June 2012

Yankees Sweep Tribe But Lose Sabathia, Pettitte

GAME 74

YANKEES 5, INDIANS 4

On a day when fate seemed to be frowning upon the New York Yankees, the team scratched and clawed its way to a late lead and, despite being the verge of handing it back, they held on to win a tough one in the Bronx.

The Yankees began Wednesday’s game knowing they had lost ace left-hander CC Sabathia to the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin and they later found out that starter Andy Pettitte suffered a fractured left ankle after being struck by a hard shot off the bat of Casey Kotchman in the top of the fifth inning.

So a spirited Yankee Stadium crowd of 45,022 was hoping for some good news to brighten the gloom.

Robinson Cano provided some good news in the bottom of the sixth inning when he stroked a two-run, opposite-field home run to give the Yankees a 4-3 lead and Eric Chavez drove in three runs, including a huge insurance run in the eighth inning, as New York held on – barely – in the ninth to complete a three-game sweep of Cleveland.

The Yankees began the sixth inning down 3-2 after the Indians took advantage of Pettitte’s departure to put together back-to-back two-out RBI singles by Astrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis off reliever Clay Rapada.

However, Indians starter Ubaldo Jimenez opened the sixth by falling behind Alex Rodriguez 2-0 and Rodriguez blooped a double into the right-field corner. Cano then stroked a 1-2 slider on the outside corner into the left-field bleachers for his 17th home run of the season his seventh homer in his last 10 games.

Freddy Garcia (2-2), who entered the game with two out in the fifth, pitched 2 1/3 perfect innings and struck out two to pick up the victory in relief. David Robertson followed him with a perfect eighth inning in which he fanned a pair also.

Chavez then stepped to the plate in the eighth inning against Indians reliever Vinnie Pestano with two out and Mark Teixeira on second and pinch-runner Dewayne Wise on first after Raul Ibanez singled.

On a 2-2 pitch, Chavez was able to roll a ball through the hole between first and second base into right-field to score Teixeira with what looked to an ordinary insurance run at the time.

However, the Indians refused to lose their season-worst fifth game in a row without a fight and closer Rafael Soriano did not have his best stuff as he sought his 17th save in the ninth.

Pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall slapped a single to right to open the frame and Soriano walked Shin-Soo Choo. After retiring Kotchman on a flyout, Lou Marson singled into left to load the bases.

After Soriano struck out pinch-hitter Johnny Damon. Soriano issued a walk to Michael Brantley to force in a run and the restless natives in the Bronx were fearing the worst.

However, Soriano got Cabrera to hit a routine fly ball to left and Wise let it settle into his glove for final out that gave the Yankees their fifth straight victory and their 15th victory in their last 18 games.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season mark to 46-28 and they extended their lead in the American League East to a full five games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Indians dropped to 37-37.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano’s June home run binge has been amazing. In his last 10 games, Cano is 14-for-36 (.389) with seven home runs and 11 RBIs. His 3-for-4 day also raised his season average to .308 with 18 home runs and 41 RBIs. After an extremely slow start and struggling with runners in scoring position, it appears Cano is back to the dangerous hitter he has always been.
  • Chavez was called upon to play first so Teixeira could rest as the designated hitter and Chavez made manager Joe Girardi look clairvoyant. Chavez was 2-for-3 with a two-run double, an RBI single and a walk. He also played flawlessly in the field. His two-run double in the fourth off Jimenez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game at 2-1.
  • With the injuries to Sabathia and Pettitte, Garcia becomes relevant again as a starter. Fortunately for the Yankees, the 35-year-old right-hander has 147 career major-league victories. In addition, Garcia is throwing with better velocity than he did in spring training and in April as a starter. If he can be as effective as he was last season when he was 12-8 with a 3.62 ERA the Yankees might not need to make a deal for a pitcher to fill in until Pettitte returns.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The righty-lefty sidewinding combo of Cody Eppley and Rapada did not fare well in the fifth inning in relief of Pettitte. Eppley gave up an infield single and a sac bunt and Rapada came on to get Brantley to hit into a fielder’s choice. But Cabrera and Kipnis struck for a pair of RBI singles to give the lead back to the Tribe. Fortunately, Garcia came in and retired the next seven batters in a row.
  • Jayson Nix was given a start at shortstop to allow Derek Jeter to rest a day after his 38th birthday. But Nix had a rough game. He struck out twice and rolled out weakly to short. Also, in the field, he actually lost Kipnis’ pop fly single in the sun, which gave the Indians the lead. Jeter would have caught it easily.
  • Soriano is not exactly your typical shutdown closer, but his high-wire act on Wednesday was pretty scary. Soriano is 2-0 with a 1.88 ERA and 17 saves – all excellent numbers. However, in 28 2/3 innings he has given up 30 hits and walked 12 for a WHIP of 1.47. That is a very bad number for a closer.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees placed Sabathia on the disabled list with what is being listed as a Grade 1 groin strain. He is expected to miss two starts and be able to rejoin the Yankees after the All-Star break.  An MRI on Tuesday indicated a strained abductor muscle in his left leg that Sabathia injured in the fourth inning of his start on Sunday against the Mets at Citi Field. He has not missed a start as a Yankee and he has not missed any starts since 2006. The Yankees announced that right-hander Adam Warren will be recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and he will start in Sabathia’s place on Friday against the Chicago White Sox.  . . .  Pettitte had his injured left ankle placed in a protective boot and he is expected to miss at least six weeks. Pettitte held a 2-1 lead and he had given up one unearned run on three hits and one walk and he struck out seven in four-plus innings when he had to leave the game. Garcia is expected to fill in for Pettitte as a starter until he returns.

ON DECK

The Yankees will open a four-game home weekend series with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (9-2, 4.25 ERA) will begin the series on the mound for the Yankees. Nova allowed three runs (two earned) in 5 2/3 innings on Saturday against the Mets. Nova got a no-decision, which snapped his streak of five straight victories, but the Yankees won the game. Nova is 2-0 with a 1.37 ERA in his three starts against the White Sox.

The White Sox will counter with right-hander Dylan Axelrod (0-1, 4.85 ERA). Axelrod allowed four runs in 5 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in his first start replacing the injured Phillip Humber. Axelrod has never faced the Yankees.

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

 

Tribe Gets Their ‘Phil’ Of Red-Hot Hughes, Yankees

GAME 73

YANKEES 6, INDIANS 4

In his last outing, Phil Hughes gave up six runs on four home runs in 4 1/3 innings to become the first Yankee starter to fail to pitch at least innings in June. He made up for that poor showing in spades on Tuesday in the Bronx.

Hughes scattered six hits and blanked Cleveland over eight innings to win his fourth game in his last five starts as New York pummeled the Indians for the second straight night to maintain the best record in the major leagues.

Hughes (8-6) was in complete command throughout, walking one and striking out four, mixing an effective curveball with his 94-mile-per-hour fastball to keep the Indians off the board. In the last two nights, Hiroki Kuroda and Hughes have given up just one run on 11 hits and three walks and struck out 11 in 15 innings.

At the same time, the Yankees managed to strike early against Indians right-hander Justin Masterson, using two weapons the Yankees have been terrible at this season: two-out hits and hitting with runners in scoring position.

