Tagged: Terry Francona

Severino Quiets Tribe To Collect His First Victory

GAME 122

YANKEES 6, INDIANS 2

In his first three Major-League starts right-hander Luis Severino received a total of two runs of support in the 17 innings he had pitched. Despite giving up a run in the first inning on Saturday, the 21-year-old rookie got five runs of support in the first two innings of the game.

He pretty much took control of things from there.

Severino pitched six solid innings to notch his first Major-League victory and Brett Gardner and Brian McCann both homered in the first inning as New York downed Cleveland on Jorge Posada Day with a paid crowd of 47,031 on hand at Yankee Stadium.

Severino (1-2) held the Indians to one run on just three hits with three walks and six strikeouts in a workmanlike 100-pitch outing.

The only run he gave up was when fellow rookie Francisco Lindor laced his eighth pitch of the game into the right-field porch for his sixth home run of the season to give the Indians an early 1-0 lead.

It did not last long, however, as Gardner lined right-hander Danny Salazar’s seventh pitch off the top of the right-field wall for his 12th home run of the season. It came with Jacoby Ellsbury on first on a single and it gave Severino a 2-1 lead that he never relinquished the rest of the afternoon.

One out later, McCann crushed a 0-1 fastball into the bleachers in right-center for his 22nd home run of the season.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the second inning after Stephen Drew and John Ryan Murphy opened the frame with singles to put runners at first and third with no outs.

Salazar then botched a potential double-play ball off the bat of Ellsbury by throwing wide of second base for an error. Ellsbury got credit for an RBI and Murphy was safe at second. After Murphy advanced to third on a fly ball by Gardner, Carlos Beltran scored him on a sacrifice fly that made it 5-1.

After entering the game pitching at least seven innings in his previous seven starts with a 1.45 ERA in that span, Salazar (11-7) was charged with five runs on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings.

Meanwhile, Severino got some help in keeping the Indians from mounting a comeback in both the third and sixth innings.

After Jason Kipnis drew a one-out walk and Lindor singled to advance him to third, Michael Brantley hit a hard one-hopper to rookie first baseman Greg Bird. Bird whirled and threw the ball high and wide to shortstop Didi Gregorius at second base.

Second base umpire Dan Iassogna ruled that Gregorius kept his foot on the base to retire Lindor. But, inexplicably, Kipnis elected to stay at third base on the play.

Indians manager Terry Francona asked Iassogna, the crew chief, to review the play using replay but the crew chose only to discuss it amongst themselves. Francona was ejected from the game by Iassogna during an ensuing argument.

In the sixth inning, Severino appeared to be wobbling as he approached the 100-pitch mark by issuing two-out walks to Lonnie Chisenhall and Abraham Almonte, However, he got out of the inning when Gregorius ranged to grab Roberto Perez’s ground ball and he retired Almonte at second base on a throw from the seat of his pants.

The Indians added a run in the eighth inning off right-hander Dellin Betances on a two-out bloop single by Chisenhall that scored Lindor, who led off the frame with a double.

The Yankees got that run back against right-hander Jeff Manship on a one-out double by Gregorius, a single by Drew and a sacrifice fly off the bat of Murphy.

The victory snapped a slight two-game skid and gave the Yankees a season record of 68-54. They remain a half-game ahead of the second-place Toronto Blue Jays in the American League East. The Indians, who are in last place in the American League Central, dropped to 57-65.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Severino actually pitched much better in his previous three starts than he did on Saturday. But run support is essential to his success. Fortunately, Severino got it and he still was able to keep the Indians from coming back despite the four walks he issued. He is 1-2 with a 2.74 ERA and manager Joe Girardi announced on Saturday that he will remain in the rotation for now.
  • In only the second game he used it, McCann was able to hit a home run with a new batting stance that puts a lot more weight on his front foot to prevent him from flying open too early with his right shoulder. It also was fitting on Jorge Posada Day that McCann (who was the designated hitter) and Murphy each got a hit and drove in a run.
  • Gardner’s homer was a product of the short porch in right-field, but it still counts and it was a bit overdue. That was Gardner’s first home run since July 28 at Globe Life Park in Arlington, TX. Gardner is batting .274 with 12 homers and 54 RBIs on the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • My only issue was the lineup Girardi chose to use against the Indians after they had lost the first two games of the series. With Mark Teixeira still nursing a sore right shin, he elected to bench Alex Rodriguez, which left Beltran hitting third, McCann fourth and the rookie Bird fifth. On Friday, Girardi benched both Ellsbury and Gregorius against a right-handed pitcher and the team lost. The Saturday moves did work but this resting philosophy with the Blue Jays breathing down the Yankees’ necks is just a bit silly.
  • Odd stat of the day: The Indians collected as many hits off Betances and left-hander Andrew Miller in the final two innings than they did against Severino in six. Linder doubled and Chisenhall singled off Betances in the eighth and Miller was touched by a leadoff single by Perez in the ninth. It is rare the “Twin Towers” give up any hits at all much less as many as the starter.

