September 2012

Martin’s 3-Run Homer Keeps Yankees Atop East

GAME 157

YANKEES 11, BLUE JAYS 4

The 2012 season has mostly been a house of horrors for Russell Martin, but the veteran backstop has caught fire in September – just in time for the Yankees’ stretch run for the American League East title. On Friday, Martin keyed another crucial victory with a big hit at just the right time.

Martin launched a three-run home run off Blue Jays reliever Jason Frasor with two out in the sixth inning to turn what was a 3-1 lead into a comfortable 6-1 cushion as New York outscored Toronto to maintain their slim one-game lead over the Baltimore Orioles in the division.

With five games left to play the Yankees lowered their magic number to five to clinch their 13th A.L. East crown over the past 15 seasons.

The home run was the 20th of the season for Martin and it is a career high for him. Martin has also punctuated the month of September with six homers and 16 RBIs after driving in just 36 runs before the month started.

Martin’s blast handed a victory to Hiroki Kuruda (15-11), who held the Blue Jays to just two runs but he struggled over 5 1/3 innings, giving up 10 hits and two walks while striking out four batters. In winning his 15th game, Kuroda has established a new career high in victories in the majors, surpassing his high of 13 set in 2011 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Yankee’ offense made Kuroda’s night somewhat easier by providing him with some early support against Blue Jays rookie right-hander Brad Jenkins (0-3).

With two out in the first inning Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano each stroked singles and Nick Swisher scored both with a booming double off the wall in center-field.

An inning later, Raul Ibanez opened the inning with a single and Jenkins then issued back-to-back walks to Martin and Eric Chavez. Derek Jeter then killed the bases-loaded, no-out rally by grounding into a double play, but Ibanez scored on the play and the Yankees held a 3-0 lead.

Meanwhile, base-running blunders by the Blue Jays cost them some runs early.

In the first inning, Brett Lawrie doubled to lead of the inning but he was cut down at second base when he strayed to far off the bag on a hard-hit grounder by Colby Rasmus to Swisher at first base. Swisher threw to Jeter to get Lawrie. One out later, a single by J.P. Arencibia likely would have scored Lawrie.

In the second inning, Yunel Escobar led off with a double and advanced to third on a wild pitch by Kuroda. But he also got caught too far off the bag when Kelly Johnson struck out and Martin nailed Escobar with a throw to Rodriguez. Rajai Davis and Anthony Gose followed with a single and double, respectively. Kuroda then walked Lawrie to load the bases but Kuroda escaped when he struck out Rasmus looking.

The Jays finally did cut the Yankees’ lead to 3-1 in the fifth when Rasmus got a measure of revenge against Kuroda by blasting a leadoff home run.

The Yankees, meanwhile, went to work to extend their lead off left-hander Brett Cecil in the sixth.

Cecil hit Cano in the left hand with his first offering of the frame and Swisher followed with a opposite-field single to left.

It then appeared Cecil might wriggle out of the inning when he registered consecutive strikeouts against Curtis Granderson and Ibanez.

However, Blue Jays manager John Farrell opted to bring the right-hander Frasor to face the right-handed-hitting Martin.

Martin battled all the way back from an 0-2 count to 3-2 by laying off some close breaking pitches before he belted a slider about a dozen rows into the left-field bleachers.

The Yankees then added another run in the inning off Frasor when Chavez drew a walk, Jeter singled and Suzuki drove in Chavez with an opposite-field single to left.

The Blue Jays drew a run closer and chased Kuroda in the sixth when Johnson slapped a one-out double down into the right-field corner and Davis advanced him to third with a bloop single to right. David Phelps came on for Kuroda to retire Gose on a fielder’s choice grounder as Johnson scored.

But the Yankees, already aware the Orioles had defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-1, then added single runs in the seventh and eighth before Chavez connected for his 15th home run of the season in the ninth inning off rookie right-hander Bobby Korecky.

