April 2012

CC, Yankees Tame Tigers In Walk In The Park

GAME 21

YANKEES 6, TIGERS 2

When your team’s starting pitching is ineffective and its bullpen is being taxed by having to pitch too many innings, the ace of your staff must step up and deliver a victory and go most of the way.

CC Sabathia did just that on Sunday for the Yankees.

Sabathia (3-0) pitched eight innings of two-run baseball and his offense backed him with home runs from Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones as New York took the weekend series against Detroit with a victory at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.

Sabathia limited the Tigers to just four hits and two walks while he struck out eight en route to his third consecutive victory.

His mound opponent, Max Scherzer (1-3), spent most of his outing dodging disaster while he was doling out hits and walks like candy to children. Scherzer gave up seven hits and a career-high seven walks in 4 2/3 innings but somehow only gave up three earned runs.

The Yankees loaded the bases on Scherzer in the second inning when Derek Jeter reached first safely on an infield single with two outs. Curtis Granderson got credit for an RBI when Scherzer walked him on a 3-2 pitch. The Yankees tacked on another run when Alex Rodriguez rolled an infield single that Miguel Cabrera was unable to field cleanly.

Prince Fielder halved the Yankees lead in the fourth with his third home run of the season, a solo blast into the second deck in right-field.

The Yankees got that run back in the fourth on Granderson’s eighth home run of the season and his fifth in his last nine games. Tigers center-fielder Austin Jackson nearly leaped over the wall and brought it back in what would have a been a spectacular catch. However, he was unable to keep the ball in his glove as his left arm hit the fence which separates the stands from the Yankees’ bullpen.

The Tigers drew to within a run in the sixth on a Brennan Boesch single with one out and Cabrera followed with an RBI double off the wall in center-field.

Sabathia was forced to pitch with the slimmest of leads despite the fact the Yankees had put 17 runners on base over the first six innings without getting that one big hit that could have broken the game open.

They did, however, break through in the seventh inning off rookie reliever Luke Putkonen, who was making his major-league debut.

Backup catcher and No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart started it with a leadoff single. Jeter drew another walk and Granderson just missed a second home run to center but both Stewart and Jeter were able to advance a base. Stewart then scored when Cabrera chose to throw home on a bouncer off the bat of Rodriguez and Stewart slid safely under the tag of Gerald Laird.

Robinson Cano added a sacrifice fly to score Jeter and the Yankees finally provided a three-run cushion for Sabathia.

Jones hit his third home run of the season in the eighth off reliever Collin Balester to give the Yankees their final margin.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 12-9. The Tigers fell to 11-11.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia was at his best on Sunday, hitting his spots with his fastball and striking out batters with his slider. With his eight strikeouts on Sunday, Sabathia is now leading the American League in that category with 38. He also lowered his ERA to 4.68. More importantly, a weary bullpen got some rest. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth to close it out but pitchers like David Phelps, Clay Rapada and Boone Logan got some much needed rest.
  • Granderson’s home run turned out to be the deciding run of the game and it overcame a situation where the Yankees were a horrible 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Granderson leads in the team in home runs and he is second to Nick Swisher in RBIs with 16. Granderson is hitting .364 in his last nine games with five home runs and 10 RBIs.
  • Rodriguez’s two RBIs gave him 1,904 for his career, which moved him past Willie Mays for ninth place on the all-time list. After a slow start with the bat this April, A-Rod has nine RBIs in his last eight games and he now has four home runs and 11 RBIs on the season.
  • Cano contributed two hits and an RBI but he still has been largely MIA this season with one home run, four RBis and a .264 average.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a particular problem for the Yankees this season. It was in this game. Cano grounded out weakly to first base with two on and one out in the first and he struck out swinging with the bases loaded and two out in the second. The Yankees left the bases loaded three times in the game and stranded 15 runners overall. This has to change.
  • Mark Teixeira must have finally realized it was April. After his two-homer, six-RBI game against the Red Sox on April 20, Tex has fallen into a 2-for-24 (.083) tailspin. He was 0-for-5 on Sunday and he was 0-for-12 in the weekend series against the Tigers. He is now hitting .223. But, cheer up, Mark! The month of May begins on Tuesday and you can start hitting then like you always do.

BOMBER BANTER

Swisher left the game for a pinch-runner (Jones) in the third inning with a mild strain of his left hamstring and he is expected to miss the next few games, at least. However, the Yankees do not believe Swisher will need to go on the disabled list at this time. He is listed as day-to-day for now.  . . .  As expected, the Yankees have announced that struggling right-hander Freddy Garcia will pitch out of the bullpen and Phelps has been elevated to the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Garcia, 35, is 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in his four starts and he was chased after giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday. Phelps, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.57 ERA in six appearances covering 17 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. The rookie right-hander figures to make his first major-league start on Thursday in Kansas City against the Royals.  . . .  The Yankees made a roster move on Sunday to bolster their overtaxed bullpen by calling up rookie right-hander D.J. Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and sending right-hander Cody Eppley to Scranton.

ON DECK

The Yankees open a three-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.

Hiroki Kuroda (1-3, 4.38 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 innings to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. However, he lost in a pitcher’s duel against fellow countryman Yu Darvish. Kuroda has never faced the Orioles in his career.

The Orioles will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel (3-0, 1.73 ERA). Hammel is coming off an outing in which he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays over seven innings en route to a 3-0 victory. He is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

‘Unsteady Freddy’ Leaves Yankees In Deep Hole

GAME 20

TIGERS 7, YANKEES 5

For the second straight start veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia got knocked out in the second inning and a last-ditch ninth-inning rally fell just short as Detroit defeated New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.

Garcia was shelled for six runs on five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, the big blows were a three-run home run by Andy Dirks in the first inning and a two-run double by Miguel Cabrera in the second that chased him from the game. Garcia is now 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA.

Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (1-0) pitched six innings, giving up only one run on Nick Swisher’s home run the bottom of the first inning, to pick up his first major-league victory.

The Yankees, meanwhile, made it interesting in the late innings when Curtis Granderson homered off former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke in the seventh inning and they added three runs in the ninth inning off Tigers closer and resident hot dog Jose Valverde.

Swisher began the inning with his second home of the game and his sixth of the season. Alex Rodriguez then drew a one-out walk. Granderson later added a two-out single to score Rodriguez.

Pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez slapped an RBI double down the left-field line to score Granderson and draw the Yankees to within two runs and brought the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.