BOMBER BANTER

Right-hander Michael Pineda will come off the 15-day disabled list to start for the Yankees on Wednesday against the Houston Astros to push Masahiro Tanaka’s next start back to Friday, Girardi told reporters on Saturday. Pineda yielded one run on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings in his second rehab start for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Friday. He has been on the DL since July 30 with a right forearm flexor strain. Girardi said he had no plans to remove anyone in the rotation. So it appears the Yankees will use a six-man rotation in the final month.  . . .  Posada was honored before Saturday’s game by having his No. 20 officially retired and a plaque placed in Monument Park. Posada played for the Yankees for 17 seasons and hit .273 with 275 homers and 1,065 RBIs. He was part of five world championship teams and was a five-time All-Star. On Sunday, the Yankees similarly will honor one of his battery-mates, left-hander Andy Pettitte.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to split the four-game series against the Indians with a victory on Sunday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (4-9, 5.24 ERA) will go to the mound for the Yankees. Sabathia, 35, gave up four runs on five hits and three walks with five strikeouts in a no-decision that the Yankees won against the Minnesota Twins on Tuesday.

Right-hander Trevor Bauer (9-10, 4.62 ERA) will pitch for the Indians. Bauer, 24, was shelled for five runs on six hits and one walk in just 1 2/3 innings in a loss to the Boston Red Sox on Tuesday. In his previous start on Aug. 13, he gave up six runs in 3 1/3 innings to the Yankees at Progressive Field.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

 

Tex Guns Down Tribe With Another Big Home Run

GAME 58

YANKEES 4, INDIANS 3

Yankee fans were very worried that when Mark Teixeira returned to the lineup on May 31 that he would get off to the same slow starts he always did in April. Well, after hitting a grand slam home run on Monday, Teixeira added a three-run shot on Tuesday.

So much for that slow-start theory.

Teixeira connected on a 3-1 change-up off left-hander Scott Kazmir with one out in the third inning to give the Yankees a 4-0 lead and David Phelps pitched six innings of one-hit shutout baseball to lead New York to another victory over Cleveland in front of a paid crowd crowd of 36,208 at Yankee Stadium.

Teixeira’s second home run in as many nights followed a leadoff double by Lyle Overbay, an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki and a single by Jayson Nix off Kazmir (3-3). Teixeira laced a line-drive just inside the foul pole in left to give him two home runs and seven RBIs against the Indians in the first two games of the series.

Meanwhile, Phelps (4-3) redeemed himself for his previous start against the New York Mets on May 30 in which he was tagged for five runs (four earned) on four hits and two walks in only one-third of an inning in what was easily the worst effort of his major-league career.

Phelps only allowed a hustle infield single to Drew Stubbs with one out in the third inning. Phelps walked four and struck out seven in an 102-pitch outing before giving way to right-hander Joba Chamberlain in the seventh.

The Indians were able to rally against Chamberlain, who issued a leadoff walk to Carlos Santana before he retired the next two batters. Mike Aviles then stroked a single to center and Stubbs clubbed a home run to right that just cleared the wall into the bleachers.

Left-hander Boone Logan then came on to strike out Michael Bourn swinging to end the inning.

The Indians did manage to put the first two batters on in the eighth against right-hander David Robertson. Jason Kipnis drew a leadoff walk and Michael Brantley dumped an opposite-field single to left.

But Robertson induced former Yankee Nick Swisher to line into a double play and Santana grounded out weakly to end the Indians’ threat.

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth, striking out the first two batters, to record his 21st save in 22 opportunities this season.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 33-25 and they remain tied with the Baltimore Orioles for second place in the American League East, 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox. The Indians fell to 30-28.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After going 1-for-9 in his first three games back from the disabled list, Teixeira is 3-for-6 with a walk and two home runs and seven RBIs in his two games against the Indians. The Yankees were hoping that Teixeira’s return would add a legitimate power threat to the middle of the order and he has done just that. Teixeira also has hit homers on both sides of the plate. His grand slam on Monday came while he was batting left-handed. His three-run shot on Tuesday came batting right-handed.
  • Phelps may have walked too many batters and he got mired in some deep counts that forced him to leave after six innings. But he was absolutely determined not to give an inch to the Indians’ batters. Phelps was a hard-luck 1-0 loser to right-hander Justin Masterson and the Indians on May 13. If you discount his awful outing against the Mets on May 30, Phelps is 4-2 with a 2.77 ERA in his other six starts this season.
  • Suzuki, who batted leadoff and started in center-field in place of Brett Gardner, extended his hitting streak in the past games in which he has started to 10 with a 1-for-3 night. Suzuki has had at least one hit in each of 10 starts since May 25 and is 13-for-35 (.371) in that span. That has raised his season average from .238 on May 25 to .262.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Though the return of Teixeira and Kevin Youkilis on May 31 should be helping Robinson Cano. It pretty much has had the opposite effect. Cano was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he hit into an inning-ending double play in the eighth inning with the bases loaded. In the past five games with Teixeira and Youkilis available to play, Cano is 2-for-17 (.118) without either an extra-base hit or an RBI.
  • Vernon Wells has been pretty much useless to the Yankees dating all the way back to May 15. He was 0-for-4 on Tuesday with a strikeout and he is 7-for-61 (.115) with no home runs, 1 RBI and 12 strikeouts since May 15. Wells, 34, is not getting the high fastballs he was smashing earlier in the season and he is being fooled by breaking pitches out of the strike zone.
  • Chamberlain was roughed up for the first time since he came off the disabled list on May 28. It was a bit curious why manager Joe Girardi had rookie Preston Claiborne warming in the sixth but elected to use Chamberlain for a second consecutive night instead to start the seventh inning. Claiborne deserves to be used in the seventh and it would allow Chamberlain to get some rest between outings.

