June 2009

Rivera Notches First RBI, 500th Save


A Hollywood script writer could not have come up with anything better for how Mariano Rivera’s 500th save should play out. Heck, if the writer had turned this script in it would have been rejected as too implausible.
But there it was Sunday night at Citi Field. Rivera earned his 500th save on the same night he picked up his first major-league RBI. He needs only 2,297 more to pass Hank Aaron on the all-time RBI list.
Aaron’s RBI mark may be safe but Rivera now holds claim as only the second pitcher in major-league history to reach 500 saves. (Trevor Hoffman of Milwaukee has 571 saves). But his journey to 500 was a lot of fun for the New York Yankees, who beat the crosstown rival Mets 4-2 to sweep the road portion of the Subway Series.
They also won five of the six games against the Mets to win the season series for the first time since 2003. They also won their fifth straight game.
Simply put, the Yankees won tonight in cakewalk. Or better yet, a walk. They received 11 free passes from a generous Mets pitching staff. Shoddy Mets defense and walks proved to the difference in the game. Considering the Yankees collected only four hits, the misplays and walks managed to prolong innings and give the Yankees lots of chances to score.
The Yankees actually looked like they were ready to beat the Mets and Livian Hernandez (5-3) right out of the gate. Derek Jeter opened the game with a double. Nick Swisher then grounded a one-hopper to Mets first baseman Daniel Murphy.
Murphy chose to try to nail Jeter sliding into third, but he double-clutched on the throw and Jeter was called safe. Meanwhile, Swisher reached also. To add to Murphy’s misery, Mark Teixeira slapped a double to the opposite field in left to score both runners. 
Hernandez walked Alex Rodriguez to set up a double play and he managed to get it off the bat of Robinson Cano to Luis Castillo. However, Murphy was unable to handle the return throw from shortstop Alex Cora and Cano was safe.
Jorge Posada then made the Mets pay for their poor fielding by hitting a fly ball to center to score Teixeira from third.
Little did the Yankees know, but they would not score another run until the ninth inning.
Hernandez pitched a perfect second and third innings and then was the beneficiary of three double plays in the fourth, fifth and sixth innings. Two of those double plays were recorded by Cano.
Hernandez got Cano to hit into his second double play (it could have been his third if the Murphy had fielded the throw cleanly) after walking the bases loaded. Hernandez then pitched a perfect seventh inning and departed after giving up just three hits but he walked five and struck out one. 
“Livan hung in there, because we had him on the ropes early,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi told MLB.com. “We did take advantage of some of their mistakes, but that’s what good teams do. You have to be able to do that to win games.”
Yankees starter Chien-Ming Wang (1-6) perhaps pitched his best game of the season despite some shaky moments. He went 5 1/3 innings, gave up four hits, three walks and two runs. He struck out four batters.
“I tried to keep the ball down and the sinker didn’t go flat,” Wang said to MLB.com. “I waited too long [for this win].”
Both runs off Wang came in the fourth inning. A leadoff walk to Gary Sheffield led to Wang’s undoing. One out later 20-year-old rookie Fernando Martinez slapped an opposite field double to score Sheffield. 
After another out, Castillo slapped an opposite field single to left to score Martinez. The Mets, who had scored only one run in their previous 21 innings against the Yankees were justifiably ready to break out champagne.
However, the game stayed 3-2 until the ninth inning. 
Yankees relievers Phil Coke and Phil Hughes rescued Wang in the sixth after a Sheffield single and a Fernando Tatis sacrifice had Sheffield in scoring position with one out. But Coke struck out Martinez and Hughes induced pinch-hitter Omir Santos to fly out on the first pitch.
Hughes also pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
Mets relievers, meanwhile, gave the Yankees a chance to blow the game wide open in the eighth inning. Pedro Feliciano walked Jeter and then walked Teixeira with one out. Righthander Sean Green was summoned to face A-Rod but he walked him on an inside slider on a 3-2 count.
But Cano bailed out the Mets once more by grounding out to Castillo to leave the bases loaded and end the threat. Cano was 0-4 and was responsible for six outs and left nine runners on base. 
Brian Bruney, summoned from the bullpen to hold the Mets in the eighth, struggled with his command for the second straight game. He walked two of the first three batters he faced before striking out Martinez.
Girardi then summoned Rivera for a four-out save opportunity, the 65th of his career. It also set in motion a bizarre top of the ninth. Rivera was placed in the second spot in the batting order but was scheduled to bat sixth. So Girardi had no idea after Rivera struck out Santos looking in the eighth that Rivera would figure so prominently in the top of the ninth.
Mets closer Francisco Rodriguez was called to keep the Yankees lead at 3-2. But he failed miserably.
Mets defensive high-jinks again played a part when Posada lofted an easy pop up in shallow center. Both Cora and Castillo ran to the ball but stopped. It fell in between them for a single. After Melky Cabrera erased Posada at second with a fielder’s choice grounder and he stole second base, K-Rod walked Brett Gardner.
After Johnny Damon lined out to right, Girardi decided to play some cat-and-mouse with Mets manager Jerry Manuel and K-Rod. He sent Francisco Cervelli to the on-deck circle as Rivera stayed in the dugout and Jeter batted. 
The ploy was to try to keep the Mets from walking Jeter intentionally. K-Rod even played into the Yankees hands by pitching to Jeter and throwing a strike on the first pitch. But after K-Rod threw two straight pitches well out of the strike zone he eventually was directed by Manuel to walk Jeter on purpose to load the bases.
Up to the plate strode Rivera, who has only two career major-league at-bats — one of them came on Wednesday against the Atlanta Braves. Rivera lined out to centerfield with the bases loaded.
Rodriguez immediately threw two balls to his fellow closer but came back to even the count at 2. After Rivera fouled off a fastball, Rodriguez missed high to run the count full. With 41,315 fans on their feet, K-Rod missed high and inside to walk Rivera and Cabrera scored the Yankees elusive insurance run.
Rivera told MLB.com: “The RBI is the best. It was my first RBI. It was my 500th save.”
“It really wasn’t funny, because it was a big point in the game,” Jeter told MLB.com. “But that was a big at-bat, to get that extra run for him. It means a lot.”
Despite giving up a bloop two-out single to Jeremy Reed Rivera ended the evening in the bottom of the ninth by placing a cutter in on the hands of Alex Cora, who rolled out weakly to Cano. And the celebration of the Yankees legendary closer began in earnest.
The Yankee victory coupled with the Boston Red Sox 2-1 loss to the Atlanta Braves means the Yankees have moved to within three games of first place in the American League East. The Tampa Bay Rays are two games behind the Yankees in third place.
The Yankees will have Monday off to prepare for the Seattle Mariners, who come to the new Yankee Stadium to begin a three-game set on Tuesday. Brandon Morrow (0-3, 3.54 ERA) is scheduled to face Joba Chamberlain (4-2, 3.81 ERA).
Gametime for the Tuesday game is 7:05 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Wang’s victory was his first since June 15 last season. It was the same game he sparined his foot and was forced to miss the rest of the season . . . Jeter returned to the lineup after missing two games with the flu . . . Damon, who also has a case of the flu, did not start but entered the game to play leftfield in the sixth inning as part of a double switch . . . The Yankees ended their sweep of the Mets with some impressive pitching numbers. The Yankees gave up only three runs on nine hits, they walked nine and struck out 27. That is an ERA of 1.00 and a WHIP of 0.67. Any walks-to-innings-pitched ratio below 1.00 is considered outstanding.