Chavez slapped a high drive down the right-field line that was caught just at the warning track by right-fielder Don Kelly to end the rally and allow Valverde to get his heart out of his throat. Instead of his usual victory dance after the last out, the clown just walked off the mound sporting an embarrassing 5.59 ERA.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ season ledger to 11-9. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak and are 11-10.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher’s two home runs came from each side of the plate and he extended his American League-leading total of RBis to 23. Because Swisher’s contract expires at the end of the season, he is hoping a good season will convince the Yankees to offer him a long-term deal to stay. Considering in his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting .350 with four home runs and 12 RBIs it might be a good idea to do it before the season ends.
  • Granderson’s solo home run in the seventh gave him seven on the season. In his last eight games, Granderson is hitting .367 with four home runs and eight RBIs. His only negative this season is his 24 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.
  • Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Cabrera in the eighth inning and that was the only run the bullpen allowed after Garcia left in the second inning. Clay Rapada, David Phelps and Eppley combined to give up just the one run on two hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings. Phelps, who seems to be assured of a start soon, faced the minimum nine batters in his three innings of work, striking out two.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Garcia has started his last game for some time and it may be his last start for the Yankees, period. Manager Joe Girardi said Garcia may land on the disabled list so the Yankees can determine why his pitches have dropped so much in velocity from last season. Girardi may have some announcement about it on Sunday.
  • Robinson Cano has been a major disappointment all season. He was 0-for-4 on Saturday and he saw only 11 pitches in those at-bats. He lined out sharply in the first, struck out looking on three pitches in the fourth and flied out weakly in the sixth and ninth innings. Cano is hitting .253 with just one home run and three RBIs batting third or fourth for the Yankees behind a red-hot Derek Jeter. Something is not adding up here.
  • The Yankees managed only Swisher’s home run, a Rodriguez single and two walks off Smyly in his fourth major-league start. This has ben a pattern with the Yankees when they face a pitcher for the first time. They take way too much time trying to figure out how to approach them and end up on the losing end.

BOMBER BANTER

Andy Pettitte’s minor-league start scheduled for Monday has been shifted from the cold climate of Portland, ME., to the warmer weather of Tampa, FL. Pettitte, 39, will start for Class-A Tampa on Monday and he expected to throw about 90 to 95 pitches. The veteran left-hander came out of retirement in the spring and hopes to rejoin the Yankees in mid-May.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win the three-game weekend home series with the Tigers on Sunday.

CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia has won his last two starts and he is coming off an 8-inning outing in which he gave up four runs against the Rangers on Monday. Sabathia is 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA lifetime against the Tigers.

Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24 ERA) will oppose Sabathia. Scherzer has struggled in all of his four starts this season. His 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

Tigers’ Wildness, Passed Ball Hand Win To Yanks

GAME 19

YANKEES 7, TIGERS 6

Sometimes you win games with clutch hits that are placed perfectly to score a run. Sometimes you win games with heroic catches to save games. Then there are times you just are patient enough to watch a young relief pitcher unravel in front of 41,200 fans at Yankee Stadium.

The latter happened to Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal – with some help from catcher Alex Avila – on Friday and it cost him and his team a victory against the Yankees on Friday.

Villarreal (0-1) uncorked a pitch in the 10th inning that hit off the glove of Avila for a passed ball and allowed Derek Jeter to score the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied to hand the Tigers their seventh loss in their last eight games.

The Yankees had just tied the game in the eighth inning off reliever Joaquin Benoit on a single by Alex Rodriguez, a single by Robinson Cano that advanced Rodriguez to third and a sac fly to deep center by Mark Teixeira.

Mariano Rivera (1-0) then needed only 11 pitches to retire the Tigers in order in the ninth to set the stage for the Yankees rally off the 24-year-old right-hander in the bottom of the inning.

After one out, Jeter drew a walk and he advanced to third on a Villarreal wild pitch on what was ball four to Curtis Granderson. Villarreal dug himself an even larger hole by throwing the first two pitches out of the strike zone to Rodriguez.

His third pitch also veered outside, hit off Avila’s glove and rolled to the wall behind home plate. Jeter started back to third initially but then raced home and knocked the ball out of Villarreal’s glove as he slid in safely with the winning run.

In what was thought would be a pitcher’s duel between reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova was anything but a duel as the game unfolded.

Nova surrendered six runs on 11 hits and three walks and struck out five in 5 /13 innings. However, because the Yankees rallied to tie the game after he left, Nova keeps alive his 15-game winning streak dating back to June 2011. He is just a game behind the team record set by Roger Clemens.

Verlander was victimized by a solo home run by Rodriguez in the fourth and a two-run blast by Russell Martin in the fifth. He ended up giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and struck out four in six innings.

Yankee Stadium remains the only A.L. park in which he has not won a game.

With the victory the Yankees improve to 11-8. The Tigers fall to 10-10.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It was nice to see Rodriguez begin to swing the bat well for a change. He came into the contest hitting .221. But he was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in the game. He stroked an opposite-field single to drive in Granderson in the first inning to give the Yankees a short-lived 1-0 lead. In the fourth he hit career homer No. 633 to the bleachers in right-center to bring the Yankees to within a run at 3-2. He then just missed hitting a second home run to center off Verlander in the fifth that would have given the Yankees a 5-3 lead. He later started the eighth-inning rally with a leadoff single and scored the tying run.
  • It was also nice to see Martin hit a two-run homer off Verlander that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead after five innings. Martin is the only Yankee regular hitting under .200. He came into the game hitting .182 with one home run and four RBIs. With one swing he doubled his home run total and plated half of his previous RBI total.
  • The bullpen, once again, saved the Yankees in a huge way. After Nova left in the fifth, Cory Wade, David Robertson and Rivera combined to shut out the Tigers on a hit, a walk and struck out four over the final 3 1/3 innings. Shaky starting pitching continues to put the bullpen to the test and they keep doing the job.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Nova entered the top of the sixth with a 4-3 lead and promptly gave it right back to the Tigers. Jhonny Peralta opened the frame with a single to left and Ryan Raburn followed with a single to right-center. Austin Jackson, who was 4-for-5 on the night, then smacked a two-run double to the wall to score Peralta and Raburn. After one out, Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally and Boone Logan was summoned to retire Cecil Fielder. But Fielder slapped his second opposite-field RBi single to left and the Yankees fell into a 6-4 hole. Nova was very lucky the Yankees rallied to tie the game up and later won it.
  • I have said this before and it bears repeating: Raul Ibanez has no business playing the outfield at age 39. That became obvious in the second inning when Brad Eldred, who was just called up from Triple-A Toledo on Friday, followed a leadoff walk to Don Kelly with a pop fly to left that Ibanez played into a triple that scored Kelly and tie the game a 1-1. It is situations like this that make the Yankees appreciate the Gold Glove-quality defense they receive from Brett Gardner.
  • Logan was one member of the bullpen who did not enjoy a good night. He was called upon in the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, trailing the game 5-4. Logan had to face Fielder and Kelly, a pair of lefties. Fielder singled in a run and Logan walked Kelly on a 3-2 pitch. He exited the game without retiring either lefty.

