September 2010

Sabathia Pitches Gem To Clinch Yankees’ Playoff Invite

GAME 158
YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 1

At last, my love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song
                                     — Etta James

As Alex Rodriguez’s throw hit Mark Teixeira’s glove to retire Toronto’s Lyle Overbay with the 27th out on Tuesday night, you could almost hear a collective sigh of relief coming from the Yankee coaching staff as they hugged in the Rogers Centre visitors’ dugout.
“Whew!” pretty much sums up what the Yankees had to go through to clinch a playoff spot. Now that the team had it, there was no wild celebrations (unlike the screaming banshees of the Tampa Bay Rays did in St. Petersburg, FL, earlier in the evening). It was a very subdued celebration.
The reason is that bigger prizes are still left undecided: the American League East title, the best record in the American League and home-field advantage in the playoffs are still within reach. The Yankees will celebrate then.
But CC Sabathia pitched masterfully into the ninth inning, Mariano Rivera recorded the final two outs and the Yankees played “playoff-style little ball” all evening to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays and eliminate the Boston Red Sox from any chance to make the playoffs.
With all that accomplished, the Yankees could shake off the fact they had lost 14 of their last 21 games coming into the game and focus on the goal of the 28th world championship.
Sabathia (21-7) pitched much like he did last season when he led the Yankees to their first championship in nine years. He also pitched much like he has done this season in leading the Yankees to their 15th playoff berth in the last 16 seasons.
Sabathia gave up a solo two-out home run to Travis Snider in the third inning, which halved the Yankees’ lead to 2-1 at the time. He also gave up a one-out, opposite field single to Vernon Wells in the seventh inning. And that was pretty much all of the Blue Jays’ offense through eight innings.
Sabathia also walked Jose Bautista with two outs in the first inning.
But he struck eight and only allowed six balls to reach the outfield through the first eight innings.
He started the ninth, but Snider touched him for lined single to right and Yunel Escobar coaxed Sabathia’s second walk. After Sabathia retired Bautista on a deep fly to center-field, manager Joe Girardi, playing it safe, replaced the tiring left-hander with Rivera.
Rivera retired Vernon Wells on a sharp liner to left and Overbay’s grounder to A-Rod closed it out for the Bronx “Little Ballers,” such was they way they played on this night.
The Yankees scored their six runs without the benefit of a hit. They used three sacrifice flies, scored a pair of runs on infield grounders and one scored on a bases-loaded walk.
Derek Jeter led the “assault,” if you can call it that, with two hits, a walk, three runs scored and an RBI on a fielder’s choice.
Jeter scored in the first on an Alex Rodriguez sacrifice fly off rookie Jays starter Kyle Drabek (0-3), the son of former Yankee pitcher Doug Drabek who was making only his third major-league start. 
Jeter scored another run in the third inning without the benefit of a hit. He walked, moved to second on a wild pitch and Nick Swisher bunted him over to third. Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly to score Jeter.
The Yankees scored another in the fifth when Brett Gardner stroked a one-out triple and he slid home on Jeter’s grounder to Edwin Encarnacion at third. Encarnacion’s throw to the plate and the tag by catcher John Buck was just late and Gardner was ruled safe by home-plate umpire Mark Carlson.
The Yankees added two runs in the eighth inning and a single run in the ninth inning as they loaded the bases and threatened to blow the game wide open in both frames.
Instead, they settled for a bases-loaded walk to Alex Rodriguez in the eighth that scored Jeter again. Robinson Cano followed a sacrifice fly to score pinch-runner Greg Golson.
In the ninth, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs on a pinch-hit single by Marcus Thames, a walk to Curtis Granderson and a sac bunt attempt by Gardner that Encarnacion  allowed to roll down the line and hit the third base bag for a single.
After Jeter was fanned by reliever Casey Janssen, Golson scored pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez with a groundout to Encarnacion at third. It was Golson’s first major-league RBI and it closed out the scoring for the night.
Now most the pressure is off. The Yankees have achieved their first goal. They have a few very important goals left in the four games that remain: Win their 14th divisional crown in the past 15 seasons and clinch the best record in baseball.
With the Rays’ victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, the Yankees trail the Rays by a slim half-game in the American League East. They also trail the Rays by a half-game for the best record. The Central Division Minnesota Twins, who lost to Kansas City on Tuesday, trail the Yankees by 1 1/2 games.
If the Yankees overtake the Rays and clinch home-field for the AL playoffs they will celebrate. But not until then.

Bosox Fail To Read Miranda, Let Yanks Walk To Victory

GAME 156
YANKEES 4, RED SOX 3 (10 Innings)