Burnett Extends Mastery Over Mets


After Saturday night’s game it would not have been too odd to see the Mets wave a white flag at A.J. Burnett. After two appearances the Yankees righthander can boast a 2-0 record with a run margin of 20-0.
Burnett (6-4) was even better than he was June 14 in beating Johan Santana 15-0. On Saturday he gave up only one hit and three walks in seven innings and he fanned a season-high 10 batters.
In his two games against the Yankees crosstown rivals he has pitched 14 innings of shutout baseball, giving up just five hits and seven walks and recording 18 strikeouts.
The victory at Citi Field also gave the Yankees four victories in five games against the Mets and they clinched the season Subway Series for the first time since 2003.
Burnett set the tone early by not giving up a hit in the first five innings. His only blemishes were walks to Gary Sheffield and Jeremy Reed in the second inning. Burnett was so dominant that he seemed poised to pitch his second career no-hitter.
Leftfielder Melky Cabrera, filling in for an ill Johnny Damon, aided Burnett’s no-hit cause with two great catches off the bat of Daniel Murphy. The second play in the fifth inning was a leaping over the shoulder grab just shy of the warning track.
But the Mets Alex Cora, leading off the sixth inning, took a hanging 0-1 curveball and smacked it into centerfield for a clean single to break up Burnett’s bid for another no-hitter. Cora had been hitless against Burnett in 22 career at-bats.
The Yankees offense actually was stymied early by Tim Redding (1-3). But Nick Swisher, batting lefthanded, did manage to hit a one-out solo opposite field home run off Redding to stake the Yankees to a 1-0 lead.
But Redding regrouped and retired nine batters in a row until Mark Teixeira reached him for a double off the wall in center sixth inning. The Yankees then quickly put an end to Redding’s night with three consecutive hits on three consecutive pitches.
Alex Rodriguez drove in Teixeira with a hot smash up the middle. Robinson Cano then lifted a fly ball to leftfield that Garfy Sheffield gave up on but the ball landed in fair territory for a double. Rodriguez, unsure whether Sheffield would catch the ball, was unable to score and stopped at third.
But A-Rod’s baserunning caution became a moot point when Jorge Posada, batting lefthanded, chased Redding from the game with an opposite field home run to left to make it 5-0 for the Bronx Bombers.
In 5 1/3 innings, Redding gave up 5 earned runs on 6 hits and two walks. He did strike out six batters.
Burnett and two Yankee relievers took it from there. Brian Bruney pitched a perfect eighth inning and David Robertson did the same in the ninth as the Yankees coasted to their fourth straight victory.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, they were unable to gain ground on the Boston Red Sox, who are in first place in the American East. The Red Sox beat the Atlanta Braves 1-0 to remain four games up on their rival Yankees.
But the Yankees did gain another game on third-place Toronto. The Blue Jays were hammered 10-0 by the defending World Champion Philadelphia Phillies. They now have fallen back to two games behind the Yankees.
The Yankees will go for a rare road sweep of the Mets with righthander Chien-Ming Wang (0-6, 11.20 ERA) scheduled to pitch against mets veteran righty Livian Hernandez (5-2, 4.05 ERA). 
Wang has not faced the Mets this season but has a 1-1 record against them lifetime. Hernandez, meanwhile, is 0-3 with a 6.94 ERA lifetime against the Yankees. He got a no decision against the Yankees June 12 after allowing six runs on seven hits in 5 1/3 innings. The Yankees eventually won the game 9-8 at Yankee Stadium.
Gametime is 8:05 p.m. EDT and the contest will be televised nationally by ESPN.
NOTES .  .  . Derek Jeter missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms. Damon and Phil Hughes also have the illness and did not play . . . Burnett pitched Saturday night after serving a five-game suspension for an incident that occurred against the Texas Rangers on June 2. Burnett uncorked a pitch that just missed hitting Nelson Cruz in the head after two Yankees had been hit by pitches from Vicente Padilla. Major League Baseball suspended Burnett originally for six games but later reduced the penalty to five games in return for Burnett dropping his appeal. However, Burnett and the Yankees pitching staff was not inconvenienced at all. An off-day Monday allowed CC Sabathia to pitch on his regular rest Friday night and Burnett pitched Saturday on six days rest. Wang will pitch Sunday on his usual four days rest . . . Former Yankees infielder Andy Phillips has signed a contract to play baseball in Japan.

CC Shows Teammates, Mets He’s Just Fine


Manager Joe Girardi was nervous about CC Sabathia before his start against the New York Mets on Friday night.
But it did not take him long to relax as Sabathia baffled the Mets for seven strong innings and he even added a run-scoring single as the New York Yankees routed their injury-depleted crosstown rivals 9-1 in the first Subway Series game to be played at Citi Field.
Sabathia had lasted only 1 1/3 innings and 28 pitches in his last outing against the Florida Marlins before Jorge Posada insisted their was something wrong with the ace lefty. Sabathia admitted to Girardi that he had some tendinitis in left bicep and Girardi was unsure how Sabathia would pitch on Friday.
He need not have worried a bit.
Sabathia threw four perfect innings at the Mets and only faltered in the fifth inning. He gave up a leadoff home run to former Yankee Gary Sheffield and singles to Fernando Tatis and rookie Nick Evans before ending the threat with strikeouts of Omir Santos and pinch-hitter Argenis Reyes.
The Mets did not get a hit the rest of the evening.
Sabathia (8-4) went seven innings, giving up just the three hits, no walks and struck out eight batters. Veteran righthander Brett Tomko pitched a pair of scoreless and hitless innings to finish the game.
“You never want to come out of the game or miss a start and put that kind of stress on the bullpen, but I definitely felt a lot better today,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “The ball was coming out free and easy, so I have to say it was kind of like a blessing in disguise.”

