YANKEES 4, TIGERS 3
The New York Yankees might have arrived in Detroit to face a red-hot Tigers team but the Tigers certainly did not count on having to face an equally red-hot Eric Chavez.
Chavez, who entered the game hitting .538 in the series, followed Mark Teixeira’s game-tying home run with one out in the eighth inning off Joaquin Benoit with a game-winning solo blast of his own as New York turned what was a 3-2 deficit into a victory that tied the four-game series with Detroit.
There was no one happier about the result than manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning after the Tigers took the lead 3-2 on a controversial call by third-base umpire Tim Welke.
Clay Rapada (3-0) retired the two batters he faced in relief of starter Hiroki Kuroda in the seventh inning to earn the victory. Rafael Soriano got the final out of the eighth and had to complete a Houdini act in the ninth to escape a jam with runners at first and third with no outs to record his 27th save.
For the Tigers, the game was bitter disappointment but for the Yankees its was blessed vindication.
Kuroda and the Yankees were sailing in the bottom of the fifth inning with a 2-0 lead on the strength of a two-out RBI double by Raul Ibanez and an RBI single by Ichiro Suzuki off Tigers starter Doug Fister in the second inning.
However, Jhonny Peralta led off the frame with a double to the wall in center-field and Alex Avila followed it by smacking a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right-field to tie up the game. Later that same inning, with two out and Quintin Berry on first, Andy Dirks lofted an opposite-field dying quail down the left-field line that landed on the chalk and rolled into foul territory.
As the ball hit the grass, Welke clearly raised both arms to indicate the ball was foul. But he then reversed the call and pointed the ball was fair with his right arm. Ibanez running into foul territory from left-field then allowed the ball to get past him for a double and Berry scored the tie-breaking run.
Girardi immediately disputed Welke’s call, claiming the original call affected Ibanez’s play on the ball and allowed a run to score. Girardi wanted lodge a formal protest of the game but was told by crew chief Bob Davidson that a protest could not be made on a judgment call. Welke later ejected Girardi and Girardi left the field at Comerica Park raising both arms and pointing right and then left to mock Welke’s incorrect call to the delight of the crowd.
The game remained 3-2 until Benoit was summoned to pitch the eighth for the Tigers.
With one out, Benoit fell behind in the count to Teixeira 2-0 and his next pitch came right down the middle. Teixeira launched it so fast that if you blinked you would have missed it landing just over the wall along the right-field line for his 21st home run of the season.
Before the Tigers fans among the 40,490 in attendance had a chance to restart their hearts, Chavez broke them by connecting on Benoit’s next offering with a lined shot to the opposite field in left for his 12th home run of the season and his second of the series.
Of the last 12 hits Benoit (1 -3) has given up this season, 10 have been home runs.
The Yankees then turned the game over to the bullpen. David Phelps pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning and Soriano ended the eighth by surviving a long blast to right by Peralta that Suzuki chased down in right.
In the ninth, Avila opened the frame with a carbon-copy of Dirks’ dying quail double in the fifth. Welke clearly signaled this ball fair and Ibanez had no trouble picking it up. Gerald Laird was sent in to pinch-run for Avila.
Omar Infante then lined the next pitch for a single to right to advance Laird to third.
But Soriano retired Ramon Santiago on a soft line drive to Robinson Cano at second, Berry popped up weakly to Derek Jeter in shallow left and Dirks finally managed to run out of magic fairy dust and flied out to shallow center to end the contest.
The Yankees’ victory, combined with a loss by the Baltimore Orioles, extended the Yankees’ lead in the American League East to 5 1/2 games. Their record is now 65-46. The Tigers fell to 60-52.
- As I wrote yesterday, Alex who? Chavez has done more than made up for the loss of Alex Rodriguez in the lineup with both his bat and Gold Glove. Chavez finished the series 9-for-16 (.563) with two home runs, two doubles, six runs scored and five RBIs. Ironically, Girardi was going rest Chavez on Thursday but Chavez convinced Girardi he was fine to play. So Chavez was inserted into the lineup. Smart move, Joe.