Sometimes an heroic act just comes out of doing nothing but letting the other guy beat himself.
On Sunday night, Juan Miranda did just that and his ability to let Hideki Okajima’s 3-1 pitch with two out and the bases loaded sail inside for ball four propelled the New York Yankees to a dramatic 10th-inning walk-off victory over the Boston Red Sox and clinch no worse than a tie for the playoffs.
Perhaps it was fitting that in the final regular season game at Yankee Stadium that the Yankees would throw off a week of nagging injuries, poor starting pitching and four straight losses at home and fight the Red Sox tooth and nail and virtually hammer the final nail in Boston’s hopes to stage a miracle rally to get into the playoffs.
Now in order for the Bosox to make the American League playoff dance, the Yankees would have to lose every remaining game and Boston would have to win the rest of their games. And, only then, they would have to beat the Yankees in a one-game-playoff.
After Sunday night’s victory, even Bucky Dent knows that is not real likely no matter how poorly the Yankees have played this week.
There actually were many heroes for the Yankees on this night. Not just Miranda.
First, there was Phil Hughes, who was originally scheduled to have his start skipped, only to have manager Joe Girardi change his mind on Sunday afternoon.
Good thing, too. Hughes pitched brilliantly into the seventh inning, giving up only one run on three hits and four walks and striking out four. Hughes would have deserved his 18th victory if Daisuke Matsuzaka had not decided to forget the over 6.00 career ERA he had posted against the Yankees coming into the game and pitch more like the pitcher the Red Sox thought they paid a total of $114 million to leave Japan.
Matsuzaka pitched six innings of two-hit, no walk shutout baseball. Unfortunately, for Dice-K, the Yankees got a one-out opposite field single from Mark Teixeira in the seventh inning. Dice-K must have figured, “No problem, Alex Rodriguez is 2-for-29 off me.” That is the second worst mark A-Rod had off any pitcher with that many at-bats in his career.
Matsuzaka put him into a deep hole, too. He was up on the count 0-2. The wind was also hailing in from left-center, part of a pesky storm system moving into the Bronx and pelting the 49,199 fans with some driving rain. Not easy conditions for a home run.
Tell that to hero No. 2, A-Rod. He hung a high, inside fastball out on a clothesline into right-center-field and it landed in the first row of the bleachers to give the Yankees their first lead of the evening, their first lead in the three-game series with the Red Sox and their first lead in a game since the fifth inning of Thursday’s 10-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Yankees then gladly took that lead into the ninth before Red Sox manager Terry Francona decided to dust off the ghost of Dave Roberts in 2004 and turn Mariano Rivera’s ninth inning into a track meet.
The Red Sox managed only two hits in the inning but scored two runs on the heels — literally — of four stolen bases, two by Ryan Kalish and two by Bill Hall. Hall’s RBI single after Kalish’s two swipes tied it and a pinch-hit sac fly by Mike Lowell with Hall having dashed to third put the Red Sox Nation into delirium with a 3-2 lead.
However, hero No. 3 arrived in the bottom of the ninth for the Yankees.
With Jonathan Papelbon having blown seven saves this season, it is easy to see why in the way he pitched the ninth against the Yankees. 
With one out, Papelbon walked Nick Swisher. Teixeira followed the gift with his second clutch single of the night and Papelbon poured even more fuel on his own destruction by walking Rodriguez to load the bases.
MVP candidate Robinson Cano, hero No.. 3, stepped in and laced a solid single to right to score pinch-runner Eduardo Nunez with the tying run. Make that eight blown saves for Papelbon, a new career high. Why do they all seem to have come off the Yankees?
Papelbon wiggled out of further trouble in the ninth but he merely passed the goat horns off to Okajima, who made a hero of Miranda in the tenth.
Okajima pitched as if the plate were dynamite and the baseball contained nitro glycerine. Which is to say, Okajima tried his best NOT to throw a pitch near the strike zone and make sure it had no velocity.
Curtis Granderson opened the inning with a single and Brett Gardner moved him to second on a bunt that Victor Martinez threw into the back of Gardner for an error. Granderson made it to third on the misplay and Gardner was safe at first.
Francona ordered Okajima to walk Jeter to load the bases. That was the easiest thing for Okajima to do all night. Throwing pitches out of the strike zone is a specialty of the lefty from Japan.
After pinch-hitter Marcus Thames was robbed of glory by a bases-loaded stab of a short-hopper ticketed for left-field by Adrian Beltre, who threw home to retire Granderson for the only out Okajima got all night. 
Miranda only entered the game because Girardi had used pinch-runner Ramiro Pena to run for Teixeira in the ninth. Miranda was sent in to play first base in the 10th inning.
The lefty swinging Miranda was forced to bat against the left-handed Okajima, 
Miranda only swung — and missed — on Okajima’s second pitch. It was within the zip code of the plate but enticing enough. But Okajima’s other three offerings to Miranda were nowhere close to the plate and nowhere close to 90 miles per hour.
So, up on the count 3-1, Miranda was ready to pounce on anything resembling a fastball over the plate. But Okajima made it easy on Miranda by uncorking a pitch up and in and the rookie merely sidestepped it and took it for ball four.
He raced to touch first base as his Yankee teammates chased him in jubilation.
How cruel an ending for the Red Sox. Their 2010 hopes were vanquished on a bases-loaded walk to a minor-league first baseman. There is just a little bit of 2004 payback in that scenario.
Bucky Dent is very proud, too.
Hasta la vista, Red Sox!

Hughes, Yankees Catch Rays With Their Shields Down

GAME 151
YANKEES 8, RAYS 3

The Tampa Bay Rays’ nickname for starting pitcher James Shields is “Big Game.” It refers to their perception that he seems to step up in the crucial contests and pitch well.
Well, on Tuesday night the New York Yankees turned “Big Game” Shields into “The Hunted” and put up five runs on the right-hander in the first inning. From there Yankees starter Phil Hughes and the New Yorkers cruised to another victory over the Rays.
Hughes (17-8) entered the game as the top run-supported pitcher in baseball at 7.72 runs per game and the Yankees made sure he had plenty of runs to work with to vanquish Tampa Bay. They forced Shields (13-13) to pitch to nine batters and throw 42 pitches in scoring five runs before the some fans had even bought their first hotdog. 
Nick Swisher ignited the onslaught with a solo home run to right-center, his 27th home run of the season. 
A walk to Teixeira and an Alex Rodriguez single set up Jorge Posada’s two-out RBI single to center to score Teixeira. Lance Berkman followed with a line-drive double to center-field to score Rodriguez and Posada.
Last night’s hero with five RBIs, Curtis Granderson, kept his hot streak going with a single to center to plate Berkman and Shields was only left to ponder a more fitting nickname of “Big Deficit”
Hughes was nicked by a solo home run by Matt Joyce in the second inning, a two-out RBI single by Evan Longoria in the third and a two-out RBI single by Carl Crawford in the seventh, which came off Javier Vazquez after Hughes left the game with Jason Bartlett on second.
But, otherwise Hughes managed to keep the Rays from doing any big damage to get back into the game. Hughes gave up three runs on only four hits but he did walk five and fanned six over 6 1/3 innings.
But the Rays mostly did damage to themselves by stranding 10 base-runners in the game. They loaded the bases with two out in the fourth inning and Ben Zobrist grounded out to Teixeira at first to end the threat.
They also loaded the bases on Vazquez and Joba Chamberlain with one out in the eighth inning and the tying run at the plate. However, Chamberlain struck out pinch-hitter Brad Hawpe swinging on a 3-2 slider and John Jaso lined out to Granderson in center.
Chamberlain earned his third save of the season in a night where the offense allowed manager Joe Girardi to rest both Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera.
The big blow in the game for the Yankees actually came with two outs in the bottom of the seventh inning with Teixeira on third and Rodriguez at first. Rays manager Joe Maddon, who double-checked this time to make sure he was warming up, brought in side-winding lefty Randy Choate to face Robinson Cano.
Choate made Cano look silly on a swing at a slider that ran a foot out of the strike zone and he was up in the count 1-2. However, Cano somehow connected with another slider and looped it into left-field.
Crawford only had one play to make and dove for the ball headlong but it dropped and rolled past him. Teixeira scored easily and Rodriguez scored all the way from first to put the game away.
Drek Jeter added a run in the eighth by following a two-out double by Brett Gardner with a double of his own to score Gardner.
The victory is important to the Yankees for many reasons. Most important, the Yankees assured that the Rays will leave Yankee Stadium on Thursday night without the lead in the American League East. 
With the loss by the Boston Red Sox to Baltimore on Tuesday, the Yankees also reduced their postseason Magic Number to just three.
The Yankees also have a shot to sweep the series, which would mean by virtue of winning the season series with the Rays, the Yankees would win the division title if both teams end up tied after 162 games.
That would give the Yankees home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
They also pushed their major-league-best record to 92-59 and they lead the Rays by a more comfortable 2 1/2 games. 
It any event, it left “Big Game” Shields to ponder his even bigger disappointment.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Hughes was not as sharp as he was last week at Tropicana Field because he had no command of his curve. But he dusted off his change-up and the Rays helped him out by making outs with runners on base. By battling into the seventh inning, Hughes earned his 17th victory.
  • It was nice to see Berkman get into the act in the first inning with his two-run double. Since coming off the disabled list on Sept. 1, Berkman is hitting .360.
  • Jeter extended his hitting streak to 10 games and he is 14-for-45 (.311) during that stretch. Though Jeter likely will end up with the worst batting average of his career, it is good to see he is rounding back into form before the playoffs begin.
  • The Rays have no clue when it comes to getting Cano out. For the season, Cano is hitting .393 against them with four home runs and 14 RBIs. Using lefties against him does not seem to help much. He is hitting .383 against Rays left-handers. His two RBIs give him 104 on the season, which is second on the team to Rodriguez, who has 112.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Vazquez was pressed into relief duty due to the unavailability of David Robertson, Wood and Rivera. He had not pitched since Sept. 10 and it showed. He faced only six batters and he gave up three hits. There is a remote possibility that Vazquez might not even make the playoff roster.
  • Teixeira was 0-for-3, which continues his slide since he broke his right little toe on Aug. 31. However, to be fair to Tex, he did draw a walk and reach on fielder’ choice and score two runs. He also narrowly missed a home run to right-field off Shields.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-4 and scored two runs but his pitch selection on the night was not so good. Rodriguez swung at four pitches from Shields that were at his ankles. I know it is good to be aggressive but taking a Vladimir Guerrero approach is not going to work for A-Rod. Rodriguez is more effective when he is more selective and works the count in his favor.
MORE ON THE BUFFOON