COMMENTARY

Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning by home-plate umpire Joe West after Martin was rung up a 1-2 Octavio Dotel pitch that replays showed was clearly outside. Girardi was not upset the pitch was called a strike. What really upset him was that a number of similar outside corner pitches from the Yankees’ pitchers were NOT called strikes. This has been an ongoing problem with West throughout his entire career. Because he has been in the game so long, West believes in his heart that those fans in the stands who fork out $150 a ticket come to see him call balls and strikes. Should you even get the thought into your head about questioning his ever-changing strike zone, he runs you out of the game with a hair-trigger temper. But I loved what the gutless fat slob did after Girardi showed him that the third strike Martin took was in the left-handed batter’s box. While Girardi’s back was turned  and he was heading back to the dugout West said something. That is what cowards do when they know they are wrong. Thanks, Bud Selig, for giving us baseball fans the umpiring equivalent of Napoleon. Heck, Joe, try umpiring with your right hand tucked in your shirt. You stink! You need to retire now. The act, like you, is getting old.

BOMBER BANTER

The Tigers played the game without starting left fielder Delmon Young, who was arrested early Friday morning by New York City police for an alleged assault of man in front of a downtown hotel. He will be charged with aggravated harassment and it could be escalated to a hate crime, according to a police spokesman. Young remains in custody and he is awaiting arraignment. A detective told the Detroit Free Press that some “anti-Semetic remarks” were made during the incident. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle this considering they never punished Cabrera, their best player, for a pair of DUI charges.  . . .  Jeter had his 15-game hitting streak stopped on Friday. Though he was 0-for-4 starting the ninth, Jeter drew a walk and later scored the game-winning run. That is how good it has been going for Jeter. He helps win the game without getting a hit.  . . .  Andy Pettitte will make his next scheduled start for Double-A Trenton on Monday against the Portland Sea Dogs in Maine. Pettitte, 39, is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches. Pettitte is on track to return to the major leagues in mid-May.

ON DECK

The three-game series with the Tigers continues on Saturday.

For fans planning to attend the game, I suggest you arrive early enough to see Freddy Garcia start the game for the Yankees. You may not see him for long after that. Garcia (0-1, 9.75 ERA) has not pitched six innings in any of his previous three starts and only lasted 1 2/3 innings against Boston last Saturday. Fortunately, the Yankees rallied from a 9-0 deficit and beat up on Bosox 15-9.  He is 18-8 with a 3.88 ERA against the Tigers over the past 10 seasons.

The Tigers will counter with rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 1.13 ERA), who has allowed two runs or less in his first three starts. He held the Rangers to one run on five hits and two walks on Sunday but ended up with his third no-decision. He has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Beltre, Rangers Do Texas Two-Step On Yankees

GAME 18

RANGERS 7, YANKEES 3

Adrian Beltre homered and drove in three runs on Wednesday to lead Texas to series victory over New York at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland added solo home runs for the Rangers and Robbie Ross (4-0) threw 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief to get credit for the victory.

For the fourth consecutive start, Phil Hughes (1-3) failed to pitch six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. David Phelps, thought to be in line to get a shot at starting, was not much better, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings.

With the loss the Yankees’ season record falls to 10-8. The Rangers are 15-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Raul Ibanez was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees. He was 2-for-4 including a solo home run off Neftali Feliz in the seventh and an RBI double in the fourth to plate the Yankees’ first run. In limited play, Ibanez, 39, is hitting .271 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
  • Derek Jeter is hotter than a July evening in Texas. He was 2-for-4 in the game to raise his season average to an astounding .420, which is third in the major leagues behind the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Red Sox DH David Ortiz.
  • Other than Phelps, the bullpen did a good job of keeping the Yankees close for most of the game. Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano kept the Rangers scoreless over the three innings they pitched, giving up only one hit and a walk. Despite some of the starters struggling the bullpen is still holding up well.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The time has come for the Yankees to place Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Trailing 1-0 with one out in the third inning, Hughes unraveled. Mitch Moreland singled and Ian Kinsler followed with a bloop opposite-field double to right. After an RBI groundout by Elvis Andrus, Hughes hit Josh Hamilton with a pitch. Beltre, who homered off him in his previous at-bat, stroked an RBI single and Michael Young followed with an RBI double. After Hughes brushed Nelson Cruz’s jersey with an inside pitch, Girardi removed him from the game. Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.
  • Curtis Granderson looks absolutely clueless at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the game. In the series, Granderson was 1-for-9 with three walks and five strikeouts. None of the swinging strikeouts came on pitches that were in the strike zone.
  • After going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position in their victory over the Rangers on Monday, the Yankees were 2-for-14 over the last two games. Alex Rodriguez was the poster boy for the futility, going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.

BOMBER BANTER

If losing the game were not enough, the Yankees learned earlier Wednesday that right-hander Michael Pineda has a slight anterior labral tear and he will have to undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday. Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician, will perform the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, assisted by Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad. Pineda, 23, will miss a minimum of 12 months. Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos were acquired in February in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for 22-year-old slugger Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.  . . .  Meanwhile, left-hander Andy Pettitte gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings and took the loss as Double-A Trenton lost to Erie 10-4 on Wednesday. Pettitte struck out three and walked one and threw 59 of his 81 pitches for strikes. Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts before being placed on the major-league roster.

ON DECK

The Yankees finished the road trip with a 3-2 mark and now they come home to face the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The good news is their best starting pitcher will open the series. Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79 ERA) is riding a streak of consecutive victories and he can tie Rogers Clemens’ team record of 16 with a victory. Nova gave up two runs on seven hits and fanned five batters last Friday as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-2 on Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. Nova is 0-0 with a 0,00 ERA against the Tigers but did defeat them in Game 1 of the ALDS last October.