The Yankees also are riding a wave of offense that has seen the team score 28 runs in their last three games following a stretch where the team scored just 18 runs in the previous seven games, two of those games they were shut out.
On Friday their victim was Mike Pelfrey (5-3). However, Pelfrey was also done in by some really shaky defense that helped contribute to a four-run Yankees outburst in the second inning. Only two of the runs were earned.
Melky Cabrera opened the inning with a swinging bunt that sent a ball bounding slowly towards third, David Wright fielded the ball but threw the ball past Evans at first, allowing Cabrera to advance to second. 
After one out, Ramiro Pena, subbing for an ill Derek Jeter, flicked a double down the leftfield line to score Cabrera. Sabathia, in his first at-bat of the season, then sent the first pitch he saw up the middle for a single to score Pena.
But the Mets, who have been plagued all season by injuries to starters such as Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado, were not finished playing hot potato with the baseball. Shortstop Alex Cora threw the ball past second baseman Luis Castillo on a force attempt that scored Sabathia.
Evans then inexplicably kicked an easy grounder off the bat of Mark Teixeira that allowed Brett Gardner to score, giving Sabathia an easy cushion the rest of the way.
Pelfrey did manage to settle down after the second inning to retire 11 of the next 12 batters he faced. But manager Jerry Manuel was forced to pinch-hit for him in the fifth inning and the Yankees took out the lumber to a very shaky Mets bullpen in the final two innings.
Gardner, who ended the game with a career-best five hits, three runs scored and two RBI, started the inning that put the Mets away for good with a home run off Elmer Dessens down the right field line, his third homer of the season.
Following a one-out walk to Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez drove the first Dessens offering into right-center for a two-run home run, the 564th of his career to pass former Yankee legend Reggie Jackson — who was at the game — for 11th place on the all-time home run list.

“It’s nice — it feels good,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “And the fact that he’s here is also very nice. It’s good to win another game and play like we expect.”

The Yankees added two runs in the ninth off Mets lefty Sean Green with an RBI triple from Gardner and single from Johnny Damon to score Gardner with Yankees ninth run of the night.
“I just got lucky the first couple at-bats, got some balls to fall in,” Gardner told MLB.com. “Then I managed to take advantage of some pitches to hit later in the game.”

The Yankees managed to keep pace with the Boston Red Sox in the American League East. The victory kept them four games behind Boston, who also won on Friday. The Blue Jays also won to stay 1 game in back of the Yankees in third place in the division.
The Yankees have now won three of four games in the Subway Series and they will need only a victory on Saturday or Sunday to claim their first season series win over the Mets since 2003. To help accomplish that feat the Yankees will send righty A.J. Burnett (5-4, 4.24 ERA) to the mound on Saturday.
Burnett pitched well in his last outing against the Florida Marlins, allowing just one in 6 1/3 innings and he struck out eight batters, but he lost the game to Josh Johnson by a 2-1 score. He shut out the Mets over seven innings in a 15-0 drubbing on June 14.
Burnett’s opponent will be Tim Redding (1-2, 6.08 ERA), who pitched into the eighth inning his last time out to earn his first victory of the season. 
Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Jeter missed his first career contest versus the Mets on what was also his 35th birthday. Jeter was afflicted with a hacking cough as part of the same flu bug that shelved Melky Cabrera on Thursday night. Jeter is listed as questionable for Saturday’s game also . . . In addition to Jeter, the Yankees also were not playing with starters Jorge Posads and Nick Swisher. Posada was just given the night off so that catcher Francisco Cervelli could work with Sabathia. Swisher was just held out in order to let Gardner start and bat leadoff in place of Jeter. Swisher did enter the game in the ninth inning at first base to replace Teixeira . . . It is bad news for outfielder Xavier Nady, who was on a rehab assignment at Scranton-Wilkes Barre for a slight tear in a ligament in his right elbow. Nady felt pain while making a throw Thursday night and walked off the field
in the fifth inning. It appears Nady is headed for Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and he is likely to miss 12 months. The outfielder, acquired from Pittsburgh last July, has been sidelined since hurting the elbow on April 14 at Tampa Bay. He is scheduled to be re-examined on Tuesday by Dr. Lewis Yokum in Los Angeles. His contract with the Yankees expires at the end of the season . . . Gardner’s career-best five hits raised his average from .281 to .302. He is leading all American League rookies in stolen bases with 17 though his is not considered a starter.

A-Rod, Yankees Have Lowe Down on Braves


Alex Rodriguez did not look like he needed any rest Thursday night.
But if it were up Braves manager Bobby Cox and starting pitcher Derek Lowe, the Yankee third baseman could of had the courtesy to rest just this one day for their sake. 
A much perkier A-Rod rapped out three hits, including a solo home run, and drove in four runs as the New York Yankees outscored the Atlanta Braves 11-7 at Turner Field.
The A-Rod home run in the first inning was his 563rd of his career and tied him with another enigmatic Yankees icon, Reggie Jackson, for 11th place on the all-time home run list. The blast to centerfield off Lowe also gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
Rodriguez added to that lead in the second inning with a solid single to center to drive in Derek Jeter, who had reached on an infield single. That gave the Yankees a 3-1 lead and the Yankees never relinquished that lead the rest of the evening, though Andy Pettitte and some Yankee defenders sure came close to doing it.
A-Rod also made Cox and the Braves pay dearly for a bit of strategy Cox employed in the seventh inning. After the Yankees took a 8-1, the Braves had rallied back to 8-6 in the fourth. The Yankees then appeared to be getting their newly rejuvenated offense going again.
After one out, Jeter again reached on a single. Johnny Damon then drew a walk. With Mark Teixeira at the plate with a 1-0 count, Jeter and Damon executed a double-steal off reliever Boone Logan. Cox then ordered his lefty to intentionally walk Teixeira to load the bases.
Cox then summoned righty Peter Moylan to face the right-hand hitting Rodriguez. 
Rodriguez lined a 2-2 pitch into right field to score Jeter and Damon to give the Yankees a more comfortable four-run margin. 

“I felt some good signs,” Rodriguez told MLB.com. “It’s been a while, but I’m really driving the ball in batting practice. Being able to do that in the game tonight was a good sign.”

The Yankees, who were held scoreless in the first 14 innings of the series against the Braves, broke out to score eight runs in the final four innings Wednesday night and followed that up with eight runs in the first four frames Thursday night.

Those eight runs (six earned) chased Lowe (7-6), who lasted just two batters into the fourth inning. He gave up 11 hits and three walks.

However, staked to a big 8-1 lead, Pettitte could not make it out of the fourth inning himself. But he also was victimized by two pop flies in the outfield that were not caught.

Garrett Anderson led off the inning with a fly ball to shallow center. Jeter lost it and Gardner was playing deep and could not catch it. After a Jeff Francouer double, Casey Kotchman doubled in both runners. 

After a Nate McLouth flyout, Martin Prado sent a fly into shallow center that Gardner got to but it ticked off his glove for an error. Two batters later, Yunel Escobar drove in two runs with a sharp line single to right.

All of a sudden Pettitte’s 8-1 cushion became 8-6. Manager Joe Girardi was forced to pull the plug on his evening by summoning Alfredo Aceves. Aceves (5-1) not only struck Anderson to end the inning, he also pitched two more innings of scoreless relief to earn the victory.