- Teixeira’s home run was his first since July 28 against the Red Sox. After going 0-for-4 in the series opener, Teixeira was 5-for-12 (.417) and drove in three runs in the next three games. Teixeira leads the team in RBIs with 75 and he is third on the team in home runs behind Cano and Granderson.
- After having his 12-game hitting streak stopped by the Justin Verlander in the opener, Suzuki was 4-for-12 (.333), including two hits on Thursday, and he drove in four runs in the last three games.
- Girardi switched Nick Swisher and Granderson in the batting order on Wednesday and it worked out great. Swisher reached base in five of six at-bats and Granderson was 3-for-5 with a home run and four RBIs. It did not work so well on Thursday. They combined to go 0-for-8 with four strikeouts. They were the only two Yankees starters who did not get a hit.
- Girardi elected to use Swisher as the designated hitter, which moved Suzuki from left-field to right and Ibanez was inserted into left. It’s too bad because there is a good chance Suzuki would have been able to play Dirks’ double without it getting past him. But Girardi does have to rest his veterans sometimes. It just seems the ball finds the replacements too often.
- Jeter singled to lead off the fifth inning and was started with a 3-2 count on Swisher. But Swisher fanned and Jeter stopped between first and second and was tagged out trying to get back to first. The Yankees had a boatload of runners caught stealing in this series.
The Yankees will take their balls and bats and head to Toronto to open a weekend series with the reeling Blue Jays.
Right-hander Freddy Garcia (5-5, 5.00 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees.Garcia allowed two runs over five innings on Sunday in a victory over the Seattle Mariners. He is 7-8 with a 6.02 ERA in 18 career starts against the Blue Jays.
The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Ricky Romero (8-8, 5.47 ERA). Romero surrendered just one run on three hits and four walks in seven innings on Sunday in a no-decision against the Oakland Athletics. Romero is 3-5 with a 5.37 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 12, TIGERS 8
Sometimes a victory can be as majestic and beautiful as a priceless painting and sometimes they can look like a 5-year-old child’s refrigerator drawing. The New York Yankees victory on Wednesday at Comerica Park looked more like the latter to manager Joe Girardi but he will cherish it all the same.
Fueled by a home run and four RBIs from Curtis Granderson and with CC Sabathia on a the mound nursing a 7-0 cushion, New York ended up having to fight their rear ends off in the final three innings to gain a huge win over Detroit.
Sabathia (12-3) was coasting with a 7-1 lead in the sixth inning when the Tigers pushed across two runs on a one-out single by Jeff Baker. After the Yankees added a run in the top of the seventh on an Ichiro Suzuki infield single, the Tigers then used a fielding error by third baseman Casey McGehee in the seventh to score another run on a Prince Fielder groundout to pull within 8-4 when Sabathia was removed in favor of David Robertson.
Robertson then suffered through one of those “House of Horrors” moments coming in with two out and a runner on second base.
A Delmon Young grounder that was headed to Robinson Cano for what could have been the final out was cut off by first baseman Mark Teixeira and it rolled off his glove for a infield single. Pinch-hitter Andy Dirks was fooled so badly on a 1-1 pitch he swung late and rolled a single just inside the third base bag and into left to drive in a run.
Robertson then had Brennan Boesch in a 2-2 hole when he swung at a pitch off the plate and bounced it slowly to McGehee for a single that scored another run. Pinch-hitter Alex Avila then rolled another ball past third to bring the Tigers to within a run at 8-7 before Robertson retired Ramon Santiago to end the rally.
Because of the four-run frame, Sabathia was charged with five runs (three earned) on eight hits and a walk while he struck out seven over 6 2/3 innings. Robertson, though none of the four singles he gave up would have broken a pane of glass, was charged with three runs on five hits in one inning of relief.
The Yankees, however, had just about enough of the Tigers in the eighth and they jumped on former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke for a pair of one-out runs on a Teixeira RBI single and an RBI groundout off the bat of Eric Chavez, who is 7-for-12 (.583) in the series.
They added another pair of runs with two out in the ninth off Bryan Villarreal on a balk with Jayson Nix on third and an RBI single off the bat of Cano. Those two runs pretty much declawed the Tigers before the bottom of the inning as Rafael Soriano retired the side in order, striking out two, to give the Yankees the victory.
