August 2012

Home Cooking Suits Hughes As He Bests Blue Jays

GAME 129

YANKEES 2, BLUE JAYS 1

The way it has gone for 26-year-old right-hander Phil Hughes lately he might as well toss down a welcome mat and a recliner from his living room on the mound at Yankee Stadium. The reason is that the stadium has become a soothing and comforting “Home, Sweet, Home” to him this season.

Hughes pitched seven solid innings and the Yankees’ offense backed him with some “small ball” as New York edged the Toronto Blue Jays on Tuesday in front of paid crowd of 42,472.

With the victory Hughes (13-11) extended his undefeated streak to seven games at Yankee Stadium dating back to June 26.

Hughes was touched for an opposite field solo home run to right by rookie third baseman Adeiny Hechavarria with two out in the fifth inning. It was Hechavarria’s first major-league home run and it was the 30th big fly Hughes has served up this season, a new career high.

But Hughes surrendered only four hits overall and three walks and fanned five batters in an outing in which he definitely had better command of his four-seam fastball.

The Yankees, without left-handed hitters Eric Chavez and Raul Ibanez in the lineup as well as injured starters Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, staked him to an early 1-0 lead in the third inning off Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero.

With one out Jayson Nix singled to left and Ichiro Suzuki followed with a slow bouncer to third in which Suzuki easily beat out the throw of Hechavarria.

Derek Jeter followed with a fly to deep center that allowed Nix to advance to third and Nix scored on a lined single up the middle by Nick Swisher.

The Yankees could have easily added to their total but Robinson Cano’s hard-hit grounder up the middle was stopped by a diving stab from second baseman Mike McCoy, who threw Cano out at first to save a run.

The Yankees, who were sporting a lineup with newly signed designated hitter Steve Pearce batting cleanup and Russell Martin batting fifth although he was hitting  just .196, scratched out another run in the fourth inning behind Pearce and Martin without the benefit of a hit.

Pearce drew a leadoff walk and he advanced to second on a wild pitch. Martin then grounded out to McCoy at second base to advance Pearce to third. Pearce then scored on a long sacrifice fly to center off the bat of Curtis Granderson.

Like Hughes, Romero (8-12) pitched seven innings, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks and he struck out six. With the loss, Romero has now lost 11 straight decisions.

The Yankee bullpen, which leaked like a sieve and blew the game on Monday, had a bounce-back evening on Tuesday.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and closer Rafael Soriano rebounded from his third blow save of the season on Monday to close out the Blue Jays 1-2-3 in the ninth with two strikeouts to earn his 34th save of the season.

With the victory the Yankees have improved their season record to 75-54. They lead the second-place Baltimore Orioles by 3 1/2 games in the American League East and the Tampa Bay Rays are in third place 4 1/2 games back. The Blue Jays are last in the division with a record of 57-71.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Just when it looked like the starting rotation was heading south, Hughes is beginning to show signs he can pitch well in important games. In his last three starts he is 2-1 with a 1.29 ERA. He also has given up only 13 hits and six walks and struck out 13 in his last 21 innings. He also is 10-3 with a 3.25 ERA at home this season. He is 3-8 with a 5.03 ERA on the road.
  • Swisher’s RBI single in the third inning marked his 22rd RBI of the month. Swisher’s best month previously was April when he drove in 23 runs. Swisher was 1-for-3 in the game with a walk and he is hitting .327 in August and he has raised his average from .257 on July 28 to .276.
  • On a night when the Yankees’ offense was struggling because their right-handed hitters are so much weaker than their left-handers, Nix was 2-for-3 with a stolen base and a big run scored.
  • Soriano certainly had a night of redemption after blowing the save on Monday. He dismissed the Blue Jays on 11 pitches, striking out Adam Lind and Yorvit Torrealba. Though Yankee fans boo him unmercifully when he fails, he remains the unsung hero of the team’s 2012 season for replacing the legendary Mariano Rivera.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees are 27-9 against left-handers this season but, with Teixeira and Rodriguez out of the lineup, your grandmother could throw left-handed and get some of these Yankee right-handed batters out. Nix, Jeter and Swisher had four of the five hits and Suzuki was only lefty to get a hit.
  • The main culprit from the right side is Andruw Jones, who was 0-for-3 and he did not get a ball out of the infield against Romero. Jones is paid to mash lefties yet he is just 5-for-38 (.132) in August. He has only one homer and three RBIs for the month. Jones better pick it up soon or he could be replaced as the right-handed part of the platoon with Raul Ibanez.
  • Despite Martin’s giving himself up to advance a runner, he was 0-for-3 in the game and his average has slipped back to .195. He is not exactly a fearsome presence in the No. 5 spot in the batting order. So the Yankees better hope Rodriguez and Teixeira come back soon.

BOMBER BANTER

Teixeira was not placed on the 15-day disabled list because the Yankees are hoping he can return from his strained left calf within the next seven to 10 days. An MRI of the injury Teixeira suffered in fourth inning of Monday’s game against the Blue Jays indicated it is mild (Grade 1) strain. Since the team’s roster will expand on Sept. 1, the team wanted to be sure not to lose Teixiera for the full 15 days if they had placed him on the disabled list.  . . .  Rodriguez took a major step forward in his rehab of a fractured left hand by taking live batting practice on the field on Tuesday.  The 37-year-old third baseman plans to take additional batting practice on Wednesday with hopes of being sent out a short rehab assignment next week.  . . .  Pearce was acquired on Monday from the Houston Astros for cash considerations and he was immediately inserted into the cleanup spot on Tuesday. Pearce, 29, hit .318 with 11 homers and 30 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre before he opted out of his contract. Pearce then later played for Baltimore and Houston this season, hitting .254 with three home runs and 49 games with the two teams. To make room for Pearce on the roster, the Yankees sent infielder Casey McGehee to Class-A Charelston. McGehee will be recalled on Friday when the rosters are allowed to expand.

ON DECK

The Yankees will complete their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Wednesday with the series tied at one apiece.

The Yankees will have their best on the mound in left-hander CC Sabathia (12-3, 3.44 ERA). Sabathia came off the disabled list to hold the Cleveland Indians to one run on Asdrubal Cabrera’s home run in 7 1/3 innings in a victory last Friday. Sabathia fanned nine batters to prove his left elbow is just fine. He is 13-3 with a 3.00 ERA in his career against the Jays.

The Blue Jays will continue the left-handed pitching parade by sending out J.A. Happ (2-1, 4.15 ERa). Happ gave up one run on four hits while striking seven to beat the Detroit Tigers last Thursday. He is 1-0 with a 4.63 ERA against the Yankees in his two career starts against them.

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

 

Soriano, Yankees Save Face By Defeating Indians

GAME 127

YANKEES 4, INDIANS 2

Lately it seems the Yankees are having a tough enough time scoring runs as it would be for them to toss manhole covers. Fortunately, on Sunday they managed to use the “Goldilocks” approach to scoring by putting up a number on the scoreboard that was “just right.”