Masterson had Nick Swisher on first on a fielder’s choice with two out in the second inning when Dewayne Wise singled to right-field to advance Swisher to third. Chris Stewart, starting his third straight game behind the plate, followed with a soft liner that bounced off the glove of Jack Hannahan and rolled behind him into foul territory.

Swisher scored and Indians manager Manny Acta argued that the ball appeared to be foul when Hannahan touched it. However, replays on MY9 showed third-base umpire Mike DiMuro had made the correct call of a fair ball.

Derek Jeter, celebrating his 38th birthday, then hit a hard ground ball off the leg of Masterson for an infield single that loaded the bases.

Curtis Granderson capped the inning with an opposite-field two-run single to left and the Yankees had another early lead on the Tribe at 3-0.

The Yankees tacked on single runs in the fifth, the seventh and the eighth innings to extend their margin to 6-0.

Mark Teixiera’s sacrifice fly in the fifth scored Granderson, who had walked to leadoff the inning. Alex Rodriguez smacked a long line-drive home run – his 13th of the season – into the second deck in left-field in the seventh off reliever Tony Sipp. In the eighth, Stewart, who entered the game with only seven RBIs all season, knocked his second run of the night with a sacrifice fly of his own.

Masterson (4-7) was tagged with the loss, giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks and he struck out two in six innings of work.

The Indians, meanwhile, took out their two nights of frustration on Yankees right-hander Cory Wade in the bottom of the ninth. With two out and Jason Kipnis on third, Johnny Damon looped a dying quail single just in front of Granderson in center to end Hughes’ shutout. After a Casey Kotchman single, Jose Lopez, who was only in the game because Hannahan was ejected in the 8th inning by DiMuro, blasted a three-run home run.

Manager Joe Girardi then brought in closer Rafael Soriano to retire Lonnie Chisenhall on an infield grounder after just two pitches and earn his 16th save of the season.

The Yankees improved their season record to 45-28 and they have now won 14 of their last 17 games. They also increased their lead in the American League East to four games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Indians have lost four straight games and are 37-36.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Hughes pretty much proved that his June 20 start against the Braves was an aberration from the positive work he has been doing since he was 1-4 with a 7.48 ERA on May 5. Since then Hughes is 7-2 with a 3.44 ERA. He finished June with a 4-1 mark and a 2.97 ERA.
  • Russell Martin’s pain was Stewart’s gain on Tuesday. Stewart’s two-out single scored the first run and he drove in the Yankees’ last tally of the night with a sac fly. Stewart was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and he is hitting a respectable .258 on the season as the backup catcher. That is not too bad.
  • Granderson’s two-run single set the tone for the rest of the night because Hughes was in such total command the Indians seem demoralized after the lead got to be 3-0. Granderson has been struggling at the plate over his last nine games. He was 5-for-35 (.143) with one home run and two RBIs entering play Tuesday. In 13 of those at-bats, Granderson had struck out.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The only downer on the night was the shoddy relief effort from Wade. He was tagged four four runs on four hits and his ERA shot up from 3.34 to 4.45. But Wade has been struggling a lot lately. In his last five appearances, Wade has given up seven runs on 10 hits and two walks over just three innings. His ERA on June 11 was 2.63. With former Seattle Mariners closer David Aardsma expected to be ready to come off the disabled list just after the All-Star break, Wade best clean up his act soon.

BOMBER BANTER

DiMuro had an interesting night as the third-base umpire. After correctly ruling Stewart’s soft liner a hit, Wise went leaping into the stands behind third base to catch a foul pop off the bat of Hannahan in the seventh inning. The ball hit into his glove but rolled out as he fell into the first row. A fan a few seats down held up the ball. However, Hannahan was ruled out by DiMuro. The umpire owned up the mistake after the game, but he was not pleased when Hannahan told him the replays showed he blew the call. DiMuro immediately ejected Hannahan before the start of the bottom of the eighth inning.  . . .  Martin took batting practice for the first time since suffering stiffness in his lower back. But Girardi chose to give him another day of rest so he can receive further treatment. Martin said he hopes to be able to play on Wednesday.

COMMENTARY

Because MY9 was broadcasting the game locally in New York, I was forced to listen to the Indians broadcast of Tuesday’s game and I was not happy with what I heard.

The play-by-play man Matt Underwood and color man Rick Manning are naturally looking at the game from the Indians’ perspective. But I do not understand why these broadcast teams have to openly root for their team on the air.

In the top of the third inning, the Indians were trailing 3-0 and they managed to start the inning with back-to-back hits from Hannahan and Chisenhall. As Shin-Soo Choo stepped to the plate, Manning says, “Come on, hit one out and tie it up.”

I know the team is in the midst of fight for the Central Division and they have been slumping at the plate and losing a lot. But do you have to go to the trouble of donning saddle shoes and shaking pom-poms to blatantly wish the Indians to win instead of just calling what happens like most professional broadcast teams do?

In the second inning, Manning and Underwood were throwing daggers at DiMuro for calling Stewart’s soft liner a fair ball. Manning looked at one inconclusive replay and said, “That ball was definitely a foul ball.” The next half-inning Underwood sheepishly admitted that after looking at the “down-the-line” shot the Yankee broadcasters showed him it appeared that DiMuro got the call right. Oops.

Of course, Manning never apologized. He said squat.

Then in the seventh inning when DiMuro did make a mistake on Wise’s play, Manning pounced. They showed the replay several times and complained about DiMuro. Heck, the fact the Indians were flailing at Hughes’ pitches and looking like a high school baseball team doing it had nothing to do with it. It was all DiMuro’s fault.

Manning got in one last dig in the ninth when Rodriguez caught a foul pop navigating the tarp near the stands. Manning said: “Well, we know that if it hits leather it is out tonight.”

In the second inning, after DiMuro’s call, Underwood said “Well, you know other teams who come here say it is impossible to get a call in this stadium.”

I am sick of broadcasters making these types of comments because they not only are stupid, baseless and unprofessional, they also foster the hostility the Yankees receive in visiting ballparks.

Just face it, the Yankees are just a good baseball team. They play the game right and they do respect their opponents. Jeter is the perfect ambassador for the way the Yankees approach the game and the team follows his lead.

So finding scapegoats for why their team loses is just what a Bush League broadcaster would do. The real culprit for the losses is in the mirror when the Indians look at themselves. It is not the umpire, the fans or some weird karma at the stadium. If the Indians stink it is because they stink.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for their fifth straight victory and a sweep of the Indians on Wednesday.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-3, 3.29 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Pettitte suffered through a five-run first inning and lost in his last start against the the New York Mets on Friday. He is 5-4 with a 3.97 ERA in the last 10 seasons against the Indians.

The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (7-5, 4.59). Jimenez gave up four hits and four walks and struck out eight in holding the Houston Astros scoreless over 6 2/3 innings in his last start. He is 1-0 with a 2.57 ERA against the Yankees lifetime.

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

 

 

Cano, Kuroda Lead Yankees In Easy Walk In Park

GAME 72

YANKEES 7, INDIANS 1

You ever feel a cooling evening breeze and decide to take a leisurely stroll with loved ones through Central Park? That is pretty much what the New York Yankees felt on Monday as they thoroughly defeated the Cleveland Indians as if they were just taking a walk in the park.