Granderson, who was dropped to the No. 6 spot in the batting order after going 0-for-10 with five strikeouts in the first two games of the series, slapped a two-out RBI single as part of a two-run first inning and he added a three-run home run in the third off Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez (6-9).
Sanchez and a vengeful Tigers manager Jim Leyland paid the price for their anger dearly in that third inning after Sanchez had hit Teixeira with a pitch in the first inning and Sabathia reciprocated by hitting Prince Fielder with a pitch in the bottom of the stanza.
With one out in the third Sanchez plunked Cano in the backside in what clearly was a purpose pitch. Home-plate umpire Tim Welke warned both benches against any further incidents. But Leyland may want to reconsider that strategy now since it worked to the detriment of his team.
Cano stole second and, one out later, Chavez drew a walk to set the stage for the former Tiger, Granderson. He launched a weak fluttering 0-1 change-up from Sanchez deep into the seats in right to give the Yankees a 5-0 lead.
The Yankees finally chased Sanchez in the fourth after an RBI single by Nick Swisher and Teixeira made it 7-0 on a sacrifice fly off reliever Duane Below.
Sanchez, who entered the game with a 3.99 ERA, was charged with seven runs on seven hits and two walks and struck out two in three-plus innings.
With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 64-46 and they remain 4 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Tigers fell to 60-51 and their 10-game home winning streak is, like Sanchez, history.
- Granderson has pretty much been a vexing problem this season. He goes into stretches where he swings at every off-speed pitch in the dirt and a foot outside. Then there are times he goes 3-for-5, including a double and a home run, he scores two runs and drives in four. Granderson has 30 home runs and 66 RBIs this season but he is hitting .244 and has struck out 136 times, the third most in the majors behind Adam Dunn and Carlos Pena.
- Chavez is making the most of his increased playing time in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. Since July 30, Chavez is 12-for-26 (.462) with three home runs and eight RBIs. On the season, Chavez is now hitting .284 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Alex who?
- Girardi might have panicked a bit by pulling Sabathia in the seventh in favor of Roberrson. Sabathia actually was pitching pretty well at that point and he had thrown only 94 pitches. But because the Yankees have struggled this month, Girardi made the move to Roberrtson and what happened to him was borderline unfair. But Sabathia has his 12th victory and he earned it.
- Girardi decided to use six-time Gold Glove winner Chavez as the designated hitter to “rest” him and the manager found out McGehee is a butcher in the field with no range. He brought Nix in to play third in the eighth inning but, by that time, the Tigers had clawed back into the game at 8-7 because of McGehee’s substandard play at third. I guess Girardi has learned a valuable lesson.
- Cano committed an error and Teixeira also misplayed a pair of grounders so the Yankee defense was somewhat lacking. With Chavez playing third, the Yankees have a combined total of 27 Gold Gloves including every member infield. They also were on a steak of 13 errorless games since July 24. However, they did not play that way on Wednesday.
- For some reason, Girardi also turned his players loose on the base-paths and two of them got picked off. Swisher got the green light after one-out walk and was picked off by Below. Cano and Teixeira followed with singles but the Yankees did not score that inning. An inning later, Suzuki took off too early with one out and ended up be being picked off by rookie left-hander Darin Downs. Those things hurt.
The Yankees will complete their four-game series against the Tigers on Thursday.
Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just one run on seven hits in 6 1/3 innings against the Seattle Mariners on Saturday but ended up a 1-0 loser to Felix Hernandez. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 3.46 ERA in limited action against the Tigers in his career.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister (6-7, 3.52 ERA). Fister threw a complete-game victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday. He is 1-2 with a 6.00 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
ORIOLES (SS) 6, YANKEES 3
Adam Jones connected for a three-run homer and Matt Wieters added a solo shot in the first inning off Ivan Nova as a Baltimore split squad powered their way past New York in a Grapefruit League game on Sunday night at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Alfredo Simon (1-0) pitched two innings, giving up one run on two hits and a walk, to get credit for the victory. However, it was a painful victory. Simon had to leave the game after two innings after re-aggravating a groin injury. Stu Pomeranz struck out the side in the ninth to earn a save.
