Tagged: Zack Greinke

Icons Jeter, Soriano Spark Yanks’ Walk-Off Victory

GAME 105

YANKEES 6, RAYS 5

On a day that the Yankees paid tribute to retired icon Hideki Matsui, two of his former teammates provided some spark to what has been a listless offense to deliver a dramatic walk-off victory.

Derek Jeter came of the disabled list for the second time this season to swat the first pitch he saw for his first home run of the season and Alfonso Soriano, playing in only his third game back in pinstripes, was 4-for-5 with a two-run homer and a game-winning RBI single in the ninth as New York salvaged one of three games against Tampa Bay on Sunday.

Jeter strode to the plate in the first inning with most of the paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,714 on their feet and  –  just about the time they sat down  –  the Yankee captain launched a high fastball from Rays left-hander Matt Moore into the first row of the bleachers over the auxiliary scoreboard in right-center to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

The fans remained standing until their All-Star shortstop took a trip back up the dugout steps for a curtain call. It was not so much what Jeter had just done but a feeling from the fans that this team that has suffered so much turmoil from injuries was on the way back to respectability.

It set the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

The Yankees added two more runs in the first inning off Moore, who started the day tied for the American League lead with 14 victories.

Robinson Cano reached on an infield single that caromed off the glove of Moore and Soriano rolled a single that shortstop Yunel Escobar kicked into center-field to allow Cano to reach third.

Vernon Wells scored Cano with a sacrifice fly to center and  –  after a wild pitch allowed Soriano to move up to second  –  Ichiro Suzuki scored him with a lined single to center as part of a day in which Suzuki was 4-for-4.

Unfortunately, Yankees right-hander Phil Hughes was not able to hold the 3–0 lead he was handed.

The Rays scored a single run in the second inning when Kelly Johnson lashed a one-out RBI double to score Wil Myers.

The following frame Hughes allowed a pair of one-out singles to Evan Longoria and James Loney and Myers followed with a three-run blast to left-field that gave the Rays a 4-3 lead.

But Jeter and Soriano answered in the bottom of the third.

Jeter led off the frame with a single just over the glove of Johnson at second base and Soriano, one out later, blasted a ball just over the glove of Myers in right-field that landed in the bleachers in the short porch in right to give the Yankees a 5-4 lead.

Hughes, however, was not able to hold that lead either.

Myers led off the fifth with an opposite-field home run into the short porch for the rookie outfielder’s first multiple homer game of his career.

The game remained tied after both Moore and Hughes left the game.

Moore, who entered the game having won all six of his previous starts, gave up five runs on eight hits and no walks while he struck out three in five innings. Moore also uncharacteristically uncorked two wild pitches and was called for a balk just before Soriano homered.

Hughes also yielded five runs on nine hits and two walks and he fanned four in 4-plus innings.

But the Yankees’ bullpen corps of Preston Claiborne, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera held the Rays to just one hit and did not issue a walk over the final five innings. Rivera (2-2) pitched a perfect ninth inning to get credit for the victory.

The Yankees opened the ninth facing  Jake McGee (2-3) and the left-hander missed high on a 3-2 pitch to Brett Gardner to start off the frame. With Jeter squared around to bunt, McGee tossed the Rays’ third wild pitch of the day to allow Gardner to reach second. It ended up being extremely costly.

Rays manager Joe Maddon then opted to walk Jeter intentionally to bring up the lefty-swinging Cano and to set up a potential double play.

But Cano struck out and Soriano followed by bouncing the first pitch from McGee to the left of Escobar of shortstop and on into center-field to score Gardner with the game-winner.

Soriano finished the game with a homer, three singles, two runs scored and three RBIs.

Jeter was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single, a walk, an RBI and two runs scored.

Jeter’s home run was the Yankees’ first home run sine the All-Star break and the first home run from a right-handed batter since June 21. Soriano added the second right-handed homer two innings later.