The Yankees erupted to score a pair of runs in each of the first three innings and Hiroki Kuroda threw seven-plus innings of dominant baseball as New York downed Cleveland in their first meeting of the season at Yankee Stadium.

Red-hot Robinson Cano led the offensive barrage against Indians starter Josh Tomlin (3-5) with a two-run double in the first inning and a two-out solo home run in third inning. It was the sixth home run Cano has hit in his last eight games.

Another Yankee swinging a hot bat, Nick Swisher, followed Cano’s solo home run with one of his own to the opposite field in left. It was the fourth time this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs in a game.

Manager Joe Girardi decided to give Curtis Granderson “half a day off” by using him as the designated hitter and starting Dewayne Wise in center-field for the first time this season. Wise responded with a two-run home run off Tomlin in the second inning and an RBI triple in the sixth off reliever Scott Barnes.

Tomlin entered play with a 2-1 record against the Yankees and he had not allowed a home run in his career to the Yankees. The Yankees rose to the occasion and hit three off Tomlin to extend their major-league-leading total to 115.

Tomlin gave up six runs on six hits and two walks and he struck three in only three innings of work.

Meanwhile, Kuroda (7-7) continued his recovery from what was a poor start to the season.

He held the Indians to thre hits and two walks in the first seven innings. But he was touched by a pair of singles by Lonnie Chisenhall and Shin-Soo Choo to begin the eighth.

Clay Rapada came into the game and with one out Jason Kipsis scored Chisenhall with a lined sacrifice fly to right to spoil Kuroda’s shutout.

But Kuroda ended up giving up just the one run on five hits and two walks and he struck out seven.

In his last six starts, the 37-year-old right-hander is 4-1 with a 1.93 ERA and he has not pitched less than six innings in any of those starts.

The Yankees, meanwhile, have now won three games in a row after losing three in a row to snap a 10-game winning streak.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season ledger to 44-28. They also moved three games up on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Indians fell to 37-35.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Over his last eight games, Cano is 10-for-28 (.357) with six home runs and nine RBIs. Cano has raised his season average to .302 and he now has 17 home runs and 39 RBIs. His double in the first also came with runners in scoring position. Cano is still last among all the regulars in hitting just .164 with RISP.
  • Swisher has been on a hitting binge of his own lately. In his last 10 games since June 12, Swisher is 14-for-35 (.400) with three home runs and nine RBIs. During that span he has raised his season average from .250 to .268 and he still leads the Yankees in RBIs with 46.
  • Kuroda has been a different pitcher since May 21 when he was 3-6 with a 4.56 ERA. Since that time he has given up just nine runs on 32 hits and 10 walks and struck out 35 batters in his last 42 innings. He has been the Yankees’ best starting pitcher over that stretch and perhaps he really is worth the one-year, $10 million contract the Yankees offered to him this winter.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There was nothing to complain about in this contest. Kuroda was sensational, the offense got rolling early and often and Derek Jeter, Cano and Swisher flashed some serious leather in the field behind Kuroda. This is what makes watching the Yankees a joy.

BOMBER BANTER

Besides resting Granderson’s legs, Girardi also chose to rest Alex Rodriguez for the third time this season and started Eric Chavez at third base. In addition, Chris Stewart drew his second consecutive start behind the plate because Russell Martin is still nursing stiffness in his lower back. Martin would have been available to catch in an emergency but Girardi opted to give his starting catcher another day off to rest his back. Martin could start on Tuesday.  . . .  Cano’s hot streak at the plate corresponds with him also finding out on Monday that he had overtaken Ian Kinsler of the Texas Rangers in the most recent voting for the starting second baseman for the American League All-Star team. Jeter and Granderson are also in line to start, according to the voting. There are only three days left to vote.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Indians on Tuesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (7-6, 4.94 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Hughes would much rather forget his last start when the Atlanta Braves pounded him for four home runs in 4 1/3 innings and he became the first Yankees starter to pitch less than six innings in June. He is 2-1 with a 3.52 ERA in his career against the Indians.

The Indians will start right-hander Justin Masterson (4-6, 3.98 ERA). Masterson tossed a complete-game victory in his last outing against the Cincinnati Reds. He struck out nine in that game. He is 2-2 with a 2.76 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Cano’s Big Apple Homer Takes Bite Out Of Mets

GAME 71

YANKEES 6, METS 5

With the Yankees you can go from goat to hero in a New York minute.

Robinson Cano committed a crucial one-out error in the sixth that opened the floodgates to a three-run inning that allowed the Mets to tie the Yankees at 5-5. In the eighth, Cano atoned for the error with a solo home run that propelled the Yankees to their fifth victory in six Subway Series contests over their crosstown rivals.

They did it in front of a crowd of 42,364, the largest attendance in the history of Citi Field. That broke the record the two teams set the previous night of 42,222.

Cano’s blast, his 16th of the season, came on a 2-0 tailing fastball from reliever Miguel Batista (1-2) and Cano nearly deposited into the Mets’ giant apple within the batter’s eye in center for a 430-foot shot that seemed to symbolize that the Yankees are the undisputed kings of the Big Apple in 2012.

Boone Logan (2-0) pitched a perfect 1 1/3 innings, striking out two batters, to earn the victory in relief. Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth inning to pick up his 15th save in 16 chances this season.

The Yankees had staked themselves to a 5-1 lead with ace left-hander CC Sabathia on the mound and the team looked confident about a victory heading into the bottom of the sixth.

But Cano’s error that allowed Justin Turner to reach opened up an inning in which nine Met batters came to the plate and Sabathia was unable to finish the frame.

Ronny Cedeno followed the error with a single and after a fielder’s choice an obviously tiring Sabathia walked pinch-hitter Vinny Rottino on four pitches. Andres Torres ended Sabathia’s night with a two-run single that just slipped under Mark Teixeira’s glove and into right field.

Cory Wade entered the game and immediately was tagged for an RBI single to left by Ruben Tejada, who was just activated off the 15-day disabled list just prior to the game, and the game was tied that quickly. Wade walked David Wright to reload the bases, but he struck pinch-hitter Kirk Niewenhuis to keep the game even.

Sabathia gave up five runs (one earned) on nine hits and two walks and he struck out three in 5 2/3 innings, his shortest outing of the season.

The Yankee offense, meanwhile, was able to get to knuckleballer R.A. Dickey for four runs in the third inning. Dickey had entered the game with two straight complete-game one-hit victories and he had a scoreless inning streak that stretched to 44 2/3 innings.

With one out, Curtis Granderson drew a walk, Alex Rodriguez scratched out an infield hit and Cano also walked to load the bases.

Teixeira ended Dickey’s scoreless string by lifting a towering sacrifice fly to right to score Granderson. Nick Swisher then smacked a hanging 2-1 knuckleball into the seats in right-center for the first home run Dickey has allowed this season.

The Yankees added another run in fifth, taking advantage of an uncharacteristically wild Dickey.

Granderson was hit by a pitch and he advanced to second on a wild pitch, Dickey’s first of the season. One out later, Cano singled to left and Granderson scored from third on a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Teixeira.