The Blue Jays added to their run total when Adam Lind hit a two-run, opposite-field home run off Phelps in the seventh inning but it was much too little and much too late for the Blue Jays and their home crowd of 25,785 at Rogers Centre.

The Yankees improved their season record to 91-66, which is one game behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Blue Jays fell to 69-88 and they are tied with Red Sox for last place in the division, 22 games behind the Yankees.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • After the Yankees were shut out on Thursday, it was nice to see Martin come through with a clutch two-out home run that knocked the Blue Jays out of the game. Martin very quietly turned around his game after the All-Star break. At the break he was hitting .179 with eight home runs and 20 RBIs. Since then he is hitting a more respectable .241 with 11 home runs and 28 RBIs. Martin is not signed beyond this season and he would like to at least have a chance to stay with the Yankees. If he finishes strong he just may get that chance.
  • Swisher’s two-out, two-run double in the first inning gives him 92 RBIs on the season and puts him within striking distance of bettering his career-high 95 RBIs he set in 2006 in his second full season in the majors with the Oakland Athletics. Swisher also could be a free agent this winter, but the Yankees might be forced to let him go because Cano will become a free agent after the 2013 season and the Yankees want to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal while cutting payroll before the 2014 season.
  • Very quietly Chavez is turning in a great season as a role player for the team. He was 1-for-3 with a homer, two walks, two RBIs and two runs scored batting ninth as the team’s designated hitter. Chavez is 4-for-10 with two home runs and three RBIs in his last three starts. He is hitting .283 with 15 home runs and 36 RBIs coming off the bench this season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Kuroda won the contest but there has to be some concern about the way he has pitched in September. Kuroda entered the final month with a 12-10 record and an excellent 3.04 ERA. However, Kuroda is 3-1 with a 5.22 ERA in his five starts this month. He has pitched 212 2/3 innings, which is the most he has pitched since he threw 202 innings last season with the Dodgers. There is a question about him possibly wearing down before the postseason begins.
  • The Yankees might be considering using Phelps on Tuesday in a start against the Red Sox at Yankee Stadium instead of struggling right-hander Ivan Nova. But Phelps was tagged for a two-run homer by Lind and he threw 24 pitches to get through the seventh inning. Phelps has to have sharp command in order to keep his pitch count down. Manager Joe Girardi will have a tough decision to make on Tuesday.
  • Jeter is showing signs of slowing down with the bat of late. He was 1-for-6 in the game and is 1-for 13 since his 19-game hitting streak was halted on Wednesday. He possibly could a use a day off to rest his bruised left ankle but with the division title on the line that seems unlikely.

BOMBER BANTER

Cano left Rogers Centre with his left hand wrapped in ice and he was headed to a Toronto hospital to have the hand X-rayed. Cano was struck by a pitch from Cecil as he led off the sixth. He remained in the game and came through with an RBI single in the eighth inning. It is unclear if Cano will miss any time due to the injury.  . . .  Mark Teixeira took six at-bats in the batting cage in Tampa, FL, on Friday and will play five innings in an Instructional League game on Saturday. Teixeira, who is rehabbing from a strained left calf, hopes to be able to return to the Yankees on Monday when the team opens its final series of the season against the Red Sox.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their final road series of the season on Saturday against the Blue Jays.

Left-hander Andy Pettitte (5-3, 2.71 ERA) will make his third start since his return from the disabled list with a fractured left fibula. Pettitte is 2-0 and has been unscored upon in his 11 innings over his first two starts. He also is 13-9 with a 4.70 ERA in the last 10 seasons against the Jays.

Left-hander Ricky Romero (9-14, 5.76 ERA) will start for Toronto. Though Romero allowed four runs in his five-plus innings against the Orioles in his last start, he snapped a 13-game losing streak with a victory. He is 3-7 with a 4.76 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

6-Run Third Allows CC, Yanks To Cruise By Twins

GAME 155

YANKEES 8, TWINS 2

It is bad enough that the Minnesota Twins have struggled to beat the Yankees during Ron Gardenhire’s reign as manager. But when you add in the fact they have been unable to beat CC Sabathia while he has sported a Yankee uniform then you can just imagine how things went for the Twins on Wednesday.

