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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.