Dickey gave up a season-high five runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out three over six innings. He entered the game as the winningest pitcher in baseball at 11-1 with a 2.00 ERA.

The Mets scored single runs in the third and fifth off Sabathia.

In the third, they took advantage of leadoff walk to Torres and an error by Chris Stewart attempting to nab a stealing Torres at second. Torres then was able to score from third on a sacrifice fly by Tejada.

In the fifth, Dickey stroked a one-out single and, with one out, Tejada also singled. Wright followed with a ground-ball single to left and Dickey was able to score just ahead of the throw from Raul Ibanez.

With the victory, the Yankees completed interleague play with a record of 13-5. They entered the 2012 season with the best overall interleague play record since its inception in 1997.

The Yankees improved their season record to 43-28 and they remain 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Mets fell to 39-34.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Cano has been on a home-run binge of late. In his last seven games dating back to the series finale against the Washington Nationals on June 17, Cano has hit five home runs. All but one of them have been solo shots. With his two hits on Sunday night, Cano is hitting .299 with 16 home runs and 36 RBIs.
  • Swisher’s three-run blast in the fourth gave him 11 home runs and a team-leading 45 RBIs on the season. Swisher has been on a tear with the bat this month, hitting .333 with three home runs and 13 RBIs after hitting just .207 in May.
  • Logan and the rest of the bullpen continues to shine in the absence of future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera. Logan pitched a 1-2-3 seventh and fanned Josh Thole to start the eighth. Logan has struck 37 batters in 27 2/3 innings and he has lowered his season ERA to 2.60.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Stewart committed two errors but one actually could have been charged to Cano for failing to scoop a low throw in the third inning. Cano’s error in the sixth also hurt. So the usually slick-fielding Yankees committed three errors and two of them led to four unearned runs.
  • Sabathia looked out of sync most the night and the Mets were able to extend innings to get his pitch count up to 112 when he left after 5 2/3 innings. He gave up a nine hits and he walked two. You add those runners and the errors and you can understand why Sabathia ran out of steam early. Cano and the bullpen picked up the slack, however.
  • Derek Jeter took an 0-for-5 collar and he clearly was not picking up Dickey’s knuckleball well. He struck out and grounded out weakly twice in his three at-bats against Dickey. The hitless evening lowered his batting average to .305.

BOMBER BANTER

Starting catcher Russell Martin did not start on Sunday, a day after developing stiffness in his lower back. However, manager Joe Girardi said he would have been available to play, if necessary. Stewart drew his 13th consecutive start with Sabathia on the mound and was 0-for-4 and committed two throwing errors. Martin is expected to be able to start behind the plate on Monday.

ON DECK

Though the Yankees technically were on the “road” this weekend they won’t have to travel far to open a three-game home series with the Cleveland Indians on Monday.

Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (6-7, 3.57 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Kuroda allowed four runs over seven innings in his first loss in over a month to the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday. Kuroda has not faced the Indians in his major-league career.

The Indians will counter with right-hander Josh Tomlin (3-4, 5.12 ERA). Tomlin gave up just one in 6 2/3 innings in his last start but did not get a decision in the game. He has not won a game since June 8. He is 2-1 with a 4.26 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by ESPN2 and locally by the YES Network.

 

Two Older Yankees Sink Mets While Night Is Young

GAME 70

YANKEES 4, METS 3

When the Yankees signed 40-year-old Raul Ibanez and 35-year-old Eric Chavez practically on the eve of the beginning of spring training it appeared the older battle-tested veterans might have been just an afterthought.

But on Saturday night the two lefty swingers were front and center as they powered the team back from a 3-0 deficit to a 4-3 lead in practically the blink of an eye in the seventh inning as the Yankees stunned the Mets and the largest crowd to ever attend a game at Citi Field.

Mets right-hander Chris Young was cruising heading into the seventh inning but Ibanez cracked a line-drive three-run home run just over the wall in the corner of right-field that tied the score and sent Young packing for the night. One out later, Chavez stroked his first career pinch-hit home run to the opposite field corner in left off reliever Jon Rauch (3-7) that gave the Yankees their final margin of victory.

Lefty specialist Clay Rapada (2-0) struck out Kirk Niewenhuis with two runners on base in relief of starter Ivan Nova to get credit for the victory.

Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth to earn his 14th save in 15 chances.

The Yankees entered play leading the major leagues in home runs with 106 and they have scored 52 percent of their runs this season via the longball.

Young, however, baffled the Yankees over six scoreless innings, giving up just two hits and two walks while striking out four.

But Yoong opened the seventh by walking Mark Teixiera one pitch after catcher Josh Thole dropped a foul tip. Nick Swisher then lined a single into right that Lucas Duda misplayed into a double. It was the 1,000th hit of Swisher’s career.

Ibanez then laced a first-pitch fastball at the knees on a line just over the right-field wall. A huge portion of the sellout crowd of 42,122 erupted in cheers as Ibanez circled the bases with his 11th home run of the season.

Those cheers reached deafening levels one out later when Chavez, pinch-hitting for Rapada, tomahawked a shoulder high fastball on the outside corner and it carried over the wall in left. It was Chavez’s fifth home run of the season.

Up to that point, the Mets seemed intent on ending Nova’s streak of 16 road starts without a loss and 11 straight victories.

Niewenhuis led off the third inning with a line-drive opposite field home run similar to Chavez’s to give the Mets an early lead.

One inning later, the Mets took advantage of some uncharacteristic shoddy Yankee defense to push across an unearned run.

Scott Hairston reached on a fielding error by Alex Rodriguez to open the inning. Omar Quintanilla followed with a double to center and Thole plated Hairston on an infield groundout.

Nova was further frustrated by the Mets in the sixth when some logical strategy backfired on the Yankees and him.

With two out and Daniel Murphy on second with a double, Nova chose to walk Thole intentionally and pitch to a weak-hitting Young. However, Young foiled the strategy with his first hit of the season, a solid lined single to right, that scored Murphy and chased Nova.

Nova gave up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he fanned seven batters in 5 2/3 innings. But he Yankees’ rally managed to keep his road winning streak intact.

With the victory, the Yankees tied the road portion of the Subway Series and they clinched the 2012 version of the series by winning their fourth game against the Mets in five contests.

The Yankees’ season record improved to 41-28 as they snapped a three-game losing streak. They also moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Mets fell to 39-33.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Ibanez was originally signed to just be the team’s left-handed designated hitter. But the right elbow injury sustained by Brett Gardner that has sidelined him since mid-April has meant Ibanez has had to play more in the outfield. That, in turn, has allowed manager Joe Girardi to use Rodriguez at DH more and play Chavez in the field. The results have been good as Ibanez has 11 home runs and 35 RBIs. Chavez, meanwhile, is hitting .267 with five home runs and 10 RBIs.
  • Boone Logan deserves major kudos for his work in the seventh inning. Logan was brought into the game with the potential tying run in Jordany Valdespin on third and one out and lefty swingers Duda and Murphy due up. Logan fanned both batters swinging and ended the threat. Logan is having a fine season. He is 1-0 with a 2.73 ERA and he leads the team in holds with nine.
  • The bullpen as a whole was as good as always. Rapada, Cody Eppley, Logan, David Robertson and Soriano combined to pitch 3 1/3 innings of scoreless baseball, giving up two hits and two walks and striking out an amazing eight Mets. Though Robertson walked two batters in the eighth, he ended up striking out the side.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The “Big Four” power bats of Curtis Granderson, Rodriguez, Robinson Cano and Teixiera, who were batting two through five in the order, respectively, were a combined 0-for-9 with a pair of walks against Young. That is a big reason why the Yankees’ offense sputtered over the first six innings.
  • Derek Jeter botched a routine potential double-play grounder off the bat of Hairston in the second but it did not cost the Yankees because Nova got Young on a strikeout with the bases loaded. But Rodriguez’s error in the fourth did cost the Yankees a run. This is unusual for the Yankees, who lead the major leagues with the fewest errors (29 including the two on Saturday) and in fielding percentage.
  • To add to Rodriguez’s woes, he was 0-for-4 on the night and three balls did not leave the infield. His batting average has now dropped to .265 and he is hitting a woeful .219 this month.