The Yankees sent 11 men to the plate as they erupted for six runs in the third inning and Sabathia tossed eight dominant innings to collect his 14th victory as New York clinched both the season series and three-game road series against Minnesota in front of 33,251 at Target Field.

Sabathia (14-6) gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck 10 to run his record against the Twins since he joined the Yankees in 2009, including playoff games, to 10-0 with a 1.96 ERA . The victory also was Sabathia’s first victory since Aug. 24 and broke a personal three-game losing streak.

The Yankees also maintained their 1 1/2-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East with only seven games left to play.

The Twins led the Yankees 1-0 on a one-out single by Matt Carson that scored Ryan Doumit from second in the second inning.

That lead was short-lived, however, when Chris Dickerson slapped a one-out single up the middle off Twins reliever Brian Duensing in the third inning. Ichiro Suzuki added a single to center of his own and Derek Jeter drew a walk to load the bases.

Robinson Cano then smacked a scorching line-drive double over the head of right-fielder Ben Revere in right-field to score Dickerson and Suzuki as Jeter advanced to third.

Nick Swisher blooped a single into right-field to score Jeter and Curtis Granderson followed with a two-run triple off the right-field wall.

Duensing then threw a pitch to Eric Chavez in the dirt that eluded Doumit and Granderson scored easily to give Sabathia and the Yankees a comfortable 6-1 cushion.

The Yankees added a pair of runs in the sixth inning on a leadoff double by Raul Ibanez off reliever Anthony Swarzak and a one-out, two-run home run off the bat of Dickerson for his second home run of the season.

Duensing (4-11) was pressed into service with two out in the second inning because starting pitcher Samuel Deduno was forced to leave the game with severe irritation in his left eye that impaired his vision.

Duensing gave up six runs on five hits and two walks while he struck out one in one inning of work.

The Twins scored a run in the seventh when Jamey Carroll and Alexi Casilla strung together a pair of two-out singles and rookie Pedro Florimon scored Carroll when he hit a ball that caromed off Sabathia’s left shin and rolled into right-field.

But, Sabathia was firmly in control of the game. Among his 10 strikeouts, the last five were called and he also struck out Joe Mauer, who entered the contest the second-leading hitter in the American League at .326, the first three times he faced him on just nine pitches. Mauer finished the game 0-for-4.

The Yankees won their 90th game of the season – versus 65 losses – and its the 11th season in the past 12 years the Yankees have won at least 90 games. They also have won the last six season series against the Twins, whose season record fell to 65-91.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Don’t take my word for how good Sabathia was, let Mauer tell it: “That’s the best I’ve seen him, and I’ve been watching him for a long time.” Sabathia threw 108 pitches – his third highest pitch count of the season – and 89 of them were strikes. That is a 75% strike percentage. Sabathia not only registered 94 mph on his fastball but he had superior command of it through out the contest.
  • Despite the fact that Gardenhire brought in a left-hander to replace the right-handed Deduno, lefty sluggers Cano and Granderson came through with a pair of two-run extra-base hits to give Sabathia all the run support he really needed. Though neither Cano or Granderson are having career years, Granderson has 97 RBIs and Cano has 82.
  • Dickerson got a rare start in left-field and took advantage of it by going 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs. Because of the Yankees overload at the outfield position, Dickerson does not figure in the team’s plans with its postseason roster. But it is good to see someone from the September call-ups contribute at a crucial point of the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

In a game where Sabathia was in total command and the offense scored eight runs despite the fact Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira were not in the lineup you really can’t find fault with anything in this one. The Yankees’ best defense against losing the A.l. East title is just to keep winning and they have won 12 of their last 16 games.