Unfortunately, the Yankees will be facing Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA). Verlander blanked the Rangers for six innings while striking out eight in his last start. The reigning American league MVP and Cy Young Award winner is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

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

 

Darvish Fans 10 As Yankees Lay Huge Goose Egg

GAME 17

RANGERS 2, YANKEES 0

Yu Darvish pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings and struck out 10 batters as he and his Texas teammates outdueled Hiroki Kiroda and New York on Tuesday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Ian Kinsler hit a solo home run to leadoff the bottom of the first inning and Josh Hamilton added an RBI single after Elvis Andrus drew a two-out walk and stole second in the third inning to give Darvish the only runs he needed.

Darvish (3-0) scattered seven hits and walked two before giving way to Joe Nathan, who induced a double-play grounder on his first delivery to pick up his fifth save.

Kuroda (1-3) gave up only five hits and two walks and fanned five in 6 2/3 innings to take a tough-luck loss.

With the loss the Yankees fell to 10-7. The Rangers improved to 14-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In the “He Can Do It All By Himself” Department, Derek Jeter had a bunt single that loaded the bases in the third and a two-out double in the fifth. That raised Jeter’s season average to .416. On Monday, he became the first Yankee to ever have as many as 30 hits in the team’s first 16 games. He is not only having the best start of his career, he is having the best start of any Yankee, period.
  • Robinson Cano also contributed a leadoff double in the fourth and a one-out single in the sixth. But it did little good because nobody was capable of stepping up and getting a hit to advance or score him. In his last 10 games, Cano is 12-for-40 (.300) with a home run and three RBIs. It has raised his batting average from . 229 to .268.
  • Kuroda deserved a better fate. After pitching horribly against the Twins last week, Kuroda was able to keep the Rangers off balance with his breaking stuff and he only spotted his fastball on the corners or up in the strike zone. He just ended up being outpitched by a his fellow countryman from Ozaka.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • If you want to beat the Yankees, just throw incredibly slow stuff that breaks out of the strike zone. Nine of Darvish’s 10 strikeouts were swinging strikes and eight of the nine came on pitches that were nowhere near the strike zone.  It kind of reminded me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoon where the oversized brutes tie themselves in knots while the baseball floats harmlessly into the catcher’s glove.
  • Curtis Granderson gets the “If You Are Just Going To Watch, Buy A Ticket” Award for watching Darvish paint strike three on him on a 3-2 pitch with the bases loaded and NO OUTS in the third inning. It was just inexcusable for him not to protect the plate in that situation.
  • Alex Rodriguez was not much better. He followed Granderson with a weak grounder right on the third base bag that Adrian Beltre turned into an inning-ending double play by stepping on third and firing to get Rodriguez at first. Rodriguez was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three infield grounders. The Yankees were 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position so they deserved to lose.

BOMBER BANTER

The exact condition of Michael Pineda’s right shoulder is in doubt still after an MRI dye contrast test was conducted by the Yankees team physician, Dr. Christopher Ahmad, on Tuesday. Apparently, Pineda’s agent has requested a second opinion from the New York Mets team physician. Reading between the lines, this can’t be good news for the Yankees or Pineda. The 23-year-old right-hander has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 31 with what was termed rotator cuff tendinitis. Pineda cut short a bullpen session in Tampa, FL., on Saturday after 15 pitches, citing discomfort in his shoulder.  It is unclear how long Pineda will be sidelined.  . . .  Andy Pettitte will make his third minor-league start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton in a home game against Erie at 7:05 p.m. EDT. Pettitte, 39, is scheduled to throw 80 to 85 pitches in his effort to return to the Yankees and the major leagues after a one-year absence.  . . .  Manager Joe Girardi announced on Tuesday that Freddy Garcia will pitch on Saturday at home against the Detroit Tigers. That means CC Sabathia will get an extra day’s rest and pitch on Sunday.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win the rubber game of their three-game road series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (1-2, 6.75 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Last Thursday, Hughes was tagged for six runs (two earned) on six hits and two walks in 5 1/3 innings against the Twins in his last start. However, Hughes is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA against Texas in his career.

The Rangers will counter with spot starter Scott Feldman (0-0, 0.00 ERA), who is coming out of the bullpen to make a start. He is 29-28 with a 4.68 ERA in 80 career starts. But he is just 3-2 with a 4.76 ERA against the Yankees in four starts and two relief outings.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Get 8 CCs Of Sabathia To Outgun Rangers

GAME 16

YANKEES 7, RANGERS 4

If you want to be the best team in the American League than you want to play the best team in the A.L. and beat their best with your best. New York did just that to Texas on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

CC Sabathia pitched a solid eight innings and Alex Rodriguez homered and Derek Jeter contributed four hits as the Yankees defeated what was a red-hot Rangers team.

Sabathia (2-0) gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight batters to win his second consecutive start. Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his fourth save of the season.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, made life a living hell for Rangers starter Derek Holland (2-0). Holland gave up seven runs on nine hits and four walks and struck out one in six innings. He is now 0-5 in his career against the Yankees.

The Yankees struck early off Holland, loading the bases in the first inning and Curtis Granderson hit a looping two-out single to center give the Yankees an early 2-1 lead.

After the Rangers scored a run on a Josh Hamilton double-play grounder, the Yankees struck for four runs in the fifth inning, capped by Rodriguez’s 414-foot blast into the left-field seats for a three-run home run to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.

They added a run in the sixth when backup catcher Chris Stewart hit a one-out double off the wall in left-center and Jeter scored him with a double off the wall in right-center.

Sabathia did surrender a solo home run to Hamilton in the sixth and a two-run double by Craig Gentry in the seventh. But he retired the last five batters he faced on routine grounders before giving way to Rivera.