Kevin “The Buffoon” Kennedy was back at it again on Tuesday night. First, of all, he will not let go of Jeter’s acting job to reach first base on a hit by pitch last week in St. Petersburg. He has brought it up Rays telecast the past two nights.
Tonight, he was back at it again because he claimed Jorge Posada faked getting hit by a Shields pitch in the third inning. I watched the replay several times and I could not tell either way. In that case, I defer to the umpire’s judgment.
Not Kennedy.
He cries like the same saddled-shoe wearing, pom-pom waving Rays’ fan he always is in the booth. Fortunately, the Yankees did not score that inning. That makes Posada’s so-called “acting” a moot point to me.
Not Kennedy.
He wants replay and challenges to be used in baseball. Of course, the first time it is used to cost the Rays a victory he likely will do an about-face on the subject or say the camera angle was not conclusive, etc.
He is always a through-and-through homer and the having to listen to his mindless drivel for two nights has literally made me want to vomit. 
I only have one thing to say to him: Kevin, the Rays won the game last week so the Jeter play did not hurt your team. Move on. Get a life. There is still so many umpire strike zones to bitch about and you can cry about so many other more important things for those poor little Rays from Cowtown, USA.
ON DECK

Yankee fans were very worried about the Yankees as they began their four-game series with the Rays. Now they feel better after two wins by a combined score of 16-9. They go for the series clincher on Wednesday.
On the mound will be right-hander A.J. Burnett (10-13, 5.08 ERA). Burnett held the Orioles to three runs on six hits in seven innings on Friday, but he ended up with a no-decision. Burnett has actually pitched better than his September ERA of 4.50 may indicate. He is 12-6 with a 3.16 ERA lifetime against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander Wade Davis (12-9, 4.19 ERA). Davis yielded two earned runs on six hits in seven innings against the Angels on Friday. But he was saddled with a no-decision. He is 2-1 with a 3.86 ERA against the Yankees this season.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

Granderson Drives In 5 As Yanks Dump Rays For ‘Boss’

GAME 150
YANKEES 8, RAYS 6

Brian Cashman made a trade at the 2009 Winter Meetings of which late owner George M. Steinbrenner would have been extremely proud.
He acquired from the Detroit Tigers a center-fielder with speed and power in Curtis Granderson.
On a Monday night when the Yankees chose to honor their late owner with a posthumous plaque in legendary Monument Park in center-field at Yankee Stadium, Granderson slammed two home runs and drove in five runs to lead the New York Yankees to a crucial pennant-drive victory over the second-place Tampa Bay Rays.
Somewhere “The Boss” is drawing on his trademark cigar and smiling down at his beloved Yankees.
Granderson’s magical evening began with two outs and Francisco Cervelli on first on a single. Rays starter Matt Garza (14-9) fell behind Granderson 2-0 and was forced to throw a fastball. Granderson waited for it and jumped all over it, depositing the ball against the back wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to put the Yankees up 2-0.
The Yankees built the lead to 4-0 in the fifth inning against Garza by sending eight men to the plate. Granderson drew a walk on four straight pitches to load the bases with nobody out. After Mark Teixeira struck out, Alex Rodriguez lifted a sacrifice fly to center to score a run. After an intentional walk to Robinson Cano to re-load the bases, Nick Swisher drew a walk to drive in another run.
Unfortunately for the Yankees, for the second week in a row starter Ivan Nova could not hold onto a lead against the Rays. Last week, Nova — with the help of Boone Logan — blew a 6-0 lead in the fifth inning at Tropicana Field. On this night, Nova — with a lot of help from an ineffective Logan and Chad Gaudin — coughed up four runs as 10 Rays came to the plate in the sixth inning.
Gaudin surrendered the lead by walking B.J. Upton on a 3-1 pitch with the bases loaded.
The Yankees then went back to work on Garza in the sixth inning when Brett Gardner reached first on an infield single and Cervelli got him to third by executing a perfect hit-and-run play. As Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett hustled to second base to take a potential throw to nab Gardner stealing second, Cervelli laced a 2-1 fastball from Garza through the vacated hole at short and into left-field, allowing Gardner to reach third.
Derek Jeter followed with a tie-breaking single to center to score Gardner as Cervelli hustled into third.
Granderson came to the plate but Rays manager Joe Maddon decided he would not face Garza again. Curiously, right-hander Grant Balfour was brought in to face the left-handed-hitting Granderson. Apparently Maddon did not realize that left-hander Randy Choate had not been warming up when he made the pitching change.
Oops!
Granderson made Maddon and Balfour pay for the mistake when he launched a high 2-1 fastball down the right-field line and the ball hooked right into the right-field foul pole.
The 4-0 Yankee lead that quickly became a 4-4 tie was now back to 8-4 Yankee lead, thanks to Granderson and his career-high five RBIs.
Though the Yankees bullpen struggled a bit in the seventh and ninth innings, with the Rays scoring runs single runs off David Robertson and Mariano Rivera, the Yankees were able to hang on and win the game with the potential Rays’ lead run at the plate.
Rivera, who had given up an RBI single to Evan Longoria in the ninth and hit Dan Johnson on a 3-2 pitch with two outs, managed to retire Matt Joyce on a routine grounder to Teixeira to pick up his 32nd save of the season and the 558th of his career.
Granderson’s two home runs now give him 21 on the season and 11 of them have come in the 37 games following the retooling of his swing by Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long.
Though he did not deserve it, Chad Gaudin (1-4) was credited with the victory. The star of the bullpen on Monday night was actually another Cashman acquisition: Kerry Wood.
Wood, who has a 0.39 ERA in his 21 appearances for New York since being acquired from the Indians at the trade deadline, came on to pitch out of a jam with a run in and Carl Crawford at second with two out in the seventh. 
Wood walked Dan Johnson on a 3-2 pitch but retired Joyce on a high fly to right that drove Swisher to the base of the warning track. Yankee fans among the 47,737 in attendance who were holding their breath gladly exhaled as the ball nestled in Swisher’s glove.
Wood pitched an easy 10-pitch and perfect eighth inning to hand an 8-5 lead to Rivera.
With the victory the Yankees improved their major-league best record to 91-59 and they increased their lead on the Rays to 1 1/2 games.
The series now has three games left between the titans of the East and somewhere “The Boss” is watching every pitch.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Granderson’s 2-for-3 night also included two walks and a stolen base. In September, Granderson is batting .290 with six home runs and 17 RBIs. Thought to be pretty much of a bust when he was hitting .225 on July 7, Granderson is showing Yankee fans why he hit 30 home runs for the Tigers last season.
  • Swisher returned to right-field for the first time since re-injuring his left knee and came through with a perfect night on the plate. He was 2-for-2 with an RBI on one of his two walks of the night.
  • Jeter drove in the go-ahead run in the bottom of the sixth and he added a ground-rule double and scored in the fifth. He was 2-for-5 and extended his hitting streak to nine games. In those nine games, Jeter is 12-for-40 (.300) and has scored eight runs.
  • Cervelli was the unsung hero of the night.
    He was 3-for-4 with three runs scored in the No. 9 spot and he reached base every trip the plate. His hit-and-run single also spelled the downfall of Garza and the Rays.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Teixeira was 0-for-5, including a strikeout with the bases loaded. Since getting hit on the right toe on a pitch by Oakland’s Vin Mazzaro on Aug. 31, Teixeira is hitting .194 with no home runs and six RBIs.
  • The bullpen has been a strength for the Yankees since the All-Star break but Logan, Gaudin, Robertson and Rivera combined to give up three runs on six hits and a pair of inexcusable walks by Logan and Gaudin over two innings.
  • In his last five outings, Rivera has given up four runs on seven hits and two walks and he has hit two batters over 4 1/3 innings. He also has blown two saves in September for the first time in his career.
  • Logan’s and Gaudin’s poor work also may mean that Rivera might not be able to pitch in Tuesday’s game. Wood has also pitched on two consecutive days and he has not appeared in three straight games since coming to the Yankees.
BOMBER BANTER

