August 2009

Yankees Should Get Boost From Minor Leaguers

COMMENTARY



The New York Yankees’ roster is about to get a huge boost that will make the team with the best record in the major leagues even stronger.
No, the Yankees are not adding Roy Halladay or Lance Berkman.
They will be able to add players from the Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre on Sept. 1 when major-league rules allow teams to expand their rosters to 40 players. While it is doubtful the Yankees will add 15 additional players they will be able to add a few key pieces that will strengthen the club down the stretch.
The No. 1 key piece to the Yankees’ September push will be catcher Francisco Cervelli, who performed so ably as the starting catcher when both Jorge Posada and Jose Molina suffered leg injuries earlier in the season.
Cervelli hit .269 in 78 at-bats with one home run and nine RBIs. But where he really impressed manager Joe Girardi, a former catcher himself, was on defense and handling a veteran pitching staff. The starters all agreed that Cervelli showed he could call a good game and help them with his defense.
On July 8, the Yankees activated Molina form the 15-day disabled list and optioned Cervelli to Scranton. However, that was a promotion for Cervelli because he was recalled from Double-A Trenton, where he was hitting a paltry .190. At Scranton, Cervelli is hitting .246. So the fact he hit .269 for the Yankees still is a surprise.
The main value Cervelli has now is allowing the Yankees more flexibility with Jorge Posada nursing a bruised left ring finger. Posada said the injury likely will linger through the rest of the season.
A third catcher will allow Girardi to replace Posada with Molina more often knowing that Cervelli is available to catch if a pinch-hitter is needed for Molina. Girardi also could use Posada as a DH knowing Cervelli could backup Molina without having Girardi lose the DH spot by using Posada behind the plate.
A second player the Yankees would love to have back is Ramiro Pena. The reserve infielder hit .277 in 94 at-bats during two previous stints with the Yankees. But he drew praise from Girardi for his defensive work in the infield.
Pena is a slick fielder who also has ability to run the bases. So he immediately will help Jerry Hairston as an infield reserve and provide a potential pinch-runner with an ability to steal bases. Pena has two steals with the Yankees and five for Scranton.
Speaking of steals, the Yankees also hope to have Brett Gardner back on the roster by mid-September. Gardner was the team leader in stolen bases when he broke his left thumb on July 26
Gardner was hitting .275 and playing sparkling defense in centerfield. His absence has robbed the Yankees of their best base stealer and also has forced Melky Cabrera to play every day in centerfield, which has affected his batting average.
Cabrera was hitting .285 on July 26 and now is hitting .268. Gardner’s return will allow Girardi to use him to rest Cabrera in center, to enter the game as a late-inning defensive replacement or to be used a pinch-runner in close games.
The Yankees also will be able to call up right-hand relief pitchers Jonathan Albaladejo and Mark Melancon. Both pitchers pitched out of the bullpen earlier in the season.
In nine appearances, Melancon was 0-1 with a 3.18 ERA. Albaladejo was 4-1 with a 5.61 ERA in 22 appearances. Both pitchers will give Girardi an opportunity to use them in order to rest the key members of the bullpen with the playoffs looming.
Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland want the bullpen fine-tuned for the post-season but not overworked. Melancon and Albaladejo can help in that regard. 
Melancon is 4-0 with a 2.89 ERA and three saves at Scranton. Albaladejo is 3-0 with a 1.54 ERA and leads Scranton in saves with 11. 
Other players the Yankees might call up are infielder-outfielder Shelley Duncan, who leads the International League in home runs with 29. Duncan has always been a popular player in the Bronx and he could help the Yankees as a right-hand power threat off the bench.
Young right-hand reliever Anthony Claggett also could be recalled. He is on the 40-man roster and he could be added to the bullpen mix.
Players you definitely will not see include left-hander Kei Igawa, who has Brian Cashman counting the days until the end of his four-year deal. Igawa will likely never toe the rubber at Yankee Stadium again and Yankee fans are counting their blessings for that.
Reserve infielder Cody Ransom accepted assignment to Scranton after he cleared waivers but the Yankees do not seem to need Ransom at all with Hairston on the roster and Pena available to call up.
No. 1 minor-league prospect Austin Jackson likely won’t get a chance either. Jackson, who is hitting .294 with four home runs and 57 RBIs and 22 steals at Scranton, will not be called up this season because the Yankees have so many options in the outfield that Jackson would not play enough to make it worthwhile to recall him.

Late Yankee ‘Lightning’ Sweeps Away Chisox

YANKEES 8, WHITE SOX 3


The famed 1927 New York Yankees team of Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig always seemed to explode late in games and it was famously called “Five O’Clock Lightning.” The 2009 version of the Yankees are getting pretty good at late lightning too.
On Sunday they used a five-run seventh inning to blow out the Chicago White Sox 8-3 and sweep the three-game weekend series.
Mark Teixeira, who drove in the Yankees first run with a sacrifice fly in the first inning. capped the five-run explosion with a three-run home run into the second deck in right field. Teixeira’s home run also pushed his season RBI total over 100 for a sixth consecutive season.
Teixeira is second in the American League in home runs with 32 and leads the AL in RBIs with 101.
Johnny Damon gave the Yankees the lead they would not surrender the rest of the day in the third inning when he followed Derek Jeter’s second single of the game with a blast into “Damon’s Deck” in right field for his 24th home run of the season, which ties his career high of 2006.
Damon left the game before the start of the seventh inning complaining of cramps in both of his calves. 
Meanwhile, on the mound, the Yankees now have switched to their second round of set-in-stone “Joba Rules” for this season. Committed to limiting his innings pitched so he will be able to pitch in the playoffs, the Yankees started Joba Chamberlain and stopped him after just three innings much like a spring training game.
Chamberlain gave up two runs on four hits with no walks and one strikeout. He threw only 35 pitches.
The Yankees feel pitchers younger than 25 should not throw more than 30 innings more than they did in the previous season and Chamberlain already is over that threshold with 133 2/3 innings this season.
Originally the Yankees thought to spot start Chamberlain by skipping him when they could in the rotation. However, Chamberlain looked rusty with the extra rest and did not pitch well. In his past four starts, Chamberlain gave up 19 runs in 20 innings.
So the Yankees revised “Joba Rules” to that he will pitch every fifth day but they will limit his innings no matter what the situation is in the game.
Sunday was the first day and manager Joe Girardi seemed pleased and was not about to let his 23-year-old right-hander go any farther in the game.
“That’s why we draw it up, so you don’t get tempted,” Girardi told MLB.com. “Temptation is dangerous.”