BOMBER BANTER

Many of the Indians were angry over the balls and strikes calls of home-plate umpire Tony Randazzo throughout the game and it culminated with the ejection of Aviles after he made the final out against Rivera. Aviles was angered by a strike-one call that he thought was low. After he flew out he followed Randazzo toward the third-base dugout and was ejected. Indians manager Terry Francona also had some harsh words for Randazzo but was not ejected.  . . .  Chris Stewart returned to the starting lineup after missing two games with dizziness. Stewart was 1-for-1 with a walk and he also threw out Brantley at second base as part of a “strike-’em-out, throw-’em-out” double play in the fourth inning. Stewart has nailed seven of 14 potential base-stealers this season. Of course, Stewart did pull a base-running blunder in the third inning when he rounded second base too far and got thrown out in a rundown.  . . .  Suzuki’s RBI single in the third inning was the 2,654th hit of his major-league career, which ties with him Ted Williams for 72nd place on the all-time hits list.  . . .  Eduardo Nunez sustained another setback in his bid to return from a left oblique strain, which landed him of the 15-day disabled list on May 12. Nunez was unable to swing a bat without experiencing pain and his return will be delayed further.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for a sweep of their three-game home series against Cleveland on Wednesday.

Left-hander CC Sabathia (5-4, 3.71 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Sabathia is coming off what was his best start of the season on Friday, a one-run, 10-strikeout performance over 7 1/3 innings against the Red Sox. Sabathia is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA against his former team.

Sabathia will be opposed by right-hander Corey Kluber (3-3, 4.36 ERA). Kluber struck out three and walked one but had his outing against the Tampa Bay Rays cut to just two innings because of rain. He has no record and 1.80 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Poised To Stick Fork In Red Sox Season

The New York Yankees welcome their old pals, the Boston Red Sox, to Yankee Stadium for the first time this season beginning on Friday. The Dead Sox, as they are being referred to many Boston circles, are limping in having lost five of their last six games and are 10 1/2 games back in last place in the American League East. This series is pretty much their season. If they get swept, it’s over. If they sweep, there is still a glimmer of hope. But in some ways the Red Sox have the look of Custer at Little Big Horn, the Texas Army at The Alamo and the Red Sox in September 2011. Here is why they will fail this weekend:

PITCHING IS KING

Looking at the pitching matchups this weekend does not instill much confidence in Boston.

Journeyman right-hander Aaron Cook (2.3, 3.50 ERA) will open the series for Red Sox. Cook, 33, is a symbol of the inability of the Red Sox to build a starting rotation this season. In past years the Red Sox would trade for a Josh Beckett and sign free agents like Daisuke Matsuzaka and John Lackey while they developed young stars like Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

But with the team’s record 13-24 in games started by Beckett and Lester this season it really has not mattered much what three pitchers follow them in the rotation. Buchholz is 8-3 with an elevated 4.93 ERA and he has been hampered by injuries for a good part of the year.

Lackey is out for the season after Tommy John surgery. Dice-K came back from the same surgery only to make five ill-fated starts with an 0-3 record and 6.65 ERA before landing on the DL again. Matsuzaka has made only 49 starts since the 2008 season in which he was 18-3 with a 2.90 ERA. The Red Sox have their own version of Carl Pavano, collecting huge paychecks while he constantly rehabs.

That is why the Red Sox have been forced to use Cook and Felix Doubront in their rotation. Doubront is 12-7 with a 4.62 ERA but he has become less effective as the innings have piled up. His ERA has steadily risen all season and was 5.83 in June.

So Cook enters this game actually as the the team’s most effective starter lately. He has a 2.79 ERA in July. But he also is 0-2 in his three July starts, which means he has not got much in the way of run support.

The Red Sox also will be facing right-hander Phil Hughes, who has rediscovered his 2010 form this season. Hughes is 9-8 with a 4.09 ERA, however, those numbers are misleading.

Hughes is 5-3 with a 2.77 ERA in his last nine starts and he has issued only 15 walks while striking out 53 in his last 61 2/3 innings. Add to that, the Red Sox have been outscored 43-17 in their last six games and you have the makings of a very ugly opening night for them in the Bronx.