Before the game, manager Joe Girardi was hoping Sabathia would pitch into the late innings to give a needed break to his overtaxed bullpen and Sabathia did just that, throwing 77 of his 109 pitches for strikes and keeping the Rangers’ power-laden offense at bay long enough for the Yankees to get to Holland.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 10-6 and they are now tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the A.L. East. The Rangers fell to 13-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia did give up four runs but this was, by far, his best performance of the season. Other than the scratch run he allowed in the first and Hamilton’s home run in the fifth, Sabathia pitched dominant baseball for the first six innings. He hurt himself with a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz in the seventh and then he gave up one-out doubles to Brandon Snyder and Gentry, who were the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the lineup. He is now 11-3 in his career against the Rangers.
  • Jeter’s amazing start to the season just keeps getting better by the day. He reached on a infield single in the first, singled to left-center in the second, rolled a single into left in the fifth and then stroked his RBI double in the sixth. His 4-for-5 night raised his season average over .400 to .411. He also has 13 RBIs from the leadoff spot.
  • Rodriguez hit his third home run of the season off Holland on an 0-1 fastball that did not get in as far as Holland would have liked. Rodriguez, who was walked in his first two trips to the plate, was waiting for it and sent it into the bleachers in left-center. After a slow start at the plate, Rodriguez has homered twice in his last three games and has driven in five of his seven runs in that span.
  • Granderson’s two-run single set the tone for the game because it came after Mark Teixeira had struck out for the second out of the inning with the bases loaded. Granderson hung in against the left-handed Holland to fist a 1-2 pitch into center to score two runs and give Sabathia an early cushion against the Rangers.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Teixeira entered the game having great success against Holland, who had given up three home runs to him in his young career. But Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded in the first, rolled into a double play in the the third and bounced out to short again the fifth against Holland. He was 0-for-4 in the game coming off his six RBIs against the Red Sox on Saturday.
  • With Brett Gardner on the disabled list, Girardi elected to use Andruw Jones in left and insert Eduardo Nunez as the DH on Monday. They combined to go 0-for-8 and Nunez only managed to get one ball out of the infield.
  • Jeter made a careless error in the second inning on a ground ball off the bat of Cruz. Jeter lobbed the ball to first and it short-hopped Teixeira and bounced away from him. Fortunately, the error did not hurt the Yankees. Sabathia retired the next two batters and Cruz was stranded at first.

BOMBER BANTER

The status of right-handed starter Michael Pineda will have to wait another day. A scheduling conflict will force Pineda to meet with the team physician on Tuesday and he also will undergo an MRI dye contrast test on his ailing right shoulder. The Yankees hope to have the results of the tests later that evening. Pineda, 23, had to halt a bullpen session in Tampa, FL., last week after 15 pitches due to weakness in his shoulder.  . . .  Freddy Garcia has received a reprieve from Girardi. Garcia will make a start in the weekend home series against the Detroit Tigers, despite an 0-3 record and a 9.75 ERA in his first three starts. Girardi said Garcia will pitch either Saturday or Sunday.

ON DECK

Since Hideki Matsui pretty much retired the nickname “Godzilla” then the second game of the Yankees-Rangers series between two former Japanese League stars should be titled “Rodan vs. Anguirus” if you are up on your 1950s Japanese movie monsters.

The Yankees will start 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 5.00 ERA). Kuroda, who pitched 11 seasons for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, has been bad, good and then bad again in his first three starts. He gave up six runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Twins on Wednesday. He is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA against the Rangers.

Opposing him will be Yu Darvish (2-0, 3.57 ERA). The 25-year-old Darvish, who pitched seven seasons for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, gave up just two hits but walked and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings in a 10-3 victory over the Tigers. Darvish has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yanks-Bosox Rainout Buffers Bobby V’s Torture

GAME 16

YANKEES vs. RED SOX (POSTPONED – RAIN)

The game scheduled between New York and Boston on Sunday was canceled at 3 p.m. due to a heavy downpour engulfing Fenway Park.

It is nothing compared to the firestorm surrounding the Red Sox in the wake of their 7-20 collapse last September, their change in general manager and manager and their dreadful 4-10 start this season. The fact they blew a 9-0 lead after five innings on Saturday to end up losing to the Yankees 15-9 has merely ripped off the fresh scabs from an entertaining week of upheaval.

If we didn’t know any better we might think that manager Bobby Valentine took up a weather plane and seeded the clouds to rain himself to stop the hail of runs his team’s pitching staff is handing out like Halloween candy and the chorus of boos cascading from the stands upon him.

Valentine admitted after the debacle on Saturday that he needed to do a better job. But, like it or not, Valentine has become the symbol of the discontent in Red Sox Nation.

His mismanagement of two games last week and the dustup he had with Kevin Youkilis were fueling most of the anger aimed at Valentine. But Sunday’s loss was really not Valentine’s fault. But the fact that his club surrendered that huge lead shows just how deep-seeded and difficult the root of the problem is to identify.

It seems to be a lot deeper than some chicken and beer.

Theo Eptein fled to Chicago and Terry Francona took his class act out of the dugout to the television booth. Owner John Henry and team president Larry Lucchino sought out Valentine to right the ship. But they are not offering him any of the largesse it would take to fix the hull.

Unwilling to venture past the limits of the luxury tax, Valentine and new general manager Ben Cherington kind of look like the Black Knight in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” valiantly trying to fight a battle without limbs. Such is the sad state of affairs in Beantown. Well, it is not so sad for those in the Bronx.

The rainout on Sunday gives the Red Sox time to find the answers and gets some players healthy before they play the Yankees again at Fenway. No makeup date has been announced. It is anybody’s guess whether the game will actually matter.

BOMBER BANTER

Yankee manager Joe Girardi decided to shift Sunday’s scheduled starter, CC Sabathia, to start on Monday against the Rangers in Arlington, TX. He also said that Hiroki Kuroda and Phil Hughes will follow Sabathia in the three-game series. Ivan Nova will open the home series against the Tigers on Friday. However, Girardi has not announced who will start on Saturday. Freddy Garcia (0-1, 9.75 ERA) would be in line to make the start. But Garcia could be skipped in order to keep Sabathia on schedule to pitch every fifth day.  . . .  Girardi said he expectes to have Brett Gardner back in the lineup on May 3 when the Yankees begin a four-game series with Kansas City. Gardner was placed on the disabled list with a strained and bruised right elbow he suffered making a diving catch on a sinking line drive on Tuesday. Gardner is hitting .321 this season.  . . .  Michael Pineda will meet with a team physician in New York on Monday to evaluate recurring tightness behind his right shoulder. The 23-year-old right-hander has to end a bullpen session on Saturday after 15 pitches because of pain in his shoulder. He will remain on the 15-day disabled list and it unclear when Pineda now might be able to return.

ON DECK

The Yankees first test against two-time American League champion Texas begins on Monday.

Sabathia (1-0) gave up three runs on four hits in six innings against the Twins to earn his first victory of the season on Tuesday. He is 10-3 with a 4.44 ERA against the Rangers in his career.

The Rangers will start left-hander Derek Holland (2-0, 3.10 ERA), who gave up two runs on four hits and three walks in seven innings against the reeling Red Sox in his last start. Against the Yankees, Holland is 0-4 with a 9.00 ERA in five starts.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN and locally by MY9.

 

Down 9-0, Yankees Stun Bosox With 15-Run Rally

GAME 15

YANKEES 15, RED SOX 9

Fenway Park turned 100 years and one day old on Saturday and the Red Sox honored the occasion by providing their fans with one of their worst meltdowns in their history.