BOMBER BANTER

Starting catcher Russell Martin left the game in the ninth inning with what Girardi termed as “back stiffness.” Martin was pinch-hit for in the ninth by Dewayne Wise and backup Chris Stewart caught the ninth inning. Because Stewart normally catches CC Sabathia, Martin was not going to start on Sunday. It is unclear how severe the injury is at this time and if Martin will be available to back up Stewart. Martin felt tightness in his lower back during batting practice but played anyway and was 0-for 3 in the game.

ON DECK

The Yankees will attempt to win the rubber game of the road portion of the Subway Series on Sunday.

Sabathia (9-3, 3.55 ERA) will be going for his 10th victory. Sabathia threw his first complete game of the season in his last start against the Atlanta Braves on Monday. He did not face the Mets at Yankee Stadium but is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA against them in his career.

The Mets will counter with knuckleballing right-hander R.A. Dickey (11-1, 2.00 ERA). Dickey is 6-0 with an 0.18 ERA in his last six starts and he is coming off two consecutive one-hit complete games. Dickey is 3-1 with 2.30 ERA against the Yankees.

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

 

CC Fans 10 Braves As Yankees Hang Ten In Bronx

GAME 66

YANKEES 6, BRAVES 2

When you think of perfect 10′s you might immediately conjure up images of Angelina Joile, Jessica Alba or Kate Beckinsale. Though they might not be in the same league as those women in terms of looks, the New York Yankees are now a perfect 10 themselves.

CC Sabathia pitched his first complete game in 11 months and Derek Jeter drove in three runs, including a clutch two-out, two-run single that a broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth inning, as New York overcame being no-hit for the first four innings on Monday to defeat Atlanta for their 10th straight victory.

Sabathia (9-3) gave up two runs on seven hits and one walk and he fanned 10 batters to join teammate Ivan Nova as the first two pitchers in the American League to win nine games.

Sabathia, however, got off to a rough start when Michael Bourn cranked his second offering into the gap and to the wall in left-center for a triple. Martin Prado pushed him across the plate on a groundout.

Four innings later, Bourn burned Sabathia for a second time.

Jason Heyward led off the fifth with a single up the middle and Andrelton Simmons reached on an infield single when his comebacker ticked off Sabathia’s glove. One out later, Bourn slapped a single up the middle to score Heyward and the Braves held a 2-0 lead with Mike Minor throwing a no-hitter through four innings.

But the bottom of the fifth inning proved to be very unkind to the 24-year-old left-hander, who shut down the Yankees on one run and four hits through 7 1/3 innings last Tuesday in Atlanta only to have the Yankees rally for six runs in the eighth inning and win the game, 6-4.

Alex Rodriguez started the inning with the Yankees first hit of the game, a solid lined single to center. Minor then walked Robinson Cano and, after one out, Russell Martin smacked a ground-rule double down the left-field line to score Rodriguez and halve the Braves’ lead to 2-1.

Jayson Nix drew a walk to load the bases and with two out Jeter smacked a single up the middle to score Cano and Martin and the Yankees grabbed their first lead of the night. A majority of the 42,709 fans in attendance at Yankee Stadium finally had a chance to get to their feet and cheer.

Sabathia was not about to give up the lead either.

In the final four innings, the Braves managed only a two-out single by David Ross in the seventh inning. Sabathia retired the other 12 batters he faced – six on strikeouts, five on groundouts and one on a flyout – to nail it down down for the Yankees.

Meanwhile, the Yankees tacked on single runs in the sixth, seventh and eighth.

Mark Teixeira blasted his 12th home run of the season off Minor to lead off the sixth. It was the 100th home run of the season for the Yankees, which leads the majors.

An inning later, Jeter followed a two-out double by Chris Stewart with an RBI single to make it 5-2 and Cano capped the scoring with his 13th home run of the season with one out in the eighth.

Minor (3-5) gave up four runs on four hits and three walks and he struck out seven in 5 2/3 innings.

Sabathia’s complete game was his first since an eight-inning loss to Tampa Bay on July 21, 2011. He has pitched at least seven innings in 11 of his 14 starts this season.

The Yankees’ 10-game winning streak is their longest such streak since May 2005. The Yankee starting rotation has an ERA of 2.09 during the streak and they have recorded eight of the victories.

The Yankee have improved their A.L.-best record to 41-25 and they extended their lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles to 2 1/2 games in the A.L. East. The Braves, who have now lost all four interleague contest they have played against the Yankees, are now 35-32.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In the month of June, Sabathia actually entered the game as the starter with the worst ERA at 3.80, though he was 2-1. But after a shaky start, Sabathia settled in the minute the Yankees took the lead and was in command the rest of the way. Sabathia lowered his season ERA to 3.55 and he is on pace for another run at a 20-win season.
  • Jeter two RBI hits both came with two outs and with runners in scoring position. There have not been many of those from the Yankees this season. Jeter extended his hitting streak to nine games and he is 14-for-41 (.341) over that stretch. He raised his season average to a team-best .317. Jeter also made a diving stop of a hard-hit grounder off the bat of Bourn to end the seventh inning.
  • When Martin stepped to the plate in the fifth inning he was one for his last 19 at-bats, including a strikeout in this first at-bat. But he doubled and later singled to push his batting average back over the Mendoza Line to .206 for the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

What negatives? Despite the fact it took them five innings to get a hit, the Yankees dug down deep again and pulled another game out. Sabathia looked sensational after the Yankees got the lead and not many teams can say they have won 10 in a row. This one can.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for No. 11 on Tuesday against these same Braves.

Red-hot right-hander Hiroki Kuroda ( 6-6, 3.43 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda limited the Braves to two runs on nine hits and he fanned a season-high eight last Wednesday for his third straight victory. Kuroda is 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in his career against the Braves.

Kuroda will square off with Tim Hudson (4-3, 3.90 ERA) again. Hudson gave up three runs – two coming on a Curtis Granderson two-run homer in the sixth – in six innings and took the loss against the Yankees. He is 1-4 with a 3.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

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

 

Nova Wins 9th As Yanks Extend Win Streak To Nine

GAME 65

YANKEES 4, NATIONALS 1

Ask any manager and general manager in baseball to give you the three keys to winning and they all will tell that it is pitching, pitching and more pitching. The New York Yankees suddenly have the market cornered on pitching as they continue their destruction of the National League during interleague play.