With the victory the Yankees improved to 55-50 and they are 7 1/2 games out in fourth place in the American League East. The Rays dropped to 62-43 and they surrendered first place back to the Boston Red Sox.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • What a difference Jeter made in his first game off the disabled list. Having Jeter’s right-handed bat in the second spot in the order allows manager Joe Girardi to break up the stack of five or six left-handed batters at the top of the lineup. Jeter has always had a flair for the dramatic but his home run in the first inning spoke volumes about how the Yankees suffered after opening the season 30-18 and then recording a 24-32 mark through Sunday. Perhaps a new day is dawning and the Yankees, behind their captain, may be righting the ship.
  • Soriano has always been a popular player with Yankee fans and they have not forgotten him after 10 years. The Yankees acquired him for his power from the right side and to provide protection for Cano in the cleanup spot. If his 4-for-5 day is any indication, he will do both. He is doing what Wells did before May 15 and he has not homered since. Soriano is going to be a very important player for the Yankees for the rest of the season.
  • Jeter’s presence allowed Girardi to slide Suzuki down to the No. 6 spot in the order and he responded with four singles and a big two-out RBI in the first inning. After going 0-for-7 in the first two games of the series, Suzuki’s perfect day raised his season average to .279.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Hughes’ start was very disappointing because in his previous five starts, Hughes had a 2.53 ERA, even though was 1-3 over that stretch dating back to June 27. Hughes is nothing if not vexing as a starter. He is a flyball pitcher in a ballpark ill-suited for them and most of his success in the major leagues has come as a reliever. I wish the Yankees would realize that and put him back there before they make a mistake by allowing him to walk as a free agent after this season.
  • Though the Yankees field a great lineup one through six now, the seven, eight and nine spots still are an issue. Brett Lillibridge (seven), David Adams (eight) and Chris Stewart (nine) were a combined 0-for-11 with three strikeouts and just one ball hit of the infield. It will be nice to have Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez back in the lineup.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees actually offered Matsui a one-day contract with the team on Sunday so that he could retire officially as a Yankee. In a pregame ceremony,  Jeter and the Yankees presented the former outfielder with a framed jersey sporting his number 55. Matsui, fondly nicknamed “Godzilla” in his native country, came over from Japan to play nine seasons with the Yankees and he hit .292 with 140 home runs and 597 RBIs  during that span. He also was named the Most Valuable Player in the Yankees’ victory in the 2009 World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. The Yankees also marked the occasion by handing out Matsui bobblehead figures to the first 18,000 fans who entered the stadium.  . . .  After activating Jeter on Sunday the Yankees plan to activate infielder Jayson Nix on Tuesday. Nix, 30, has been on the disabled list for 3 1/2 weeks with a hamstring strain.  Adams was optioned back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after Sunday’s game to make room for Nix on the roster.  . . .  After Granderson was 0-for-4 as a designated hitter with Class-A Tampa on Sunday, Girardi said the veteran outfielder will move up to Double-A Trenton on Tuesday. Girardi also said Granderson could be activated on Saturday when the Yankees are in San Diego to play the Padres. Granderson has been sidelined twice this season with a broken bone in his left arm and a broken left pinkie finger as a result of being hit by pitches.

ON DECK

The Yankee will have Monday off before they open a West Coast road trip with a three-game series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (7-7, 4.39) will open the series for the Yankees. Pettitte, 41, allowed just two runs on hits over six innings on Wednesday against the Texas Rangers but still took his second straight loss. He is 2-0 with a 3.94 ERA in his career against the Dodgers.

Right-hander Zack Greinke (8-3, 3.49 ERA) will start for the Dodgers. Greinke allowed four runs on six hits in seven innings in a loss to the Cincinnati Reds on Thursday. Greinke is 2-4 with a 6.45 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 10:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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Swish, Tex Drive In 4 As Brewers Flop In Big Apple

GAME 77 

YANKEES 12, BREWERS 2

The Milwaukee Brewers came to New York as a first-place off-Broadway success story. After the thorough thrashing they took from the Yankees in the Bronx on Tuesday night, they might want to retool before the second show.

Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira each homered and drove in four runs while Freddy Garcia pitched two-run baseball over six innings as New York tagged Zack Greinke and Milwaukee early and often for their 13th win in their last 17 games.

Greinke (7-3), who spurned a potential trade to the Yankees because he was unsure he could handle the media and fan spotlight, looked as if he wished he was pitching elsewhere instead of in front of a Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,575. But his teammates did him no favors either with a series of mistakes that led to the Yankees chasing the right-hander with seven runs in only two innings. It was Greinke’s shortest outing since April 16, 2007.

It also was the first time in 180 starts in which Greinke did not record a strikeout.

It all began going downhill for Greinke on his second delivery when he hit Brett Gardner with a pitch. Curtis Granderson then lofted a routine fly ball to center-field but Nyjer Morgan slipped on the turf and the ball fell harmlessly to his right for an RBI triple that scored Gardner. Teixeira plated Granderson on an infield grounder to make 2-0.

Though Greinke escaped the first without giving up another run, he gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez, a walk to Nick Swisher and, for some reason, when Posada grounded a ball to third baseman Casey McGehee, McGehee elected to try to tag Rodriguez at third rather than throw out a slow-running Posada at first.

McGehee missed the tag and the bases were loaded. But Greinke was able to get Russell Martin to fly out to end the inning and it cost him 27 pitches.

But the second inning would be even worse for Greinke. Eduardo Nunez opened the frame with a single and Gardner drew a walk. After one out, Nunez and Granderson executed a double-steal and Nunez scored on another Teixeira groundout. Rodriguez walked and Cano laced a single to center to score Gardner from third. Swisher then made the game a laugher by blasting a 2-0 Greinke fastball into the right-center-field bleachers for his 10th home run of the season.

The line on Greinke: Two innings, five hits, seven runs, all earned, two walks, no strikeouts and a hit batter. He threw 56 pitches.

Meanwhile, Garcia was keeping the power-laden Brewers off-balance with his off-speed stuff. Though Garcia gave up an RBI single to Mat Gamel and a sacrifice fly RBI by Yuniesky Betancourt in the fourth, Garcia (7-6) ended up with his 10th quality start out of his 14 starts this season.

Teixeira added to the rout by hitting his 24th home run of the season in the sixth inning off reliever Marco Estrada. It was the third consecutive game in which Teixeira has homered and he is now tied with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays for the major league lead.

The victory was not only sweet because it put the Yankees at a season-high 15 games over .500 at 46-31. It also was sweet because erstwhile Yankee demon Cliff Lee outdueled and shut out Josh Beckett and the Boston Red Sox 5-0. That means the Yankees now lead the flagging Red Sox by 1 1/2 games in the American League East. The Brewers record is now 44-36.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher added an RBI double in the eighth inning and was 2-for-4 with a walk in the game. Swisher, who began June hitting .213, has now raised his average to .249. He has hit .325 with seven home runs and 22 RBIs this month. Swisher also had a dazzling game in field with two outfield assists and two plays where he cut potential doubles into singles with sliding stops. Swisher threw home attempting to nail Corey Hart in the fourth inning on Betancourt’s sac fly. Hart scored easily but Martin completed a double play by throwing out Gamel trying to take second on the throw. In the sixth, Swisher fielded another single by Gamel but threw out Hart on a perfect one-hop throw to Martin.
  • Teixeira’s power output over the past three games has been amazing. Tex is 4-for-13 (307) with three home runs and seven RBIs in that span and he has eight home runs and 24 RBIs for the month. However, Teixeira is only hitting .221 in June. When Teixeira signed with the Yankees before the 2009 season, he had only one season in which he had less than .281 (He hit .259 in his rookie season). However, in 2010 Teixeira hit .256 and this season he his hitting .246.
  • It is going to be tough for the Yankees to decide what they are going to do when Phil Hughes returns to the rotation. Garcia and Ivan Nova are making it hard on manager Joe Girardi. Garcia went a solid six innings and threw only 76 pitches, 49 for strikes. He gave up two runs on eight hits, no walks and he fanned one. Garcia lowered his ERA to 3.28, which is third best among the starters. Bartolo Colon leads the team with a 3.10 ERA and CC Sabathia is next at 3.25.
  • Rodriguez quietly had another very good game. He reached base in three of his four plate appearances and was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, a walk and two runs scored. Rodriguez singled in first inning to where normally a second baseman would play. The Brewers employed an odd shift that had second baseman Rickie Weeks playing to the right of second base. No other team has employed that shift against Rodriguez because when Rodriguez is hitting well he hits a lot of balls to right-center.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There was nothing that could be termed negative in this game. Pitching, defense and timely hitting were all there. The Yankees look like an elite club now.