Curtis Granderson homered in the sixth inning and Nick Swisher contributed three hits and an RBI as New York held down punchless Cleveland at Progressive Field to win the three-game series two games to one.

The Yankees did most of their damage in the second inning off Cleveland right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (9-13).

Eric Chavez started the uprising with a leadoff opposite-field single to left. Raul Ibanez followed by drawing a walk and Ichiro Suzuki lashed a line drive that caromed off Jimenez’s glove and rolled into center-field to score Chavez easily with the game’s first score.

Chris Stewart then advanced Ibanez and Suzuki one base with a perfectly executed sacrifice bunt.

Derek Jeter ended the day hitless but he still contributed with a infield bouncer to third that scored Chavez. Swisher then laced an opposite-field single to left to score Suzuki, staking Yankees right-hander Freddy Garcia with an early 3-0 lead.

The Indians, however, got to Garcia with two out in the fifth inning with an Indian uprising of their own.

Jason Kipnis sliced a double to the wall in the right-field corner and Garcia, trying to pitch Asdrubal Cabrera inside, hit him with a breaking pitch. Garcia then walked the base loaded by missing on a 3-2 pitch to Shinn-Soo Choo.

In the third inning, the Indians loaded the bases with two out when Garcia missed on a similar 3-1 pitch to Choo. However, Garcia escaped by getting Carlos Santana on a routine fly to right.

The fifth inning was a different story. Santana lined the first pitch up the middle into center-field to score Kipnis and Cabrera.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled Garcia in favor of Boone Logan, who ended the threat by retiring Michael Brantley on a routine groundout.

Garcia pitched 4 2/3 innings and gave up two runs on four hits and two walks and he struck out six batters.

Jimenez gave up three runs on eight hits and a walk and he fanned four.

Granderson greeted left-hander Tony Sipp with his 33rd home run of the season and the 200th home run of his career to lead off the sixth inning. He smacked a 1-2 slider just over the wall and into the first row of seats in the right-field bleachers.

Granderson becomes the eighth current  Yankee to have 200 or more home runs, joining Alex Rodriguez, Andruw Jones, Mark Teixeira, Ibanez, Chavez, Jeter and Swisher.

Logan (5-2) then combined with David Robertson and Rafael Soriano to pitch 4 1/3 scoreless innings the rest of the way to earn his fifth victory in relief this season.

Soriano pitched 1 1/3 innings of scoreless ball to earn his 33rd save in 35 chances this season.

Soriano actually also literally saved face. With Ezequiel Carrera on first and one out in the ninth, Soriano used his glove to deflect a line drive off the bat of Kipnis that was headed for his face and threw Kipnis out at first to help preserve the victory for the Yankees.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 74-53. They also picked up a half-game on the idle second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. They now lead the Rays by four games. The Indians, meanwhile, have now dropped 10 of their last 11 games and are 55-72.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher was easily the Most Valuable Player of the series. Back in his native Ohio, Swisher was 7-for-11 (.636) with a home run and four RBIs against the Indians. Since Aug. 7, Swisher is 28-for-74 (.378) with five home runs and 19 RBIs. The hot streak nearly exactly corresponds with his shift to the No. 2 spot in the batting order, which came on Aug. 8.
  • Soriano has now converted his last nine save chances dating back to July 23 in Seattle. Over that span Soriano has given up just two runs on nine hits and two walks with 11 strikeouts over 12 2/3 innings of work. That is an ERA of 1.42 and a WHIP of 0.87. Soriano is 2-1 with a 1.57 ERA and 33 saves on the season. Mariano who?
  • Granderson’s home run was his 33rd of the season, which is fourth-best in the American League. It also was his first round-tripper since an Aug. 18 game against the Boston Red Sox at Yankee Stadium. It was also his 12th home run this season off a left-handed pitcher.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

This was a big victory considering the Rays and the Baltimore Orioles did not play and the Yankees were able to salvage the final road series before returning home for six games at Yankee Stadium. Garcia could have pitched a little longer and the Yankees should have scored more runs in the series but the bottom line is they won a game they needed to win.

ON DECK

The Yankees return to the friendly confines of Yankee Stadium on Monday to begin a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

Rookie right-hander David Phelps (3.4, 2.69 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees starting in place of Ivan Nova, who is on the disabled list with right shoulder inflammation. Phelps lost his last start on Aug. 18 against the Boston Red Sox despite giving up three runs in 6 2/3 innings of work. Phelps has never faced the Blue jays.

The Blue Jays will counter with right-hander Henderson Alvarez (7-11, 4.84 ERA). Alvarez surrendered a career-high eight runs and 12 hits in his 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Texas Rangers. he has not won a game since July 28. He has no record and 5.25 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Sabathia Scalps 9 Indians To Stop Yankees’ Slide

GAME 125

YANKEES 3, INDIANS 1

The Yankees had hoped to at least tread water in the standings while ace left-hander CC Sabathia was on the disabled list with a sore left elbow. Instead they lately have been sinking like they had an anchor tied around their necks.

But Sabathia came to the rescue on Friday to pitch 7 1/3 dominant innings, giving up just four hits and one walk while fanning nine batters and Nick Swisher homered and drove in all three of the team’s runs as New York ended a three-game losing streak while sending Cleveland to their ninth straight loss.

Sabathia (13-3) gave up a solo home run to Asdrubal Cabrera with one out in the fourth inning. But he escaped a bases-loaded, two-out jam in the fifth and a two-on, one-out problem in the sixth to run his record at Progressive Field against his former team to 3-1.

Speaking of jams, Rafael Soriano made it interesting in the ninth by giving up leadoff singles to Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley and then wild pitched them to second and third to start the inning. After recording two outs on a strikeout and infield popup, Soriano walked pinch-hitter Casey Kotchman to load the bases. However, he induced pinch-hitter Jack Hannahan to bounce out to end the game.

So Soriano did indeed earn his 32nd save in 34 opportunities this season.

The Yankees opened the game against rookie right-hander Corey Kluber as if it was going to be a laugher.

Derek Jeter just missed a home run in lacing a leadoff double off the wall in right-center. Swisher followed with a carbon-copy double off the same area of the wall to score Jeter.

The Yankees then managed to load the bases on Kluber with one out after a walk to Robinson Cano and a lined single to right by Curtis Granderson. However, as would be the norm on Friday for the Yankees, they could not land the finishing blow on Kluber.

Eric Chavez struck out swinging and Russell Martin flied out to right to leave the bases loaded.

The Yankees loaded the bases again in the second inning with one out on an Ichiro Suzuki single, Jeter was struck in the helmet with a Kluber fastball, and Swisher drew a walk. But Cano ended that threat by bouncing into an inning-ending double play.

Kluber then settled in to hold the Yankees to that lone run despite six hits and two walks and six strikeouts over five innings.

The Yankees finally untied the contest in the seventh inning off rookie reliever Cody Allen (0-1) and it was the same combination of Jeter and Swisher that did the damage.