“You’ve got to realize what they’re really trying to do, and that’s to protect me for a long time,” Chamberlain said. “You’ve got to understand that they’re doing this for me — not necessarily for this year, but they’re doing it for a lot of years. That’s humbling for me to know that they care about me that much to take those precautions, especially at this point in the season.”
Alfredo Aceves (9-1) pitched three scoreless innings in relief of Chamberlain to pick up the victory. He gave up just two hits and fanned one batter as Girardi mixed and matched pitchers the rest of the way.
Damaso Marte was summoned to retire left-hand power hitter Jim Thome to lead off the seventh and he succeeded. He then was removed from the game for David Robertson, who got into trouble after striking out Jermaine Dye.
Mark Kotsay and Alexsei Ramirez hit back-to-back singles with the Yankees nursing a 3-2 lead. So Girardi reached into the pen again for Phil Hughes. Hughes got Jayson Nix to fly out on a 3-2 pitch to right to end the threat and then pitched a perfect eighth after the Yankees busted the game wide open in the seventh.
Phil Coke pitched the ninth and was tagged by a Dye home run.
The Yankees, meanwhile, struggled to solve veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia, who was making only his third start of the season after being called up from the minors by the White Sox. Garcia (0-2) pitched six innings and gave up three runs on four hits and three walks. He fanned five batters.
The Yankees saved their onslaught for left-hander Randy Williams, who lost the game for the White Sox in the 10th inning on Friday night by surrendering a three-run walk-off home run to Robinson Cano.
Jorge Posada opened the inning off Williams with a first-pitch single. After Robinson Cano forced Posada at second on a groundout, Eric Hinske walked. Melky Cabrera plated Cano with roped double off the left-field wall.
Jeter, who was 2-for-2 with two runs scored, was walked intentionally to enable Williams to face the lefty swinging Damon. But Damon’s calf injury forced Girardi to send up Jerry Hairston to pinch-hit. 
Manager Ozzie Guillen then called on right-hander Scott Linebrink out of the bullpen to pitch to the right-hand swinging Hairston. Hairston greeted Linebrink with a long blast to the warning track in left that scored Hinske.
Teixeira then delivered the crushing blow to break the game open on a 1-2 pitch from Linebrink. Just like the ’27 Yankees and their “Five O’Clock Lightning.”
With the victory the Yankees maintained their six-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Boston Red Sox, who blanked the Toronto Blue Jays 7-0 on Sunday. The Yankees victory gives them a major-league best record of 82-48 and a record of 69-33 since May 8. The Yankees are on a pace to win 102 games this season.
But the White Sox were left to ponder what might have been. They had beaten the Yankees in Chicago three games out of four and came into the series confident.
However, after losing the first game on Friday in the 10th inning on a walk-off home run, the Yankees outscored the White Sox 18-3 in the next two games, dealing a serious blow to their Central Division title hopes.
Guillen told MLB.com: “Well, we came to New York and visited the new Yankee Stadium. It is a very nice ballpark. We also stayed at a very nice hotel. That’s all I can really say about these past three days.”
The Yankees now head to Baltimore to face the last-place Orioles. The Yankees will send left-hander Andy Pettitte (11-6, 4.18 ERA) to the mound in the opener on Monday night. In his last start, Pettitte gave up just two runs in seven innings on Wednesday to beat the Texas Rangers. He is undefeated in six starts since July 30 and is 3-0 with a 2.60 ERA over that span. 
Pettitte last faced the Orioles on July 20 in New York, allowing one run over 7 1/3 innings with six hits, two walks and eight strikeouts in a no-decision.
The Orioles will start right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (9-12, 5.26 ERA), who threw seven good innings in his last start and won consecutive games for just the third time this season. 
Gametime is 7:05
p.m. EDT.

Mitre, Yankees One-Hit White Sox In 10-0 Rout

YANKEES 10, WHITE SOX 0


With a tropical storm looming off the Atlantic and the New York Yankees scheduled to start Sergio Mitre and his 6.82 ERA, you could not fault manager Joe Girardi for privately wishing for a rainout.
But Mitre certainly brightened Girardi’s and the Yankees’ day with 6 1/3 innings of one-hit shutout baseball as the Yankees crushed the Chicago White Sox 10-0 on Saturday afternoon.
In fact, the only thing that kept Mitre from completing more of the game was a lined shot off his right forearm off the bat of A.J. Pierzynski in the seventh inning with the Yankees up 9-0. Mitre, who had walked just one and had thrown just 73 pitches, was forced to leave the game with a large welt on his pitching arm.
Now Girardi is concerned if he will be able to make his next scheduled start.

“I want to,” Mitre told MLB.com, sporting a heavy wrap on his right forearm. “I hope so.”

“There’s some concern there,” Girardi said. “He got hit pretty hard.”

Mitre had just issued his only walk of the day to Brent Lillibridge to begin the inning when Pierzynski lined a 1-0 pitch so hard that Mitre could not get his glove up in time and the ball struck him in the right forearm. Mitre managed to scramble behind the mound for the ball and retire Pierzynski. 

However, the contusion immediately swelled and Mitre left the game. X-rays taken at Yankee Stadium revealed no broken bone. The Yankees are just hopeful that the swelling and pain subside enough for Mitre to make his next start.

Mitre (3-1) has proven to be valuable in that the Yankees have won five of his seven starts. On Saturday, Mitre proved he finally belonged by inducing 12 ground ball outs out of the 19 outs he recorded in the game, proving his sinker was working.

“I know what I can do,” Mitre said to MLB.com. “I think they know what I’m capable of doing.”

