YANKEES 10, TWINS 4
Just when things look the darkest for the Yankees there is a silver lining. When they are mired in a batting slump, when they can’t seem to do anything right and when they have lost five in a row they still have one saving grace left to them. It is when they play the Minnesota Twins.
Trailing 4-3 heading into the eighth inning the Yankees rallied to score seven runs over the final two innings as once again hapless Minnesota snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory against New York in front of 29.619 disbelieving fans at Target Field in Minneapolis.
After Chris Parmelee led off the sixth inning with a home run off left-hander Andy Pettitte to break a 3-3 tie, the Twins handed the ball to right-hander Jared Burton (1-6) in the eighth inning, hoping he could preserve that lead. But things went awry quickly.
Robinson Cano, who was responsible for all three Yankee runs with a solo home run in the first inning and a two-run blast in the third, led off the frame with a lined double into the gap in right-center.
Manager Joe Girardi then pinch-hit for Vernon Wells with Ichiro Suzuki and the veteran outfielder dropped down a bunt single that advanced Cano to third. Burton then uncorked a wild pickoff attempt to first that rolled down the right-field line that allowed Cano to score the tying run and Suzuki to slide in safely into third.
One out later, rookie Zoilo Almonte slapped an opposite-field single between a drawn-in infield into left-field to give the Yankees a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the evening.
The Yankees added a run after left-hander Brian Duensing walked Lyle Overbay, uncorked a wild pitch to advance Almonte and Overbay a base and Almonte scored on a RBI groundout off the bat of Chris Stewart.
The Yankees added four runs in the ninth inning off Duensing and right-hander Josh Roenicke to put the game well out of reach.
Joba Chamberlain (1-0) pitched a scoreless seventh inning to pick up his first victory of the season. David Robertson and Mariano Rivera each also tossed shutout frames to close out the victory for the Yankees.
Despite not pitching well, Pettitte did strike out Justin Morneau with one out and one on in the fifth inning to become the all-time leader in Yankees’ history in strikeouts. It was Pettitte’s 1,958th career strikeout, which moved him past Hall-of-Fame left-hander Whitey Ford.
Pettitte suffered through a 42-pitch first inning in which he was touched for three runs on three hits and two walks while he also committed a throwing error. Ryan Doumit stroked a two-run single to key the inning for the Twins.
But Pettitte recovered to shut down the Twins on just two hits over the next four innings until Parmelee’s solo homer in the sixth chased him from the game. Pettitte gave up four runs on six hits and four walks while he struck out two batters in five-plus innings.
His opponent, left-hander Scott Diamond, shut out eight of the Yankees’ hitters on just five hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings. However, Cano blasted a solo home run off Diamond that traveled more than 400-feet and landed in the batter’s eye in center-field in the first inning.
Cano later followed a fielding error by third baseman Jamey Carroll that allowed Jayson Nix to reach with one out in the third with an opposite-field blast to left that landed just into the left-field bleachers that tied the game at 3-3.
The home runs were the 18th and 19th of the season for Cano and his homer in the third inning gave him three home runs in his past four at-bats.
The victory improved the Yankees’ season record to 43-39 and left them six games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in fourth place in the American League East. The Twins fell to 36-43.
- In Cano’s last four games he is 10-for-17 (.588) with three homers and five RBIs. Cano has raised his season average from .276 to .293 and he leads the team in both home runs (19) and RBIs (51). His resurgence at the plate also comes at a time when he is about to be chosen by the fans as the starting second baseman for the American League in the 2013 All-Star Game.
- Almonte is winning over Yankee fans in a hurry and his 3-for-5 night with a stolen base, a run scored and two RBIs did not let those fans down a bit. Almonte, 24, is now batting .342 with a home run and seven RBIs. The youngster said he wants to continue to contribute and not be sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. By the looks of things he is not going back anytime soon.
- Wells started in right-field for Suzuki and was 2-for-3 with two lined singles that Wells got off Diamond’s first offerings to him in both the first and third innings. While this does not prove the veteran outfielder with slumping bat is out of it, it could be that he is showing signs he might be getting his stroke back. Of course, with Almonte entrenched in left-field for now, Wells is just a part-time outfielder and designated hitter for the near future.
- Pettitte is showing an alarming habit of coughing up leads the team gives him and he also is failing to win largely because he is succumbing to one bad inning in his most recent starts. Pettitte has not won a game since June 8 and in his past four starts he is 0-3 with a 5.84 ERA. In those starts he has been hammered for 16 runs on 32 hits and eight walks in 24 2/3 innings. This is not the Pettitte the Yankees have seen in a long, long time. They have to be concerned.
- On a night in which the Yankees scored 10 runs on 14 hits, third baseman David Adams was 0-for-5 with a strikeout and only one ball reached the outfield. Adams is 2-for-24 in his past eight games and his batting average has plummeted to an anemic .178. With Kevin Youkilis likely lost for the season and Alex Rodriguez still on the disabled list, third base has become the Achilles’ heel for the team. It is just getting worse by the day.