Jeter opened the inning with an infield single and he advanced to second on a throwing error on Cabrera. Swisher followed with the 100th career home run as a Yankee on a long blast into the bleachers in right-center that untied the game.

Jeter and Swisher combined for five of the team’s nine hits, two walks and they scored and drove in all of the team’s runs.

The Yankees’ victory improves their season record to 73-52 and, combined with the Tampa Bay Rays’ 5-4 loss the the Oakland Athletics, the Yankees now lead the second-place Rays by 3 1/2 games in the American League East. The Indians fell to 54-71.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After the team lost three in a row, Sabathia could not have come off the D.L. at a better time and he could not have pitched a better game. Sabathia used his slider to get most of his nine strikeouts and he really did not give up but three hard-hit balls all evening to the weak-hitting Tribe. Sabathia threw exactly 100 pitches and 63 of them were strikes.
  • Jeter, in honor of Skip Bayless of ESPN, must have stocked up on performing-enhancing drugs before the game to go 2-for-4 with a double and scored two runs. After having had his 13-game hitting streak stopped against Boston on Aug. 18, Jeter has now run off a five-game hitting streak and he is 11-for-22 with three home runs, four doubles, three RBIs and eight runs scored. Jeter is hitting a robust .385 in August and he has raised his season average to .325, which is third in the American League. Bayless can kiss Jeter’s hindquarters and stick his unfounded speculation up his own. Can ESPN please test Bayless for cocaine?
  • Swisher was 3-for-4 on the night and just a triple short of cycle with a run scored and three RBIs. In his final at-bat he narrowly missed hitting his second home run of the night. Swisher is also having a productive August. He is 27-for-85 (.317) with five home runs and 18 RBIs. He is now hitting .273 with 19 homers and 72 RBIs in his push for a lucrative new contract in 2013.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The team clicks when they get big hits with runners in scoring position. When the team struggles, they don’t get those hits. Tonight they had a chance to run Kluber out of the game early and failed. While Jeter and Swisher were a combined 5-for-8 (.625), the rest of the lineup was 4-for-27 (.149).
  • Chavez had been red hot for a long period of time, but he was 0-for-4 with there strikeouts on Friday. He is hitless in his last 12 at-bats with six strikeouts. The league seems to pitching him differently and Chavez has not adjusted.
  • Cano’s double-play grounder in the second inning marked the 17th time this season he has grounded into a twin-killing this season, one behind the team leader Jeter. Cano is hitting .158 in his last 10 games with no home runs and no RBIs. His season average has dipped to .304.

BOMBER BANTER

Manager Joe Girardi said on Friday that he does not think right-hander Ivan Nova will not be sidelined for a long period of time. Nova was placed on the 15-day disabled list in Thursday with inflammation in his right rotator cuff. He will be examined in New York on Monday by Dr. Christopher Ahmad and David Phelps is expected to make a start in Nova’s place on Tuesday against the Toronto Blue Jays.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend series with the Indians on Saturday.

The team’s hottest pitcher in Hiroki Kuroda (12-8, 2.96 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda allowed just one run on four hits in eight innings in a victory over the Boston Red Sox on Sunday. He has 1.39 ERA over his last eight starts. He is 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA against the Indians in his career.

The Indians will counter with right-hander Justin Masterson (9-11, 4.73 ERA). Masterson allowed seven runs on nine hits in a road loss to the A’s on Sunday. He is 2-3 with a 3.31 ERA lifetime against the Bronx Bombers.

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.

 

Kuroda, Suzuki Say Sayonara To Reeling Red Sox

GAME 121

YANKEES 4, RED SOX 1

On a night where Japan’s Hajime Motegi hit a walk-off two-run blast in the bottom of the ninth to beat Taiwan, 2-0, in the International Bracket of the Little League World Series in Williamsport, PA, two of the team’s major-league heroes were putting on a show on the big stage at Yankee Stadium.

Hiroki Kuroda turned in yet another stellar outing on the mound and Ichiro Suzuki homered twice as New York sent Boston packing from the Bronx, N.Y. on Sunday looking up out of a huge 13 1/2-game hole with just 41 games left to play.

Kuroda (12-8) gave up only a one-out solo home run to Adrian Gonazalez in the seventh as he shut down the listless Red Sox offense on just four hits and no walks over eight very breezy innings.

The 37-year-old right-hander ran his scoreless-inning streak to 16 2/3 innings before Gonzalez connected with his meaningless solo shot. Kuroda is 8-2 with a 2.73 in his last 20 starts dating back to May 27.

Meanwhile, the Yankees chipped away at the Red Sox’ disappointing ace Josh Beckett (5-11), scoring single runs in the first, third, fourth and sixth innings.

The runs in the fourth and sixth came on the sixth and seventh home runs of the season from Suzuki, marking his first multi-homer game as a Yankee. After Suzuki’s second home run of the night, many in the paid crowd of 48,620 chanted “Ichiro, Ichiro” until the 37-year-old veteran came of the Yankees’ dugout to take a curtain call.

The Yankees opened the scoring with Derek Jeter leading off the game with a ringing double to the wall in center, the first of three hits on the night for Jeter. With two out, Curtis Granderson stroked a lined double off the right-field wall to score Jeter.

Two innings later, Jeter again opened the inning with a ground-rule double to center off Beckett. Nick Swisher drew a walk and both Jeter and Swisher pulled off a double steal. Jeter then scored when a pitch from Beckett to Robinson Cano bounced in the dirt and eluded catcher Ryan Lavarnway, allowing Jeter to score easily.

Rafael Soriano pitched a scoreless ninth, punctuating the victory by retiring Gonzalez by striking out him swinging. Soriano saved two of the three games in the series and he has 31 saves in 33 chances this season.

With the loss, the Red Sox’s nightmarish August continues. They are 6-12 this month and they now trail in the wild-card standings by 7 1/2 games. If it is not time to stick a fork in the Bosox it is not far away.

With the victory, the Yankees improved to an American League-best record of 72-49 and they are five games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East. The Red Sox are now 59-63 and their playoff chances are about as bright as former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson winning the 2012 presidential election as the Libertarian candidate.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In the absence of CC Sabathia, Kuroda has turned out to be a true ace over his last 20 starts. Kuroda retired 16 of his 24 outs on 12 ground balls and four strikeouts. Out of his 112 pitches, 75 (67 percent) were strikes. He could not have looked in more command against the Red Sox if he were throwing from a La-Z-boy recliner.
  • Suzuki came to the Yankees with only four home runs but he now has three in his 26 games with the team. On his current pace, Suzuki possibly could become the 11th Yankee to reach double digits in home runs. The Yankees lead the major leagues in home runs with 189. Suzuki also has only failed to record at least one hit in just two of his starts since he was acquired on July 23.
  • Jeter was 3-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. The three hits give him 163 on the season, which leads the majors. Though he had his 13-game hitting streak snapped on Saturday, Jeter is hitting .351 with two home runs and 11 RBis in August. His season average is now .321.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

Nothing to say here. Any win over the Red Sox is pretty much devoid of negatives.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixeira, who has been sidelined throughout the three-game Boston series with a sore left wrist, hopes to return to action on Monday. Teixeira took ground balls on Sunday wearing a compression brace on his wrist. Teixeira missed games from July 31 through August 2 with the same problem and took a cortisone shot to ease the pain.  . . .  Left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano threw a scoreless inning for the Gulf Coast Yankees on Saturday and there is a strong possibility he could pitch some for the Yankees in September. Feliciano signed a two-year contract with the Yankees before the 2011 season and he has not pitched an inning for the Yankees because he had to undergo surgery to repair a torn capsule in his left shoulder.