The ceremony for Steinbrenner brought back former Yankees manager Joe Torre and former hitting coach and All-Star first baseman Don Mattingly. Commissioner Bud Selig also was on hand as the team and the Steinbrenner family unveiled a massive seven-foot wide, five-foot high plaque on the center back wall of Monument Park. Jeter said of the plaque, “It is big. Probably the way ‘The Boss’ would have wanted it. It is the biggest one out there.”  . . .  Torre, who is stepping down as manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers and turning the reins over to Mattingly next season, also was able to meet with Cashman. Torre’s book “The Yankee Years” written with Tom Verducci offended Cashman and the two men have not seen each other since Torre turned down an incentive-laden one-year deal with the Yankees after the 2007 season. Both men said the chance to talk was good.  . . .  Commissioner Selig said that he thinks Steinbrenner belongs in the Hall of Fame based on his contributions to the Yankees and the game of baseball.
BRIEF COMMENT

Because of baseball’s blackout of local teams on the road, Central Florida Yankee fans are forced to watch Fox Sports broadcasters Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy, who cover the Rays. Make that shill, cheerlead and umpire for the Rays. Kennedy showed his true colors in the bottom of the sixth inning when Cervelli decided to try to take third on the RBI single by Jeter. It was a close play with Longoria tagging Cervelli just after Cervelli’s left hand hit the bag. 
Kennedy saw an initial replay and claimed Longoria had tagged Cervelli on the elbow before Cervelli’s hand hit the bag. He repeated it over and over again as other replays were shown. Well, during the pitching change that brought in Balfour, viewers were shown a more definitive replay that clearly showed Cervelli’s hand touching the base before the tag was made. Kennedy then covers up his incompetent bias by saying it was a “bang-bang play.” 
Kennedy is a buffoon and always will be, but his failure to give third-base umpire Andy Fletcher credit for making the right call after all that ranting is beyond me.
It also struck me as funny when Kennedy decided to give Balfour a little pitching advice on what to give Granderson. “Balfour needs to stay up on Granderson. Granderson can handle the low fastball like he did with Garza. Balfour has to pitch him up to pop him up.” One pitch later, Granderson hit a high fastball to right for his second home run.
Kennedy, upon seeing the replay showing the ball was indeed up as he suggested, said, “That was in the middle of the plate. If that pitch were in it would have jammed him.”
Nice try at the CYA, Kevin, but you still are a buffoon. We now know why FOX Sports fired you from your national gig. You are better off trying to fool the rubes in St. Petersburg that you really know what you are talking about.
He also said the Yankees were better off with Swisher batting second and Granderson batting lower in the order. Granderson drove in five runs in the second spot and Swisher was 2-for-2 in the No. 6 spot. Kennedy, your lack of baseball acumen is the main reason you are no longer managing in the bigs. I have no clue why you are still employed as an “analyst.”
ON DECK

The Yankees go into the second game of the four-game series with the Rays knowing they will remain in first place whether they win or lose. 
The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes (16-8, 4.31 ERA). Hughes is coming off a tough loss to the Rays. Despite pitching a solid 6 2/3 innings, Hughes was victimized by a pair of two-run home runs to journeyman DH Dan Johnson. He is 2-3 with 4.55 ERA in his career against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields (13-12, 4.86 ERA). Shields allowed one run on eight hits in 6 1/3 innings last Wednesday against the Yankees. But he was credited with a no-decision. He is 3-7 with a 4.69 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast on MY9.

CC Tames O’s For First 20-Victory Season As Yanks Romp

GAME 148
YANKEES 11, ORIOLES 3

It was not CC Sabathia at his best. It was not the walk in the park that the score might have made it look like. 
But, in the end, Sabathia managed to grind out seven solid innings on Saturday night to become the first pitcher in the major leagues to win 20 games this season.
Sabathia (20-6) also won 20 games for the first time in his 10 seasons in the majors as the New York Yankees pounded Jeremy Guthrie (10-14) and the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards.
Sabathia gave up three runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out four batters in making a very good case to win his second American League Cy Young Award. 
The Yankee offense, which had seemed to go into a coma during a stretch in which the Yankees played in one-run games in eight of their last 10 games, came alive as the game progressed. They scored in every inning except the third and seventh innings as they rapped out 13 hits.
Jorge Posada started the barrage with a two-run, two-out single in the first inning to give the Yankees a lead they never relinquished. Robinson Cano made the score 6-2 in the fifth inning with a two-run home run, his 28th homer of the season and driving in his 100th and 101 st runs of the season — a career high.
Curtis Granderson finally put away the game for good in the ninth inning with his 19th home run of the season, a three-run shot to almost straightaway center-field that made the score 11-3.
Derek Jeter added two RBIs and Brett Gardner came a home run short of the cycle for the defending world champions, who maintained their half-game lead over the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. 
They ran their season record to a major-league-best 90-58 while the Orioles fell to the opposite mark of 58-90.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia struggled with command at times and was touched for two sacrifice flies and a solo home run by Robert Andino. But he used his change-up to get out jams. He struck out four and benefitted from a pair of double plays. Andino’s home run made it 6-3 in the fifth inning but Sabathia pitched two scoreless innings and left with an 7-3 lead.
  • The Orioles will be glad not to see Cano after Sunday’s game. He has hit .448 against them this season and he hit .481 against them last season. He also has five home runs and 11 RBIs against them this season.
  • Jeter scored two runs in the game, which gives him 100 on the season for the 13th time in his career. He and Alex Rodriguez are the active leaders with 13. Jeter’s two hits also extended his hitting streak to seven games in which he is 9-for-31 (.290).
  • Nick Swisher started at designated hitter and contributed an RBI double and a single. Swisher had not started the last five games due to recurring soreness in his left knee.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Have the Yankees missed Swisher in right field? Well, Austin Kearns, Greg Golson and Colin Curtis are a combined 1-for-21 (.048) in the last six games. Curtis, looking completely overmatched at the plate, was 0-for-4 on Saturday and is 0-for-18 dating back to July 30.
  • Lance Berkman, playing first base in place of the ailing Mark Teixeira, was 0-for-5 in the game with a strikeout and he only got one ball out of the infield. He is hitting .395 for the month but has no home runs and only one RBI in that span.
  • Sabathia actually would have had a better night if he could have retired Andino. Andino singled, stole a base, doubled and homered in his three at-bats off Sabathia. When Sabathia left after seven innings, Joba Chamberlain entered the game in the eighth and the first batter he faced was Andino and he got him on a routine fly to center. Andino is 4-for-8 in the two games in the series, including two home runs.
BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira was held out of Saturday’s game to rest a bruised right thumb and a broken little toe on his right foot. Teixeira injured his thumb in Chicago on Aug. 27 and five days later he suffered the broken toe on a pitch thrown by Oakland’s Vin Mazzaro. Since Sept. 2, Teixeira is 9-for-53 (.170) with no home runs and three RBIs.  . . .  Swisher said his left knee felt fine in his first start after missing five games. Manager Joe Girardi may allow Swisher to play right-field on Sunday depending on how he feels.
Swisher injured the knee on Aug. 24 when he fouled a ball off himself. Going into Saturday’s game, Swisher was hitting .250 with four home runs and 12 RBIs since then.  . . .  With Cano’s home run on Saturday the Yankees are 24-2 in games in which Cano hits a home run.  
ON DECK