“It’s a big league ballgame, and to have an 8-1 lead and go three innings, it’s not what you’re looking for,” Pettitte said to MLB.com. “You’ve got to get out of the inning. You just figure you can get out of the inning without having the manager come out there to pull you out of the game.”

“He should have been out of that fourth inning probably giving up one run,” Girardi said to MLB.com. “It’s unfortunate, because we would have liked to see him a little bit longer tonight. He battled and threw good pitches. We just didn’t play very good defense behind him.”

Despite an 11-6 lead in the ninth inning, mop-up reliever David Robertson still required help to get out of the ninth. He surrendered a home run to Brian McCann, his second of the series and the eighth of the season. After a strikeout, Anderson then roped a single to right. Robertson then recorded another strikeout but Gregor Blanco followed with an infield single.

Girardi, taking no chances, summoned All-Star closer Mariano Rivera to get the last out. He got Diony Hernandez to fly out to center on six pitches for his 17th save of the season and the 499th of his career. He is second to Trevor Hoffman on the all-time saves list.

“It’s not how you necessarily want to win a game, but I thought our guys did a nice job,” Girardi said.

Besides the good night from A-Rod the Yankees got a great night from Jeter. He went 4-for-5 with four runs scored. Damon was 3-for-4 with 4 RBIs. Even Cody Ranson, just off the disabled list and pressed into his first start since April 24,had a two-run single in the fourth inning.

“A team like that, you have to give them credit,” Atlanta’s Jeff Francoeur told MLB.com. “They’re not going to be held hitless for a long time. They broke their bats out and didn’t stop. With a team like this, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them reel off six or seven in a row if they’re swinging like that.”

That would not be a bad thing in Girardi’s mind. The Yankees were fortunate in that the American League-leading Boston Red Sox lost to the Washington Nationals 9-3. The Yankees are in second place four games back. 

In addition, the Toronto Blue Jays lost to the Cincinnati Reds 7-5. The Jays began the day in a virtual tie with the Yankees in second place but now are a game in back.

The Yankees are back home on Friday but they actually are technically on the “road” tonight. They will face the New York Mets in the Citi Field portion of the Subway Series. The Yankees won two of three in the new Yankee Stadium from June 12 through June 14.

The Yankees will start CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.71), who left his previous start in Miami with tendinitis in his left bicep. Sabathia since threw a short bullpen session and pronounced himself healthy enough to make the start. Sabathia will be opposed by Mets right Mike Pelfrey (5-2, 4.74 ERA).

Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.

NOTES . . . The Yankees officially bid goodbye to righthand reliever Jose Veras. The Yankees sent Veras, 28, to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for cash considerations. Veras struggled all season with his command. He was 3-1 with a 5.96 ERA. He walked 14 and fanned 18 batters in 25 2/3 innings. Though obviously blessed with a great arm, Veras vexed Yankees management with his inconsistency and wildness. Yankee fans had been booing him most of the season . . . The Yankees beat the Braves Thursday night without two starters in the lineup. Outfielder Melky Cabrera did enter the game as a defensive replacement in the ninth inning but has been bothered by a fever. Second baseman Robinson Cano was replaced by Ransom because he of a sore left wrist. Both problems are minor and both players are day-to-day.

Bronx Dud Bombers?

The New York Yankees offense beat Johan Santana and the New York Mets 15-0 on June 14. They pounded out 17 hits in the contest. Then suddenly the hits just stopped coming.

The team scored only 18 runs in their next eight games and their record in those games was 3-5. All of those games were started by pitchers the Yankees had never faced before. 
Well, who in the Yankees lineup failed to hit during this week-long slide? I decided it would be a good idea to find out.
Here are the batting averages for the Yankees starters as they began a series with the Washington Nationals on June 16:
Jeter …………….316
Damon ………….284
Teixeira …………284
Rodriguez ………230
Cano …………….298
Posada ………….298
Swisher …………247
Cabrera …………294
Here is what they hit during that stretch:
Jeter …………….190
Damon ………….238
Teixeira …………269
Rodriguez ………056
Cano …………….370
Posada ………….182
Swisher …………185
Cabrera …………167
We could have guessed that Alex Rodriguez would have been main problem. This also was during the time manager Joe Girardi had rested him for two games in Miami. Also note that Derek Jeter missed two starts with a sore ankle and Johnny Damon missed two starts with a calf strain.
This shows that other than Robinson Cano the slump was pretty much a team-wide phenomenon. Teixeira batted slightly below his season average but everyone else was well below what they normally hit.
Was this a batting slump or did the Yankees just face good pitching. By looking at this chart, it is hard to tell.  But one could conclude it was more or less a slump — a slump the Yankees hopefully put an end to Wednesday night by scoring eight runs against Atlanta in an 8-4 victory.