ON DECK

The Yankees travel to the Windy City to play the Chicago White Sox in a three-game series beginning on Monday.

Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (7-5, 4.68 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. Garcia is 5-3 with a 3.69 ERA in his eight starts replacing left-hander Andy Pettitte in the rotation. In his last time out, he gave up two home runs to Josh Hamilton but still beat the Texas Rangers for his third straight victory. Garcia is 5-5 with a 4.46 ERA in his career against the Chisox.

The White Sox will counter with right-hander Gavin Floyd (9-9, 4.43 ERA). Floyd notched his first career victory in Toronto and only his second road victory of the season by downing the Blue Jays in his last outing. He is 2-3 with a 6.07 ERA in his career against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:10 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Swisher Hits 2 As Yanks Pelt Bosox With 5 Homers

GAME 119

YANKEES 6, RED SOX 4

When the New York City Grand Hyatt Hotel elevator opens for Bobby Valentine and the passengers announce the elevator is going down, the embattled Red Sox skipper must be thinking about heading for the stairs. But after Friday’s loss to the New York Yankees, Valentine and the Red Sox must clearly believe that their season is indeed going down – in flames.

Nick Swisher led a five-homer barrage with a pair of solo shots from each side of the plate as New York put yet another proverbial nail in Boston’s 2012 coffin on a rainy night at Yankee Stadium in front of paid crowd of 49,422.

Jayson Nix actually was one of the few Yankees who kept his hit in the yard as he broke a 4-4 tie in the bottom of the sixth inning with an RBI single to give the Yankees their eighth victory in their last 10 games and increase their lead over the Red Sox in the American League East to 13 1/2 games.

Phil Hughes (12-10) snapped a personal two-game losing streak by allowing four runs (none of them earned) on four hits and one walk while striking out four in seven solid innings.

Hughes proved to be his own worst enemy after being staked to a 3-0 lead after a solo home run by Swisher in the first inning and Curtis Granderson and Russell Martin went back-to-back with solo home runs in the second inning off Red Sox starter Franklin Morales.

Mike Aviles led off the third inning with a lined single to center. Hughes then botched a potential double-play ball off the bat of Scott Posednik by throwing his relay toss second in the dirt and past Nix into center-field, putting runners on first and third with no outs.

Pedro Ciriaco scored Aviles by beating out another potential double-play ball and Jacoby Ellsbury battled Hughes to earn a 10-pitch walk.

That set the stage for a three-run home run into the left-field bleachers off the bat of Dustin Pedroia, giving the Red Sox a 4-3 lead on four unearned runs.

But the Yankees were not quite finished playing Home Run Derby with Morales.

Derek Jeter connected for his 10th home run of the season and extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a lined blast to left-field with two out in the fifth inning to tie it at 4-4. Morales has served up 11 home runs in 73 2/3 innings this season and eight of them have been to the Yankees.

The Yankees’ game-winning rally started in the sixth with a one-out single to center by Casey McGehee. Granderson followed with a hard-hit single off the wall in right that advanced McGehee to third and Valentine replaced Morales with right-handed reliever Clayton Mortensen.

One out later, Nix stroked a 0-2 slider to the opposite field in right to score McGehee.

Morales (3-4) gave up five runs on six hits and a walk and he fanned three in 5 1/3 innings. In his two starts against the Yankees this season, he has been tagged for 11 runs on 12 hits and three walks in 8 2/3 innings. Of those 12 hits, eight of the hits have been those pesky longballs.

Swisher capped the scoring with a solo home run that chased Mortensen in the seventh inning. It was his 16th home run of the season, his fourth home run over his last five games and it is the 12th time in his career he has hit a homer from both sides of the plate in a game.

David Robertson twirled a scoreless eighth and Rafael Soriano pitched a perfect ninth to record his 30th save in 32 chances this season.

The Red Sox are 3-7 against the Yankees this season and their hopes of getting back into the wild-card race seem about as realistic as Kevin Youkilis throwing a tribute dinner for Valentine. The Red Sox are an anemic 5-11 in August and they seem to have as much life as Ted Williams’ preserved head.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their American League-best record to 71-48 and they are six games ahead of the second-place Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East. The Red Sox are mired in fourth at 58-62 and they are in danger of becoming the team with the highest payroll ever to miss three consecutive postseasons.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher is on a flat-out tear that seems to have coincided with his move to the No. 2 spot in the batting order. He has at least one RBI in his last six games and is 9-for-25 (.360) with four home runs and 11 RBIs in that span. Swisher has raised his season average to .266.
  • Jeter’s 10th home run of the season gives the Yankees 10 players who have 10 or more home runs this season. During his 13-game hitting streak, Jeter is 22-for-64 (.344) with two home runs and eight RBIs. His current hot streak has raised his season average to .319, which leads the team and is fourth in the A.L.
  • If you leave out the nightmare third inning, Hughes gave up no runs on two hits and no walks and struck out four in six innings. As it is, Hughes retired 12 of the last 14 hitters he faced after the third. After going 0-2 with a 11.88 ERA in his last two starts, it was a nice bounce-back start for the 26-year-old right-hander.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could complain about Hughes’ awful throwing error which led to four unearned runs. But the Yankees ratcheted up the power on the Red Sox and have them just about put away for good this season. So there are no real negatives when things look so good for Yankee fans.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixeira was unable to play on Friday due to recurring soreness in his left wrist. It is the first game Teixeira has missed since he returned to the lineup on Aug. 3 after having a cortisone shot to ease the inflammation. It is unclear how much time Teixeira will miss. But manager Joe Girardi said he does not expect it to be a long-term issue.  Swisher played first in Teixeira’s absence against the Red Sox.  . . .  CC Sabathia threw on flat ground for the second consecutive day on Friday and it appears he is on schedule to be activated from the 15-day disabled list on Thursday and will make a start on Aug. 24 in Cleveland against the Indians. Sabathia has been sidelined with soreness in his left elbow.

ON DECK

The Yankees can embarrass the Bosox some more in a nationally telecast game on Saturday.