Mitre also received some flashy plays in the field from Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano to keep the White Sox off the bases. Rodriguez robbed Paul Konerko of a hit in the fifth inning with a diving grab of a grounder to his right.

Cano later frustrated Jayson Nix by ranging all the way across the second base bag to glove another grounder and throwing a strike to Mark Teixeira at first base against his momentum carrying him towards left-field.

The only hit Mitre allowed was with one out in the fifth inning on a scorched liner off the bat of Jim Thome that Teixeira just missed and went for a double. Mitre had pitched a perfect game up to that point.

Of course, Mitre got plenty of run support too. The Yankees bashed their former teammate Jose Contreras like a pinata over the first four innings. 

When the dust settled and Contreras (5-13) left the mound with one out in the fourth inning, the Yankees had pounded him for nine hits and eight runs. Contreras, who was originally pulled from the rotation last week but had to be reinstated due to an injury to Jake Peavy in his last rehab start, also walked three batters and threw 77 pitches.

Jerry Hairston and Johnny Damon both doubled in a pair of runs in the second inning. Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, Nick Swisher and Cano — helped by two White Sox errors — each drove in a run in the fourth inning.

Rodriguez later capped the scoring with a solo home run in the eighth inning, his 23rd of the season, to give the Yankees a 10-0 lead. It is the fifth time in the past eight games the Yankees have scored in double digits.

“I’m not going to take credit away from New York,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen told MLB.com. “They’ve got great players out there.”

Newly acquired swingman Chad Gaudin came in the game to replace Mitre after he was injured and pitched 2 2/3 no-hit shutout innings. He walked just one batter and struck out four. 

Girardi though was proud to be vindicated for his faith in Mitre. 

“I know his work ethic,” Girardi told MLB.com. “I know his personality. I know his stuff. And I know he has a very good sinker.”

Instead of hoping for a rainout, Girardi actually is now hoping Mitre can heal fast enough for his next start in five days. If not, Gaudin likely will get the call.

The victory, coupled with the Boston Red Sox 3-1 victory over the Tornto Blue Jays on Saturday night, allowed the Yankees to maintain their six-game in the American League on the Red Sox.

But more pressing will be the completion of the three-game series with White Sox on Sunday. The Yankees can sweep the series and will have Joba Chamberlain (8-4, 4.34 ERA) on the mound. Handed a 4-0 lead on Tuesday, Chamberlain gave it back by allowing the Texas Rangers to score seven runs in four innings. He allowed nine hits, walked three and struck out five. 

The Yankees have now decided not to skip his turns in the rotation but limit his innings in his starts to four or five innings. He is 1-2 with a 8.55 ERA in his last four starts. Chamberlain has never started against the White Sox in his career.

Chamberlain will be opposed by Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.75 ERA). The 33-year-old right-hander turned in his first quality start since May 28, 2007 on Tuesday against the Boston Red Sox. He gave up five hits and three runs in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park. He is 4-3 with a 4.19 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Gametime is 1 p.m. EDT

Cano Downs Chisox With Homer in Tenth

YANKEES 5, WHITE SOX 2 (10 Innings)


With the rain coming down steadily and the wind blowing in like a gale from leftfield, down to his last strike with two out and two runners on in the 10th inning, Robinson Cano had just one thought on his mind: Look for a pitch to drive towards right.
He got the pitch he wanted and he did with it exactly what he wanted. 
Cano’s three-run home run into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center gave the New York Yankees a thrilling 5-2 walk-off victory in 10 innings over the visiting Chicago White Sox on Friday night.
“It’s exciting,” Cano told MLB.com. “You run around the bases and see the fans clapping and all your teammates at the plate. It’s something that you sometimes can’t describe. It’s great.”

Cano’s 21st home run of the season in the bottom of the 10th inning on a 2-2 fastball from lefty Randy Williams (0-1) gave the Yankees their 12th walk-off victory of the season, their highest total since they notched 13 victories in 1978.
The win also allowed the Yankees to maintain their six-game lead in the American League East over the Boston Red Sox, who defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 6-5 on Friday night.
For Cano, the home run was a bit of redemption for a season marked by his inability to hit with runners on base. In fact, in the fifth inning, Cano left the bases loaded by dribbling a weak grounder to White Sox starter Mark Buehrle to end a scoring threat.
“I was looking for something right in the middle,” said Cano. “I’ve been struggling with men on base, and I just wanted to do something where I could go up and swing the bat.”

“The thing about Robbie is, he’s going to put the ball in play,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. “A lot of times, he’s going to hit it hard. He hasn’t had the most luck this year of guys. But he put a great swing on that ball, and it was a no-doubter when he hit it.”

Cano, as the night’s hero, received a raucous mauling by his teammates at home plate at Yankee Stadium and later received the traditional shaving cream pie to the face delivered with enthusiasm by A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees actually opened the scoring off Buehrle early in the game. Derek Jeter greeted the veteran left-hander with a blast to leftfield on his fourth offering of the game. Jeter’s home run, the 17th of the season, was also the 223rd of his career to move him past Don Mattingly for 10th place on the all-time Yankees home run list.
In the third, Johnny Damon led off the inning with a lined shot to right that barely cleared the wall into the first row of the bleachers for his 23rd home run of the season, one away from his career best set in 2006. Buehrle, who now has not won a game in seven starts since he pitched a perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays on July 23, was quickly down 2-0.
The way that CC Sabathia was pitching, it looked as if that would be all the runs the left-hander would need to beat the White Sox. Through six innings, Sabathia had allowed four hits and no walks and had struck out 10 batters, tying his season high.
Sabathia was dominant and looking invincible on his way to a major league-leading 16th victory until the seventh inning.
Jermaine Dye opened the frame with a ringing double to right-center. After a walk, Dye came into to score on a double from an old Yankees nemesis, Alex Rios. But with runners at second and third and no outs, Sabathia went to work and looked like he would have a chance to escape the inning with a 2-1 lead.
Sabathia got Alexei Ramirez out on a liner to Cano. Ramon Castro followed with a bouncer to third and Alex Rodriguez cut down Carlos Quentin with a throw to home plate and Rios remained at second base.
Jayson Nix followed with a grounder right down the third base line that Rodriguez dove for and stopped from reaching the outfield to save a run. But now the bases were loaded.
Sabathia then gave up a lined single to right to Gordon Beckham that scored Rios from third but Nick Swisher cut down Castro at the plate with a one-hop throw to Jose Molina to end the inning. But the game was now tied.