The Yankees hope their 2-8 slide after winning eight games in a row is over after two victories against the Orioles this weekend. They go for a sweep on Sunday with an old friend on the mound.
Andy Pettitte (11-2, 2.88 ERA) will make his first start for the Yankees since July 18, when he strained his left groin. He pitched five innings in a Double-A playoff game for Trenton on Tuesday and he says he is ready to go. Pettitte is the No. 1 active nemesis for the Orioles with a career record of 18-5 with a 3.55 ERA.
The Orioles will counter with Chris Tillman (1-4, 6.32 ERA). In his last outing on Sunday, Tillman issued six walks but still managed to pitch well. He held the Tigers to one run in 6 2/3 innings but received a no decision. He is 1-1 with a 4.91 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

Down To Last Strike, A-Rod Victimizes O’s’ Uehara Again

GAME 147
YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 3

Before the first pitch was delivered at Camden Yards on Friday night, Baltimore Orioles broadcaster Jim Palmer said on MASN that it was a good thing for Orioles closer Koji Uehara that Nick Swisher was not in the lineup.
The bad news for Uehara and the Orioles was that Alex Rodriguez was in the lineup and he hit a three-run home run into the left-field bleachers that rescued the Yankees from a 3-1 ninth-inning deficit with the New York Yankees a strike away from defeat.
The miraculous and dramatic home run, Rodriguez’s second of the night and the his 24th of the season, was the second consecutive game between the two teams that Uehara had blown a save by giving up a home run in the ninth inning.
On Sept. 8 at Yankee Stadium, Swisher blasted a two-run walk-off home run off Uehara (1-2) with one out in the ninth inning. Uehara has nine saves in 11 chances this season and both blown saves have come against the Yankees. Uehara’s two losses this season also come courtesy of the Yankees.
The victory was fortuitous for the Yankees because the Tampa Bay Rays dropped a 4-3 decision to the Los Angeles Angels and it allowed the Yankees to reclaim first place in the American League East.
With the Twins’ 3-1 loss to the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees also have reclaimed the best record in baseball at 89-58.
David Robertson (4-4), who pitched a perfect eighth inning in relief of starter A.J. Burnett, was credited with the victory. Mariano Rivera pitched a similarly perfect ninth inning to notch the 557th save his career and his 31st of the season in 34 chances.
Before the ninth inning, the Yankees’ only dent in the scoreboard came from Rodriguez, who led off the second inning with a towering blast to left-field off Orioles starter Kevin Millwood that gave the Yankees a short-lived 1-0 lead.
Millwood got stingy after that, holding the Yankees to the one run on five hits and four walks in seven innings.
But when Uehara took the mound, the Yankees finally got busy. Jorge Posada battled Uehara in an epic 11-pitch at-bat that resulted in a lined single to left-center. After Derek Jeter struck out, Curtis Granderson singled to right-field.
Mark Teixeira then popped up to third baseman Robert Andino to set the stage for Rodriguez’s two-out heroics.
The Yankees now lead the major leagues in come-from-behind victories this season with 46. This one, due to A-Rod, may have been one of their best.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the fact that he was victimized by a hit batter that scored the Orioles’ first run and a pair of solo home runs by Adam Jones and Andino, Burnett actually pitched a very creditable game. Over seven innings, Burnett gave up three runs on six hits and a walk and he struck out five.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-5 with two home runs and he drove in all of the Yankees’ four runs. That gives Rodriguez 25 home runs and 111 RBIs this season. If Rodriguez hits five more home runs, it will mark the 14th straight season in which he has produced at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs.
  • Robinson Cano and Lance Berkman combined for four hits and walk but they did not get much support from the bottom of the order behind them. The bottom of the order was 1-for-8 before Posada entered the game in the seventh inning and walked. Cano is hitting .481 against the Orioles at Camden Yards this season.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Burnett still needs work on his command and he really needs to try harder to keep base-runners a little more honest. Burnett hit weak-hitting Cesar Izturis on an 0-2 pitch to start the third inning. Izturis promptly stole second, advanced to third on a Brian Roberts’ groundout and scored on Nick Markakis sacrifice fly. Burnett also hit Jones on an 0-2 pitch in the seventh inning but he was erased on a double play.
  • Who is the Yankees’ worst batter to have up with the bases loaded this season? The answer is Jeter. He has only one hit all season with the bases loaded. In the second inning, Jeter lined out hard — but it still was an out — with the bases loaded in the second inning.
  • The Yankees also had a great opportunity to score in the seventh and eighth innings with two runners on. However, Teixeira struck out to end the seventh and Swisher, who was pinch-hitting, and Brett Gardner bounced out to end that threat.
BOMBER BANTER

Swisher is still have lingering issues associated with his bruised left knee and he missed his fifth straight start on Friday night. He did pinch-hit in the eighth inning and grounded out to first b
ase. Manager Joe Girardi said Swisher still is not running well but that the veteran outfielder is closer to returning.  . . . Burnett pitched on Friday night with a black right eye and both he and Girardi refused to discuss it with the media after the game. “The story is, he putched well tonight,” Girardi said.  . . .  Orioles manager Buck Showalter was not happy that Ted Barrett did not call an inside 1-2 pitch on Alex Rodriguez a strike, which would have ended the game. Barrett called it a ball as the Orioles’ players in the dugout were jumping up thinking the game was over. Showalter told reporters that the pitch was closer to being a strike than a strike Barrett called on Matt Wieters in the bottom of the inning. Well, let me clue Mr. Showalter in on the truth about strike one that Barrett called on Rodriguez. It was high and inside and the pitch tracker on MASN indicated it was more than six inches inside. So, if Mr, Showalter wants the 1-2 pitch as a strike, the Yankees would like the 0-1 pitch to be called a ball. In that case, it still would be 2-2 on Rodriguez and Rodriguez hits his game-winning home run. Nice try, Buck!
ON DECK