The Yankees will start 25-year-old rookie right-hander David Phelps (3-3, 2.53 ERA), who won his first major-league game as a starter by beating the Texas Rangers on Monday. Phelps gave up two runs on six hits and one walk and fanned three in five innings. He has no record and a 4.50 ERA in limited relief work against the Red Sox in his career.

The Red Sox will start left-hander Jon Lester (6-10, 5.20 ERA). Lester gave up one run on three hits and struck out 12 in his last start against the Indians on Sunday. However, Lester is 0-1 with a 6.97 ERA in his two starts against the Yankees this season.

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

 

Garcia Bests Rangers Despite Hamilton’s Blasts

GAME 117

YANKEES 3, RANGERS 2

The final score on Wednesday should read Yankees 3, Rangers 0, Josh Hamilton 2.

On a night where a pair of mammoth solo home runs by Hamilton was all Texas could muster for an offense, Freddy Garcia and New York held on to take the first three games of a four-game series between the two top teams in the American League.

The Yankees scored three runs in the third inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-8) on an RBI double by Nick Swisher, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Curtis Granderson and a big two-out RBI single by the red-hot Eric Chavez.

That was all Garcia eventually would need. But Hamilton made it interesting by launching a 400-foot blast off Garcia into the second deck in right with one out in the fourth inning. It was the first regular-season home run Hamilton has hit in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.

The home run also ended a drought of 20 innings in which the Rangers were held scoreless in this series by the Yankees.

The Rangers were able to load the bases on Garcia right after the Hamilton homer. However, Garcia was able to wriggle out of further trouble by inducing Geovany Soto to hit into an inning-ending double play.

But with one out in the sixth, Hamilton was able to connect off Garcia again with a moon shot measured at about 455 feet into second deck in right. It was his major-league leading 34th home run of the season.

But Garcia was able to complete 6 2/3 innings. Other than the two home runs, Garcia shut down the Rangers on just two other hits and a walk and he struck out six to win his third straight start. Garcia now has won five games since he was inserted into the rotation on July 2, which leads the team.

Garcia also is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last seven starts against the Rangers, dating back to 2004.

Jayson Nix, playing in place of an ailing Robinson Cano, opened the third against Feldman with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third on a lined single by Derek Jeter. Swisher, who was 3-for-8 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series, added to the Rangers’ misery with a bloop opposite-field double that landed just inside the line in left-field to score Nix while Jeter made it to third.

Granderson followed with a high fly to deep center that easily scored Jeter. Then, one out later, Chavez, who entered the day hitting .550 in his last five games, stroked an opposite-field single that scored Swisher.

But after that inning, Feldman got stingy and pitched around a lot of danger to keep the game close.

Feldman left after six innings having given up thee runs on seven hits and four walks and he struck out seven. After going 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position in the third, the Yankees were held to 0-for-8 the rest of the game and they stranded 10 runners.

Boone Logan replaced Garcia with two out and nobody on to retire pinch-hitter Michael Young to end the seventh. David Robertson then pitched a 1-2-3 eight, striking out two batters.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and struck out Hamilton swinging and retired Adrian Beltre on a deep line drive to the warning track in left.

On a play in which Swisher dug out a one-hop throw from Chavez and stayed on the bag on a grounder off the bat of Nelson Cruz, first-base umpire Marty Foster incorrectly ruled that Swisher came off the bag for what was scored an error on Chavez. That added a bit of drama for the crowd of 45,921 who braved an hour and 45 minute rain delay in the Bronx to see this clash of A.L. titans.

But Soriano pitched around the error and retired David Murphy on a ground-ball force out to pick up his 29th save in his 31 opportunities this season.

With the victory, the Yankees have won seven out of their last eight games. They also have a streak of eight straight home victories over the Rangers that dates back to last season.

Their season record is now 70-47, the best record in the American League. The victory also gives the Yankees a six-game edge over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-49.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • What has been the biggest knock on the 2012 Yankees? Their supposedly suspect starting pitching, of course, with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list. But David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda and Garcia have combined to give up just four runs on 12 hits and four walks and fanned 13 batters in 18 2/3 innings against a very good hitting Rangers team. That is a starters’ ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.86. This staff is better than they might seem just looking at their ERAs. In his nine starts since July 2, Garcia has not given up more than three earned runs in eight of them and he has an ERA of 3.69 in those starts.
  • Chavez continues to turn back the clock to his 2001 season with Oakland in which he hit .288 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs. Chavez was 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the game. In his last six starts, Chavez is 14-for-23 (.609) with three home runs and seven RBIs. The 34-year-old veteran is doing more than his share filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez.
  • Swisher is just about as hot as Chavez. In the series he is 4-for-13 (.308) with two home runs and eight RBIs. In his last nine games, he is 13-for-39 (.333) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. His hot streak has raised his season batting average to .263.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Some poor strategy and some poor execution of a bunt cost the Yankees a few potential chances to tack on to their lead. Ichiro Suzuki led off the sixth with an infield single. Instead of having Suzuki steal or having Nix bunt Suzuki over, manager Joe Girardi had Nix swing away and he hit into a double play. In the eighth, Nix did bunt after another leadoff infield single by Suzuki and Nix reached first because the bunt was so well placed. However, Jeter popped up his bunt attempt and reliever Mike Adams let it drop and turned it into a double play that killed the rally.
  • Mark Teixeira had a night to forget. He was 0-for-4, struck out three times and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Teixeira entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 11-for-32 (.344) with three homers and five RBIs.
  • Russell Martin’s season from hell continues. The Rangers’ pitchers pretty much used the catcher, who entered the game hitting .199, as an escape hatch to big innings. Martin was 0-for-3 with a walk and he stranded seven runners. Martin lined out to right on the first pitch off reliever Alexi Ogando with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

BOMBER BANTER

Cano was held out of Wednesday’s game due to a stiff neck, but Girardi said he did not think it was anything serious. Nix replaced Cano at second base and was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored.  . . .  In Rodriguez’s absence, Chavez, Nix and Casey McGehee have gone a combined 26-for-68 (.382) with seven homers, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 19 starts at third base.

ON DECK

The Yankees can take out their brooms and complete a four-game sweep of the mighty Rangers on Thursday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova gave up two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. He is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Rangers.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA). Holland was locked in a pitching duel with Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Holland struck out nine and retired 22 of the 24 batters he faced, but he settled for a no-decision. He may want to wear a batting helmet on the mound Thursday because he is 0-5 with a 9.26 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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.

 

‘Okie Dokie’ Hiroki Has Rangers Firing Blanks

GAME 116

YANKEES 3, RANGERS 0

In his last three starts, Hiroki Kuroda was 0-1 with two no-decisions despite recording an ERA of 2.61. Even though he was pitching a no-hitter through six innings on Tuesday it appeared that Kuroda was headed to yet another no-decision or a loss because the Yankees also were held scoreless through six innings.

But Nick Swisher came through for the second straight night with a big home run, a two-run shot in the bottom of the seventh, and Mark Teixeira followed him with a solo blast of his own while Kuroda ended up throwing a two-hit, complete-game shutout as New York defeated Texas again in the second game of the clash of the two titans of the American League.