Ump Ends Yanks Slump


Thanks to a blown call by first base umpire Bill Welke on Tuesday night, the slumbering bats of the New York Yankees were finally awoken.
That was bad news for the Atlanta Braves, who would up on the wrong end of an 8-4 score at Turner Field.
The Yankees were tending to their usual business in the top of the sixth inning. That business was recording out after out with nary a baserunner — something they have become quite good at in dropping nine of their past 13 games.
In this one they even went three up and three down in five consecutive innings despite the fact they had knocked — literally —  the Braves starting pitcher out after three innings. No matter, the relief pitcher with the ERA of 5.91 would keep them hitless for two more innings.
Enter Brett Gardner. He actually coaxed a walk out of Braves reliever Kris Medlen, who came on after Yankees starting pitcher Joba Chamberlain lined a shot off Braves starter Kenshin Kawakami’s neck in the third inning.
Gardner was safe on Medlen’s first pickoff attempt and actually — as replays clearly showed afterward — he was safe on his second. But Welke called Gardner out, much to his dismay. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided that the Yankees have so few baserunners that he should defend the ones that actually are safe.
Welke promptly dismissed Mr. Girardi from the game. But while Girardi might have been angry about the misfortune of the bad call and his team’s plight, he had to be happy of what happened after that.
In the next four innings the Yankees scored eight runs on 10 hits as the Yankees stunned the Braves. The Braves had no idea the passive, flailing hitters of the Yankees could turn so quickly and bite.
“If they’re going to score eight runs after I get ejected, I’ll take the lineup card out tomorrow,” Girardi said to MLB.com, grinning.
No sooner had Girardi left the field tossing out expletives than Francisco Cervelli touched Medlen for his first major-league home run that just cleared the wall in left-center. In one at-bat the Yankees had ended the no-hitter, broke up the shutout and tied the score.
“It’s good for us — they threw the manager out, so we have to do something for him,” Cervelli told MLB.com.
Yankees fans must now send a sincere thank you to Welke for calling Gardner out.
After Chamberlain hit a soft liner to second baseman Kelly Johnson for the first out, the Captain, Derek Jeter, jump-started the offense again with a single. Johnny Damon followed with a bloop single to center. Medlen then decided to walk Mark Teixeira in order to pitch to the ice cold Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded.
Rodriguez, who seemingly is 0-for-June and whose average had dipped to .207 at the start of the game, made Medlen and the Braves pay for that decision. Down in the count 0-2, A-Rod singled to right-center to plate two runs.
“It was big for me, and it was big for the team,” Rodriguez said to MLB.com. “We needed to break through there  . . . The important thing was that we came to play and we came to win for nine innings.”
The Yankees pop-gun offense finally may have its howitzer back.
Chamberlain (4-2) took it from there, going 6 1/3 innings, giving up seven hits, no walks and two runs — one of those unearned. In his last start, he also gave up three runs in a game against the Washington Nationals. But he lost the game 3-0 because the Yankees could not score.
Other than giving up a solo home run to Jeff Francouer to open the fifth inning and high throw on a bunt by Johnson in the seventh inning that led to two runs, Chamberlain dominated the Braves with his fastball and hammered them with his slider.
“Every outing, no matter good or bad, you’ve got to take a lot from each of them,” Chamberlain told MLB.com. “My last few, I’ve been able to take my aggressiveness as far as being able to throw my fastball. That makes my other pitches that much better.”
Mariano Rivera rescued a rusty and shaky Brian Bruney (one hit, two walks and a run in two-thirds of an inning) to strike out all four men in faced to notch his 16th save of the season and the 498th of his career.
Rivera even got a rare chance to bat in the top of the ninth inning with the bases loaded and two out. He also nearly put some real icing on the cake with line shot that Nate McLouth caught in center field to end the inning.
Damon led the Yankees offense with three hits and an RBI. Teixeira added two hits and an RBI and Nick Swisher homered (13th of the season) and drove in two runs.
“Sometimes it just takes one guy getting a hit with runners in scoring position to change what your club is doing,” Girardi said.
Kawakami, who was perfect through three innings, suffered only a bruise on the left side of his neck, the Braves said after the game. They could only wonder what Kawakami might have done had he been able to stay in the game.
But the Yankees are not giving this victory back. This is the first time since they chased Johan Santana with nine runs in three-plus innings in a 15-0 rout of the New York Mets on June 14 that the Yankees had scored 8 runs in a game. 
In the seven games after that 15-0 game, the Yankees scored a total of just 18 runs and were shut out twice. Seemingly every Yankee hitter was in a slump and no Yankee was able to get a hit with runners in scoring position.
In fact in Tuesday night’s 4-0 loss to the Braves, the Yankees stranded 10 baserunners over five innings, leaving the bases loaded twice.
Thanks to Welke’s bad call that angered Girardi enough to get ejected, those sleeping bats appear to have awoken.  Good thing too.
The Boston Red Sox had won their game to maintain their 5-game lead over the Yankees. The Blue Jays also won. A Yankee loss would have allowed the Blue Jays to take second place. Instead, the Yankees remain in a virtual tie with Toronto.
In the rubber match between the Yankees and Braves Thursday night, the Yankees will send veteran lefty Andy Pettitte (7-3, 4.26 ERA) to face former Boston Red Sox sinkerballer Derek Lowe (7-5, 4.09 ERA). Lowe’s start will break a string of nine consecutive pitchers who the Yankees faced for the first time. The Yankees lost six of those games.
Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . Before the game the Yankees reinstated infielder Cody Ransom from the disabled list and designated veteran infielder Angel Berroa for assignment. Ransom started 15 games for Yankees at third base to replace A-Rod, who was recovering from a hip injury. But Ransom su
ffered a serious right quadriceps injury running the bases at Fenway Park on April 24. Ransom struggled in his bid to fill in for A-Rod, hitting just .180. Ransom, who is capable of playing second, third and shortstop will fill in off the bench at all three positions, Girardi said. Berroa. the 2003 American League Rookie of the Year, batted .136 in 21 games with the Yankees after being called up from Triple A to replace Ransom . . . General Manager Brian Cashman actually flew from New York to join the team at Turner Field. He had a closed-door meeting with Girardi. Cashman said he is in Atlanta to help get the Yankees “back on track.” Cashman told MLB.com: “We’re struggling right now, mostly with the bats. It’s not going to last, I promise you that. We’re too good for it to last. The last three weeks of poor play is mostly to do with our offense. We’ve got to get our offense going. We’re pitching real well, but unfortunately, we’re letting that good pitching go to waste.” Cashman also gave a vote of confidence in Girardi and batting coach Kevin Long. “I’m not here to send any messages other than that we’re here to fix problems,” Cashman said.

Braves Deliver Knockout Blow


If Tuesday night’s game between the New York Yankees and the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field were akin to a boxing match, the Braves would have staggered all over the ring but still won the fight on a lucky punch.

Braves rookie phenom Tommy Hanson entered the contest with a 2-0 record and a respectable 4.06 ERA in three starts. But he also has had to pitch around a bushel of baserunners. In 17 2/3 innings he had allowed 28 batters to reach base.
Against the Yankees, the 22-year-old righty exhibited that previous form. In 5 1/3 innings, Hanson (3-0) gave up four hits, five walks, hit a batter and allowed two stolen bases. He also was a victim of an error that put another runner on base.
However, after all those jabs that rocked Hanson back on his heels, the Yankees never landed the knockout blow for which they were looking. They ended up stranding 10 runners from the second inning to the sixth.
In the second inning, Robinson Cano was hit with a pitch. After two were out, Hanson walked Melky Cabrera. Seeing Yankee starter Chien-Ming Wang on the on-deck circle, the rookie hurler decided to walk Brett Gardner to load the bases.
Wang grounded the first pitch weakly back to Hanson and the threat was over.
In the third inning, Derek Jeter led off with a double to left-center. After Nick Swisher failed to advance Jeter with another weak tapper to Hanson, Mark Teixeira walked. Hanson then struck Alex Rodriguez and retired Robinson Cano of easy fly to left.
Yet another great escape for Houdini — errrrr a . . . Hanson.
In the fourth, the Yankees got another chance when Cabrera doubled to right-center with one out. Gardner then hit a grounder to shortstop Yunel Escobar’s right. Escobar would have had no chance to get the speedy Gardner at first but he had Cabrera dead to rights advancing to third.
However, the throw ticked off Chipper Jones’ glove for an error and the Yankees were in business with runners at first and third and just one out. But Wang was up and the Yankees elected to sacrifice Gardner to second. Hanson helped the Yankees further by walking Jeter.
The inning ended, though, when Nick Swisher hit a routine grounder to Escobar. Yet another threat averted.
In the sixth inning, Gardner singled with one out. Pinch-hitter Hideki Matsui drew a walk. Braves manager Bobby Cox, who seemingly had enough of the Hanson high-wire act, then went to his bullpen for Peter Moylan, who had been struggling this season with an ERA of 4.73.
Jeter then grounded a 1-1 pitch right to Escobar and the slick-fielding shortstop turned a double play that ended the fourth threat. From there the Braves cruised like cruiserweights.
“We’re trying,” catcher Jorge Posada told MLB.com. “Offensively, we’re not clicking. We hit some balls hard at people, and when we seem to get a rally going, we’re not executing.”
The Braves offense really consisted of one lucky inning where they scored three runs after two were out. Chien-Ming Wang, who entered the game 0-5 with a 12.30 ERA, actually pitched well enough to have won the game with some support.
After striking out Hanson swinging and Nate McLouth looking, Escobar hit a shot just past A-Rod at third. Escobar then attempted to steal second. But Posada inexplicably tried to gun him down with a throw from his knees that sailed over Jeter’s head into centerfield. Escobar moved to third. (Posada also dampened the Yankees cause on offense with four strikeouts in the game — all swinging).
Wang pitched carefully and eventually walked Chipper Jones. Unfortunately for Wang two pitches cost him the game. Brian McCann hit an outside sinker to plate one run and Garrett Anderson scored two more when he golfed a sinker to right center.
“I thought he made some good pitches to McCann and he hit the ball the opposite way, and he made a good pitch to Anderson that found the gap,” Posada told MLB.com of Wang. “Other than those two pitches, that was the ballgame.”
The Braves added an “oh, by the way” run in the eighth on a home run by McCann off reliever David Robertson. And, you guessed it, the homer came with two out.
The loss was the Yankees ninth in their past 13 games. On June 8 the Yankees were leading the American League East. They now trail the Red Sox by 5 games and are in a virtual tie with the Toronto Blue Jays in second place.
MLB.com reported that Hanson was the seventh straight pitcher the Yankees faced for the first time, and it is a span they have fared 2-5 over, including 1-4 in the past five.