Rodriguez on Monday was cleared to begin a rehab assignment with Class-A Charleston (SC) in the South Atlantic League on Tuesday. Rodriguez, who is rehabbing from surgery on his left hip in January, is expected to play no less than three innings at third base. The assignment is scheduled to run for 20 days, which means Rodriguez, 37, could rejoin the Yankees no later than July 22 for the start of a four-game road series in Arlington, TX, against the Texas Rangers.
The Yankees will continue their four-game series against the team they love to beat in the Twins on Tuesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (3-7, 4.82 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off a game in which – with his starting role on the line – Hughes surrendered just two runs on five hits in eight innings against the Rangers. However, he lost the game because the Yankees managed just two hits and no runs against Derek Holland. Hughes is 2-1 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Twins.
The Twins will counter with right-hander Samuel Deduno (4-2, 3.32 ERA). Deduno gave up just one run on five hits and a walk while he fanned three in seven innings against the Kansas City Royals in his last start. Deduno has no record and 0.00 ERA in one outing against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
Happy New Year to all my fellow fans. I recently posted a three-part series looking at the Yankees from their pitching, their bullpen and starting lineup. Now I intend to zero in on a look at them from a position-by-position standpoint. With spring training mere weeks away it seems an appropriate time to do this. Enjoy!
SECOND BASE – ROBINSON CANO (33 HRs, 99 RBIs, .313 BA)
I remember very well a day before a spring training game in 2005 seeing this tall, thin Yankee rookie swatting line drives all over the field in batting practice. The swing was smooth and effortless while the ball jumped off his bat.
I asked someone about this kid Robinson Cano and what I heard back impressed me. “Cano is just a colt now. But very soon he will be a thoroughbred,” he said.
Eight years later his words ring true. Cano has grown up before our very eyes and now he is the best player in pinstripes. He is no longer a boy among men. He is the man the team revolves around.
Sadly, this very well could be Cano’s last season with the Yankees. The team is under a strict edict from owner Hal Steinbrenner to reduce payroll to $189 million by 2014 and Cano can become a free agent after this season.
After a season in which he set a career high in home runs and hit above .300 for the seventh time in his nine major-league seasons and won his second Gold Glove and fourth Silver Slugger awards it is a pretty sure bet that Cano would command a lot of money on the open market. Add the fact his agent is Scott Boras and you can, pardon the pun, bank on it.
The Yankees are going to have to be mighty creative to find the dollars to keep Cano, 30. But they likely will make every attempt to open the vault wide enough to keep their best player. It would be a good thing, too.
With Alex Rodriguez saddled with a string of injuries the real foundation of the team’s growth is Cano. Second basemen who can hit home runs, drive in runs and hit above .300 are not exactly plentiful. Cano is simply the best second baseman in baseball and there is no one in the Yankee organization, let alone any organization, that can really replace him.
So you would think it would be wise for Yankee fans during spring training to watch Cano carefully because it could be the last time they see him. One problem with that: Cano is committed to play his native Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic.
So the Yankees likely will not get Cano back until the latter stages of March.
Cano’s 2012 season was marked by some milestones. But it was hardly the banner season the Yankees expected from him.
Cano struggled in two major areas: (1) In the first half of the season Cano was woefully inept at driving in runners in scoring position. That is why he failed to drive in more than 100 runs. (2) He suddenly ran into trouble hitting left-handers. He hit just .239 against them while he pounded right-handers at a .357 clip.
Cano actually rescued his season with an incredible stretch of games in late September. After Sept. 1, Cano hit six home runs and drove in 24 runs while batting .348. The Yankees would appreciate more consistency from Cano and they hope he can return to bashing left-hand pitching as he did in throughout his career up until last season.
Given that this is Cano’s contract season and given his past track record, this could be the breakout season everyone has been predicting for him. With a bit more discipline at the plate Cano could very well win a batting title, hit 30-plus home runs and drive in more than 120 runs.
Cano’s big failing at the plate has been a product of his immense talent. Cano can simply put a swing on any pitch in or out of the strike zone. So pitchers lure him with a lot of breaking pitches out of the strike zone and then pound him with hard stuff inside to tie up his swing.
Cano obliges them by swinging at less than optimum pitches and he gets himself out. If Cano ever lays off pitches out of the strike zone consistently throughout a season he might very well hit .340. He is just that good.
Over the years, Cano has been saddled with the tag “lazy.”
That is a product of his nonchalant style of play. But last season there were times that Cano made outs on the bases he should not have made. Here is something that might surprise you: Cano is simply a terrible base-runner and he always has been.
Some players have good instincts on the bases like Derek Jeter and some players like Cano don’t. Cano never was called upon to bunt or steal bases throughout his minor-league career because he was such a productive hitter. It has just carried over to the major leagues.
He is not a fast runner and he just never worked on base-running much because he never had to really worry about it. Last season it was obvious.
Cano attempted five steals last season and was succcessful three times. In his career he has stolen 31 bases but he been thrown out 27. Rickey Henderson he is not!