The Yankees go into the second game of their three-game set with the Orioles walking on air after snatching victory out of the jaws of defeat on their last strike on Friday.
They also have CC Sabathia (9-6, 3.03 ERA) on the mound going for the first 20-victory season in his career. Sabathia pitched eight shutout innings against the Rays on Monday night but he did not get his 20th win because David Price matched him zero for zero. But Sabathia has a good chance on Saturday because he is 13-2 with a 2.81 ERA against the Orioles in his career.
His opponent will be right-hander Jeremy Guthrie (10-13, 3.74 ERA). Guthrie is 7-3 with a 2.38 ERA in his last 10 starts. He tossed seven shutout innings against the Tigers last Friday. However, he is 3-8 with a 5.20 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

Pinch-Hit, Jorge: Posada’s Blast Puts Yanks Back In First

GAME 145
YANKEES 8, RAYS 7

Hip-hip Jorge!
Jorge Posada was knocked for a loop so severely by a foul tip last week that he was forced to sit out a few games. On Tuesday night, he knocked the Tampa Bay Rays for an even more painful loop with a clutch pinch-hit leadoff home run in the 10th inning that gave the New York Yankees a hard-fought victory and allowed them to reclaim first place in the American League East.
Posada, pinch-hitting for Francisco Cervelli, blasted a 2-0 fastball off Rays reliever Dan Wheeler (2-3) to the deepest part of center-field at Tropicana Field for his 18th home run to untie a 7-all game that rivaled a thrilling roller-coaster ride at nearby Busch Gardens.
The Yankees jumped all over Rays starter Matt Garza early and often to build a 6-0 lead by the end of the top of the fifth inning for 23-year-old right-hander Ivan Nova. However, the Yankees’ “Super-Nova” came crashing back to Earth’s atmosphere in the bottom of the inning after pitching brilliant one-hit shutout baseball on just 50 pitches in the first four frames.
A leadoff home run by Pena made it 6-1. John Jaso drove in B.J. Upton with a one-out single to make it 6-2. After two outs, Nova walked Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce ended his night with back-to-back RBI singles.
Manager Joe Girardi called in Boone Logan to stop the bleeding but the usually reliable left-hander instead cut open a major artery by surrendering a three-run home run to Willie Aybar and the Yankees 6-0 lead was suddenly a 7-6 deficit.
The Yankees responded in the sixth when rookie left-hander Jake McGee, making his major-league debut, walked Curtis Granderson on four pitches. Rays manager Joe Maddon summoned fellow rookie Jeremy Hellickson and he promptly gave up a single to Mark Teixeira.
After a fielder’s choice off the bat of Alex Rodriguez erased Teixeira at second, Robinson Cano plated Granderson with a double to right. It was Cano’s third RBI of the game.
And just like it has been the past two nights in this battle between baseball’s best two teams, the game remained tied until Posada’s blast in the 10th. The two games have featured the teams being tied for 16 1/2 of the 21 innings played in the series.
Two things kept the Yankees afloat in the final 4 1/2 innings: pitching and sparkling defense.
Logan recovered to pitch a flawless sixth and Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera combined to give up just one hit and one walk to the Rays in the final four innings.
Two great defensive plays supported the solid relief. 
Granderson made a spectacular leaping catch in right-center-field with two out in the ninth inning to rob Ben Zobrist of at least a double.
Greg Golson, sent out in the ninth inning as a defensive replacement for Colin Curtis, ended the game by catching a Joyce fly ball and an unbelievable rocket-like throw flat-footed from medium right-field to nail the speedy Crawford trying to take third.
As Rodriguez slapped the tag on an incredulous Crawford, the Yankees made a winner of Robertson (3-4), who is sporting a 1.50 ERA since the All-Star break. Rivera was credited with his 30th save.
The Yankees have now reclaimed a half-game lead in the division on the Rays and can leave Tropicana Field with a 1 1/2-game lead with a victory on Wednesday.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano hit his 27th home run in the third inning, a two-run shot that capped off a four-run inning. His RBI double in the sixth gave him three RBIs for the night and 98 for the season. That is a new career high for the second baseman.
  • Rodriguez also contributed to the hit parade off Garza. He had an RBI single in the third inning and added his 23rd home run of the season, a solo shot, in the fifth inning.
  • Don’t get overly excited yet, but it seems the Yankees might be getting the real Derek Jeter back. Jeter doubled and singled and drew a walk and scored a run in the game. His 2-for-5 night raised his average to .263.
  • Granderson doubled twice, walked and scored two runs to raise his average to .248. His leaping catch in the ninth inning was easily the best he has made as a Yankee.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova proved at age 23 that he still has much to learn about pitching at the major-league level, particularly with a lead. Seemingly flustered by the leadoff home run by Pena off his fastball, Nova tried to mix in his breaking stuff and totally lost command of the strike zone. Despite giving up six runs and having his ERA balloon from 2.92 to 4.30, Nova still shows a lot of promise as a starter. But the Yankees may be reaching if they think they can trust him as starter in the playoffs.
  • The Yankees can only hope that both Brett Gardner and Nick Swisher return to the lineup because Austin Kearns is not cutting it at the plate. He was 1-for-5 but all four of his outs were on strikeouts. Three of the four strikeouts came on pitches he swung at that were out of the strike zone.
  • Logan was summoned into the game to face left-hander Dan Johnson but Maddon sent switch-hitter Aybar up to face Logan instead. Logan got ahead of Aybar in the count 1-2 but Logan made a terrible mistake by hanging a slider to Aybar. Unfortunately it added two runs onto Nova’s ledger and it was inexcusable for the usually reliable Logan.
BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira revealed that he has been playing for the last two weeks with a broken little toe on his right foot. He added that he does not expect it heal until the season ends. The injury occurred at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 31, when Oakland right-hander Vin Mazzaro hit him in foot with a slider. Teixeira, who is hitting .208 with no home runs and six RBIs since the injury, said it does not limit him much and he plans to play through it.  . . .  Swisher had a cortisone injection on his ailing left knee and is happy to know that an MRI revealed no structural damage. Swisher hopes the cortisone shot will help with the pain caused by inflammation in the knee. He originally injured the knee on Aug. 24 when he fouled a ball off it and he re-aggravated the injury last week in a home series against the Orioles. Swisher hopes to be back in the starting lineup in a few days.  . . .  Gardner, who is nursing a sore left wrist, was used a defensive replacement in left-field in the 10th inning and he hopes to return to the starting lineup on Wednesday. He had a cortisone injection on the wrist on Monday and he has avoided swinging a bat until the wrist feels better.  . . .   Andy Pettitte completed a rehab start for Double-A Trenton on Tuesday and he is scheduled to start for the Yankees on Sunday in Baltimore.
ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance to keep first place and extend their lead to 1 1/2 games on the Rays in the final game of the series on Wednesday.
Phil Hughes (16-7, 4.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees after having his last start skipped because of an innings limit on the 24-year-old right-hander. Hughes is 5-5 with 5.37 ERA since the All-Star break. He is 2-2 with a 4.29 ERA against the Rays.
The Rays will counter with right-hander James Shields (13-12, 4.98 ERA). In his last start on Friday, Shields was victimized by three home run balls by the Blue Jays. He has given up nine home in his last two starts against Toronto. He is 3-7 with a 4.95 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN and locally by the YES Network.