The Red Sox will just have to hope they score enough runs early to keep Cook in the game and get Hughes out of it early. In other words, a typical Red Sox-Yankees four-hour marathon where the total of runs scored is about 24. But I do not think that is going to happen on Friday.

The Red Sox are without their Yankee kryptonite in designated hitter David Ortiz. Without his bat, the Red Sox become less potent against the Yankees. In a 9-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday, the Red Sox collected 10 hits against fill-in starter Scott Feldman. But they were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

The Yankees do come in having lost five of their last seven and they are without Alex Rodriguez and possibly may be without Nick Swisher.

But the Yankees also come back home for this series and home is where they shine.

The addition of Ichiro Suzuki could make a big impact in this series with is bat, his legs and his glove. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano and Mark Teixeira come into the series hot and the Yankees are getting contributions from their bench in Eric Chavez, Raul Ibanez and Jayson Nix.

Look for Game 1 to be close early but the Yankees will eventually burn Cook and serve him up as a special at NYY Steak over the weekend.

TOO MANY CCs

Even if the Red Sox do succeed on Friday, they will have to face CC Sabathia (10-3, 3.30) on Saturday. That is bad news for the lefty-dominant Red Sox lineup of Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, Adrian Gonzalez and Jarrod Saltalamacchia (who stinks as a right-hand hitter.

The Yankees, meanwhile, face Lester (5-8, 5.46 ERA). In Lester’s last three starts, he is 0-3 and has given up 22 runs (21 earned) on 25 hits and 10 walks over 12 1/3 innings. That is an ERA of 15.32. Ouch!

The word from scouts is that Lester decided to develop a cutter a few years ago. He used it to compliment his other pitches, which were nasty. He was able to control both sides of the plate and he was 15-9 with a 3.47 ERA last season despite a September slide that coincided with the epic collapse of the Red Sox.

But this season, Lester has become cutter crazy and it cost him in velocity and command of his fastball. Hughes found the same thing happened to him in 2011 and he junked his cutter this season. But Lester has tried to carry on with his same arsenal and he is getting pounded harder than a herd of cattle in a butcher shop.

In his last start against the Yankees on July 8 at Fenway Park, Lester lasted just 4 1/3 innings and he surrendered five runs (four earned) on nine hits and a walk.

The bottom line is Lester is just not the Lester that Red Sox Nation is used to seeing dominate lineups. He is headed for a big fall on Saturday.

COUP DE GRACE

The Red Sox will face on Sunday the Yankees’ best pitcher, of late, in Hiroki Kuroda (10-7, 3.34 ERA).

Kuroda is 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA in last 11 starts. Though he did struggle against Boston at Fenway Park, Kuroda has proven to be a much more effective pitcher at Yankee Stadium this season. He is 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA in the Bronx.

That is bad news for the Red Sox, who have not announced a mound opponent for Kuroda.

Doubront defeated the Yankees at Fenway on July 7 but he also was shelled for six runs on eight hits and three walks in five innings against the Rangers on Monday. The Red Sox may, instead, call upon Buchholz to pitch the finale. He gave up just one run on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the Rangers on Tuesday.

If Buchholz pitches on Sunday it indicates that manager Bobby Valentine is desperate. He has to be if the Red Sox pick up the Sunday New York Times facing a 12 1/2-game deficit to the Yankees.

The game will be very close on Sunday but the Yankees have a decided edge on the mound. They should win in a very close game.

IN THE END

The truth is that the seeds of the 2012 season for the Red Sox were sown in the aftermath of their historic collapse in September 2011. The departures of manager Terry Francona and general manager Theo Epstein have left Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington with a mess.

He has some prima donnas like Beckett and Lackey and a huge albatross of a contract to Crawford tied around his neck. The team can’t rebuild only through free agency because they are right up against the edge of having to pay the luxury tax.

They could start shipping high-priced underachievers out and let their free agents like Ortiz walk. But there are so many holes on this roster it looks like Swiss cheese.

Young talent the Red Sox are hoping to develop is in short supply and that is really the biggest problem they have going forward. They likely would be better off with a roster purge and rebuild effort. But that also will mean they have to be candid with Red Sox Nation that they will not be competitive for some time.

That is hard sell. But after this weekend, it could be quite likely you will see Beckett go and others will follow.

The Curse may be over but it might be a long, long time before we see a Red Sox team capable of competing with the Yankees.

To us Yankee fans, that is just fine.

 

Yanks-Bosox Rainout Buffers Bobby V’s Torture

GAME 16

YANKEES vs. RED SOX (POSTPONED – RAIN)

The game scheduled between New York and Boston on Sunday was canceled at 3 p.m. due to a heavy downpour engulfing Fenway Park.

It is nothing compared to the firestorm surrounding the Red Sox in the wake of their 7-20 collapse last September, their change in general manager and manager and their dreadful 4-10 start this season. The fact they blew a 9-0 lead after five innings on Saturday to end up losing to the Yankees 15-9 has merely ripped off the fresh scabs from an entertaining week of upheaval.

If we didn’t know any better we might think that manager Bobby Valentine took up a weather plane and seeded the clouds to rain himself to stop the hail of runs his team’s pitching staff is handing out like Halloween candy and the chorus of boos cascading from the stands upon him.