BOMBER BANTER

Rodriguez was held out of the lineup and did not play on Wednesday due to a sore left foot after he fouled a ball of the foot in the eighth inning of Tuesday’s game. Rodriguez stayed in the game but he said the foot stiffened up overnight. Though no X-rays were ordered, manager Joe Girardi believes Rodriguez will be available to play on Thursday.  . . .  Brett Gardner was used as a ninth inning defensive replacement in left-field, marking his first game action since he suffered a strained right elbow making a diving catch in a game ironically against the Twins on April 17. Both Gardner and veteran reliever David Aardsma were activated off the disabled on Tuesday and the team designated for assignment infielder Steve Pearce and left-handed reliever Justin Thomas to make room for them on the roster.

ON DECK

The Yankees make their final road stop of the season in Toronto to begin a four-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.94 ERA) will start the series for the Yankees. Nova could not make it out of the third inning in his last start against the Oakland Athletics on Saturday. But the Yankees won the game 10-9 in the 14th inning. Nova is 3-1 with a 3.45 ERA in his career against the Jays.

Right-hander Brandon Morrow (8-7, 3.28 ERA) will get the start for the Blue Jays. Morrow was tagged for four runs in five innings and he walked a season-high four in his last start against the Tampa Bay Rays. He is 4-2 with a 4.08 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 7:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

 

Pettitte Wins Again As Yanks Take Target Practice

GAME 153

YANKEES 6, TWINS 3

Whenever manager Ron Gardenhire sees Andy Pettitte scheduled to pitch against his Twins he must cringe. After all, Pettitte last lost to the Twins in 2001 in a complete game he lost to Brad Radke 2-1.

Monday was no different for Pettitte and the Yankees took a little target practice at the outfield seats at Target Field.

In his second game back after coming off the disabled list, Pettitte threw six shutout innings and four Yankees hit home runs as New York extended its lead in the American League East by defeating Minnesota in front of paid crowd of 33,720.

Pettitte (5-3) scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out three batters to extend his record his against the Twins to 10-0 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 12 starts against them dating back to the 2009 season.

Meanwhile, the Yankee offense staked him to a first-inning lead against rookie right-hander Liam Hendriks (1-8) when Derek Jeter drew a leadoff walk and Ichiro Suzuki doubled to to right field.

One out later, Robinson Cano scored Jeter with an infield grounder and Nick Swisher followed with a two-run blast into the second deck in right-center, his 23rd home run of the season and the first of the four-homer deluge the Yankees put on the Twins. It was the most home runs the Twins have given up in a game all season.

With one out in the fourth inning, Curtis Granderson took Hendriks deep for his 40th home run of the season, becoming the only player in the major leagues who has has hit 40 or more home runs the past two seasons. He also is the fifth Yankee player to hit 40 or more home runs in back-to-back seasons, joining Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Jason Giambi.

Raul Ibanez led off the seventh inning with a tape=measure blast down the right-field line and into the third deck of the stadium for his 18th home run of the season and his third in his past three games.

One-out later, Eric Chavez lined an opposite-field shot just out of the reach of left-fielder Josh Willingham for his 14th home run of the season and Hendriks’ evening was mercifully ended with him trailing 6-0.

Hendriks was tagged for eight hits, he walked one batter and he fanned four in 6 1/3 innings.

Though Petitte was far from perfect – he had only two 1-2-3 innings – he managed to get out of trouble on ground balls, a strikeout and with a great defensive play by Granderson.

Pettitte gave up a pair of singles to Denard Span and Ben Revere to start the first inning and he walked Willingham with one out o load the bases. But he escaped any damage by striking out Justin Morneau looking and getting Ryan Doumit to bounce into a forceout.

Span and Mauer singled and were on first and third with one out in the third but Pettitte induced Willingham to hit into an inning-ending double play.