‘Swishalicious’ Walk-Off Homer Hands Yanks Victory

GAME 140
YANKEES 3, ORIOLES 2
The Yankees were right in the crosshairs of history as they began the ninth inning down by a 2-1 score to the Baltimore Orioles on Wednesday afternoon.
They were on the verge losing their status as the only team in Major League Baseball not to have lost four games in a row this season. The team also had not been swept in a series at the new Yankee Stadium and they had not been swept at home at the old Yankee Stadium since the Detroit Tigers did it to them in 2008. The Yankees also had not been swept in home series against the Orioles since 1986, when Nick Swisher was five years old. 
With one out and one on and Orioles closer Koji Uehara on the mound looking to record his second save of the series, Swisher stared down the throat of at all that history and said, “Not today.”
Swisher, looking for a fastball up in the strike zone to drive, took two low split-finger fastballs but pounced at a 2-0 fastball up and out over the plate and drove in up and out on a line into the Orioles’ bullpen in left-field to give the Yankees a dramatic come-from-behind, walk-off victory to end their 10-game home-stand with a 7-3 record.
Swisher took his victory lap around the bases as his Yankee teammates gathered at home plate to celebrate with their hero of the moment. A few minutes later, Swisher became the fourth recipient this season of a whipped-cream facial from teammate A.J. Burnett.
The taste of sweet victory.
The Yankee fans among what was left of a crowd of 44,163 that paid to see the game exulted in delight as their team had pulled another victory out of some very tight jaws of defeat.
The bottom of the ninth inning started with Alex Rodriguez lining a first-pitch fastball from Uehara into the hole between shortstop and third base and into left-field for a single. As Rodriguez ran to first, he exhorted his teammates in the dugout with a “Let’s go.”
Eduardo Nunez replaced Rodriguez as a pinch-runner at first. Robinson Cano followed by flying out to relatively deep center on an 0-2 pitch for the first out. That was Swisher’s cue and he didn’t let the fans down by hitting his 26th home run if the season.
After the game, Swisher paid homage to the fans: “The fans have been great to me, the city has been amazing and you want to go out there and give it all you got for this organization.”
He also mentioned something unusual about his home run. “I’ve never [hit a home run] out over there. That is a first for me but the wind was blowing out that way.”
The playoff winds seem to be blowing right for the Yankees as well. The victory gives them a major-league-best 87-53 record and the second-place Tampa Bay Rays took an 11-5 thrashing from the Boston Red Sox to fall 2 1/2 games behind the Yankees in the American League East.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES
  • Swisher missed three games last week due to a sore left knee and did not return to the lineup until Monday. He was 0-for-7 in the previous two games before going 2-for-4 on Wednesday. The two RBIs also give him 82 for the season, which ties the total he drove in for the Yankees last season. His career high in RBIs is 95 set with Oakland in 2006.
  • Ivan Nova pitched a career-high six innings for the Yankees and he pitched well enough to have won. Nova gave up six hits and walked two (both intentional) and fanned six. His only mistake was serving up a 3-0 fastball that Matt Wieters slammed into the second deck in left-field for a two-run home run in the fifth inning. In his four starts, Nova is 1-0 with a 3.32 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 21 2/3 innings.
  • Once again, the bullpen shined and allowed the Yankees to mount their comeback by holding the Orioles to two runs. Boone Logan, David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain combined to give up no hits and no walks and strike out six in three innings. Chamberlain (3-4), who pitched a scoreless ninth inning, won the game in relief.
  • Curtis Granderson, Francisco Cervelli and Brett Gardner worked in unison in the third inning to give the Yankees an initial 1-0 lead. Granderson drew a walk from Orioles starter Brad Bergesen and stole second. He moved to third on Cervelli’s groundout to first and scored on Gardner’s double to left. Gardner was thrown out at third base trying to stretch the hit into a triple.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Derek Jeter was 0-for-4 and he finished the 10-game home-stand 5-for-36 (.139). He is hitting .172 for the month and his season average is down to .262. Yankee fans are still wondering what is happening to their captain.
  • Mark Teixeira started the home-stand 9-for-13 (.692) in the four games against Oakland. In the next six games he was 3-for-20 (.150), including an 0-for-4 with three strikeouts on Wednesday.
  • Gardner really hurt the Yankees badly by getting thrown out at third in the third inning but he really hurt them worse with his at-bat in the fifth inning. With one out and Lance Berkman at second and Cervelli on first, Gardner grounded into an inning-ending double play and allowed Bergesen to wriggle off the hook for another inning.
BOMBER BANTER
Yankee fans were wondering why Jorge Posada did not pinch-hit for Cervelli in the eighth inning with Cano at third and Granderson on first with two out. The reason was that Posada was sent to New York-Presbyterian Hospital for neurological tests after Posada complained of feeling “foggy” after taking a foul tip off his mask on Tuesday night. The results of the tests were negative and Posada is listed as day-to-day.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Wednesday that Phil Hughes will be skipped in next start scheduled for Sunday in Texas. Dustin Moseley will get the start instead. The Yankees are concerned about Hughes reaching his innings limit and decided to skip him for one turn.  . . .  The Yankees also said they do not expect left-hander Damaso Marte or right-hander Alfredo Aceves back for the rest of the season. Aceves is having his strained lower back re-evaluated and may require surgery. Marte has been bothered by left shoulder inflammation and has been unable to resume a throwing regimen.
ON DECK
The Yankees will get a day off on Thursday to travel to Arlington, TX, to begin an 11-day, nine-game road trip with the Rangers on Friday.
Javier Vazquez (10-9, 5.01 ERA) will get the start in the opener for the Yankees. Vazquez should be channeling his anger towards the Rangers from his last start on Saturday in which he was removed form the game by manager Joe Girardi one out away from a potential victory. Vazquez allowed five runs (but had only allowed three and had a 5-3 lead when he left) on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. He is 2-2 with a 6.56 ERA against the Rangers lifetime.
The Rangers will rely on left-hander C.J. Wilson (14-6, 3.10 ERA). Wilson had a seven-game winning streak snapped by the Minnesota Twins with a 6-5 loss on Friday. Wilson is 7-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his 10 starts after the All-Star break. He is 0-3 with a 3.47 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network.

