball to second baseman Munenori Kawasaki as Nunez tagged up and headed home with the lead run.
Kawasaki first tagged Stewart off second base and then tagged Suzuki on second base. Stewart was ruled out and Suzuki was ruled safe. However, the Yankees got credit for the run because Nunez touched home plate just before Stewart was tagged.
Blue Jays manager John Gibbons argued the call and was ejected by Barry. Moments later crew chief Ted Barrett also gave Blue Jays left-hander Mark Buehrle the heave-ho.
Despite the missed catch call Nunez would have scored the tie-breaking run in either case.
The Yankees then broke the game open and chased Happ in the sixth inning when Happ walked both Alex Rodriguez and Granderson with one out.
Right-hander Brad Lincoln was summoned from the bullpen and he promptly loaded the bases by walking Mark Reynolds. Nunez followed with a two-run single to right-center.
Blue Jays left-hander Aaron Loup then relieved Lincoln and Stewart closed out the Yankees’ scoring for the evening by plating Reynolds on a sensational grab of a grounder and a jump throw from well into foul territory by third baseman Brett Lawrie.
Happ was charged with four runs on three hits and five walks while he struck out four in 5 1/3 innings. The other run was charged to Lincoln.
The Blue Jays did make it interesting by scoring a pair of runs in the seventh inning off right-hander Shawn Kelley on an RBI single by Kawasaki and a RBI groundout off the bat of Edwin Encarnacion.
But Boone Logan shut the door on the rally by striking out Adam Lind with two on and two out.
Rookie right-hander Preston Claiborne, who was just recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before the game, pitched a scoreless eighth and David Robertson twirled a perfect ninth to earn his second save because Mariano Rivera was unavailable to pitch.
The Yankees’ season record now stands at 67-59 and they remain six games behind first-place Boston in fourth place in the American League East. The Blue Jays are now 57-71 and they remain deep in the division basement.
- After struggling much of the summer, Pettitte is showing signs of coming around. In his past two starts he has yielded only four runs (one earned) on 10 hits and four walks with eight strikeouts in 12 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of 0.71. If the Yankees are to make a legitimate run a playoff spot they will need their No. 4 starter to pitch well.
- Nunez two-run single with the bases loaded in the sixth inning proved to be the back-breaker for the Blue Jays. Nunez is having much more success at the plate. Since Aug. 7, Nunez is 17-for-50 (.340) with a home run and nine RBIs. It is shame he is likely to lose his starting spot to Derek Jeter this weekend.
- Rodriguez was 0-for-3 with a walk and run scored. But he actually helped win the game with his glove in the fifth inning. After Arencibia’s homer, the Jays loaded the bases with one out when Reyes reached on an infield single. Davis then smashed a scorching ground ball that Rodriguez was able to glove before it scooted past him. He then stepped on third and threw to first to double up the speedy Davis to end the inning.
When the Yankees win five in a row there is not much to complain about. The team is finding ways to win games and a large part of it is the batting order they now have is not the one of three weeks ago that looked like the team was playing a split-squad game in Clearwater, FL, in March. The pitching is beginning to shine again also.
The human yo-yo, Claiborne, was recalled on Thursday to replace infielder Jayson Nix on the 15-man roster. Nix likely will miss the rest of the regular season with a fractured left hand he suffered when he was struck by a pitch from R.A. Dickey in second inning of Wednesday’s game. Last Friday, Claiborne was optioned to the RailRiders to make room for Reynolds on the roster. On Tuesday, he was called up as the team’s 26th roster player for a doubleheader with the Blue Jays and he was sent back to Scranton the next day. But on Thursday he was back with the team. . . . Jeter batted second and played shortstop on Friday in a minor-league rehab game for Scranton against the Pawtucket Red Sox on Thursday. Jeter, who is recovering from a mild calf strain, likely will play another rehab game for Scranton on Friday and he could rejoin the Yankees on Saturday when the Yankees face the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, FL.
The Yankees open a critical weekend road series with the Rays on Friday.
Ace right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (11-8, 2.41 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is looking to bounce back after giving up 11 hits on Saturday in a loss to the Red Sox. It was just his second loss in his past eight starts. Kuroda is 2-1 with 6.11 ERA in his career against the Rays.
Right-hander Chris Archer (6-5, 2.95 ERA) will pitch for the Rays. Archer allowed one run on four hits in seven innings against the Blue Jays on Sunday but he did not get a decision. He is 2-0 with 0.60 ERA against the Yankees in two starts this season.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by MY9.
YANKEES 5, RAYS 0
With each pitch Ivan Nova threw on Tuesday night it brought the Yankees closer to the playoffs and it also may have assured the rookie 24-year-old right-hander a prominent starting spot in the proceedings.
Nova pitched 7 2/3 innings of shutout baseball en route to his 16th victory of the season and his 12th straight victory in his last 15 starts as New York blanked Tampa Bay in front of a sellout crowd of 46,944 at Yankee Stadium and reduced their magic number to clinch a playoff spot to just one game.
Nova (16-4) cut through the Rays lineup as if he was a knife and they were soft butter. Nova scattered six hits and walked one as he walked off the mound in the eighth to a rousing standing ovation from the crowd.
Nova truly showed his mettle and how he grown as a starting pitcher this season in the seventh inning while he was protecting his five-run lead.