Valentine admitted after the debacle on Saturday that he needed to do a better job. But, like it or not, Valentine has become the symbol of the discontent in Red Sox Nation.

His mismanagement of two games last week and the dustup he had with Kevin Youkilis were fueling most of the anger aimed at Valentine. But Sunday’s loss was really not Valentine’s fault. But the fact that his club surrendered that huge lead shows just how deep-seeded and difficult the root of the problem is to identify.

It seems to be a lot deeper than some chicken and beer.

Theo Eptein fled to Chicago and Terry Francona took his class act out of the dugout to the television booth. Owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino sought out Valentine to right the ship. But they are not offering him any of the largesse it would take to fix the hull.

Unwilling to venture past the limits of the luxury tax, Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington kind of look like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” valiantly trying to fight a battle without limbs. Such is the sad state of affairs in Beantown. Well, it is not so sad for those in the Bronx.

The rainout on Sunday gives the Red Sox time to find the answers and gets some players healthy before they play the Yankees again at Fenway. No makeup date has been announced. It is anybody’s guess whether the game will actually matter.

BOMBER BANTER

Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to shift Sunday’s scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, to start on Monday against the Rangers in Arlington, TX. He also said that Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes will follow Sabathia in the three-game series. Ivan Nova will open the home series against the Tigers on Friday. However, Girardi has not announced who will start on Saturday. Freddy Garcia (0-1, 9.75 ERA) would be in line to make the start. But Garcia could be skipped in order to keep Sabathia on schedule to pitch every fifth day.  . . .  Girardi said he expectes to have Brett Gardner back in the lineup on May 3 when the Yankees begin a four-game series with Kansas City. Gardner was placed on the disabled list with a strained and bruised right elbow he suffered making a diving catch on a sinking line drive on Tuesday. Gardner is hitting .321 this season.  . . .  Michael Pineda will meet with a team physician in New York on Monday to evaluate recurring tightness behind his right shoulder. The 23-year-old right-hander has to end a bullpen session on Saturday after 15 pitches because of pain in his shoulder. He will remain on the 15-day disabled list and it unclear when Pineda now might be able to return.

ON DECK

The Yankees first test against two-time American League champion Texas begins on Monday.

Sabathia (1-0) gave up three runs on four hits in six innings against the Twins to earn his first victory of the season on Tuesday. He is 10-3 with a 4.44 ERA against the Rangers in his career.

The Rangers will start left-hander Derek Holland (2-0, 3.10 ERA), who gave up two runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the reeling Red Sox in his last start. Against the Yankees, Holland is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in five starts.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by MY9.

 

Yankees Go Solo Route To Ruin Fenway Toast

GAME 14

YANKEES 6, RED SOX 2

A hundred years ago Fenway Park opened its turnstiles for the first time and the seeds of a Red Sox rivalry with the New York Yankees were planted on that day and sown over the generations.

The modern day version played out upon the hallowed cathedral of Boston’s baseball heritage on Friday and the New York franchise that was the Highlanders in 1912 evolved quickly into the Bronx Bombers in the afternoon sun and pounded out five solo home runs to ruin the celebration for the Red Sox faithful.

Ivan Nova (3-0) gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out five over six innings to notch his 15th consecutive decision dating back to his rookie season. He is just one victory shy of the franchise record established by Roger Clemens.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were taking aim for the upper reaches of the Green Monster and Landsdowne Street against Clay Buchholz (1-1).

Eric Chavez, inserted in the lineup to play third base so Alex Rodriguez could DH, led the way with a pair solo home runs in the second and fourth innings. Nick Swisher began the home run barrage two batters before Chavez in the second with his own Monster Mash. Rodriguez led off the fifth with a blast onto Landsdowne Street and it was the 631st home run of his career, moving him past Ken Griffey Jr. into fifth place on the all-time home run list.

Russell Martin completed the barrage in the sixth with a high lined shot into the scaffolding above the Monster for his first home run of the season. Martin stepped to the plate hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

The Red Sox scored their first run on a disputed double by David Ortiz that was ruled a home run by the umpiring crew after a replay review in the second inning. They scored again the fifth after Cody Ross led off the inning with a double to center and one out later Nick Swisher lost Mike Aviles’ routine pop fly in the sun, which allowed Ross to score.

But the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen held the Red Sox scoreless over the final three innings. Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera came on to record the final three outs in the ninth to seal the victory for the Yankees.