Ivan Nova threw 7 1/3 innings of sparkling one-run baseball to become the first American League pitcher to win nine games as New York, on the strength of a pair of solo home runs by Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano, swept Washington at Nationals Park on Sunday to win their ninth straight contest.

Nova (7-2) only surrendered a solo home run to Adam LaRoche to lead of the second inning. He gave up seven hits and one walk while striking out four batters to record his fifth straight victory and he remains undefeated (12-0) over his last 15 road starts dating back to June 3, 2011.

The Yankees, meanwhile, reverted back to their old ways of failing to hit with runners in scoring position but they still were able to get to Edwin Jackson (3-4) to push across enough runs to win the game.

The Yankees loaded the bases in the first inning on Jackson on an infield single by Derek Jeter, a Granderson double and an intentional walk to Cano with one out. Mark Teixeira followed with a sacrifice fly that brought Jeter home with the game’s first run.

That run held up until LaRoche tied it with his team-leading 12th home run for the Nationals.

But Granderson broke the tie leading off the fifth inning by crushing a high change-up off Jackson into the bullpen in right-field for his 21st home run of the season.

Even though the Yankees put runners on base in all six innings Jackson worked, they could not come up with the knockout blow. Jackson gave up seven hits and three walks but he kept the Yankees from adding to their lead. The Yankees were 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

The Yankees did manage to run up Jackson’s pitch count to 110 after six innings, which sent him out of the game and allowed the Yankees to tack on some runs against the Nationals’ bullpen.

They added a two runs in the seventh.

The first came on a solo home run by Cano off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for Cano’s 12th home run of the season. Three batters later, Teixeira – who doubled – scored from third with two out when rookie reliever Ryan Mattheus threw a 3-2 pitch to Andruw Jones that catcher Jhonathan Solano could not catch for a passed ball. Teixeira scored easily when Mattheus failed to cover home plate.

The Yankees’ bullpen took it from there.

Boone Logan completed the eighth inning for Nova and Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 13th save, which makes him the Yankees reliever who has saved the second-most games since Mariano Rivera became the team’s closer in 1996. Steve Karsay previously held that mark with 12.

With the victory the Yankees improved their A.L.-best record to 40-25 and they maintained their 1 1/2-game lead on the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the A.L. East. The Nationals, who came into the series on a six-game winning streak, dropped to 38-26.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova pitched another exceptional game on Sunday. In his last three starts, Nova is 3-0, giving up only two runs on 16 hits and three walks and he has struck out 15 batters over 22 2/3 innings. That has lowered his season ERA from 5.60 to 4.32. He has not lost since a May 19 start at Yankee Stadium against the Reds and his career record is now 25-6. Anyone still think this 25-year-old right-hander is a fluke or his record is just a product of great run support?
  • Granderson has been on a full-blown tear in his last eight games, which coincides neatly into the Yankees’ nine-game winning streak. Granderson has an eight-game hitting streak and he is 11-for-33 (.333) in that span with three home runs and seven RBIs. In fact, Granderson has now homered in three of his last four games and his 21 homers trails only Adam Dunn (23) of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton (22) of the Rangers in the major leagues.
  • Cano has been on a tear this June. He is hitting .333 with four home runs and eight RBIs. He has failed to get at least one hit in only two games this month. On May 5, Cano had one home run and four RBIs. Since that time, he has 11 home runs and 26 RBIs and he has raised his batting average from .255 to an even .300.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position statistic just hangs out there like an albatross on the Yankees. It can be forgotten with the nine-game winning streak but the longer it continues the harder it is going to be for the Yankees to correct it when they play tougher A.L. teams, not to mention in the playoffs.
  • Raul Ibanez gets the award for choking in the clutch on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 and he left seven men on base. But, to be fair to Ibanez, he hit the ball hard three times but it just so happened that it found a glove each time. Ibanez is one of the Yankees struggling during their current winning streak. In his last 10 games he is hitting .172 with a home run and three RBIs.
  • Alex Rodriguez also failed to contribute anything on Sunday. He was 0-for-5 including a strikeout. Though he has a home run and nine RBIs, he is only hitting .229 over his last 10 games. He is only hitting .222 in June.

BOMBER BANTER

As expected, Nick Swisher was held out of the lineup and did not play on Sunday due to a bone bruise in his left quad. Swisher was sliding into home plate when Nationals catcher Jesus Flores’ left shin guard struck Swisher on the left thigh as Flores tagged him out in the sixth inning of Saturday’s game. Swisher received treatment for the injury and he remains day-to-day.  . . .  Cano’s home run off Gorzelanny in the seventh inning was pretty much a given. In his career, Cano is 6-for-8 off Gorzelanny.

ON DECK

The Yankees completed a 6-0 road trip by sweeping two N.L. teams. They now come home to open a home series on Monday against one of those teams they swept, the Atlanta Braves.

CC Sabathia (8-3, 3.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia was tagged for four runs on 10 hits over seven innings against the Braves but he won the game when the Yankees came from 4-0 down in the eighth for a 6-4 victory. In his career against the Braves, Sabathia is 2-1 with a 3.80 ERA.

Lefty Mike Minor (3-4, 6.01 ERA) will face Sabathia and the Yankees for a second straight start. Last Wednesday, Minor pitched his best game of the season, limiting the Yankees to one run in 7 1/3 innings. But his bullpen – led by Jonny Venters – blew the lead and lost the game. This will be only Minor’s second start against the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Swat Nats In 14 On Tex’s Two-Run Double

GAME 64

YANKEES 5, NATIONALS 3 (14 INNINGS)

As Mark Teixeira stepped to the plate in the 14th inning on Saturday with a runner on third and a runner on first and one out, he was 0-for-5 and he struck out his first three times to the plate. With reliever Brad Lidge on the mound determined to get him out he only thought of one thing: Look for a slider and let it rip.

Fortunately for Teixeira and the Yankees, with a 2-1 count he got a hanging slider from Lidge and he smacked it hard off the wall in the right-field corner of Nationals Park for a double to score two runs and New York held on to take a hard-earned win over Washington, which extended the Yankees’ winning streak to eight games.

Forgotten bullpen long reliever Freddy Garcia (1-2) set the stage for Teixeira’s heroics by pitching two scoreless innings to get credit for his first victory of the season. Rafael Soriano pitched around two hits in the bottom of the 14th to retire Bryce Harper on a routine groundout to get credit for his 12th save in 13 opportunities.

Lidge (0-1) was saddled with the loss.

Jayson Nix started the winning rally by shooting a seeing-eye single in the hole between shortstop and third base. Nix later stole second and Derek Jeter, who was 0-for-6 as he stepped in, also singled to extend his hitting streak to seven games. Nix was held at third.

After Curtis Granderson strrck out, Teixeira then connected for what proved to be the game-winning hit.

The Yankees actually held a 3-2 lead after scoring two runs in the sixth inning that erased a 2-1 deficit to the Nationals.

Raul ibanez tied it with an infield groundout that scored Robinson Cano. After Nick Swisher was cut down at the plate on a comebacker to starter Jordan Zimmermann off the bat of Russell Martin, Eric Chavez gave the Yankees their first lead of the game with a double off the scoreboard in right-center that scored Martin.