“I really can’t be too upset,” said Sabathia, who threw 113 pitches and remained undefeated in his past six starts. “They put some good at-bats together; give them credit.”

“CC’s been our guy, there’s no doubt,” Swisher said to MLB.com. “When we’re out there, we give him the best of what we’ve got.”

The Yankees bullpen took over in the eighth inning and kept the White Sox scoreless while hoping that the Yankees’ offense would win the game.

Phil Hughes faced three batters in the eighth who had combined to hit 70 home runs this season — Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Dye — and he struck out all three swinging to lower his ERA this season to 1.23 as a reliever.

Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth and Brian Bruney (4-0) retired all three batters he faced in the 10th inning to pick up the win in relief.

“We’d rather win them earlier than walk-offs,” Bruney told MLB.com. “That means we’ve been in a lot of close games. I think for the bullpen, that’s beneficial.

“We’re pitching in a lot of tight games like it’s going to be in the playoffs. Fortunately, we’re getting our reps in, but obviously we’d like to win those earlier in the game.”

The Yankees will try to make it two in a row on Saturday afternoon when they send Sergio Mitre (2-1, 6.82 ERA) to the mound. In his last start on Aug. 15 in Seattle, Mitre pitched 5 1/3 innings and allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits to log his second win. 

He will face former Yankee right-hander Jose Contreras (5-12, 5.09 ERA). In his last start, Contreras gave up seven runs on four hits in 2 2/3 innings against Red Sox at Fenway Park last Monday. Manager Ozzie Guillen originally said Contreras would move to the bullpen but decided to give him a reprieve. Contreras is 2-5 with a 4.20 ERA against his former team.

Friday night’s game was played in steady downpour and the forecast for Saturday is not good. Tropical Storm Danny is expected to cause windy and rainy conditions for the next two days in New York.

Weather permitting, gametime is 1 p.m. EDT.


Pettitte Gets Yankees Back On Track

YANKEES 9, RANGERS 2


With Paul McCartney in attendance behind home plate, the New York Yankees got back to where they once belonged.
Behind a solid seven innings from Andy Pettitte and a five-run uprising in the seventh inning the Yankees returned the favor and beat the Texas Rangers 9-2 on Wednesday night.
Pettitte (11-6) gave up two runs on five hits and three walks as the Yankees evened the three-game series at one apiece and held their six-game lead in the American League East on Boston. 
Pettitte’s workmanlike gem gave the Yankees their fifth win in seven games.
“That’s the way it’s been my whole career, so that’s the way I like it, really,” Pettitte told MLB.com. “I don’t need a whole lot of attention. I just want to go out and help this team win. I just want to do my job and help us try to win another championship, and I’ll be happy.”

“Andy came down and shut down a pretty potent offense tonight,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “These guys really swing the bats. His stuff was outstanding. The location of his fastball was really good, his cutter was really good again tonight. That’s seven strong innings.”

Pettitte used his rediscovered cutter to strike out seven batters en route to the victory. He is undefeated in his past six starts.

“I didn’t feel that great, but I was able to get ahead with some of my breaking ball stuff,” Pettitte said to MLB.com. “The command of my fastball wasn’t quite as good as I would have liked for it to be, but the cutter was real good again.”

Pettitte also relied on his defense to wriggle out of danger. Of the four double plays the Yankees recorded on the night, Pettitte induced three of them. His first in the first inning off the bat of DH Ivan Rodriguez ended a bases-loaded one-out threat.

“I love the way he’s throwing the ball,” Girardi told MLB.com. “A number of double plays tonight, and he got a ton of ground balls because he was down in the zone. He got a sinker in and a good cutter that really kept them off balance. He has been really big for us.”

McCartney, who attended the game with actor Jack Nicholson and “Saturday Night Live” producer Lorne Michaels, must have agreed with that assessment.
The victory for Pettitte was No. 189 as a Yankee, which ties him with Lefty Gomez at third place on the club’s all-time list. He now only trails only Red Ruffing and Whitey Ford.
Pettitte’s only problem was retiring lefty David Murphy, who came into the game on a 3-for-27 slide. Murphy drove in Chris Davis with a double to the wall in left-center in the fifth inning. The Yankees appeared to have a play on Davis at the plate, however, Robinson Cano dropped the relay throw and Davis scored easily.
Murphy added a solo home run in the seventh inning, driving a 1-1 pitch into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to draw the Rangers to within two at 4-2.
Jorge Posada keyed the early offense with a three-run home run in the second inning, his 17th of the season, and Jerry Hairston Jr., who started for Johnny Damon, added a solo shot in the fourth inning to give Pettitte a 4-0 lead.
Hairston only started because the lefty-swinging Damon had struggled when he last faced Holland. Hairston made the manager look prophetic with his home run.

“You just want to do something positive that day,” Hairston said. “I think I’ve learned that, being in this type of role where you’re playing third [base] or center field or left field. You just try to do something positive.”

The Yankees managed to drive rookie left-hander Derek Holland (7-8) from the game in the seventh inning with a leadoff double from Cano and Hairston worked a walk after fouling off pitch-after-pitch in a 12-pitch duel with Holland.
Rangers manager Ron Washington summoned right-hander Jason Jennings from the bullpen and he imploded. He committed an error on Melky Cabrera’s sacrifice bunt and the bases were loaded with no outs.
Derek Jeter followed with a two-run single, Nick Swisher doubled in Cabrera and Mark Teixeira capped the uprising with a single off the wall in right to score Jeter and Swisher. After surrendering an early lead and having a furious ninth inning rally come up a run short Tuesday night the Yankees made sure the Rangers had no illusion of having a chance to come back.
Posada was the only worrisome part of the night for the Yankees. Struck on the glove by a foul tip off the bat of Nelson Cruz, the veteran catcher left the game in the eighth inning with a bruised left ring finger. 
“Andy pitched outstanding,” Posada said to MLB.com. “He did a lot of good things. He had a very good sinker and changeup at times. He just gave up a bad cutter to Murphy and a curveball to Murphy again that he left up. But othe
r than that, he was outstanding.”