BOMBER BANTER

Colon pitched an exceptional 60-pitch simulated game on Monday that has the Yankees thinking he could start this weekend in the Subway Series at Citi Field. Colon has been on the 15-day disabled list since June 11 with a mild left hamstring strain. Colon took part in bunting drills on Tuesday in Tampa, FL, an indication the Yankees may be considering activating him. Colon will re-evaluated in by the training staff in New York on Wednesday and a decision will be made then. If Colon is unable to pitch this weekend, Brian Gordon will start for him for the third time.  . . .  The Yankees other man in Tampa, Derek Jeter, also made some progress on Tuesday. Jeter, on the DL since June 14 with a right calf strain, took part in batting practice, fielded grounders and ran the bases for the first time. But Jeter only ran at about 50 percent. Jeter likely will have a two-game rehab assignment when he is able to run 100 percent over several days.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win their three-game series with the Brewers on Wednesday.

They will start right-hander A.J. Burnett (7-6, 4.15 ERA). Burnett remains the most vexing pitcher the Yankees have ever had. He became the first pitcher in Yankees’ history to strike out four batters in an inning but he gave up four runs and lost to the Colorado Rockies in his last start. Though he has a 3.26 ERA in his last three starts, he is 1-2. He is 1-2 with a 6.39 ERA lifetime against the Brewers.

For the second straight game, the Brewers will start a right-hander who pitched in the American League and knows the Yankees well. Shaun Marcum (7-2, 2.95 ERA) lasted just three innings in his first start after recovering from a left hip flexor injury. He is 1-4 with a 6.55 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be at 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