The game stayed that way until Cory Wade entered the game in the seventh inning in relief of starter Andy Pettitte. Wade retired Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse on two pitches, however, Ian Desmond smacked a 2-2 pitch into the left-field bleachers to knot the game at 3-3..

Two batters later, Adam LaRoche slapped a single to right-field off Boone Logan and Tyler Moore, who was on second with a walk and a stolen base, attempted to score. But he was cut down at home plate on a throw from Dewayne Wise. The Yankees caught a break, too. Replays showed Moore actually touched the plate with his left hand on a head-first slide just before Martin tagged him on the left hip. But home-plate umpire Tim Timmons called him out.

So the game played on through another six very long innings.

Pettitte, who was in line for his fourth victory in his seventh start of the season, gave up two runs on five hits and three walks and he struck out six batters in seven innings.

His only blemish was giving up a two-run double to left-center by Jesus Flores in the second inning on a pitch that was up and out of the strike zone and broke Flores’ bat.

Zimmermann left after six innings having given up three runs (two earned) on five hits and three walks and he struck out six.

The victory was the first time this season the Yankees won a game without the benefit of a home run. They were 0-12 in games without hitting a home run coming into the contest.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 39-25 and they remain 1 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Nationals dropped to 38-25.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Despite the home run Wade surrendered to Desmond, the bullpen was excellent and the true key to the victory. Wade, Logan, Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Garcia and Soriano combined to give up just the one run on four hits and two walks and struck out five in seven innings. Garcia escaped the 13th inning with the winning run on third by retiring Roger Bernadina on a groundout and Soriano got Harper to end the game as he represented the potential game-winning run at the plate. That is great relief pitching.
  • Pettitte deserved to have won the game a day after his 40th birthday. He turned in his third straight quality start and he and his deadly cutter set the stage for Harper, a 19-year-old rookie sensation, to endure one of his worst days as a major leaguer. He struck out five times in the game and was 0-for-7 overall. Of the five hits Pettitte surrendered, one was an infield hit and three others – including Flores’ double – were broken bat hits. Pettitte’s ERA was lowered to 2.77.
  • A substitution mistake by manager Joe Girardi in the eighth inning probably led to two things that actually allowed the Yankees to overcome the Nationals. When Wade entered the game to pitch in the eighth inning, Wise was brought off the bench to replace Ibanez in left. They were supposed to have been switched in the order so Wade would hit in Ibanez’s sixth spot and Wise would bat ninth. However, that was not communicated to the umpires. So when Logan was brought into the game with two outs in the eighth, Girardi was forced to bring in Jayson Nix to play left and Wise was moved to right-field. That was done so Logan could hit in Jones’ fifth spot and Nix could bat ninth. So when LaRoche singled to right, Wise (and not Jones) threw out Moore at the plate. Nix led of the 14th inning with a single, stole second and scored the lead run on Teixeira’s two-run double. Wise’s outfield assist and Nix’s hit and steal would not have happened had Girardi not made the substitution error. I guess Girardi would rather be lucky than good.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Going into the 14th inning, the Yankees were 0-for-18 with runners in scoring position. They scored their first run in the fourth inning on a two-out error by Desmond. Ibanez’s infield groundout in the sixth tied the game and, later that same inning, Chavez doubled in Martin from first to score the third run. Jeter’s single in the 14th and Teixeira’s double were the only two hits the Yankees got all day with RISP.
  • Although he walked three times, Granderson was 0-for-4 and had his six-game hitting streak stopped.
  • After Chavez’s two-out double in the eighth, the Yankees did not get another hit until the 14th inning when Nix led off with a single. They were 0-for 19 while drawing five walks and reaching once on an error.

BOMBER BANTER

Swisher was removed from the game in the sixth inning after he sustained a bone bruise in his left quad sliding into the plate and colliding with left shin guard of Flores. Swisher was called out on the play and he immediately limped into the Yankees’ dugout and was replaced in right-field by Jones. Swisher likely will miss Sunday’s finale of the series against the Nationals and he is listed as day-to-day.  . . .  The Yankees did not start third baseman Alex Rodriguez in order to give him a day off. Rodriguez did pinch-hit in 10th inning for Logan and grounded out.

ON DECK

The Yankees can sweep the series and the entire six-game road trip with a victory against the Nationals on Sunday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (8-2, 4.64 ERA) will toe the slab for Yankees. Nova shut out the Braves on just five singles and a walk over seven innings on Monday in his last start. He will be starting against the Nationals for the first time.

Right-hander Edwin Jackson (3-3, 3.02 ERA) will pitch for the Nationals. Jackson, who the Yankees have faced many times before, logged his fifth consecutive quality start in a victory over the Blue Jays his last time out. He is 2-6 with a 5.35 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

Nationals Feeling ‘Hughesed’ By Red-Hot Yankees

GAME 63

YANKEES 7, NATIONALS 2

When Phil Hughes took the mound at Nationals Park on Friday he was facing a daunting challenge. His opponents were the hottest team in the National League and they boasted a lineup packed with power hitters who could take advantage of Hughes’ propensity to give up home runs.

But when he left after six innings, Hughes proved he was more than up to the challenge.

Hughes (7-5) gave up only one run on six hits (none of them home runs) and two walks and he struck out a season-high nine batters to lead New York past Washington for the Yankees’ seventh straight victory.

Hughes got some early run support when the Yankees touched Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (8-3) for two runs with two outs in the third inning.

Derek Jeter started it off by lacing a one-out double off the wall in right-field. One out later, Mark Teixeira drew a walk and Alex Rodriguez followed with a slow rolling single in the hole between first and second base that scored Jeter with the game’s first run.

Nick Swisher capped the scoring with a single to left that plated Teixiera while Rodriguez was thrown out rounding second base too far.

The Nationals struck back in the home half of the third when Michael Morse smacked a hanging 0-2 curveball into center to score Steve Lombardozzi with one out and the bases loaded. However, Hughes limted the danage by inducing Ian Desmond to hit into an inning-ending double play.

The game stood at 2-1 until the seventh inning, when the Yankees broke open the contest by chasing Gonzalez and preying upon the Nationals’ bullpen.

Andruw Jones started the inning with a single into left and Dewayne Wise was deployed as pinch-runner while Gonzalez was removed in favor of reliever Brad Lidge.

Wise stole second and Russell Martin drew a walk. Jayson Nix then advanced Wise and Martin a base on a perfect sacrifice bunt. Manager Joe Girardi chose to use Robinson Cano, who was resting against the left-handed Gonzalez, as a pinch-hitter. But Nationals manager Davey Johnson had Lidge walk Cano intentionally to load the bases.

Jeter then rolled a slow grounder to Desmond at short but Desmond’s throw to first base skipped past Adam LaRoche and it allowed Martin to follow Wise to the plate, expanding the Yankees’ lead to 4-1.

Johnson then removed Lidge in favor of lefty Mike Gonzalez but Curtis Granderson slapped an opposite-field double off the wall in left-field to score Cano and Jeter and the Yankees had finally blown the game wide open.