Thames’ Two-Run Blast Leads Yanks To 8th Straight Win

GAME 136
YANKEES 7, BLUE JAYS 5

Isn’t about time for New York Yankee fans to come up with a nickname for Marcus Thames?
Mar-T? The Marcsman? How about River Dog?
After Saturday’s dramatic tie-breaking two-run home run in the seventh inning that propelled the Yankees to a 7-5 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays, you can call him anything you like.
Thames is taking vitamin approach to hitting home runs these days: One a day. And in his last 10 starts he has six of them, which has got Yankee fans thinking “Alex who?” Pressed into a more prominent role in the starting lineup because of the absence of a hobbling A-Rod, Thames is delivering in a A-Rod-like fashion and the Yankees now have won a season-high eight games in a row because of it.
The bullpen, which earlier this season was a mess, took care of the rest. For the second straight day they combined to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings in relief of a struggling starter to hand a victory to the guys in pinstripes.
The struggling starter du jour was Javier Vazquez, whose shaky command of his slider led to a solo home run to Lyle Overbay with one out in the second inning. With two down in the same frame, Vazquez served up another home run to weak-hitting John McDonald, a two-run shot that hit the left-field foul pole and made it 3-0 Jays.
Vazquez has the dubious distinction of being tied with James Shields of the Rays for serving up the most home runs this season at 29. Vazquez has now become the Baskin-Robbins of soft-serve homers. Give him a paper hat and all he would need to do ask the hitters if they would like whipped cream and nuts with it.
The Yankees did manage to come back to tie it up in the third inning off Jays starter Marc Rzepczynski. 
With one out, Francisco Cervelli doubled, Brett Gardner walked (his ninth straight game with at least one walk) and Derek Jeter doubled in Cervelli. After Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, Robinson Cano singled to center to score Gardner and Jeter to make 3-all.
The Yankees then took the lead in the fourth inning. With one out and Eduardo Nunez at first, Cervelli doubled again. Gardner followed with a soft infield liner that dropped just over Rzepczynski’s glove and McDonald was forced to retire Gardner at first as Nunez scored.
After a walk to Jeter, Rzepczynski uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Cervelli to score from third. 
But Vazquez did not protect the 5-3 lead well enough to suit manager Joe Girardi. With two out in the fifth inning, Vazquez walked Jose Bautista and Vernon Wells followed with a line-drive single to left.
Girardi decided to end Vazquez’s day much to the displeasure of the 34-year-old right-hander, who was one out away from a potential victory. 
It did not lighten Vazquez’s mood much when Dustin Moseley came out of the bullpen and gave up a two-run double to Overbay that tied the game again at 5. Vazquez’s line now read five runs on four hits and four walks in 4 2/3 innings. 
Fortunately for the Yankees, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Kerry Wood and Mariano Rivera combined to pitch four scoreless innings beginning in the sixth. They gave up only two hits and no walks as the the bullpen has now racked up 8 2/3 innings of shutout baseball against the Blue Jays in two days.
Of course, the victory would not have been possible without Thames, whose first two outs of the day travelled about 750 feet before he stepped to the plate in the seventh inning.
With two out in the frame, Cano banged out his second single of day, this one off reliever Jason Frasor (3-4). Thames, who previously drove Rzepczynski sliders to deep center in the second and deep left in the third, caught up to the first pitch Frasor threw: A slider.
“They threw me sliders all day so I was looking for it,” Thames told reporters after the game.
He deposited his 11th home run of the season into the Blue Jays’ bullpen in left-center and the Yankees were handed a lead they would not give up again.
Wood (2-4), who has only allowed one earned run in the 16 innings he has pitched for the Yankees, was credited with the victory after pitching a perfect eighth inning.
Rivera gave up a scratch single but still pitched a scoreless ninth to record his 29th save in 31 tries.
The better news for the Yankees came many hours later when the Baltimore Orioles battered the Tampa Bay Rays 8-2. By virtue of running their season record to a season-high 36 games over .500, the Yankees have opened up a 2 1/2 game lead on the upstart second-place Rays in the American League East.
The Boston Red Sox, who lost a pair of 3-1 games to the Chicago White Sox in a day-night doubleheader, are a full 10 games back in third place. They are 7 1/2 games out of the wild-card standings.
It may not be quite time to stick a fork in the Red Sox for 2010 but it is certainly time to get the utensil out the the drawer.
PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Thames was signed as a free agent just before the beginning of spring training and made the team as the team’s 25th man. But injuries to DHs Nick Johnson and Lance Berkman and the loss of Rodriguez for three weeks has given Thames more playing time. Known as a power hitter who murders lefties, Thames has hit seven of 11 home runs against right-handers. Before his home run on Saturday, however, Thames was one for his last 14 at-bats.
  • Cano is still swinging at pitches out of the strike zone but still came through with two key hits. His single with bases loaded put the Yankees in front 5-3 in the fourth. His two-out single in the seventh brought Thames up to the plate and he scored on Thames’ game-winning homer.
  • Since Wood has taken over as Girardi’s new 8th-inning man on Sept. 1, he has pitched 3 1/3 dominant innings and surrendered just one hit and a walk while striking out three. His ERA when he was acquired was 6.30. With the Yankees it is 0.56.
NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The rotation other than CC Sabathia may be in tatters but the Yankees keep winning. They have outscored their opponents 57-29 during their winning streak. However, to advance in the postseason the Yankees will need Javier Vazquez, A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes to pitch better soon. Vazquez was just too tentative and he kept falling behind hitters all afternoon.
  • Moseley allowing two inherited runners to score was inexcusable. He fell behind Overbay at 1-0 and then gift-wrapped a cutter that sat in the middle of the plate with “hit me” written all over it. Overbay did hit it for a double and it allowed the Jays to tie the game.
  • Despite the fact that Jeter drove in a run with a clutch double in the third inning, he is still struggling at the plate. In his last two at-bats of the day he struck out swinging. His season average is at .266, which is 48 points below his career average.
BOMBER BANTER

Vazquez was visibly upset at being taken out of the game in the clubhouse afterward. Asked if he thought Girardi had lost confidence in him, Vazquez replied “You will have to ask him.” But Girardi said he took Vazquez out because he sensed he was struggling with his mechanics and Girardi said Moseley was summoned because “I wanted a fresh arm.” He also said he expects Vazquez to make his next scheduled start at Texas on Friday.  . . .  Andy Pettitte took part in the three-inning simulated game on Saturday prior to the regular game and he threw exactly 50 pitches. Tossing to Rodriguez, Greg Golson and Ramiro Pena with Reggie Jackson acting as the umpire, Pettitte looked sharp in throwing 31 strikes. Pettitte is scheduled to throw another bullpen session on Monday and, after that, the Yankees will have to decide if they want him to do a rehab stint during the minor-league playoffs. Pettitte is hoping for a return to the Yankees within the next 10 days.  . . .  Rodriguez had no setbacks in taking his swings and running during the simulated game. In six at-bats against Pettitte, Rodriguez got two hits, struck out once, grounded out twice and popped up. Rodriguez admits that he is not running at 100 percent but he said it unlikely he will run too hard at first when he returns to action with the Yankees.  . . .  Nick Swisher, who has been nursing a bruised left knee for a few days, was a late scratch from the lineup on Saturday. Swisher wanted to play but he was unable to run without pain. Girardi, who had already decided to give Austin Kearns a day off, penciled in Thames in right-field and moved Lance Berkman into the DH spot. 
ON DECK

The Yankees have already won the three-game series with the Blue Jays and they will aim for a series sweep and an extension of their winning streak to nine games on Sunday.
Phil Hughes (16-6, 4.10 ERA) will pitch for the Yankees. Despite not having his best stuff, Hughes was able to battle through against the Athletics and he limited the A’s to two runs on four hits and five walks over five innings. He is 2-2 with a 4.35 ERA lifetime against the Blue Jays.
The Jays are counting on left-hander Brett Cecil (11-7, 3.74 ERA), who picked up a loss despite pitching well over 7 2/3, innings against the Rays. Cecil gave up five runs but only two were earned. He gave up only five hits and a walk and struck out four. He is 2-1 with a 4.30 ERA against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will broadcast by the YES Network.

Gardner, Granderson Lead Yankees To 7th Straight Win

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