Sean Rodriguez slapped a broken bat single to left and Nova hit pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton with his next offering. He then issued his first and only walk of the evening on four pitches to load the bases to No. 9 hitter Reid Brignac, who entered the game hitting .192.
Instead of panicking, Nova calmly retired Desmond Jennings on a shallow fly ball to Brett Gardner in left and then ended the threat by inducing B.J. Upton to rap into an around-the-horn double play started by Eric Chavez. The rookie is proving to be much wiser than his years may indicate.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to keep bending but never really thoroughly breaking Rays right-hander Wade Davis (10-10).
They began the second inning with a Nick Swisher double and Chavez scored him with a looping single down the right-field line.
Russell Martin followed with an opposite-field single to right. Gardner then bunted to advance Chavez and Martin but ended up being called safe by first-base umpire Scott Barry, who claimed second baseman Rodriguez was not on the bag to receive the throw from Davis. Replays showed Barry was mistaken.
The Yankees took advantage one out later when Curtis Granderson smacked a hanging Davis breaking ball and pulled it down into the corner in right-field to clear the bases and give the Yankees a 4-0. Yankee fans could have gone home at that point because Nova has never surrendered a lead he has been given by the Yankees.
For those who stayed, the Yankees added a run against Davis in the fifth after two were out.
Gardner singled to center and Derek Jeter followed with a single of his own to advance Gardner to third. Rays manager Joe Maddon then summoned lefty Cesar Ramos to replace Davis and face Granderson.
Granderson hit a slow roller to the right of first baseman Casey Kotchman. Kotchman dove to stop the ball and his off-balance toss to Ramos dropped from his glove and Gardner scored easily.
For the secoind straight game, the Yankees bullpen (Boone Logan and Luis Ayala) pitched scoreless and hitless baseball the final 1 1/3 innings to defeat the Rays, who entered the game only two games behind the second-place Boston Red Sox in the American League wild-card race.
The Red Flops, uh, Sox, did their part by losing their 15th game in the 20 games they have played this month. Robert Andino blasted a bases-clearing double in the eighth inning off Jonathan Papelbomb, uh, Papelbon as the Baltimore Orioles came from behind to defeat the Blowsux, uh, Bosox, 7-5. So the Rays remain two games behind Boston.
The Yankee victory coupled with the Boston loss, however, reduced the Yankees’ magic number to clinch the division championship to three games.
- Nova was simply awesome on Tuesday. He never showed any emotion even when the Rays were able to get runners on base. He gave up some hard-hit balls in the first. He benefitted from a sparkling unassisted double play grab and tag of a line drive off the bat of Matt Joyce by Mark Teixiera in the second. Nova retired Joyce on an easy grounder with two on and two out in the fourth and then he fanned Joyce swinging with two on and two out in the sixth. If Nova did not earn a spot in the playoff starting rotation there is no justice.
- Granderson is on fire with the bat once again. Granderson’s four RBIs give him 119 on the season and he has now reclaimed the major-league lead in that category from Boston’s Adrian Gonzalez with 119. Granderson was 3-for 5 with a walk in the game and is now 7-for-12 (.583) with two home runs and eight RBIs in his last three games. With one week left in the season, Gramderson is making what looks to be a genuine MVP push.
- The bottom three of the lineup did most of the damage against Davis. In the game, Chavez, Martin and Gardner were a combined 6-for-14 (.429) with four runs scored and a one RBI.
- Though the Yankees pounded out 14 hits and scored five runs, the Yankees can’t be proud of not capitalizing on the many chances they were given to blow out the Rays and didn’t. The Yankees left a season-high 18 runners on base in the game, including leaving the bases loaded in three innings. Gardner and Jeter left six runners apiece and Alex Rodriguez, Cano and Swisher left five.
- Rodriguez was the only Yankee starter not to get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-3 with two walks. In the fifth inning, Rodriguez had a chance to tie Lou Gehrig’s record of 23 grand slams but instead he hit a weak infield grounder to Kotchman at first.
Right-hander Phil Hughes is still feeling the effects of the back spasms that he originally felt on Friday and he it is questionable if he will make his start in Game 1 of a doubleheader scheduled for Wednesday. Girardi said he was unsure if Hughes could make the start after he consulted with trainer Gene Monahan. Girardi is not sure who would replace Hughes if he is unable to pitch, saying he will have to check with Hughes early Wednesday before making a decision.
The Yankees will play a day-night doubleheader with the Rays on Wednesday.
Hughes (5-5, 6.00 ERA) has given up just three earned runs in his last two starts spanning 12 innings. On Sept. 12 he gave up one run on five hits and three walks in six innings against the Mariners to post his second straight victory. He is 4-3 with a 4.28 in his career against the Rays. The Rays will start right-hander James Shields (15-11, 2.78 ERA), who gave up four runs on seven hits and three walks in a loss to the Red Sox on Friday. Shields is 4-10 with a 4.25 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
In Game 2, the Yankees will pitch ace left-hander CC Sabathia (19-8, 3.01), making his third attempt to win his 20th game. Sabathia gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings on Friday in a no-decision loss to the Blue Jays. He is 9-7 with 3.13 ERA in his career versus the Rays. The Rays will counter with rookie right-hander Jeremy Hellickson (13-10, 2.91 ERA). Hellickson gave up one run on three hits in 5 2/3 innings in a victory against the Red Sox on Thursday. He is 2-1 with a 4.80 lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time for the first game will be at 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network. Game-time for the second game will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by YES.