So while the Red Sox legends like Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez and Dwight Evans came onto the field prior to the game to pay tribute to a city’s love for its ballpark and its team, it was the modern legends the likes of Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, Ortiz and Rivera who shone brightest on this day.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 8-6 and they are now a half-game behind Baltimore in the American League East. The Red Sox fell to 4-9 and they are four games out in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the starters struggling to keep the other team off the scoreboard early and not being able to pitch past the fifth inning, Nova’s effort on Friday was very much welcome. Nova had only one 1-2-3 inning (the fourth) and yet he was able to keep the Red Sox offense at bay for most of the afternoon. The fact that the 25-year-old right-hander is within two victories of passing Clemens proves that he is doing something right. He lowered his season ERA to 3.79.
  • Manager Joe Girardi gets kudos for starting Chavez at third base and Chavez made the skipper look clairvoyant with his first two home runs of the season. Chavez has only two home runs all last season for the Yankees. In limited play this season, Chavez is hitting .400 and he is proving that the Yankees’ bench is pretty deep with talent.
  • Rodriguez’s home run was by far the most dramatic of all the home runs and it made a statement as it flew well over the Monster in left. It was his second home run of the season and it gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead. Buchholz gave up nine hits in six-plus innings five were solo home runs and two others were doubles. He was not exactly fooling the Yankees.
  • Jeter singled off the glove of Kevin Youkilis in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Jeter was 1-for-5 and scored a run and he is hitting .359 on the season. With the hit he moved into 18th place and past Dave Winfield on the all-time hit list with 3,111.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Cody Eppley, who was brought up from Triple-A when Brett Gardner was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday, did not fare well in his debut with the Yankees. The 6-foot-5 sidewinding right-hander entered the game in the ninth with a four-run lead and he gave up a leadoff single to right by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Girardi went immediately to the mound and brought in Rivera to close out the game.
  • Mark Teixeira was the only Yankee starter who did not get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-4 including three weak infield grounders. Teixeira’s season average dropped to .264, which is pretty good considering Teixeira is a career .190 hitter in April.
  • Swisher had to be a bit embarrassed by losing Aviles’ fly ball in the fifth, which allowed a run to score. Swisher tried using his left hand to shade his eyes from the sun but he ended up covering up and baling out as the ball dropped in front of him and rolled into deep right. It was a tough sun field on Friday but Swisher still should have had it.

BOMBER BANTER

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte tossed five innings on Friday in an extended spring training game against Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Pettitte gave up two runs on four hits but, more importantly, he threw 58 of his 66 pitches for strikes and struck out five batters. In his next game action, Pettitte likely will move up in class and start a game for Double-A Trenton. The 39-year-old veteran is targeting a return to the Yankees in early May.  . . .  Both teams on Friday wore throwback uniforms that were worn by Red Sox and Highlanders in 1912. The jerseys did not have names or numbers on the back, which made it hard for fans, broadcasters and writers to figure out who was coming to the plate to pinch-hit or who was coming to in to pitch. I would guess it was pointless to buy a game program in 1912, if they were even available then.

COMMENTARY

One of the loudest and warmest greetings from most of the 36,770 fans in attendance during the pregame ceremonies was bestowed upon former manager Terry Francona, who initially declined the invitation to come but later relented. Francona received a raucous standing ovation and it rivaled the ovation for Yastrzemski. In the seventh inning of the game, current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine went to the mound to remove Buchholz and he drew a chorus of boos. Valentine is still reeling from comments he made to reporters on the record about a seeming lack of commitment from Youkilis. The firestorm ended with the players backing Youkilis and Valentine was forced to apologize for the comments publicly. But it is obvious that Francona’s departure after last season’s September swoon, Valentine’s uncalled for candor and the poor start of the team has combined to provide a very poisonous atmosphere at Fenway Park on her 100th birthday. The situation will be increasingly worse for Valentine if the Red Sox fail to win a game this weekend against the Yankees. For his part on Friday, Valentine appeared reticent and chastened when he spoke to the media. It would appear he has learned a valuable lesson about being too candid and failing to address concerns with his players privately. But the question still becomes how will Valentine survive it all if this team continues to languish at the bottom of the division and fails to make the playoffs? The fans in Boston are not a patient bunch and Valentine really stepped into it badly by knocking an immensely popular player.

ON DECK

The rivalry series continues on Saturday.

The Yankees will send right-hander Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.97) to the mound. Garcia was tagged for five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in a loss against the Twins on Monday. With Pettitte on the way back to the major leagues, the pressure on Garcia to pitch well increases. He is 9-4 with a 4.45 ERA over the last 10 seasons against the Bosox.

Boston will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40 ERA). Dubront has not made it out of the fifth inning this season although he has 13 strikeouts in 10 innings of work. He is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Yankees In Boston To Witness Red Sox Turmoil

The New York Yankees will pay a visit on Friday with their old pals in Beantown.

They also will see a team in the Red Sox reeling after a week of injuries, bad pitching and a blowup between the Bosox egotistical skipper and the most committed player in his clubhouse.

Ahhh! Good times!

I do not like to say I told you so to Red Sox Nation and Kevin Youkilis but I did write a post on March 1 titled “Bosox Just Finding Out Valentine Is Big Scumbag.” In it I wrote the following:

Congratulations, Red Sox, on hiring the complete opposite of a classy and knowledgeable baseball man in Terry Francona. I am now counting the days Valentine will be the manager when the Red Sox finish third and about three Red Sox guys are grousing under the cloak of anonymity about what an idiot Valentine is as a manager.