Trailing 9-0 in the sixth inning, the Yankees came back to strike for 15 unanswered runs over the next three innings to leave embattled skipper Bobby Valentine, a depleted Bosox roster and an incredibly ineffective and shellshocked bullpen in tatters amid an embarrassing a five-game losing streak that is rapidly angering the Fenway faithful.

Mark Teixeira and Nick Swisher led the comeback for the Yankees, combining for three home runs and 12 RBIs against a Red Sox pitching staff that has earned its position as the worst in baseball.

It was Teixeira who innocently began the rally with a two-out solo home run to left off Red Sox starter Felix Doubront in the sixth inning. Doubront left the game with a 9-1 lead having given up four hits and two walks and fanning seven batters. Little did he know his bullpen would not be able to hold an eight-run lead.

The Yankees got back into the game in the seventh inning against journeyman right-hander Vicente Padilla.

With one out, Russell Martin blooped a single to right and Eduardo Nunez followed with a slow roller to third in which third baseman Nate Spears could not get Nunez at first. Derek Jeter walked to load the bases and Swisher cut the lead to 9-5 on one swing by smashing a grand slam home run into the Green Monster seats in left.

After Robinson Cano singled, Valentine – serenaded with a cascade of loud boos – brought in Matt Albers to replace Padilla.

Albers induced Alex Rodriguez to hit a infield grounder but shortstop Mike Aviles misplayed it and Granderson advanced to third. Teixeira then delivered his second home run of the game, another opposite-field blast to left to bring the Yankees to within one run at 9-8.

A stunned Fenway Park crowd of 36, 770 sat in deafening silence. That silence would not last when the Yankees’ half of the eighth began with Franklin Morales on the mound.

Nunez opened the frame with a single to left and Valentine then publicly alerted the Yankees and Red Sox Nation that he was officially panicking. He elected to bring in closer Alfredo Aceves with six outs to hold a one-run lead.

Jeter immediately worked a walk from Aceves and Swisher then crushed a 2-1 pitch off the center-field wall to score Nunez and Jeter, giving the Yankees an improbable 10-9 lead.

Valentine ordered Aceves to walk Cano intentionally, but Aceves made things worse by walking Rodriguez to load the bases again. Teixeira made him pay with a ground-rule double down into the right-field corner to make it 12-9.

After Aceves walked Granderson intentionally, Valentine – fielding even more boos – removed him for lefty Justin Thomas.

Thomas was able to get an unassisted double play by Adrian Gonzalez off the bat of pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez. However, Martin stroked a two-run single to center. Nunez then reached on an infield single to Aviles.

Jeter made the Red Sox pay with a grounder to Aviles in which he slipped and could not throw Jeter out at first,  which scored Martin and pushed the Yankee lead to 15-9. Fortunately for the Red Sox it was not worse.

The Yankee bullpen closed it out and the Red Sox left the field with some embarrassed faces in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports.

Rafael Soriano (2-0) pitched a scoreless seventh to get credit for the victory. Aceves (0-1) gave up five runs on two hits and four walks without recording a single out to take the loss.

The Red Sox bullpen combined to give up 15 runs on 12 hits and five walks in just three innings.

It overshadowed an absolutely horrible third start of the season for 35-year-old right-hander Freddy Garcia. He was hammered for five runs on seven hits in just 1 2/3 innings. Fortunately for him, that was forgotten hours later with the complete ineptitude of the Red Sox bullpen to get nine outs and hold what looked to be a very comfortable lead.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to 9-6 and claimed first place in the American League East for the first time this season. The reeling Red Sox – or shall we say Dead Sox – are now 4-10 and they are five games back in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher had a week in basically two at-bats. His six RBIs are a career high. He was 3-for-6 with a grand-slam, a two-run double and a single. he also scored two runs and he now leads the American League in RBIs with 20. He raised his average to .283 and it looks as if he is making a huge push for a new contract at the end of the 2012 season.
  • The slow-starting Teixeira hit two home runs – one of them to the opposite field in left, which is one more than he hit in all of 2011. He added a huge two-run double in the eighth to give him six RBIs in the game also. Tex was 3-for-6 in the game and raised his batting average to .288. Hey, Mark, it’s April. What gives?
  • Jeter quietly had another sensational game, though Swisher and Teixeira overshadowed him. He was 3-for-4 with two walks, three singles, two runs and an RBI. He raised his average to a ridiculously hot .382. The Captain is not looking like he will be retiring anytime soon.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Simply put, Garcia has to go. After three starts, Garcia has given up 14 runs (13 earned) on 20 hits and three walks in 12 innings. His ERA is 9.75 and he is looking like he is unable to put away hitters with his splitter any more. At times it looked as if the Red Sox were taking batting practice. Perhaps David Phelps should take the No. 5 spot until Andy Pettitte is ready.
  • Phelps was knocked around a bit for the first time this season.  He was tagged for three runs on six hits and one walk in four innings. The big blow off him was a two-run home run to center by Cody Ross in the fifth. But he actually did not pitch as bad the numbers indicate and he could be given a start soon.
  • Although the Yankees scored 15 runs and pounded out 16 hits, Rodriguez was 0-for-5 with a walk and he did not get a ball out of the infield. The 0-for-5 day lowered his batting average to .241.

BOMBER BANTER

There is one bit of very bad news for Yankee fans and Yankee fans who loved Jesus Montero. Michael Pineda had to end his bullpen session in Tampa, FL., after 15 pitches with discomfort in the back of his right shoulder. Manager Joe Girardi said Pineda will see a physician on Monday and there is no immediate timetable for his return. Pineda, 23, was placed in the disabled list at the start of the season after being diagnosed with right shoulder tendinitis.  . . .  Pettitte is scheduled to make a start on Wednesday for Double-A Trenton as part of his return to the major leagues scheduled for early May. Pettitte is expected to throw about 80 to 85 pitches.  The Yankees obviously will be glad to see him the way Garcia has been pitching.

ON DECK

The Yankees can complete a sweep of the Red Sox on Sunday and if it happens I would not want to be Valentine on Monday.

Ace left-hander CC Sabathia (1-0, 5.99 ERA) is coming off his first victory of the season. He gave up three runs in six innings to beat the Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.14 ERA in his career against the Bosox.

Boston will counter with right-hander Daniel Bard (0-2, 4.63 ERA). Bard gave up one run but walked seven against the Rays in his last start, which he lost. He is 2-1 with a 4.13 ERA against the Yankees but all those numbers came from the bullpen.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN.