“We need to get hits — there’s really no secret formula,” Jeter said to MLB.com. “We’ve just got to get guys on base and score some runs, especially early, to help out our pitching staff.”

The Yankees will try to regroup Wednesday night when they send Joba Chamberlain (3-2, 3.89 ERA) against Braves rookie righty Kenshin Kawakami (4-6, 4.42 ERA). Kawakami, 33, is 3-2 with a 3.35 ERA in his past nine starts.

He also will be the eighth straight pitcher the Yankees have not faced before. 

In his last start Chamberlain gave up three runs in six innings against the Nationals but lost the game because the Yankees failed to score a run for him in a 3-0 defeat. Sound familiar? In their past seven games the Yankees have scored 18 runs and are 2-5. Two of the losses were shutouts.
Manager Joe Girardi hinted Tuesday night that there might be some lineup changes Wednesday in an attempt to shake the Yankees out of their offensive funk. At this point any spark for this lifeless bunch would help.
Gametime is 7:10 p.m. EDT.
NOTES . . . MLB rejected the Yankees protest of Sunday’s 6-5 loss to the Florida Marlins. Girardi and the Yankees had filed a protest after Marlins manager Fredi Gonzalez had intended a double switch in the top of the eighth inning. However, when pitcher Leo Nunez entered the game leftfielder Chris Coghlan remained in the game. Girardi contended that the Marlins should lose the use of Nunez but the umpires only forced new leftfielder Alejandro de Aza out of the game and allowed Gonzalez to replace him with Jeremy Hermida. The umpires also allowed Nunez’s 0-1 count to Jeter to stand. Girardi said he
was puzzled by the ruling. MLB never has shown much backbone in supporting team protests over the years so it really was no surprise . . . Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira has regained his lead over his Red Sox counterpart Kevin Youkilis in the voting for the 2009 All-Star Game. In the last vote totals announced last week, Youkilis led Teixeira by just 1,315 votes. In the current balloting Teixeira now has 35,632 more votes than Youkilis . . . Jeter leads in the voting at shortstop with a considerable lead over the Rays’ Jason Bartlett and Rangers rookie Elvis Andrus. Jeter leads all AL vote-getters with more than 2.5 million votes. The voting ends on July 2 . . . A.J. Burnett, who was suspended by Major League Baseball for six games for a June 2 incident, dropped his appeal in exchange for a reduction of the suspension to five games. He began serving the suspension Sunday. Burnett was accused of throwing at the head of Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz after Rangers starter Vicente Padilla had hit two Yankees with inside fastballs. Home plate umpire Doug Eddings warned both benches but did not eject Burnett. MLB issued the suspension a day later but surprisingly did not suspend Padilla. Because of an off day for the Yankees on Monday, Burnett will pitch Saturday against the Mets in Citi Field and there will be no disruption in the rotation this week. Burnett’s start scheduled originally for Friday will go to CC Sabathia, who will still pitch on regular rest . . . Sabathia, who left his start in the second inning on Sunday with left biceps tendinitis will throw a 25-pitch bullpen session on Wednesday. If he feels healthy he will pitch Friday against the Mets. Sabathia told reporters that he feels fine and he expects to be able to make the start  . . . Outfielder Johnny Damon did not start a second straight game with a sore right calf. Damon has pinch-hit in the late innings in the past two games and reached both times on walks. But he was immediately replaced by pinch-runners on both occasions. Damon injured his calf on a play Saturday where he misplayed a line drive into an error. Damon hopes to start Wednesday night but is listed as day-to-day.

MLB To Determine If Yankees Let Fish Get Away

MARLINS 6, YANKEES 5 (Under Protest)

The New York Yankees lost their ace starting pitcher, later they lost their 3-1 lead in the game, then their furious ninth inning rally fell short on Sunday but they may have not lost to the Florida Marlins 6-5 — not just yet anyway.

A bizarre late afternoon game got even stranger in the top of the eighth inning and opened the door for a Yankees protest. Manager Fredi Gonzalez had just used pinch-hitter Alejandro De Aza in the bottom of the seventh inning for reliever Ranyel Pinto. On his lineup card he put De Aza in left field to replace Chris Coghlan and wanted his new relief pitcher Leo Nunez to bat in Coghlan’s leadoff spot.
After Nunez threw a strike to leadoff batter Derek Jeter, Yankees manager Joe Girardi went to plate umpire Tim Timmons to alert him that Coghlan was still in leftfield.
Gonzalez immediately realized his mistake and he dispatched De Aza out to leftfield to replace Coghlan. However, Girardi claimed that was not the proper remedy. He argued the Marlins should lose both De Aza and Nunez and that the game should resume with a 0-0 count on Jeter.
The umpiring crew, after a long discussion, sent De Aza to the bench in favor of outfielder Jeremy Hermida but allowed Nunez to stay in the game with the 0-1 count on Jeter.
Girardi, still claiming the pitch should not count, advised Timmons the Yankees would play the remainder of the game under protest. 

“We’re going to file an incident report, and all that,” umpire Jeff Kellogg told MLB.com. “The protest is over the pitcher should have been removed from the game, or the pitch should not have counted. That’s the protest. Either or. One or the other should have happened.