Trust me, the day is coming. Bobby V. has a way of wearing out his welcome with the players, management and the fans. Why else would it have taken him this long to get an offer to manage? Boston needed a name manager and Bobby was out there self-promoting himself for the job before the ink was dry on Francona’s walking papers.

I hate being wrong, though. Those three players likely will not be grousing what an idiot Valentine is anonymously. They likely will be saying it his face. Such is the turmoil that engulfed this team in a few short weeks into the 2012 season.

Youkilis might have been hitting .200. He might have had an awful spring. Injuries may have ruined the second half of the 2011 season for him. But he always has been emotionally and physically committed to the Red Sox. He and Dustin Pedroia bring the intensity to the team that drives it.

It appears that Valentine has stupidly lost both players’ support. Youkilis will play hard no matter what but he won’t be chilling in Bobby’s office after the game sipping a brew after a victory either.

Pedroia, for his part, went on record with a public castigation of the manager by saying: “That is not the way we do things around here.”

Pedroia is right, too. Valentine did his questioning of Youkilis in a public forum and not in his office with the door shut, mano a mano.

But this gutless stuff and Valentine have a way of following him around from his various managing gigs.

He purposely tried to fan the flames of the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry this spring by picking on Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez. He also publicly dissed manager Joe Girardi for ending a tied exhibition game after nine innings.

Whoa, the gall of that Girardi to save his pitching for a two split-squad games scheduled 12 hours from that point. But we all know Bobby V was stoking the fire for the regular season. It is what he has to do to take the fans and pundits off the subject that his team is not a very good one right now.

Short on quality starters, even the good ones like Jon Lester, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz are getting battered like punch-drunk fighters. The bullpen was centered around the acquisitions of closer Andrew Bailey and setup man Mark Melancon. Now Bailey is out two months and Melancon is riding buses in the International League after taking an unmerciful pounding on Monday.

The team was without starting left-fielder Carl Crawford, who is still yet to prove he is worth the seven-year contract GM Theo Epstein kissed his feet to sign last season. Now MVP runnerup Jacoby Ellsbury ia out two months with a bad shoulder.

Because the Red Sox spent so much money on players like Crawford and John Lackey and traded their best prospects to get players like Victor Martinez and Adrian Gonzalez, they are right at the very edge of incurring the luxury tax. So they can’t go out and buy their way out of mediocrity.

So Valentine’s hands are tied because of a bereft minor-league system and the realization they can’t add payroll to fix what needs fixing.

Meanwhile, the players are already not on board with Valentine and his way of doing things. Pedroia already signaled that at the exhibition game Valentine got upset with Girardi in Fort Myers, FL. When asked by Buster Olney of ESPN what it has been like with Valentine as manager, Pedroia refused to spout the company line.

He said, “It has only been a few weeks so I can’t tell you.”

That speaks volumes about the chasm Valentine has driven between himself and the players. Pedroia did not say it was different than with Terry Francona and he was excited to play for a knowledgeable baseball man like Valentine, etc. He just said nothing and at the same time he said an awful lot to us reading between the lines.

Red Sox Nation is no longer a democracy, or even a plutocracy. It is now dictatorial and repressive. It will not take long for the combination of the unhappiness and the losing gets to the players and they start venting what they really think.

If I were Bobby V, I would not put a down-payment on that sprawling mansion in Beacon Hill just yet. He might be using Bekins to pack him and his sorry butt back to New York. I just have a feeling this marriage was forced and needs to be annulled immediately.

The Red Sox never knew what hit them when the canned the best manager they ever had and their GM got out of Dodge just ahead of the posse. Now they are finding what life used to be like before 2004 and it couldn’t have happened to more arrogant and obnoxious fanbase in the history of baseball.

RIP.

 

Power Shifts In A.L. East But Yankees Still Reign


Today marks the beginning of the 2012 season for the New York Yankees. After a 33-game spring schedule, the team took shape. How will they finish in the American League East? What about the other teams in the division? How will they do this season? Let’s take a look.

Last season marked a titanic shift in the division.

After the Boston Red Sox recorded the biggest implosion in major-league history in September, they are no longer looked upon as an elite in this division. The loss of general manager Theo Epstein and the decision to blame Terry Francona for the team’s demise were bad enough.

But the real shock was to watch the Red Sox take a different approach to trying to fix the team this winter. Instead of just going out and aggressively signing the best free agents available and making bold trades to infuse new blood, the Bosox actually started a coupon-clipping method of solving their problems.

The big names that could have helped them went elsewhere and the Red Sox found that their once-vaunted minor-league system was bereft of immediate-impact talent.

They begin the 2012 season with one of the most important positions on the team left n the hands of someone inexperienced.

If ever this was a microcosm of the Red Sox problems this is it. They allowed Jonathan Papelbon to walk away via free agency. Maligned for his foibles and his occasional blown saves, Papelbon was still an important piece of the success of the franchise. The fans and the press treatment of him bit the team in the rear end.