In the fourth, Doumit hit a one-out double to center and with two out Jamey Carroll singled up the middle. Granderson charged the ball in shallow center and fired it on one-hop home to catcher Russell Martin, who tagged Doumit on the left shoulder before he could reach home plate.

The Twins ruined the shutout in the eighth when rookie Pedro Florimon hit his first major-league home run off reliever Cory Wade.

They added two runs in the ninth after left-hander Justin Thomas gave up a one-out single to Morneau and walked Doumit. David Robertson came in to strike out Trevor Plouffe but pinch-hitter Chris Parmalee cracked a triple off the wall in center to score both runners.

Robertson then ended the contest by getting Florimon to ground out to Cano at second.

The Yankees have now won 26 of their last 33 games against the Twins and, combined with the Baltimore Orioles’ split of a doubleheader with the Toronto Blue Jays, they now have a 1 1/2-game lead in the division with eight games left to play.

The Yankees season record is now 89-64. The Twins fell to 64-90.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • In his two starts since coming off the disabled list with a fractured fibula, Pettitte is 2-0 and he has held the opposition scoreless over 11 innings, giving up 11 hits and three walks while striking out six. Pettitte will have one more start before the playoffs and he would be in line to start either a tie-breaker game or the wild-card playoff game, if necessary.
  • Jeter’s singled in the ninth inning to extend his hitting streak to 16 games. He is 30-for-81 (.370) with a home run and 11 RBIs in those 16 contests. Suzuki’s double in the first extended his hitting streak to seven games. Over than span, Suzuki is 16-for-30 (.533) with two home runs, four doubles and five RBIs. With Jeter and Suzuki at the top of the order the Yankees have been rolling.
  • After looking absolutely lost at the plate for most of the past month, Ibanez looks to be coming out of his long slump with a flourish. In the past three games, Ibanez is 7-for-12 (.583) with three home runs and five RBIs.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I could quibble about the Yankees giving up three runs late but Wade and Thomas are two pitchers who will not be on the team’s playoff roster. Manager Joe Girardi was hoping to rest Rafael Soriano, Boone Logan and Robertson, but he was forced to bring in Robertson in the ninth. That was the only real negative.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixiera took batting practice, fielded ground balls and ran the bases at half-speed at the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, FL, on Monday as he tries to recover from a Grade 1 strain of his left calf. Though general manager Brian Cashman targeted Thursday for Teixeira’s return, Girardi expressed concern about playing Teixeira on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre in Toronto.  . . .  Veteran right-handed reliever David Aardsma was with the team on Monday and he could be activated from the disabled list on Tuesday. Aardsma, 30, has not pitched not pitched in the major leagues since he was with the Seattle Mariners in 2010. He underwent Tommy John surgery in July 2011 and he was signed by the Yankees as a free agent in February. Aardsma recorded 31 saves for the Mariners in 2010 after saving 38 games with a 2.53 ERA in 2009.  . . .  Chavez was highly critical of the current members of his former Oakland Athletics club and their antics over the weekend. Chavez was not happy with the way the team was celebrating in the visitor’s dugout after they hit three home runs to take a 9-5 lead in the 13th inning of Saturday’s game. Chavez called the display immature and unprofessional. The Yankees, however, had the last laugh by scoring four runs in the bottom of the 13th before scoring the winning run in the 14th on a bases-loaded error.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game series in Minneapolis with the Twins on Tuesday.

Right-hander Phil Hughes (16-12) will start for the Yankees. Hughes earned his third straight victory, despite giving up four runs in five innings against the Blue Jays in his last start. Hughes is 2-0 with a 2.66 ERA lifetime against the Twins, including a victory against them on April 19 in which he gave up two runs on five hits in 5 1/3 innings.

The Twins will counter with right-hander Esmerling Vasquez (0-2, 6.75 ERA). Vasquez, 28, has failed to turn in quality start in any of his four outings this season, including his last start against the Cleveland Indians. He has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:10 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.