The Yankees will try to win the series Thursday afternoon with right-hander A.J. Burnett (10-7, 4.08 ERA), who was clobbered for a career-high nine runs in five innings against the Red Sox at Fenway Park last Saturday as the Yankees lost 14-1. Burnett is winless in August and has lost back-to-back starts for the first time this season. 
However, Burnett beat the Rangers on back-to-back starts on May 26 and June 2, firing a combined 13 innings and giving up just three runs.
The Rangers will send young right-hander Dustin Nippert (4-2, 3.95 ERA) to the hill. Nippert is 1-2 with a 5.14 ERA on the road this season while he is 3-0 with a 1.76 ERA at home. He has not faced the Yankees this season.
Gametime is 1 p.m. EDT.

Yankees Always Pass Fading Red Sox

COMMENTARY



It has played out in every season except last season, so why should 2009 be any different for the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
It is the tortoise and the hare or is it better stated as Jose Molina and Jacoby Ellsbury?
The Boston Red Sox always break out of the gate by practically busting it down. The Yankees start the season like they are in the Instructional League and asking Joe Girardi: “What do you mean hit it to the opposite field?’
But right about the time this season that Roy Halladay won his sixth game in a row and he looked like a lock for the Cy Young, the Yankees got Alex Rodriguez back and they began to actually look like a baseball team.
And unlike past years, they look like a baseball team with very good pitching.
Since May 8, the Yankees have a record of 65-31, a .677 winning percentage. The Red Sox, or shall we call them the Red Flops, are 53-42, a .558 percentage. That actually is not an awful percentage. The Red Sox have a .573 percentage overall and that is the third-best record in the American League.
But the problem is that the Yankees’ percentage is so scorching hot that the Red Sox could not have possibly kept pace, even with a completely healthy team. If the Yankees played at that pace through the entire season, they would win 110 game — shades of their 1998 club.
But this pattern is nothing really new. Yankees fans just may have fuzzy memories of it because last season was so bad.
Circa 2004: The Yankees actually came from behind to beat the Red Sox to win the American league East title. We won’t mention anything else about that year. (Where was Aaron Boone when you needed him anyway?)
Circa 2005: This was the season that the Yankees lost almost their entire starting rotation and Brian Cashman dipped into the minors and brought up a rookie named Chien-Ming Wang and free-agent journeyman Aaron Small and traded for Shawn Chacon. This threesome, including an amazing 10-0 record for Small, not only kept the Yankees in the division chase they helped the Yankees clinch it on the next to the last day of the season against the Red Sox.
Circa 2006: The Yankees suffered devastating injuries to two 100-RBI outfielders when both Hideki Matsui and Gary Sheffield suffered wrist injuries. Manager Joe Torre somehow kept the Yankees afloat with what, at one time, was an outfield of Melky Cabrera, Bubba Crosby and Aaron Guiel. The Yankees again got hot in the second half and passed the Red Sox to win another division title.
Circa 2007: This was the season of the injured starter. The Yankees would bring them up and then they would go down. Remember Jeff Karstens getting blasted by a Coco Crisp line drive? How about Chase Wright giving up four consecutive homers to the Red Sox? So the Red Sox won the championship. They must have won the division, right? Nope. The Yankees won it and the Red Sox need to thank MLB for the wild card or The Curse would still be around.
Perhaps one of the reasons the Yankees seem to always come storming out of the depths to win the division title year after year is because their players are second-half players. Not that they are bad players but just players who play exceptionally well down the stretch.
Look at the Yankees who traditionally play better after May:
Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, CC Sabathia . . .
This season you can add Derek Jeter and Matsui to that list as well as Andy Pettitte.
Then look at Boston’s Mr. April: Kevin Youkilis. His best month is always April. He started out this season like he was Albert Pujols. Since April he has been more like Adam LaRoche. Beckett’s best starts came before the break.
How is Jason Bay been been after June? He is hitting .257.
The rotation went into a tailspin the minute they lost Tim Wakefield. The bullpen has not been the same either. If it is so good why are they even considering Billy Wagner?
Nope this scenario plays out every season season, just about.
The only thing is, this time the playoff scenario might end up a bit different. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett will see to that.

It’s Yankee Bombs Away on Beckett, Bosox

YANKEES 8, RED SOX 4


In 2006, Yankee fans derisively called Josh Beckett the name of “Trash Bucket” during a season in which he gave up 38 home runs and posted an ERA of 5.01.
On Sunday night, the New York Yankees saw a reappearance of the old “Bucket” as they pounded Beckett for a career-worst five home runs as the Bronx Bombers defeated the Boston Red Sox 8-4.
Hideki Matsui, who hit two home runs and drove in a career-best seven runs Friday night, led the assault on the Red Sox ace with two more home runs — both solo shots in the second and eighth innings.
In fact, Derek Jeter gave a hint as to the evening would go when he blasted Beckett’s first offering into the bleachers in right-center for an early 1-0 lead. It also was the 2,700th hit of his career.
CC Sabathia, who had previously never beaten Beckett, pitched a tough 6 2/3 innings to pick up his major-league leading 15th victory of the season. Sabathia is also now 20-2 in the month of August since 2005.
With the victory the Yankees won the three-game road series and increased their lead in the American League East over the fading Red Sox to 7 1/2 games.
The Yankees also completed their 10-game road trip with seven victories and they have now won 15 of their last 17 series.
Oddly enough, the Red Sox may actually be cheering on the Yankees on Tuesday when the Yankees open a home series against the Texas Rangers, who trail the Red Sox by just one game in the wild-card standings, which now may be the only realistic shot the Red Sox have for making the playoffs.
Beckett struggled in just about every inning. The Yankees scored in each of the first five innings:
Jeter’s homer in the first, Matsui’s homer in the second, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez drive a run apiece in the third, Robinson Cano homers in the fourth and A-Rod adds a two-run blast of his own in the fifth. 
When the dust settled some, the Yankees held a 7-3 lead and Beckett was getting a crick in his neck having to watch the moon shots landing in the Fenway Park bleachers faster than the D Train into Yankee Stadium. 
In his first 22 starts this season Beckett (14-7) had given up just 10 home runs. In his last three starts he has given up 10 more. 
“To be honest with you, Beckett is a great pitcher, but this lineup is unbelievable,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “I’ve had confidence in this offense all year. I’ve just felt like I don’t have to do too much to win games. If I can just keep them in the game, we’ll have a good chance to win.”
Sabathia was touched for eight hits and four runs (three earned) but he struck out eight and did not walk a batter in a solid 118-pitch effort. A Robinson Cano error in the fourth inning and dropped pop fly in the sixth inning cost him a run in each inning.
“He’s a great pitcher and that’s why we went and got him,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “This is his 15th win and he’s been outstanding for us. This was a very tough lineup he faced tonight, and he was able to overcome the few miscues that we had.”