To replace him the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s, a competent closer who at the same time has had a series of arm ailments that have slowed his development. At the end of spring training, Bailey came up with a thumb injury that will require surgery to repair. He will miss two months – at least.

The Red Sox also traded for Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon. The conventional wisdom was Melanco would replace Bailey. After all, why trade for a closer if he is not going to close? But new manager Bobby Valentine announced that jack-of-all-trades (and master of none) reliever Alfredo Aceves would close instead.

Welcome to Red Sox Nation’s worst nightmare. On Opening Day, Aceves coughed the winning run in a non-save situation.

If there is anyone out there who honestly believes this team can win the A.L. East, I want to know what you are smoking.

There are only two elite teams in this division and they are the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Rays had an interesting spring where they played a lot like the some of the teams in 1960s like the Dodgers and White Sox, who were so deep in pitching talent they shut out any team. However, at the same time, the offense is so bad that scoring runs is going to take some real effort.

Don’t get me wrong. The Rays and manager Joe Maddon have ways of scoring. Carlos Pena may struggle to keep his average around .190 but he will likely hit 30 home runs. Evan Longoria, surrounded by lightweights, will be pitched around and his average will suffer also. But he will win his share of 2-1 games with home runs.

Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and the rest of Rays also use their feet to create havoc on the bases. That will get them their share of runs at times. But the old adage “You can’t steal first base” comes into play. The Rays have to reach base in order to steal bases. This team also lacks the athleticism past teams had when Carl Crawford was here.

How many bases will catcher Jose Molina steal? I rest my case.

No, the Rays’ sole means of winning comes with their starting rotation. James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann are the center of the ballclub. The Rays have attempted to build a bullpen around them but they begin the season with their closer, Kyle Farnsworth, on the disabled list with a sore elbow.

That is huge red flag to me.

Could you say that the Yankees would be favored to win a championship with Mariano Rivera on the DL and expected to miss two months like Bailey? How about if Rivera complained he had a sore elbow?

Nope. No matter how stacked your pitching staff is you have to have a closer and Farnsworth is the best the Rays had in 2011. If he is lost for a long period of time, it puts pressure on Maddon to “shorten” his bullpen. That means keeping his starters on the mound longer than most managers would allow.

That exposes them to possibly losing close games because starters do run out of steam at some point. While a manager like Charlie Manuel might take Cliff Lee out after 121 pitches because he has Papelbon and a deep bullpen, Maddon may say let’s let Price get out of this in the eighth because I do not think J.P. Howell has been effective lately.

It becomes a slippery slope and you start lengthening and lengthening your starters until they begin wearing down.

That is my concern with the Rays.

In addition, they do not have the money and means to ever go to a Plan B. What they have on the roster has to work or they fall.

One team that intrigues me is the Blue Jays.

They already have Jose Bautista. You add to that third baseman Brett Lawrie and a bunch of guys who hit the ball hard and you have the makings of a great offense. Too bad the Rays do not have this offense.

The Blue Jays will put a lot of runs on the board. They have a lot of power and line-drive hitters top to bottom in the lineup.

However, their pitching revolves around Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Brett Cecil has been sent to the minors and Dustin McGowan’s comeback has been slowed by injury.  Their bullpen does have a closer in Sergio Santos they stole from the White Sox and a former closer in Francisco Cordero they signed from the Reds.

If manager Jon Farrell can piece enough starters to go six, the Blue Jays just might have what it take to pass the Red Sox in third place in this division. Stranger things have happened.

The one given in the division is where the Orioles will finish. Mismanagement, bad luck and foolish spending have really derailed this franchise.

Buck Showalter is a good manager but this team is mired with problems. The young pitching the Orioles counted on has failed to take the big leap forward they expected.

They made big bets on players like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and they have underwhelmed. They lack a big bopper like a Bautista who can change a game. Instead, they can build around emerging star catcher Matt Wieters.

That just about sums up the Orioles.

Now we come to the Yankees.

They won 97 games last season despite the fact Alex Rodriguez played in 99 games, only Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano had good seasons with the bat and their rotation contained Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.

How many will they win when they get a healthy season out of Rodriguez, more of their hitters have better seasons with the bat and a rotation that now has Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, a healthy Phil Hughes to go along with ace lefty CC Sabathia?

Their bullpen even without Joba Chamberlain is loaded with Rivera closing like he always has at age 42 and David Robertson and Rafael Soriano shortening games to six innings.

The team has closed the pitching gap with the Rays and their offense is simply the best in the division. Add to that the division’s best bullpen and a veteran bench and you have the makings of another A.L. East title for the team in the Bronx.

I have not seen evidence that would contradict the premise. The only thing that could derail the Yankees is the age of the team. Injuries also are a great equalizer. But, other than a bad spate of injuries there is nothing that will stop this team in 2012.

Here is the predicted order of finish:

1) New York Yankees 

2) Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)

3) Toronto Blue Jays

4) Boston Red Sox

5) Baltimore Orioles

If this order holds up, look for Valentine to be scanning the help wanted ads in October. He already has the team hating him. If it gets much worse he might be scanning those ads in July.