 

Down 4 In 13th, Yankees Tie A’s And Win On Miscue

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“We have met the enemy and he is us.”

           - cartoonist Walt Kelly, “The Pogo Papers,” published in 1953

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GAME 151

YANKEES 10, ATHLETICS 9 (14 INNINGS)

If Martin Scorsee  had submitted Saturday’s game to producers in Hollywood as a movie they would have thrown the script back at him and laughed him out of the office. After all, what team gets off the deck after trailing by four runs in the bottom of the 13th inning to tie it and go on and win it in the next frame on a bases-loaded error?

Well, obviously no other team but the New York Yankees, who did just that to the upstart Oakland Athletics.

Ichiro Suzuki scored the game-winning run at 6:51 EDT after five hours and 43 minutes of drama that turned – on all things – a bases-loaded error in the 14th inning by Brandon Moss on a ball off the bat of Eduardo Nunez. What was left of the paid crowd of 44,026 at Yankee Stadium erupted in delirium as much as disbelief as the Yankees managed to pull victory out of the jaws of defeat at the most opportune of times for themselves.

The Baltimore Orioles earlier in the day had defeated the Boston Red Sox 9-6 in 12 innings at Fenway Park and they no doubt saw the Yankees were down 9-5 heading into the bottom of the 13th inning, knowing a Yankee loss would mean a tie atop the American League East.

But the Yankees had an answer for both the O’s and the A’s in the bottom of the 13th.

Suzuki, who could not be any hotter than if he was Satan himself, opened the inning off left-hander Pedro Figueroa with a high-chopping single over Figueroa’s head that second baseman Cliff Pennington fielded but had no play on. Alex Rodriguez followed with a lined single up the middle and Robinson Cano then loaded the bases with an opposite-field single to left.

A’s manager Bob Melvin replaced Figueroa with right-hander Pat Neshek and Neshek promptly uncorked a wild pitch with Nunez at the plate to allow Suzuki to score and Rodriguez and Cano to advance into scoring position. Nunez then scored Rodriguez with a sacrifice fly to center.

Raul Ibanez then strolled to the plate having put the Yankees ahead 5-4 in the bottom of the fifth inning with a pinch-hit home run off reliever Jim Miller. It was his 16th home run of the season but it was his first since an Aug. 5 home game against the Seattle Mariners.

Ibanez again reached into the Yankees’ bag of improbable tricks by turning around a 3-1 Neshek pitch and depositing it into the second deck in right field to tie the score at 9-9. It was at this point that it began to dawn on the fans in the stands and those either watching or listening to the game they were now part of something very special. Perhaps a new Yankee Classic?

Cory Wade (1-1), the Yankees’ ninth pitcher of the afternoon, came in the top of the 14th and he retired the A’s in order to what later would be credited to him as his first victory of the season with the Yankees.

The A’s sent out tall, lanky right-hander Tyson Ross (2-10) to pitch the bottom of the inning.

Eric Chavez opened the inning with a single in the hole between first and second base into right-field. Manager Joe Girardi sent in rookie outfielder Melky Mesa in to pinch-run in what was his major-league debut.

Derek Jeter laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Mesa to second and the A’s finally got smart enough to walk Suzuki intentionally considering he was 5-for-8 in the series so far.

Misfortune had followed the Yankees like a persistent cloud all day. They were just 3-for-16 with runners in scoring position, they had stranded 14 baserunners and left the bases loaded in the first and 12th innings.

Rodriguez did come through with another hard-hit single into center-field on which Mesa should have scored easily. But, alas, Mesa in his haste to tally the winning run slipped rounding third base and he had to go back to third with his embarrassment splashed all over his face.

And it looked like it just going to be one of those days when Cano rolled a tapper back to Ross and Ross threw wide at catcher Derek Norris but Norris kept a toe on the plate to force Mesa for the second out.