“It goes to the league, and they will review everything. They will make a determination after that.”

The Yankees started the game with ace lefty CC Sabathia. However, after a shaky first inning when he surrendered a run, catcher Jorge Posada insisted to Girardi and trainer Gene Monaghan that something was wrong with Sabathia.

On a second visit to the mound, after Sabathia had surrendered a one-out double to Brett Carroll, he finally admitted to Girardi that he had some tightness in his left bicep. After the game, Sabathia said it was not serious and he intended to make his next start. The Yankees said he will be reevaluated on Tuesday.

The early call to the bullpen, however, forced Girardi to play a game of musical relievers to make up for the loss of Sabathia and the innings he had been giving the Yankees. Fortunately, Alfredo Aceves was up to the task. He kept the Marlins bats quiet for 2 2/3 innings. He gave up only a harmless single and struck out two.

That allowed the Yankees offense to get cooking in the 95-degree, 104 heat index day at Land Shark Stadium. 

After two outs in the third inning, Jeter singled off 22-year-old righty Chris Volstad. A wild pitch got him to second and Volstad then walked Nick Swisher. Jeter then stole third. Mark Teixeira then pounded a high ground ball over the head of first baseman Jorge Cantu for a double that scored Jeter easily.

Alex Rodriguez, back in the starting Yankee lineup after being given two days to overcome what he called “fatigue,” then fought off an inside fastball for a bloop single to left that scored Swisher and Teixeira to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead.

But Girardi elected to replace Aceves with Brett Tomko in the fifth inning and Tomko promptly coughed up the lead by giving up a one-out single to Coghlan and two-out home run to All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, his ninth homer of the season.

Tomko then surrendered another run in the sixth inning on a two-out home run by Cody Ross, his 12th of the season, making the score 4-3 Marlins.

“I’ve been a bit of a wreck the last three or four times out,” Tomko said to MLB.com. “It just seems like when I make a mistake, it’s getting hit. It’s a frustrating thing.”

The Yankees, meanwhile, allowed Volstad to recover. After Brett Gardner’s single in the fourth inning, the Yankees did not get a hit or put a runner on base until their were two out in the ninth inning — a run of 15 consecutive outs and only two balls even left the infield.

The Marlins added to their lead in the seventh inning on a single by Jorge Cantu that brought in Coghlan. Ramirez scored from first on the same play when Melky Cabrera’s throw from left field skipped past Posada for an error. The Marlins now lead 6-3.

But, just when it seemed the Yankees would become Fish food for the second game in a row, Posada sent a 1-1 pitch off closer Matt Lindstrom just past a diving Cantu into rightfield for a single. Cabrera followed with a single up the middle that just eluded second baseman Dan Uggla. 

Gardner then brought the Yankees to within one run on a single swing — a ringing triple to deep center to score Posada and Cabrera. Lindstrom, obviously laboring and having control problems, then walked pinch-hitter Johnny Damon.

But Lindtsrom induced Derek Jeter into hitting a weak grounder to short on the first pitch and Yankees threat was quashed. 

Volstad (5-7), yet another young starter the Yankees have never faced in a regular season game, got the victory. Tomko (0-2) very much earned the loss. Lindstrom picked up his 14th save, though he did put some doubt into the contest.

Will the victory hold up, however? If Major League Baseball sides with Girardi’s protest, the Yankees would have to return to Miami at a date to be determined and the game would resume in the top of the eighth inning with the Marlins leading 6-3.

“I’d like to keep the two runs I got in the ninth and just play the eighth over,” Giradi said to MLB.com.

The Yankees have today to lick their wounds in Atlanta awaiting their three-game series with the Braves. The Yankees will send Chien-Ming Wang (0-5, 12.30 ERA) to the mound and the Braves will counter with rookie phenom Tommy Hanson (2-0, 4.08 ERA), yet another pitcher the Yankees have not faced.

The Yankees have now lost six of the past eight games in which they have faced a starter they have never seen during the regular season.  That hardly inspires much confidence for the Yankees on Tuesday.

In the meantime, the Yankees have fallen to four games back of the Boston Red Sox in the American League East standings. Toronto is just one game back of the Yankees and the Rays have climbed to within two games.

So a win Tuesday may be a necessity. Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Yankees Find Out Marlins Aren’t “Joshing”


The New York Yankees never faced Josh Johnson. Judging by what they saw Saturday night they came away very impressed.
Johnson stymied the Yankees for seven innings as the Marlins beat the team from the Bronx 2-1 at Land Shark Stadium in Miami.
Johnson kept Yankee batters off balance all night with his mix of two-seam fastballs and changeups, forcing them to hit into 14 ground-ball outs of the 21 outs he recorded. Five others struck out, usually on changeups.
“I think he’s one of the best pitchers in the league,” Johnny Damon told MLB.com. “I usually put him up top five in the league right now. Probably on his best day, he could be the best out there.”

Johnson’s mound opponent, A.J. Burnett, was nearly as dominating in his first return to Miami since he left the Marlins after the 2005 season. Burnett allowed only one earned run over 6 1/3 innings, gave up six hits and struck out eight batters. But it was not enough to beat Johnson (7-1) and the Marlins.
Burnett’s lone mistake came in the second inning. Facing feast or famine second baseman Dan Uggla, who came into the game with 12 home runs but a batting average of .216, Burnett fell behind in the count 1-0 and decided to try a high inside fastball.
Uggla, who was looking for it, deposited it in the centerfield stands to give the Marlins an early 1-0 lead. Johnson took care of the rest by pitching five consecutive innings in which he faced the minimum three batters. He also showed an economy of pitches with three straight innings of 11 pitches or less.
The Yankees hopes of a rally off Johnson or the Marlins bullpen took a major hit in the sixth inning. Burnett opened the frame by walking speedy third baseman Emilio Bonifacio. However, while pitching to All-Star shortstop Hanley Ramirez, Jorge Posada gunned down Bonifacio trying to steal second base. It was the second time in the game Posada had gunned down a Marlins baserunner.
Burnett, however, walked Ramirez. Then the game took an ugly turn in the field. Jorge Cantu lined a 1-2 pitch into leftfield towards Damon in what looked to be a routine out. But the ball ticked off Damon’s glove and rolled past him, allowing Ramirez to score from first base.
The additional run would prove to be fortuitous for the Marlins and deadly to the Yankees. For his part, Damon made no excuses to MLB.com: “That’s totally unacceptable,” he said. “It’s amazing. There have been a lot of plays that I’ve messed up this year. I’m definitely a much better defender than that.”