Kuroda (11-8) issued only two walks over the first six innings before Elvis Andrus led off the seventh inning with an infield single to shortstop Jayson Nix. Kuroda was able to get out of the inning, stranding Andrus on third. Michael Young hit a solid single into center to lead off the eighth, but he quickly was erased in a double play off the bat of David Murphy.

Kuroda pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to record his fourth career complete game and his second of the season.

The Yankees had no trouble getting runners on base against Rangers starter Matt Harrison (13-7). The hard part was getting a timely hit to score one of them.

Harrison kept the Yankees from scoring by stranding seven runners over the first four innings, including three in the third inning when Curtis Granderson flew out to center with the bases loaded.

However, the Yankees finally broke through in the seventh inning when Derek Jeter stroked a one-out single into center. Rangers manager Ron Washington then decided to replace Harrison with right-hander Alexi Ogando.

Swisher battled Ogando for seven pitches into a full count before he tomahawked a high fastball into the second deck of the bleachers in right-field as a crowd of 44,533 fans at Yankee Stadium went delirious.

Before those fans got the chance to settle back into their seats Teixeira smacked a 2-1 fastball about 10 rows deep in the right-field bleachers, marking the ninth time this season the Yankees have hit back-to-back home runs.

Kuroda finished the night having thrown first-pitch strikes to 20 of the 29 batters he faced and he threw 74 of his 109 pitches for strikes (68 percent). Andrus was only the Rangers to reach scoring position as the Yankees backed Kuroda up with a pair of double plays.

It was Kuroda’s first victory since July 23 against the Seattle Mariners.

The victory improved the Yankees’ record to 69-47, two games better than the Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Yankees currently lead both the Tampa Bay Rays and Baltimore Orioles by 6 games in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-48.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher’s home run was his 16th of the season and he is now on a nice little hot streak at the plate. In his last eight games, Swisher is 12-for-34 (.353) with two home runs and 10 RBIs. In his two games against the Rangers, Swisher is 3-for-8 (.375) with two home runs and seven RBIs.
  • Teixeira’s home run was 23rd of the season and he still leads the team in RBIs with 77. He now has a eight-game hitting streak in which he is 11-for-32 (.344) with three home runs and five RBIs. He was 2-for-4 on the night and it raised his season average to .260.
  • Kuroda has never looked better on the mound for the Yankees. He kept a dangerous Rangers’ attack off-balance all night with his his slider and split-finger fastball. In Kuroda’s 14 starts since May 21, he is 10-2 with a 2.90 ERA. In his two losses he gave up only five runs in 13 1/3 innings, which is a 3.38 ERA. His season ERA is now 3.06, which is eighth best in the A.L.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could mention Granderson’s flyout with the bases loaded and his two strikeouts but that would be nitpicking. Kuroda was sensational and Swisher and Teixeira came through to give him the support he deserved. The Yankees have a shot to win the four-game series on Wednesday. Things are looking up!

BOMBER BANTER

X-rays on Alex Rodriguez’s fractured left hand showed positive results and the brace on his hand will be removed. Rodriguez now will be able to do strength exercises and the Yankees are still targeting a return to action for the third baseman some time in September. Rodriguez has been on the disabled list since July 24.  . . .  Andy Pettitte was given clearance by team’s medical staff to begin long tossing as he continues his recovery from a fractured left ankle. The Yankees have no timeline for Pettitte’s return but they hope he is able to pitch in September in order to be able to be ready for the postseason.

ON DECK

The Yankees hope to clinch the four-game series against the Rangers on Wednesday.

Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5, 4.85 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Garcia allowed just two runs in six innings against the Toronto Blue Jays on Friday to win his second consecutive start. Garcia is 8-5 with a 4.10 ERA in his career against Texas.

The Rangers will throw right-hander Scott Feldman (6-7, 4.64 ERA). Feldman gave up four runs on six hits over 5 2/3 innings on Friday in a loss against the Detroit Tigers. He is 3-2 with a 4.85 ERA in his career 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.

 

Swisher’s Sweet Slam Starts Texas-Sized Swoon

GAME 115

YANKEES 8, RANGERS 2

Ryan Dempster was navigating carefully through the New York Yankees’ lineup and he opted to walk Derek Jeter to load the bases with one out in the third inning. But Nick Swisher and a hanging slider proved to be his undoing on Monday.

Swisher’s sixth career grand slam and the 200th home run of his career was all part of a five-run inning and Swisher ended up driving in five runs as New York pounded Texas in the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium between the two American League teams with the best records.

Dempster (6-6) began the third with a 2-0 lead, having retired the first six batters he faced. But, Russell Martin led off by lacing a sharp single to right and Raul Ibanez followed with another hard-hit lined single to right.

Ichiro Suzuki then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Martin and Ibanez.

On a 2-2 pitch, Jeter smacked a split-finger fastball down the left-field line that just hooked foul. Dempster then opted to toss two pitches off the plate to walk Jeter as if he wanted to pitch around Jeter to look for a double-play ball off the bat of Swisher.

But Dempster hung a slider on a 1-0 delivery and Swisher blasted a mammoth shot into the second deck of the bleachers in right to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead on one swing. The crowd of 45,676 let out  huge roar as a smiling Swisher rounded the bases.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old rookie right-hander David Phelps, pitching in place of the injured CC Sabathia, tossed a solid five innings to win his first major-league game as a starter.

Phelps (3-3) gave up a bloop two-out RBI single to Nelson Cruz in the first inning and a solo home run to David Murphy to lead of the second inning. However, he settled in and retired nine of the last 14 batters he faced. In addition, he picked off two Rangers base-runners.

Phelps gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck out three in five innings in which he threw 51 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

Newly acquired 39-year-old right-hander Derek Lowe pitched four scoreless innings in his Yankees debut to pick up his first major-league save since he was a closer for the Boston Red Sox during the 2001 season.

The Yankees offense made only Dempster’s third A.L. start of his career a living nightmare.

After Swisher’s grand slam, the Yankees reloaded the bases in the third and Curtis Granderson lofted a deep fly ball in center to score another run.

Red-hot Eric Chavez, who entered the game 9-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs in his last four games, swatted a monstrous solo home run of his own over the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to lead off the sixth inning.

Jeter added an RBI double in the eighth, which chased Dempster, and Swisher ended his night with an RBI single to center off reliever Michael Kirkman to close out the scoring.

Dempster was tagged for eight runs on nine hits and two walks and he fanned four batters in six-plus innings.

The Rangers have lost nine of their last 13 games against the Yankees and are 23-45 against them during the regular season since 2004. They have lost nine of their last 10 regular-season games at Yankee Stadium.