 

Yankees Go Solo Route To Ruin Fenway Toast

GAME 14

YANKEES 6, RED SOX 2

A hundred years ago Fenway Park opened its turnstiles for the first time and the seeds of a Red Sox rivalry with the New York Yankees were planted on that day and sown over the generations.

The modern day version played out upon the hallowed cathedral of Boston’s baseball heritage on Friday and the New York franchise that was the Highlanders in 1912 evolved quickly into the Bronx Bombers in the afternoon sun and pounded out five solo home runs to ruin the celebration for the Red Sox faithful.

Ivan Nova (3-0) gave up two runs on seven hits and struck out five over six innings to notch his 15th consecutive decision dating back to his rookie season. He is just one victory shy of the franchise record established by Roger Clemens.

Meanwhile, the Yankees were taking aim for the upper reaches of the Green Monster and Landsdowne Street against Clay Buchholz (1-1).

Eric Chavez, inserted in the lineup to play third base so Alex Rodriguez could DH, led the way with a pair solo home runs in the second and fourth innings. Nick Swisher began the home run barrage two batters before Chavez in the second with his own Monster Mash. Rodriguez led off the fifth with a blast onto Landsdowne Street and it was the 631st home run of his career, moving him past Ken Griffey Jr. into fifth place on the all-time home run list.

Russell Martin completed the barrage in the sixth with a high lined shot into the scaffolding above the Monster for his first home run of the season. Martin stepped to the plate hitless in his last 15 at-bats.

The Red Sox scored their first run on a disputed double by David Ortiz that was ruled a home run by the umpiring crew after a replay review in the second inning. They scored again the fifth after Cody Ross led off the inning with a double to center and one out later Nick Swisher lost Mike Aviles’ routine pop fly in the sun, which allowed Ross to score.

But the Yankees’ vaunted bullpen held the Red Sox scoreless over the final three innings. Future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera came on to record the final three outs in the ninth to seal the victory for the Yankees.

So while the Red Sox legends like Johnny Pesky, Bobby Doerr, Carl Yastrzemski, Jim Rice, Dennis Eckersley, Carlton Fisk, Pedro Martinez and Dwight Evans came onto the field prior to the game to pay tribute to a city’s love for its ballpark and its team, it was the modern legends the likes of Derek Jeter, Rodriguez, Ortiz and Rivera who shone brightest on this day.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 8-6 and they are now a half-game behind Baltimore in the American League East. The Red Sox fell to 4-9 and they are four games out in last place in the division.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • With the starters struggling to keep the other team off the scoreboard early and not being able to pitch past the fifth inning, Nova’s effort on Friday was very much welcome. Nova had only one 1-2-3 inning (the fourth) and yet he was able to keep the Red Sox offense at bay for most of the afternoon. The fact that the 25-year-old right-hander is within two victories of passing Clemens proves that he is doing something right. He lowered his season ERA to 3.79.
  • Manager Joe Girardi gets kudos for starting Chavez at third base and Chavez made the skipper look clairvoyant with his first two home runs of the season. Chavez has only two home runs all last season for the Yankees. In limited play this season, Chavez is hitting .400 and he is proving that the Yankees’ bench is pretty deep with talent.
  • Rodriguez’s home run was by far the most dramatic of all the home runs and it made a statement as it flew well over the Monster in left. It was his second home run of the season and it gave the Yankees a 5-2 lead. Buchholz gave up nine hits in six-plus innings five were solo home runs and two others were doubles. He was not exactly fooling the Yankees.
  • Jeter singled off the glove of Kevin Youkilis in the second inning to extend his hitting streak to 11 games. Jeter was 1-for-5 and scored a run and he is hitting .359 on the season. With the hit he moved into 18th place and past Dave Winfield on the all-time hit list with 3,111.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Cody Eppley, who was brought up from Triple-A when Brett Gardner was placed on the disabled list on Wednesday, did not fare well in his debut with the Yankees. The 6-foot-5 sidewinding right-hander entered the game in the ninth with a four-run lead and he gave up a leadoff single to right by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Girardi went immediately to the mound and brought in Rivera to close out the game.
  • Mark Teixeira was the only Yankee starter who did not get a hit in the game. He was 0-for-4 including three weak infield grounders. Teixeira’s season average dropped to .264, which is pretty good considering Teixeira is a career .190 hitter in April.
  • Swisher had to be a bit embarrassed by losing Aviles’ fly ball in the fifth, which allowed a run to score. Swisher tried using his left hand to shade his eyes from the sun but he ended up covering up and baling out as the ball dropped in front of him and rolled into deep right. It was a tough sun field on Friday but Swisher still should have had it.

BOMBER BANTER

Yankees left-hander Andy Pettitte tossed five innings on Friday in an extended spring training game against Pittsburgh Pirates minor leaguers at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Pettitte gave up two runs on four hits but, more importantly, he threw 58 of his 66 pitches for strikes and struck out five batters. In his next game action, Pettitte likely will move up in class and start a game for Double-A Trenton. The 39-year-old veteran is targeting a return to the Yankees in early May.  . . .  Both teams on Friday wore throwback uniforms that were worn by Red Sox and Highlanders in 1912. The jerseys did not have names or numbers on the back, which made it hard for fans, broadcasters and writers to figure out who was coming to the plate to pinch-hit or who was coming to in to pitch. I would guess it was pointless to buy a game program in 1912, if they were even available then.

COMMENTARY

One of the loudest and warmest greetings from most of the 36,770 fans in attendance during the pregame ceremonies was bestowed upon former manager Terry Francona, who initially declined the invitation to come but later relented. Francona received a raucous standing ovation and it rivaled the ovation for Yastrzemski. In the seventh inning of the game, current Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine went to the mound to remove Buchholz and he drew a chorus of boos. Valentine is still reeling from comments he made to reporters on the record about a seeming lack of commitment from Youkilis. The firestorm ended with the players backing Youkilis and Valentine was forced to apologize for the comments publicly. But it is obvious that Francona’s departure after last season’s September swoon, Valentine’s uncalled for candor and the poor start of the team has combined to provide a very poisonous atmosphere at Fenway Park on her 100th birthday. The situation will be increasingly worse for Valentine if the Red Sox fail to win a game this weekend against the Yankees. For his part on Friday, Valentine appeared reticent and chastened when he spoke to the media. It would appear he has learned a valuable lesson about being too candid and failing to address concerns with his players privately. But the question still becomes how will Valentine survive it all if this team continues to languish at the bottom of the division and fails to make the playoffs? The fans in Boston are not a patient bunch and Valentine really stepped into it badly by knocking an immensely popular player.

ON DECK

The rivalry series continues on Saturday.