The Yankees did manage to get to Johnson in the top of the seventh inning after two were out. Posada reached first base on a fielder’s choice groundout for the second out but Robinson Cano followed with a ground single up the middle. Posada made it to third base on the hit.
Nick Swisher then plated Posada with a single to rightfield. Johnson then bore down and struck out Melky Cabrera on three pitches.
The Marlins had to go to their bullpen in the eighth inning with Johnson having thrown 103 pitches. Yankee batters were very happy they did. Marlins Manager Freddi Gonzalez summoned Leo Nunez to open the frame.
He immediately was greeted by a line-drive single to rightfield by Hideki Matsui, the Yankees DH who has been relegated to pinch-hit duty in this series at a National League park. Speedy Brett Gardner came off he bench to pinch-run for Matsui.
Manager Joe Girardi then called on All-Star third baseman Alex Rodriguez to pinch-hit for relief pitcher Phil Coke. A-Rod has not started either game of this series because of what he termed “fatigue” following arthroscopic hip surgery in March. He also has been mired in a 3 for his last 34 slump.
With Rodriguez at the plate, Gardner stole second base off Nunez and catcher John Baker. A-Rod then managed to coax a walk, giving the Yankees their best scoring threat of the evening.
Derek Jeter came to the plate with  a chance to score the runners with a hit or move them up with a bunt. However, with one strike on him Jeter popped a bunt attempt foul. Forced to swing away, Jeter hit a weak grounder right to second base. Uggla scooped up the ball, tapped the second base bag to retire Rodriguez and fired to first to double up Jeter.
Rally effectively killed. 

“I didn’t execute, that’s the bottom line,” Jeter told MLB.com later. “It was a big part of the game, and I didn’t get the bunt down.”

The Marlins then called lefty Dan Meyer out of bullpen to pitch to Damon. He struck Damon out and the Yankees stranded Gardner at third and were left to ponder what might have been if only Jeter had got the bunt down.

Marlins closer Matt Lindstrom preserved Johnson’s victory with a ninth inning that ended on yet a another double play off the bat of Robinson Cano.

The Yankees have now lost four out their past six games against pitchers they have not faced before dating back to June 13. It also saddled Burnett (5-4) with a loss he really did not deserve.

“Both guys were really good,”  Joe Girardi said. “Our guy, A.J., I thought he threw the ball great. It’s unfortunate that Josh Johnson was really good, too.”

The “other guy” was better is becoming a familiar Yankee theme in June.

CC Sabathia (6-4, 3.47 ERA) will try to slow that trend Sunday afternoon when he faces Chris Volstad (4-7, 4.75 ERA). One thing in the Yankees favor is that Volstad is coming off his worst two major-league starts. He yielded 8 runs to the Red Sox last Tuesday after being tagged for 6 runs by the Cardinals in his previous start.

But the 22-year-old righthander also is the sixth consecutive pitcher the Yankees have not faced before. So Volstad has that in his favor.  Sabathia will have to again be good and the Yankees will just have to hope that Volstad is not better.

Gametime is 5:10 p.m. EDT.

Andy Tosses Dandy


Just when it looked as if the New York Yankees would never beat a young pitcher with which they were unfamiliar, Andy Pettitte decided to call a halt to the whole thing.
He did just that and actually tossed in an RBI double to aid the offense as the Yankees frustrated the Florida Marlins 5-1 on Friday night.
Pettitte (7-3), returning for the first time to the same mound he lost to Josh Beckett in Game 6 of the 2003 World Series, logged seven innings and gave up just three hits and one run. He struck out seven and walked none in clearly his best outing of the season.
It was just what the Yankees needed after having lost six of their past 10 games, including losing a home series to the lowly Washington Nationals.
Derek Jeter, back in the starting lineup after missing two starts with a sore ankle, served notice to Marlins starter Sean West (2-2) that the Yankees were not going to lay dormant on this night. He ripped the 24-year-old lefty’s first offering for a double. He scored two batters later on Jorge Posada’s single.
In the second frame the Yankees kept up their assault on West, who was making only his sixth major-league start. Robinson Cano singled to left and, after one out, Angel Berroa and Pettitte followed with RBI doubles to make it 3-0.
Jeter singled up the middle and Johnny Damon capped the scoring in the inning with a single to right to plate Pettitte.
Melky Cabrera actually completed the Yankees scoring in the third inning by raking a 3-1 fastball deep into the leftfield stands to make it 5-0
Pettitte took care of the rest.
He made his only real mistake in the third inning when he grooved a fastball to Cody Ross after he fell behind in the count 2-0. Ross smacked the offering into the leftfield seats to give the Marlins just a glimmer of hope.
But Pettitte only allowed one hit (a Hanley Ramirez double in the sixth) the rest of the way in notching career victory No. 222. He also leads all Yankee starters in victories this season. Pettitte credited the victory on a biting curveball that had the young Marlins hitters swinging at air most of the night.
The Yankees offense, meanwhile, actually awoke in the tropical heat of Miami after slumbering throughout the series with the Nationals. They managed only three earned runs in 20 2/3 innings off Nationals youngsters Sharion Martis, John Lannan and Craig Stammen in New York.
They battered West for five runs and nine hits in just three innings Friday night. West ended up being lifted in the fifth inning after having surrendered a walk to Posada and a double to Nick Swisher. He finished the night giving up 10 hits and two walks in four-plus innings. His only bright spot was that he set a career high in strikeouts with seven.
The Yankees managed their onslaught on the Fish without their DH Hideki Matsui, who will not start in the series because he still is unable to play the field on his creaky knees. Manager Joe Girardi also had to scratch third baseman Alex Rodriguez after he complained of fatigue.
A-Rod had actually played every game the Yankees have played since his return May 8 from hip surgery, all but one of those games in the field. The most telling fact that something was wrong with the Yankees cleanup hitter was that he had only three hits in his last 34 at-bats, which also spans the same period the Yankees have taken a slide.
Girardi said A-Rod is available to pinch-hit but will not start until Sunday’s game in order to let him rest. Girardi also told A-Rod not to work out in the weight room or batting cage. So the Yankees hope to get a rejuvenated slugger back on Sunday.
Despite the Yankees recent sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox and their inexplicable power outage against the Nationals, the Yankees actually gained a game on the Bosox in the AL East standings. The Red Sox were trounced by the Atlanta Braves 8-2 on Friday and their lead in the division fell to just two games.
Though the Yankees might want to rest on their laurels, Saturday night presents yet another pitcher the Yankees have not faced and he is good one. 
The Marlins will send to the mound 25-year-old Josh Johnson (6-1, 2.76 ERA). The Yankees will counter with former Marlin A.J. Burnett (5-3, 4.46 ERA), who is coming off his best start of the season. Burnett went seven scoreless innings as the Yankees thrashed Johan Santana and the New York Mets 15-0.
Burnett, who pitched for the Marlins from 1999 to 2005, said he is excited to return to the mound where he started his major-league career. Burnett told SunSports that he had many good memories with the Marlins and he hopes to do well in his return.
If it is as good as Pettitte’s return effort on Friday at Land Shark Stadium, that would be just fine with the Yankees. 
The first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. EDT.