Sabathia just waited for the Yankee offense to take over. Cano’s home run in the fourth was his 19th, which ties a career high. Rodriguez’s lined blast over the Green Monster was 22nd of the season.
“These guys swing the bats,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “This is a tough lineup to face. Believe me, I tried it for a couple of years. It just feels good to be on the other side of it.”
Matsui capped the five-homer barrage off Beckett in the eighth with a high shot down the right-field line, his 23rd of the season. He completed the weekend series with four home runs in 15 at-bats and he drove in nine runs.
He certainly lived up to his nickname in Japan of Godzilla. 

“I felt like the concentration level of the team was different,” Matsui told MLB.com through an interpreter. “I think whatever hittable pitches [Beckett] left in the zone, everyone was able to put a really good swing on it and hit the ball hard. I think that was important.”

“You put hitters like him in that order and it just lengthens it out so much, there’s no deep breath,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “Every time you make a mistake, they made us pay for it.”

“Obviously, you tend to remember those,” Beckett said to MLB.com. “These are humbling deals. That was a whooping I got today.”

On the surface, Beckettl’s line was not bad. He pitched eight innings and gave up nine hits, walked none and struck out five. He also retired nine batters in a row at one point. But the five home runs were too much for the Red Sox to overcome.

“We’ve been clicking here of late,” Sabathia told MLB.com. “Since the All-Star break, really, we’ve been playing great. We’ve just got to keep it rolling.”

In order to keep things rolling, the Yankees — after a day off on Monday — will open a three-game series with the Texas Rangers on Tuesday night at the new Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees will send a well-rested Joba Chamberlain (8-3, 3.98 ERA) to the mound. Chamberlain has not pitched in eight days as the Yankees continue to limit his innings in the stretch run. Chamberlain lost a 10-3 decision to the Mariners on Aug. 16. giving up four runs on five hits in five innings. In his past three starts, Chamberlain is 1-1 with 6.75 ERA. 

The Rangers will counter with veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood (9-8, 3.48 ERA). Millwood allowed five earned runs in 5 2/3 innings against the Twins on Wednesday. He took the loss and has not won in his past four starts and has just one victory in his past eight starts. He is 1-4 with a 4.50 ERA in eight career starts against the Yankees.

Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

Prediction: Pitching Matchup Favors Yankees

GAME TWO PREDICTION


The Yankees proved their recent four-game sweep of the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium two weeks ago was not a fluke. On Friday night they pounded Brad Penny and Michael Bowden for 15 runs over six innings en route to a 20-11 victory at Fenway Park.
I do not like to brag but I think my Game 1 prediction was right on the mark:

“The Red Sox will have to hope that Penny can, at least, keep the Red Sox in the game long enough for their hitters to solve Pettitte and his newly rediscovered cutter. If not, it could be a long night for the Bosox. 

If Pettitte settles in while the Yankees pound Penny, the game could be over early.”

Now will see if my crystal ball is still working for Game Two.
GAME TWO: Burnett vs. Tazawa

The pitching matchup is grossly one-sided. A.J. Burnett, when he is on his game, is simply nasty to face. His fastball is 96 mph and he has a devastating slider and curveball to go with it. He matched Josh Beckett pitch-for-pitch in a classic Aug. 7 matchup at Yankee Stadium. The game ended in 15 innings with the Yankees winning 2-0.
One thing Red Sox manager Terry Francona usually does before series with the Yankees is to stagger his rotation in such a way to make sure his best starters face the Yankees. Leading into this series, Francona did not do it.
As a result, Penny and rookie Junichi Tazawa are pitching the critical first two games. Why? Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz might have been wiser choices now considering what happened to Penny and what is facing Tazawa.
THE GAME PLAN

The Red Sox had better hope that Burnett pitches like he did on June 9 at Fenway Park when Beckett beat him 7-0. If not. it could be a long and somber afternoon for Red Sox Nation. The Yankees are simply too hot not to be able to get to Tazawa.
It might not be as bad the beatdown they gave Penny, but it could be close today. Tazawa was unable to contain the hard-hitting Rangers last Sunday so there is no expectation he will be able to keep the Yankees off the board for long.
The question is will he be able to contain the damage enough to keep the Red Sox in it.
I am saying Tazawa likely will be able to do that, at least. But I think Burnett and Yankees bullpen will be able to keep the Red Sox from nettlesome rallies this afternoon, too.
I see a game that may end up with a 7-2 score. The Yankees win the series and will be just one game from ending all Red Sox hopes of first place in the AL East.

Matsui’s 7 RBIs Help Yankees To Bash Bosox

YANKEES 20, RED SOX 11


Beckett vs. Burnett it wasn’t.
It was, in just three words, a one-sided slugfest.
Hideki Matsui hit a pair of three-run home runs and drove in a career-high seven runs to lead the New York Yankees to a 20-11 defeat of the Boston Red Sox on Friday night.
The victory increased the Yankees lead in the American League East to 7 1/2 games and dealt a serious blow to the Red Sox’ hopes to get back into the division race this weekend.
The Yankees unleashed a torrent of 23 hits at Fenway Park that began with Derek Jeter’s leadoff ground-rule double and fittingly ended with a Melky Cabrera single in the ninth in which he was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double.