In Wake Of Late Slide Yankees Ready For 2011 Arms Race

The 2010 Yankees season ended abruptly in Arlington, TX, with a starting pitching staff left in tatters and there will be work to do on it before the 2011 season begins.
At least one big mystery has been solved. Those of you wondering why CC Sabathia was not his usual self in the playoffs can blame a meniscus tear in his right knee, which was repaired on Friday.
Sabathia’s 21-7 record an 3.18 ERA may be worthy of his second Cy Young Award and he did not lose any of his three postseason starts. However, he allowed 10 earned runs and 22 hits in 16 innings and he did not look anything like the shutdown ace he has been for the Yankees the past two seasons.
Behind Sabathia it is no secret the Yankees would like to add a quality starter and Texas left-hander Cliff Lee will be at the top of the shopping list this winter. The Yankees can pretty much open the vault to bid for his services.
The question is: Will Lee sign?
Having his old Indians’ pal Sabathia will be a great help in getting Lee on board if the money is right.
The Yankees also would love to have Andy Pettitte come back. It was his groin injury, suffered on July 18 against the Rays, that exposed the weak underbelly of the Yankees rotation the rest of the season.
Though Pettitte was able to return in late September and though he pitched the best of all of the starters in the postseason, the starting pitching staff collapsed down the stretch and cost the Yankees the American League East title.
But the Yankees would love to have Pettitte back simply because he pitched his best baseball in years when he was healthy. At the time of his injury, Pettitte was 11-2 with a 2.88 ERA and he made the All-Star team.
The question is will Andy give it one more go at age 38? The Yankees hope the answer is yes.
Phil Hughes, 24, emerged as a potential ace for the future. Winning the No. 5 spot in spring training, Hughes was 18-8 with a 4.19 ERA. But it hardly was as easy as it looked. Hughes was 11-2 with a 3.65 ERA and made the All-Star team in the first half.
However, he was only 7-6 with a 4.90 ERA in the second half. He also pitched poorly in both of his starts in the American League Championship Series. Hughes was bolstered by great run support. He led all major-league pitchers with 7.45 runs per nine innings.
Hughes needs to develop a swing-and-miss pitch that will keep opposing hitters from fouling off his good fastball and running up his pitch counts. But the Yankees still believe that Hughes can become an excellent pitcher now that he will be able to pitch without any restrictions on his innings pitched.
If the Yankees can look to any players that may have cost them a championship season, look no further than Exhibit A: A.J. Burnett and Exhibit B: Javier Vazquez.
Burnett was 18-10 with a 4.07 ERA with the Blue Jays in 2008, which earned him a rich four-year deal with the Yankees. In 2009, Burnett was 13-9 with a 4.04 ERA and he was coming off a strong showing in the postseason.
But 2010 was anything but strong. Burnett has always been a poster child for inconsistency but the Yankees were shocked by how bad Burnett was in 2010.
He was 7-2 with a 3.28 ERA in the first two months. In July, he was 3-1 with a 2.00 ERA. But in the other months, Burnett was 1-12 with a 7.85 ERA. No amount of offense can overcome pitching that bad.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they are stuck with Burnett and his huge contract for two more seasons. The Yankees can only hope that pitching coach Dave Eiland can find him a consistent release point in his delivery and shorten the lengths of inconsistency.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Vazquez is a goner. Much like Burnett, Vazquez would pitch poorly for a while, then rebound, only to pitch poorly again. He was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and he spent most of late August and September in the bullpen.
Vazquez, 34, lost zip on his fastball and his breaking stuff was just too easy for hitters to crush. So the Yankees are not going to bring him back in 2011.
Though Vazquez was a disappointment after his 15-10 season in 2009 with the Braves, Brian Cashman must take the blame for this deal. Vazquez and left-hander Boone Logan came over from the Braves and the Yankees shipped Melky Cabrera and promising left-hand reliever Michael Dunn to the Braves.
The Yankees passed on free agent John Lackey, allowing the right-hander to sign with the Red Sox. Lackey was 14-11 with a 4.40 ERA. Somehow the difference between the salary Lackey earned and the money paid to Vazquez does not seem so great when kept in context of how Vazquez was a major reason the 2010 Yankees did not advance to the World Series.
The Yankees do have some hope on the horizon in 23-year-old Ivan Nova. Nova was summoned as a replacement starter in late August and was 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in seven starts. The only question for Nova is if his stuff can translate into getting through a batting order three times as a starter.
If the answer is no, Nova could be a candidate for short relief because the Yankees love his composure and competitiveness on the mound. His poise really impressed manager Joe Girardi.
The Yankees also have a contingency plan if Lee somehow escapes them. They may be able to convince the Kansas City Royals to trade Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke. The 27-year-old right-hander might be on the market if the Royals can get some prospects to rebuild their team for him.
Of course, the asking price might include catcher Jesus Montero, Nova and reliever Joba Chamberlain. But if the Yankees believe Greinke can get them back to the World Series they may be willing to make the deal.
Greinke is coming off a bad season. He was 10-14 with a 4.17 ERA. But there is no doubt he would benefit greatly from the Yankees’ offense because the Royals were unable to support him with many runs in the past two seasons.
It would appear that Cashman will be on the hot seat again this winter. His job is repair this rotation with the best arms he can find. 
The Yankees’ hopes for 2011 pretty much hang in the balance.