Nova (0-2) regressed from his last start against the Red Sox, giving up five runs on seven hits in four innings of work despite striking out four. Nova did, however, retire seven of the last eight hitters he faced in the last 2 1/3 innings he pitched.
The Yankees, after winning three consecutive games to even their spring record, fell to 8-9. The Orioles improved to 6-7.
- Mark Teixeira doubled off Simon in the second inning and later scored on a Justin Maxwell groundout to push across the Yankees’ first run. Teixeira is beginning to show signs of coming around with the bat and his spring average is now at .238.
- Dewayne Wise and Jose Gil drove in a run apiece in the seventh inning off right-hander Jon Link. Link came on with one out in the inning and allowed a single to Bill Hall and walked Chris Dickerson. Hall scored on Wise’s double to left-center and Dickerson scored easily on Gil’s sacrifice fly. Wise was 2-for 2 with a walk, stole a base and drove in a run.
- Brett Gardner showed off his defensive skills in the second inning by hauling in a fly ball in center field off the bat of J.J. Hardy and firing the ball on the fly to Teixeira at first to double off the speedy Endy Chavez.
- Manager Joe Girardi was not pleased when Nova told reporters that the home runs Jones and Wieters hit came on a slider (to Jones) and a curve (to Wieters) that catcher Gustavo Molina called, but Nova did not have confidence in throwing. Girardi said what the pitcher throws is his decision because he holds the ball. Despite the hiccup on Sunday night and his 7.82 spring ERA, Nova is still pretty much assured a spot in the rotation.
- The Raul Ibanez saga continues. He was 0-for-3 on Sunday and he is now hitting a dreadful .065. Not only that, but his bat speed through the hitting zone looks slow and methodical rather than free and easy. With the money Ibanez is making, he is assured a spot on the roster and will open the season as the designated hitter. But his work this spring is reminiscent of the spring Randy Winn had two seasons ago. Winn ended up being released in May.
- The Yankees’ base-running was atrocious. Eduardo Nunez and Mason Williams were caught stealing by Wieters. Wise managed to steal a base but Wieters threw him out after he strayed too far off the bag. Also Hall nearly got passed on the base-paths by Dickerson when Hall mistakenly started back to second on Wise’s double.
All-Star reliever David Robertson pitched a pain-free bullpen session in Tampa, FL., and he hopes to be able to pitch in a spring game in about a week. Robertson has been sidelined since March 7 when he suffered a bone bruise on his right foot slipping on step at his home. . . . The injuries are piling up. This one can be blamed on another Oriole pitcher trying to “impress” by pitching inside without control. Last spring, Jeremy Guthrie seemed to be pitching to Yankee targets in the batter’s box. This season it is left-hander Troy Patton. Patton unleashed a 3-2 pitch right at Robinson Cano in the sixth inning and it struck the All-Star second baseman in the left hand. Cano left the game to have precautionary X-rays, which showed no broken bones. Girardi said Cano just has a contusion and some soreness. Cano is listed as day-to-day. To add insult to the injury, first base umpire Tim Welke incorrectly ruled Cano swung at the pitch and he was called out. Television replays showed Cano never actually brought the bat forward to swing. . . . Girardi all but ruled out that the team would go to a six-man rotation to accommodate 39-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte. The Yankees will allow Pettitte to get in game shape for about seven weeks but it is unclear what role Pettitte will assume when he is ready.
Good news for Ibanez and Cano, the Yankees do not have a game scheduled on Monday. Cano can ice his sore left hand and Ibanez can see if he can hit a ball in the cage. The Yankees will resume their spring schedule on Tuesday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates at George M. Steinbrenner Field.
Right-hander Michael Pineda is scheduled to make his fourth start for the Yankees. In addition, walking wounded Russell Martin (groin), Nick Swisher (groin) and Derek Jeter (calf) are scheduled to return to the lineup.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be shown nationally by the MLB Network on tape delay and locally via a live broadcast by the YES Network.