“It was incredible,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “The good thing is we kept tacking on. They kept coming back as well. Big nights … up and down the lineup.”

The 31 runs scored by both teams also set a record. It was the most scored in a game by the two franchises, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous record was set on July 29, 1903 when the Yankees beat the Red Sox 15-14.

“It’s baseball,” Jeter told MLB.com. “That’s why you can’t punch it all into a computer and figure out who’s going to win. You could try, but I bet you wouldn’t figure this out.”

One thing the Yankees did prove to the Red Sox is that it is not a good idea to dip into the bargain bin during the off-season free-agent signing period. 
Red Sox GM Theo Epstein scoffed at the Yankees megabuck signings of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett this winter and extolled the prudence of the Red Sox’ “low-risk, high-reward” signings of injured veteran starters John Smoltz and Brad Penny.
On Aug. 6 at Yankee Stadium the Yankees pounded the 42-year-old Smoltz for nine hits and eight runs in 3 1/3 innings en route to a 13-6 romp. Epstein promptly designated Smoltz for assignment. He was released and he has since signed with St. Louis.
On Friday night, the Yankees took care of Penny. They rocked the 31-year-old right-hander for 10 hits and eight runs in 4-plus innings.
In two starts against the Yankees, the “low-risk” pair of Smoltz and Penny were bombarded for 19 hits and 16 runs in 7 1/3 innings for an ERA of 19.64. In Penny’s last five starts beginning on July 29, he has given up 37 hits and 27 runs in 26 2/3 innings for an ERA of 9.11.
If the Red Sox get injured starters Tim Wakefield and Daisuke Matsuzaka back there is a good possibility Penny may be released also.
Penny left the game in fifth inning after having given up six runs in the first two innings and manager Terry Francona took him out after he gave up singles to Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez.
Francona decided to summon rookie right-hander Michael Bowden, who was just recalled from Triple-A Pawtucket earlier in the day.
Bowden did not fare much better than Penny. His second pitch to Hideki Matsui was smashed on a line into the right-field Boston bullpen to give the Yankees a 9-1 lead. The Yankees ended up bringing 12 batters to the plate in the inning and they put the game pretty much out of serious reach at 12-1.
Francona left Bowden in for two innings and he gave up eight hits, three walks and seven earned runs. On Saturday morning, Bowden was sent back to Pawtucket.
The only saving grace for the Red Sox was that Andy Pettitte succumbed to a three-run fifth inning and some bad luck in the sixth courtesy of right-hander Brian Bruney, who came on in relief of Pettitte and could not throw a strike. 
Pettitte (10-6) won despite being charged for seven runs (five earned) on seven hits and two walks. Bruney walked three, hit a batter and gave up two hits. But even with the damage Bruney caused, the Yankees led 15-7 when he departed.
“No excuses. I should have gone deeper into the game,” Pettitte said to MLB.com. “I hate it that my pitch count got up so high. I felt good, the results — as far as the numbers and stuff — wasn’t exactly what I wanted, but we got a win. That was the big thing, and the guys are feeling good about themselves, swinging the bats well.”
With a largely partisan Red Sox crowd of 37,869 in attendance, they actually were on their feet in the sixth inning when J.D. Drew stepped to the plate with the bases loaded and the Red Sox down 15-5. Grand slam was on their minds.
They got a bases-loaded walk instead and it was 15-6.
Lucky for Bruney, Alex Gonzalez pretty much killed the threat with a double-play groundout. A run scored but Jacoby Ellsbury ended inning with a weak popup to Robinson Cano. Gonzalez ended the game 0 for 5.
Matsui added another run for the Yankees in the seventh after Rodriguez tripled to lead off the inning. It was his first triple since the 2006 season. Matsui hit a infield grounder to score Rodriguez. 
Matsui added a three-run home run in a four-run ninth off right-hander Ramon Ramirez for his career-high seven RBIs.
Rodriguez, who entered the game hitting .188 in his last 10 games, went 4-for-4. The red-hot Jeter, who was hitting .550 in his last 10 games, went 3-for-5 with two RBIs. Cabrera, who also had been in an extended slump, went 4-for-6 and drove in two runs.
The 20 runs were the most the Yankees have scored against Boston since a 22-1 rout on June 19, 2000 at Fenway.
“We were fortunate,” Jeter said. “We swung the bats well and didn’t pitch the way we wanted to, but you get away with some things when you score that many runs.”
The Yankees, who lost the first eight games against the Red Sox this season, have now won five in a row against their bitter rivals. They also are 26-8 since the All-Star break.

“I can tell you one thing: That’s not the team we played two months ago,” Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz told MLB.com. “We’ve got to keep that in mind. They have a lot of good players, and they’ve found a way to put themselves together. We’ve been watching that for years.”

The Yankees can now win the weekend series on Saturday afternoon and they will send right-hander A.J. Burnett (10-6, 3.69 ERA) to the mound. Burnett paid the price for one bad inning in his last start. The three-run fourth inning gave the A’s a 3-0 victory over the Yankees. He is now winless in his past four starts. In his last start against Boston two weeks ago, Burnett pitched 7 2/3 innings of scoreless one-hit ball in a game the Yankees won 2-0 in 15 innings.

The Red Sox are countering with rookie Junichi Tazawa (1-2, 5.40 ERA), who surrendered the game-winning home run to Alex Rodriguez in that 15-inning game Burnett started. Tazawa gave up four earned runs over five-plus innings against the Rangers on Sunday. He allowed 10 hits and three walks. He is 1-1 with a 4.50 ERA as a starter.