But Cano was able to score 105 runs, the fourth season in a row he has topped the century mark in runs scored. So as long as the Yankees do not have him running wild on the bases, Cano’ s weakness will not hurt the team.
The “lazy” tag also has had a serious effect on how Cano’s fielding has been judged. Early in his career, Cano did make careless errors by trying to look cool fielding routine grounders. Since then he has grown into an exceptional fielder who should have won the last six Gold Gloves instead of just two.
Cano simply has more range than second baseman in baseball. That applies to ground balls and pop flies. No one can range as far into the outfield to catch pops and few can master the play to his right on grounders better than Cano.
His arm is exceptionally great for a second baseman and Cano does not credit for being accurate with it also. Roberto Alomar may have set the standard for fielding during his career but Cano is shattering that standard and setting one of his own.
The other thing that sets Cano apart is his turn of the double play. In the last six seasons, Cano has turned no less than 92 double plays and no one can turn and flip to first better than he can. In doing all that work in the field last season, Cano committed only six errors. Wow!
That 2012 Gold Glove award was well deserved.
Another Cano attribute throughout his career is his durability despite playing a middle infield spot. In his last six seasons, Cano has never played less than 159 games. He played in 161 games last season.
When you add it all up you get one very exceptional player and one who is destined to be a very rich one come the 2014 season.
Behind Cano last season was Jayson Nix, not that he was needed much.
Nix, 30, made only five starts at second and he did not commit an error there. Nix hit .243 with four home runs and 18 RBIs in 74 games with the Yankees after being recalled on May 8 to replace Eduardo Nunez as the Yankees’ backup middle infielder.
Nix obviously will never match Cano with his bat or his glove. The Yankees just ask him to play his solid, nonflashy game and not make mistakes. Nix does that very well and he will get a chance to do it again in 2013.
Though he was designated for assignment on Nov. 30 after reliever Mariano Rivera was re-signed, Nix accepted assignment to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he will compete with Nunez for the backup middle infield spot this spring.
Nunez, 25, won the backup infielder job over the recently released Ramiro Pena in 2011 but promptly lost early in 2012 season when he began treating ground balls like hand grenades. Nunez made so many sloppy fielding errors that he was dispatched to Scranton to work on exclusively playing shortstop.
He enters camp in 2013 with some very positive things in his favor. Nunez can hit (his career batting average is .272) and he can run (38 steals in 46 career attempts). The right-hand hitter also could be valuable as a replacement to Andruw Jones as a platoon designated hitter.
But Nunez likely will get most of his work in spring training at shortstop replacing Jeter, who is in the process of rehabbing after surgery on a fractured left ankle he suffered in the first game of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers.
Jeter’s rehab is expected to run through part of the exhibition schedule and it is unclear if he will be ready to start for the Yankees on Opening Day. So Nunez will be of more value at shortstop, which is his natural position.
Nunez did make one start at second base last season and characteristically he committed an error there. It is good thing Cano is durable.
The Yankees will have a chance in Cano’s absence this spring to look at a pair of young second basemen who are on the 40-man roster, David Adams and Corban Joseph.
Adams, 25, hit .306 with eight home runs and 48 RBIs in 86 games at Double-A Trenton. He has carried that into the Arizona Fall League, where he is hitting .286 with three home runs and 15 RBIs and was named Player of the Week in the fifth week of the season.
Adams, a third-round pick of the Yankees in 2008 out of the University of Virginia, has been hobbled most of his minor-league career with a serious ankle injury. But he is healthy now and he is hoping to regain his prospect status.
Joseph, 24, hit a combined .276 with 15 home runs and 62 RBIs in 131 games at Trenton and Scranton.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2008 draft out of Franklin (TN) High School, Joseph has more power than Adams and he has the advantage of passing Adams to Scranton while being a year younger.
Neither player looks to be threats to Cano at all, obviously. But they will get a chance to develop just in case Cano departs in 2014.
Further down the line the Yankees have Jose Pirela, 23, and Angelo Gumbs, 20.
Pirela hit .293 with eight home runs and 33 RBIs in 82 games at Trenton. The Venezuela native is being looked upon as a potential middle infield backup utility infielder with a good line-drive bat but he lacks speed.
Gumbs, the team’s No. 8 prospect, was signed as a shortstop but has played second base in his two years in the minors. He hit .272 with seven home runs, 36 RBIs and 26 stolen bases at Class-A Charleston (SC) in the South Atlantic League. An elbow injury ended his season in June.
Gumbs plays an aggressive style and shows that he has a good bat, which makes him a young player worth watching in 2013.
But Gumbs is a long way away from making the majors and Cano simply is the industry standard at his position. It also looks like he will be that standard for some years to come.
There is no doubt Cano will be motivated to produce in 2013 and he could have that monster season for which everybody has been waiting. The Yankees will need that from him in a season that appears the team will be lacking some power and a team that will be minus Rodriguez for much of the season.
The Yankees simply will go as far as Cano can possibly carry them this season.
NEXT: First Base