Granderson added his third RBI of the night with a solo home run with two out in the ninth off left-hander Tom Gorzelanny for his 20th home run of the season to cap the Yankee scoring for the evening. If Granderson had not hit that home run the Yankees would have won their first game of the season in which they had not homered. They are 0-12 without homering this season.

The Nationals added an “oh-by-the-way” run in the ninth on an RBI groundout by Danny Espinosa off David Robertson, who was making his first appearance in a game since May 17 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left oblique.

The hero of the night, however, was Hughes, who had entered the game having given up at least one home run in his previous 12 starts. Hughes has now won his last three starts and four of his last five.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 38-25 and they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Nationals had their six-game winning streak snapped and they fell to 38-24.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • If there was any doubt Hughes was back to his 2010 form, his performance on Friday removed it. In his last five starts, Hughes is 4-0. In his last three starts, Hughes has given up four runs on 16 hits and seven walks and struck out 23 in 21 1/3 innings of work. That translates to a 1.69 ERA and a 1.08 WHIP. Anybody who still believes the Yankees’ starting rotation is weak is either crazy, stupid or smoking some funny herbs.
  • Granderson drove in three runs with a double and a home run. His home run puts him third in the major leagues behind Adam Dunn of the White Sox and Josh Hamilton of the Rangers, who are tied with 22. Granderson also extended his hitting streak to six games and during that span he is 9-for-25 (.360) with two home runs and six RBIs. His three RBIs now give him 39, which is second to Swisher’s 40 on the team.
  • Jeter singled, doubled, scored two runs and drove in a run in the game. Jeter also extended his hitting streak to six games and he is 10-for-26 (.385) during than span. It helps the Yankees’ offense when Jeter and Granderson are a combined 19-for-51 (.373) over the past six games at the top of the lineup.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Absolutely nothing to criticize about this game. Everybody pretty much contributed something offensively and Hughes just pitched a sensational game.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez’s RBI single in the third inning was the 1,924th RBI of his career, which ties him with Jimmie Foxx for sixth place on the all-time list.  . . . Girardi made it clear to reporters that Cano did not start on Friday because he wanted to give him two days off, including Thursday’s off day. Cano was spiked on the left ankle in Wednesday’s game against the Braves but he was not seriously injured. Cano did enter the game as a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning and he drew an intentional walk. He stayed in the game as the second baseman and singled in the ninth inning.  . . .  Robertson gave up two hits and a run in his first outing since being activated from the disabled list on Thursday. David Phelps was sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre  to make room on the roster for Robertson.
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ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series in Washington against the Nationals on Saturday.

Birthday boy Andy Pettitte (3-2, 2.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees after he turned 40 on Friday. Pettitte gave up three runs (two earned) on four hits and two walks and struck out eight in six innings against the Mets on Sunday before leaving the game with a bruised left hand he sustained fielding a hard-hit comebacker in the sixth. But the hand is fine and Pettitte declared himself ready to go. He is 2-1 with a 5.64 ERA in his career against the Nationals.
The Nationals will counter with right-hander Jordan Zimmermann (3-5, 2.91 ERA). Zimmermann allowed three runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings in a no-decision at Fenway Park against the Red Sox in his last start. Zimmermann has never faced the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
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Should Yankees Trade For Outfielder For Gardner?

I have been receiving some excellent questions lately and I thought it would be a great time to share some of them of with you all. So let’s dip into the old e-mail and see what is on the minds of some fellow Yankee fans.

Q: With Brett Gardner out do you think the Yankees should trade for another outfielder, preferably someone with some speed? Why not bring Eduardo Nunez back up and play him in left? (CiscoK)

A: Cisco, I would be with on board with a trade for an outfielder with some speed but the news concerning Gardner is actually pretty good. After getting an opinion on his balky right elbow from Dr. James Andrews in Pensacola, FL, on Monday, Gardner received a confirmation of the diagnosis from Dr. Timothy Kremchek in Cincinnati on Thursday. The opinion is that Gardner should rest the elbow an additional three to four weeks and he does not require surgery. Gardner received a platelet-rich plasma and cortisone shot on Thursday and he will wear an elbow brace to ensure the elbow is rested properly. That is pretty good news. I have heard rumors about the Yankees may be interested in Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs and Chone Figgins of the Mariners but both those guys earn hefty paychecks and the Yankees want to cut payroll. So unless they can get a team to pay most of the tab like the Yankees did with A.J. Burnett, it does not make much sense. As for Nunez, he injured his thumb and is currently on the minor-league disabled list. So even if the Yankees wanted to call him up, they really can’t because of the injury.

Q: Why did the Yankees send David Phelps down instead of Freddy Garcia or Cody Eppley? (JIMMAJAMMA)

A: The Yankees decided to activate David Robertson on Thursday instead of waiting before Friday’s game against the Nationals in Wasington and Phelps was sent back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. The answer, JJ, does not come down to performance or who deserves to go. It is simply because Phelps is 25, he has options left and the Yankees really see him as a starter and not a reliever. Phelps was 1-2 with a 2.94 ERA in 33 2/3 innings over 13 games (two starts). He impressed the Yankees with aggressiveness and he really has a bright future ahead of him. Garcia (0-2, 7.68 ERA) is being paid more than $4 million this season and the Yankees are not going to eat that contract by sending him out or releasing him at age 35. Eppley is 1-1 with a 5.16 ERA but he has been much better in June than he was in May. He has a 2.08 ERA against right-handers and he gets exposed when he faces lefties (5.40 ERA). Eppley is a specialist like Clay Rapada is from the left side and he seems to have earned the trust of manager Joe Girardi.

Q: Why do the Yankees keep Francisco Cervelli at Scranton when Russell Martin can’t hit? (Martini88)

A: Martin has been hitting a lot better this month and, truthfully, the Yankees are in love with his pitch selection, defense and throwing. Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, who know a bit about catching in the majors, think he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball. He does a great job of blocking pitches in the dirt and he does dissuade teams like the Angels and Rays from turning the game into a track meet. Backup Chris Stewart is out of options and he can’t be sent to the minor leagues without losing him as a free agent. The Yankees do not care what he hits and love his defense also. Frankly, Francisco Cervelli is at Scranton because the Yankees were not happy with his throwing accuracy. In 174 games in the major leagues, Cervelli has committed 20 errors and he has nailed base-runners at a subpar 19%. Stewart in 104 games has committed 10 errors and he has nailed base-runners at rate of 38 percent. I think that pretty much explains it.

Q: Are the Yankees paying a big price for not going after C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish? (Tex25Fan25)

A: I don’t think so. Their recent surge (16 out of their last 20 games) has been accomplished largely with the addition of Andy Pettitte and pitchers like Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova pitching much better than they did in April. If you look at what has happened to the Rays’ staff the last few days against the Mets, I think you can see that even good pitchers can go through some struggles. It is much better to get them out of the way early and the Yankees starters seemed to have done that. Besides the Yankees, if you can believe it, are not looking to add payroll because of the more stringent salary cap rules that go into effect in 2014. As a result, the Yankees won’t be looking at big-ticket free agents unless they shed a lot of salaries to ckear room. So they only made a token bid on Darvish and they basically ignored Wilson. That will continue for the next three years.

Thank you for your interest in my blog and keep your questions coming.

 

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