With the victory, the Yankees have the best record in the American League at 68-47. They lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5 1/2 games in the American League East. The Rangers are now 67-47.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher was 2-for-4 with home run and five RBIs on the night. It was his 15th homer of the season as well as the 200th of his career. In his last seven games, Swisher is 11-for-30 (.367) with a home run and seven RBIs. The hot streak has raised Swisher’s season average to .264.
  • Phelps faced what is arguably the best hitting team in the league and pitched exceptionally. Despite throwing 26 pitches in the first inning, Phelps was able to pitch the longest outing of his career in his fourth major-league start. The rookie is 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. He entered play having not been scored upon in his last seven relief appearances covering 10 2/3 innings. He had given up just three hits and a walk while striking out 14 in that span.
  • Chavez hit his 13th home run of the season and he was 2-for-4 in the game. So Chavez is 11-for-20 (.550) with three home runs and five RBIs. Chavez did not play at all in the road series against the Blue Jays because the team faced three left-handers and Chavez was also unable to play due to back stiffness.
  • Lowe, 39, was released by the Cleveland Indians after a July 31 start in which he was blasted for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Royals in Kansas City. The Yankees officially signed him on Monday and he paid immediate dividends by throwing four innings of two-hit, no-run baseball in his debut. Lowe will slot in as a long reliever while Phelps pitches in place of Sabathia.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

This was a game the Yankees were supposed to lose. Sabathia is on the disabled list and Phelps had not gotten past 4 2/3 innings in any of his previous starts. But the Yankees were able to put up eight runs on the Rangers and they coasted to a huge victory over a sure-fire playoff team. There is nothing negative to say.

BOMBER BANTER

When Lowe was signed and added to the roster the Yankees optioned right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Igarashi gave up three runs on three hits in two innings in Sunday’s 10-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and he has no record an 18.00 ERA in his four appearances with the Yankees.  . . .  Mariano Rivera threw off flat ground on Monday at Yankee Stadium with pitching coach Larry Rothschild looking on. But manager Joe Girardi said there is 99.9 percent chance Rivera would not pitch for the Yankees this season. Rivera has been on the disabled list since May 3 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game home series against the Rangers on Tuesday.

Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.24 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up three runs on 10 hits and fanned five in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision the Yankees rallied to win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Kuroda lost in a pitcher’s duel with fellow countryman Yu Darvish on April 24 and he is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA against the Rangers lifetime.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Matt Harrison (13-6, 3.31 ERA). Harrison gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a no-decision on Wednesday. Harrison was tagged with five runs in 4 2/3 innings in his last start against the Yankees. He is 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA against them 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 My9.

 

Nova Baffles Jays As Yanks Notch Fourth Straight

GAME 113

YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 2

When Ivan Nova struck out 10 Red Sox batters on July 8, he headed into the All-Star break with a 10-3 record and a 3.92 ERA. The New York Yankees had not seen that Nova since – until Saturday.

After going 0-3 with a 8.36 ERA in his last five starts, Nova was looking to turn a page on an ugly chapter of his sophomore major-league season and he did just that.

Nova struck out 10 batters and held the Blue Jays to just two runs on five hits in 7 1/3 innings as New York got a big three-run home run from newly acquired corner infielder Casey McGehee and defeated Toronto in front of a sellout crowd of 45,582 at Rogers Centre.

The Yankees have now won four straight games.

Nova (11-6) rediscovered the form on his swing-and-miss slider and used it along with his 12-to-6 curveball to keep the Blue Jays swinging mostly at air throughout the day. In his previous starts, his slider spun up to the plate and the 25-year-old paid the price – especially in his last two starts, giving up 16 runs on 21 hits in 10 1/3 innings.

But that Nova was a distant memory and the reliable old Nova re-emerged on this day.

Meanwhile, the Yankees did most of their damage against Blue Jays starter Aaron Laffey (3-3) in the fourth inning and it all happened with two out.

Mark Teixeira led off the frame with a single up the middle and, one out later, Andruw Jones drew a walk. But they remained there with two out until Jayson Nix slapped a lined single to left to score Teixeira and advance Jones to third.

McGehee, who was making only his fourth start for the Yankees since being acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates on July 31, hit his first home run with the Yankees into the second deck in the left-field bleachers to expand the lead to 4-0.

Nova retired the the first nine batters he faced, striking out four. However, he gave up a leadoff single to Rajai Davis in the fourth inning, balked him to second and David then scored on a line-dive single to right by Edwin Encarnacion.

The Yankees tacked on a run in the sixth off Laffey when McGehee slapped a one-out double down the left-field line and he scored on a two-out ground-rule double from Derek Jeter, who with that double reached the 150-hit mark for the 17th straight season and he and Henry Aaron are the only two major-league players to have accomplished the feat.

The Blue Jays rallied in the eighth for another run off Nova and it again was Davis and Encarnacion right in the middle of it.

Davis opened the inning with a double into center and he stole third. One out later, Encarnacion plated Davis with an infield single and Nova was removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi.

David Robertson ended the inning by inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Omar Vizquel on Robertson’s first and only delivery of the game.

Rafael Soriano pitched a 1-2-3 ninth inning to earn his 28th save in 30 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 67-46, the best mark in the American League. They lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by six games in the American League East. The Blue Jays have now lost five straight and they are last in the division and 14 games out.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova’s rediscovery of his slider was the big key in order for him to get back on track. Girardi was very clear in saying that Nova needed to return to form and he did. In his last two seasons, Nova is 27-10 with a 4.17 ERA. His importance to the Yankees going forward is immense. The Yankees simply need him to pitch this way the rest of the season.
  • McGehee’s home run was his first with the Yankees and his ninth of the season. If he hits another homer, the Yankees would have 10 players on the roster who have double-digit home runs. McGehee gives the Yankees an additional power bat from the right side in the absence of Alex Rodriguez. With his 2-for-4 game, a double, a home run, three RBIs and two runs scored he is showing indications he will be a key contributor against left-handed pitching.
  • Jeter’s double put him in elite territory by recording 150 or more hits in 17 straight seasons. Aaron is the only player to have done it. Pete Rose had a run of 16 consecutive seasons going in 1981 but the strike-shortened season left him short with 140 hits. He then recorded a 172-hit season in 1982. So it is safe to say that Rose would have easily put together 18 consecutive 150-hit seasons if not for the strike.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Curtis Granderson was 0-for-3 and had a pair of chances to get a key hit with two runners on base in the fourth and fifth innings and he did not get the ball out of the infield in either at-bat. He popped out to third in the fourth and rolled out to first in the fifth. But the good news was that Granderson did not strike out in the game.
  • Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with a walk and he did not exhibit much patience in his at-bats other than the walk. He hit two weak grounders and was called out on strikes in three of his at-bats. Cano entered the contest 15-for-37 (.405) in his last nine games with a home run and eight RBIs. He and Jeter are each hitting .315 on the season.
  • Nick Swisher had a rough day in his old No. 2 spot in the batting order. He was 0-for-4 with a walk and he struck out twice. He also failed to get a ball out of the infield. Despite the bad day, Swisher does appear to more comfortable in the No. 2 spot and Girardi looks like he intends to keep him there.