The Yankees will send right-hander Freddy Garcia (0-1, 6.97) to the mound. Garcia was tagged for five runs on nine hits in 5 2/3 innings in a loss against the Twins on Monday. With Pettitte on the way back to the major leagues, the pressure on Garcia to pitch well increases. He is 9-4 with a 4.45 ERA over the last 10 seasons against the Bosox.

Boston will counter with left-hander Felix Doubront (0-0, 5.40 ERA). Dubront has not made it out of the fifth inning this season although he has 13 strikeouts in 10 innings of work. He is 0-0 with a 3.86 ERA against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.

 

Grandy’s Dandy HR Trio Powers Yanks Over Twins

GAME 13

YANKEES 7, TWINS 6

When he stepped to the plate in the first inning on Thursday, Curtis Granderson was hitting .208 with three home runs and six RBIs and the fans at Yankee Stadium were wondering if he was headed for a fall after his magical 2011 season.

Three hours later, Granderson was walking off to a loud ovation after going 5-for-5 with three home runs and four RBIs as he led New York to a thrilling come-from-behind victory over Minnesota to salvage a split of the four-game series.

With the Yankees trailing 4-0 in the first, Granderson hit the first of his three home runs into the right-center stands beyond the bullpen off Twins starter Anthony Swarzak (0-3). Mark Teixeira added a two-run, two-out home run – his first of the season – in virtually the same spot Granderson hit his to bring the Yankees to within a run at 4-3, just as the Yankees had done in Wednesday’s 6-5 loss.

However, unlike Wednesday night, the Yankees claimed the lead in the second inning starting with a two-out double by Eduardo Nunez, whose error in the first inning led to four unearned runs being scored off Yankees starter Phil Hughes (1-2).

Derek Jeter, who is off to the best start of his major-league career, followed with a slashing single to right to score Nunez. That hit gave him 3,11o hits in his career and tied him for 18th place on the all-time hit list with his boyhood idol Dave Winfield.

Granderson then stepped to the plate and he planted a 3-1 Swarzak fastball into the second deck in the right-field bleachers to give the Yankees a lead they never would relinquish.

Granderson made it 7-4 with his third round-tripper of the night with one out in the fourth inning off reliever Jeff Gray. It was a lined shot three rows back in right-field. Most of the 40,327 fans in attendance came to their feet and exhorted Granderson to a take a curtain call, which he did.

The 31-year-old center-fielder added a one-out single to right in the sixth inning off Alex Burnett and a two-out infield single off Glen Perkins in the ninth to become the first Yankee player in history to have a 5-for-5 game with three home runs.

With the three home runs, Granderson became the first Yankee player to hit three in a game at the new Yankee Stadium.

Hughes did not pitch his best but he did survive a nightmarish first inning in which Nunez threw high and up the first-base line on a routine grounder off the bat of Joe Mauer after Jamey Carroll slapped a one-out single. That led later to a base-loaded single by Ryan Doumit and a two-run double by Danny Valencia.

Hughes actually pitched well after that until Doumit blasted a 1-0 change-up into the right-centerfield bleachers for a two-run home run that brought the Twins to within a run at 7-6.

But, as they have done all season, the bullpen of Boone Logan, Rafael Soriano, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera did not allow a run in the last 3 2/3 innings to provide a much-needed victory to the Yankees in advance of their six-game road trip to Boston and Texas before coming home to play three games against Detroit.

Rivera needed only seven pitches to notch his third save of the season.

With the victory the Yankees are now 7-6 on the season. The Twins dropped to 4-9.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Seeing Granderson come alive at the plate on Thursday was pure magic to watch. Granderson’s three home runs put him in the lead in the American League in that category. His 5-for-5 night raised his batting average from .208 to .283. The last Yankee to hit three home runs in a game was Alex Rodriguez on Aug. 14, 2010 against the Royals in Kansas City.
  • Jeter was 1-for-5 with a runs scored and an RBI and it was considered an off night. He has been that hot. Jeter was robbed of a single in the first inning on a diving stop by Carroll at shortstop and he laced a line drive to right in the fourth that was hit right at Doumit. In his two other at-bats he bounced out to the pitcher. OK, so he is human.
  • Despite not pitching since April 11, Rivera looked very sharp in recording a well-earned save. Carroll, Mauer and Josh Willingham failed to get a ball out the infield. The bullpen entered play with a 1.99 ERA on the season and that is the best mark in baseball.
  • Teixeira is showing signs of life with the bat for once in April. Since April 15, he is 8-for-17 (.471) with a home run and four RBIs. He is now hitting .286 and that is encouraging for Yankee fans who are accustomed to watching Tex struggle through April for the past three seasons.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • I now have the perfect nickname for Nunez: Eduardo Scissorhands. When you see him make careless errors in the field it makes you wonder what would happen if he played every day. Manager Joe Girardi opted to DH Robinson Cano and use Nunez at second base and it cost the Yankees four runs in the first inning. Nunez looks to be stiff and unsure of himself in the field and I just don’t know why because he is a great athlete.
  • Hughes is still a work in progress. He gave up six runs (two earned) on seven hits and two walks and he fanned four in 5 1/3 innings. But, look at it this way: He was two outs away from what is considered a quality start and minus the Doumit two-run homer we would be singing his praises for not giving up any earned runs.
  • It is official: Russell Martin is in a full-blown funk at the plate and it seems to be getting worse. He was 0-for-3 with a walk at the plate, including hitting into a 1-4-3 double play with two on and one out in the seventh inning. Martin is hitting an anemic .133 with no home runs and one RBI.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees are very happy to playing in Boston on Friday as part of the 100th birthday for Fenway Park. As part of the festivities, the Yankees and Red Sox will don throwback uniforms without numbers to commemorate the event on Friday. The players feel it is only fitting that the Red Sox play their longtime rivals on the special occasion.

ON DECK

Well, it is Red Sox versus Yankees on Friday on Fenway’s 100th birthday. How perfect!

The Yankees are scheduled to start right-hander Ivan Nova (2-0, 4.50 ERA). Nova has won 14 consecutive decisions dating back to his rookie season in 2011. In his last start against the Angels on Sunday he gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks and fanned eight batters in six innings in an 11-5 thrashing on ESPN. He is 0-2 with a 6.62 ERA in his career against the Bosox.

Boston will counter with right-hander Clay Buchholz (1-0, 9.00 ERA). Buchholz went seven subpar innings with a high pitch count in his last start. He is 2-3 with a 5.59 ERA lifetime against the Bombers.

Game-time will be 3:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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