NOTES . . . Johnny Damon left the game in the first inning with a bruised right knee he suffered in his first at-bat. Damon fouled a ball off his right knee. The Yankees said it is uncertain if he will be able to play Saturday . . . Left-hander Damaso Marte finally returned to the Yankees after four months on he disabled list with a sore shoulder. Marte pitched two-thirds of an inning on Friday, retiring David Ortiz on a flyout and striking out Mike Lowell with the bases loaded. Marte’s arrival means the Yankees now have two left=handers in the bullpen (Marte and Phil Coke) and Marte will be the lefty specialist . . . With the activation of Marte the Yankees optioned utility infielder Ramiro Pena back to Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre.




Prediction: Yankees Will Prevail In Game 1

YANKEES-RED SOX SERIES PREVIEW


The New York Yankees come into Fenway Park on Friday with the best record in the majors this season (76-45) and they have a record of 25-8 since the All-Star Break, including four victories over the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium earlier this month.
The Yankees also have the third-best record in the major leagues in road win percentage (35-27, .565) trailing only the Los Angels Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies.
In their last 10 games the Yankees are 7-3.
The Boston Red Sox are currently seven games behind the Yankees in the American League standings. They are currently leading the American League Wild Card race by a game over the Texas Rangers.
The Red Sox are 38-18 at Fenway Park this season and they have swept the Yankees in two previous series at home.
In their last 10 games the Red Sox are 6-4.
GAME 1 (Friday) Pettitte vs. Penny

The Red Sox offense has been red hot over the past 10 games, led by a resurgent Jason Bay, David Ortiz and recently acquired Victor Martinez. The trio has combined for 13 home runs and 26 RBIs in their last 10 games as the Red Sox lost and then regained the lead in the wild-card race from the Rangers.
However, they do enter the series with some concerns. 
First, there is the neck spasms that are bothering team captain and catcher Jason Varitek. With Pettitte pitching on Friday, Martinez will likely start at catcher anyway, but Varitek will be needed behind the plate at some point in the series.
Another concern is the return of Dustin Pedroia, who has missed several games due to the birth of his first child. Pedroia has been scuffling at the plate anyway, batting only .225 in his last 10 games.
Finally there is Kevin Youkilis, who had to serve a five-game suspension last week for charging the mound on Detroit Tigers rookie pitcher Rick Porcello. Youkilis has also been slumping at the plate, hitting .257 in his last 10 games.
The key in game could come down to third baseman Mike Lowell. Lowell has always hit well against the Yankees and his right-hand bat could be valuable against the left-hander Pettitte.
The Yankees offense has been fairly consistent over the past 10 games (averaging 4.8 runs per game). But the Yankees, unlike the Red Sox, have been doing it with somewhat less power. The Yankees have scored only two less runs than the Red Sox despite hitting only 16 home runs over the past 10 games compared to the Red Sox, who have belted 24 home runs.
The Red Sox will have to find a way to keep a red hot Derek Jeter off base in the series. Jeter is hitting an incredible .550 in his last 10 games with three home runs and seven RBIs and nine runs scored. Jeter has been the catalyst driving the Yankees for the past month and MVP talk about him is swirling again.
Meanwhile, several Yankees stars are not hitting well. Alex Rodriguez, who was struck twice in the left arm with the pitches in the last week and who also suffered from back spasms, is slumping mightily. He is hitting .188 with just one home run and two RBIs in his past 10 games.
Melky Cabrera (.135), Jorge Posada (.238) and Mark Teixeira (.235) are also struggling over the past 10 games.
However, the Yankees have continued to win because of pitching and the pitching matchup gives them a big edge in Game 1 on Friday.
Andy Pettitte (9-6, 4.09 ERA) is simply pitching his best baseball of the season of late. In his late three starts, Pettitte is 1-0 with a 1.37 ERA. In his last start against Seattle, he gave up two runs after facing the first four batters but recovered to stop the Mariners through six innings and struck out a season-high 10 batters.
In his last start against the Red Sox on Aug. 9, Pettitte held the Red Sox to five hits and walked two in seven scoreless innings in a no decision the Yankees eventually won 5-2.
The Red Sox are countering with right-hand veteran Brad Penny (7-7, 5.22 ERA). Penny has been dreadful in his last three starts (0-2 with a 6.11 ERA). Since July 29, Penny has surrendered 19 earned runs in his last 22 2/3 innings for an ERA of 7.54.
In that same span he has given up 27 hits and 11 walks for a WHIP of 1.68.
THE GAME PLAN

The Red Sox will have to hope that Penny can, at least, keep the Red Sox in the game long enough for their hitters to solve Pettitte and his newly rediscovered cutter. If not, it could be a long night for the Bosox. 
If Pettitte settles in while the Yankees pound Penny, the game could be over early.
Should the Red Sox get to Pettitte the game, as Yankee-Red Sox battles often do, could come down to the two bullpens. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, their supposed superiority in the bullpen has not been bourn out by the statistics.
Mariano Rivera is leading the American League in saves with 36 and he has converted 32 consecutive save chances, a career best streak. The Yankees have also been able to get the ball to Rivera through a trio of setup men: Alfredo Aceves, Phil Coke and Phil Hughes.
The Yankees have also been able to get quality work from David Robertson, who has 52 strikeouts in just 35 1/3 innings.
The Red Sox, if they are able to keep the game close enough to take a lead, still have quality in closer Jonathan Papelbon (29 saves in 32 chances). 
With the Yankees dominance of left-hand hitters, Hideki Okajima will be a key in the series, as well. Hard-throwing rookie Daniel Bard comes into the series looking for redemption after surrendering back-to-back home runs to Damon and Teixeira in the eighth inning of a 5-2 loss on Aug. 9. Bard has also been scored upon in past two outings.
The Red Sox also have hard-throwing right-handers Ramon Ramirez and Manny Delcarmen, but Delcarmen has been inconsistent lately.
THE PREDICTION

I believe the Red Sox will be able to get to Pettitte early and I see them taking an early lead. Penny, though, will begin to succumb to the Yankees offense and I see him getting chased in the middle innings after giving up five runs to give the Yankees a 7-3 lead.
A high pitch count will drive Pettitte from the game after six and the Red Sox may have some luck off Coke, scoring two runs. However, the Yankees will enter the eighth inning with a 7-5 lead and Hughes and Rivera will combine for the last six outs to give the Yankees a 7-5 victory.
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