BOMBER BANTER

What started out as a ripple of a rumor turned into a big wave when Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported Saturday that CC Sabathia was suffering with left elbow stiffness. The Yankees then confirmed it and placed the ace left-hander on the 15-day disabled list. Sabathia first felt some discomfort after an Aug. 3 start against the Seattle Mariners. But the discomfort subsided and Sabathia started on Wednesday against the Detroit Tigers. The stiffness returned and it did not subside. Originally the Yankees were planning to skip Sabathia for just his next start on Monday against the Texas Rangers. However, they later decided to place him on the disabled list and he will be eligible to return on Aug. 23. In the interim, the Yankees are planning to use David Phelps, who is 2-3 with a 2.42 ERA and has made three starts this season, in Sabathia’s place on Monday. The Yankees also agreed to a contract with veteran right-hander Derek Lowe and he will pitch out of the bullpen.  . . .  In keeping with his plan to rest his veterans, Girardi did not start Ichiro Suzuki following his five-RBI night on Friday and he used Jeter as the team’s DH. Suzuki entered the game in the ninth inning as defensive replacement for Jones in left-field.

ON DECK

The Yankees will have a chance for a road sweep of the three-game series against the Blue Jays on Saturday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (11-9, 4.10 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Yankees. Hughes allowed four runs and eight hits in 4 1/3 innings in a loss to the Tigers on Tuesday. He is 3-4 with 4.38 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will use their third consecutive left-hander in J.A. Happ (0-1, 6.35 ERA). Happ allowed four runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings in his first start for the Blue Jays against the Rays on Tuesday. Happ has no record and 3.00 ERA in his one start against the Yankees when he was a member of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2010.

Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Ichiro Drives In 5 As Yankees Clip Blue Jays’ Wings

GAME 112

YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 3

When the New York Yankees acquired Ichiro Suzuki from the Seattle Mariners they were just expecting some great outfield defense and some singles and some steals at the bottom of the batting order. It is now beginning to look like they have a top-flight RBI man instead.

Suzuki drove in five runs to lead a late-inning seven-run assault on Toronto pitching as New York put away a badly depleted Blue Jay team on Friday at Rogers Centre in Toronto.

Suzuki gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead in the second inning by driving in a run beating out a potential double-play grounder. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning and a bases-loaded two-run double in the ninth inning. Suzuki, who had only 28 RBis when he was obtained on July 23, has driven in 11 runs in his last 11 games and nine and his last four games with the Yankees.

Meanwhile, veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia (6-5) pitched six solid innings to pick up his second straight victory. Garcia gave up two runs on four hits and struck four against a Blue Jays team missing Jose Bautista, Brett Lawrie, J.P. Arencibia and Adam Lind.

The Yankees built an early lead on Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero in second inning after Robinson Cano led off the frame with a single and Romero walked Andruw Jones.

Jayson Nix attempted to bunt the next pitch and it rolled just out in front of home plate. But Blue Jays catcher Jeff Mathis threw the ball past third baseman Omar Vizquel and into left-field to allow Cano to score and Jones to advance to third. Suzuki followed with a grounder that forced Nix at second but Suzuki beat the relay to first and Jones scored.

The Yankees added a run in the following inning on a leadoff single by Nick Swisher and a one-out RBI single by Cano.

Romero ( 8-9) then shut down the Yankees over the next four innings on just one hit. He left having given up four hits and three walks and struck out two over seven innings.

Kelly Johnson proved to be Garcia’s big nemesis. He struck with one-out solo home run in the bottom of the second inning to halve the Yankees’ lead at 2-1. Two innings later, he followed a bunt single by Yunel Escobar and a lined single by David Cooper with a double down the right-field line that scored Escobar to make it 3-2.

But Garcia ended the threat by striking out Vizquel and inducing Mathis to tap back to the mound.

The game stayed 3-2 until Steve Delabar’s first offering in the eighth inning in relief of Romero was tagged by Mark Teixeira for his 22nd home run of the season.

With two out, Nix and Russell Martin each dunked in a pair of bloop hits and Suzuki followed with an RBI single up the middle to break the game open at 6-2.

The Yankees added four runs in the ninth off rookie reliever David Carpenter and Brad Lincoln. Suzuki culminated the scoring with base-loaded liner that Rajai Davis lost in the lights and it was scored a double.

With the victory the Yankees have now won three games in a row and are 66-46 on the season. They remain 5 1/2 games ahead of the Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The reeling Blue Jays have lost four in a row and are in last place in the division with a record of 53-59.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki has had at least one hit in 16 of the 17 games he has played with the Yankees. The five-RBI night tied a career high and it was the third time in Suzuki’s career he achieved the feat. But it was the first time since the 2004 season. He also started his first game in center-field since the 2008 season and he has now started in all three outfield position since coming to the Yankees. He was acquired to provide speed, defense and a consistent bat at the bottom of the order and he has done all three very well.
  • Teixeira’s home run was the second straight game in which he has delivered a home run in the eighth inning on the road. Teixeira and Eric Chaez combined to hit back-to-back solo home runs to turn a 3-2 Yankee deficit on Thursday into a 4-3 victory over the Tigers. It was the first time two Yankees had hit consecutive home runs in the eighth inning or later to win a game on the road since Yogi Berra and Mickey Mantle did it during the 1955 season. Teixeira extended his team-leading RBI total to 76.
  • Garcia is never going to be confused with Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander, but he put in another solid effort to win his second straight start. In his eight starts since replacing Andy Pettitte in the rotation, Garcia is 4-3 with a 3.83 ERA. The 35-year-old right-hander has been valuable as a placeholder for Pettitte.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I can’t think of much to complain about. Garcia pitched well and the offense has scored 31 runs and notched double-digits in hits over the team’s last four games. Perhaps they can put that stretch of nine losses over 12 games behind them now.

BOMBER BANTER

It is possible that left-handed reliever Pedro Feliciano could be added to the Yankees’ expanded roster in September. Feliciano has not pitched since the 2010 season with the New York Mets because he underwent surgery for  torn rotator cuff. On Friday, Feliciano made his second rehab appearance for the Yankees’ rookie Gulf Coast League. Feliciano was signed to a two-year $8 million deal prior to the 2011 season but he has not pitched a single game for the Yankees. He is 22-19 with a 3.31 ERA over 459 appearances over his eight-season career.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their weekend road series with Blue Jays on Saturday.

Ivan Nova (10-6, 4.81 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova has a lot to prove after giving up seven runs on 11 hits on Monday against the Tigers. He is 0-3 with a 8.36 ERA in his last five starts. Nova is 2-1 with a 3.75 ERA against the Blue Jays in his career.

The Blue Jays will counter with left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-2, 4.39 ERA), who pitched briefly for the Yankees last season. Laffey gave up four runs on six hits in his last start, a victory over the Oakland Athletics. He is 0-1 with an 11.74 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

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