That left the bases loaded and two out for Nunez, who only just entered the game in the as a pinch-hitter in the 12th inning but he did deliver that key run-scoring fly ball in the 13th.

On the second pitch, Nunez shot a Neshek slider the opposite way inside the first-base line. Moss moved two steps over to field it, the ball clanked off the bottom of his mitt and rolled past him to allow Nunez to reach first as Suzuki crossed the plate with the winning run.

The A’s did not exactly put on a pitching and fielding clinic all day and it ultimately led to their downfall. They committed three fielding errors, a passed ball, a balk and three wild pitches to help the Yankees’ cause. So if they are looking for someone to blame for the loss they should start by looking in the clubhouse mirror.

For the Yankees, who had entered the series on Friday with only two walk-off victories all season, it was their second in two days against a very overconfident bunch of young Athletics who swept the Yankees in four one-run games in Oakland in July.

The victory was the Yankees’ seventh in a row and their ninth in their past 10 games. They now have a record of 88-63. For the A’s this second devastating one-run loss in extra innings dropped their record to 85-66. They are 4 1/2 games behind the Texas Rangers in the American League West, two games behind the Orioles for the first wild-card spot and three games ahead of the Angels for the second wild-card spot.

For the A’s this loss was by far one big dagger to the heart. For the Yankees it was one big tribute to their own heart in the face of major adversity.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki has seemingly turned back the clock on his 38-year-old body to his magical 2001 season when he won Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player honors. In his last five games, Suzuki is 14-for-20 (.700) with two home runs, five RBIs, seven runs scored and four stolen bases. He opened the first inning with his ninth home run of the season off Oakland starter Travis Blackley. He added two singles, two walks and a sacrifice bunt as he debuted in the second spot in the order against a left-handed pitcher.
  • Ibanez’s bat had to be colder than a polar bear’s hindquarters when he entered the game as a pinch-hitter in the fifth. After hitting .196 in August, Ibanez was hitting .042 in September. He had only one hit in his last 28 at-bats. But he delivered a huge solo home run in the fifth that put the Yankees ahead and then an even bigger two-run shot in the 13th that tied the game at 9-9. He now has 17 home runs and 56 RBIs despite hitting .228 on the season.
  • Steve Pearce has never gotten much mention since he was acquired but he is going to get one here. Pearce entered the game in the 10th inning after Chris Dickerson was used to pinch-run for Nick Swisher. Pearce never got a chance to bat in the game because he was pinch-hit for by Nunez in the 12th. But on a day that the A’s were kicking the ball all over the yard he came up with a real gem in the 11th inning. The A’s had the bases loaded and two out with Josh Reddick facing Freddy Garcia. Reddick lined a hot smash that was headed into right-field and would have scored two runs except Pearce dove headlong to his right and caught the ball a foot off the ground. That was the key play in the victory.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Ivan Nova proved his command issues this season are not quite behind him. After an impressive start coming off the disabled list he struggled in in his second outing. He gave up three runs on five hits and two walks and struck out two in just 2 1/3 innings. Fortunately for him, Blackley was just as bad, surrendering four runs (two earned) on four hits and three walks in two innings. Nova likely lost any chance he may have had to make the postseason rotation.
  • Garcia had not pitched since he gave up three runs to the Orioles in 3 1/3 innings in what was his last start before being demoted to the bullpen. Though he pitched three scoreless innings from the 10th through the 12th, he stumbled badly in the 13th. He gave up a two-run home run to Jonny Gomes and a then solo shot to Yoenis Cespedes. Girardi replaced Garcia with rookie left-hander Justin Thomas, who then gave up a solo home run to Chris Carter, which dug the Yankees a huge 9-5 hole from which they escaped – luckily. Garcia may not make the postseason roster and his days with the Yankees are numbered.
  • Cano was 2-for-8 in the game. But it does not really illustrate how bad he has been lately. He had an RBI single in the first inning and reached on an error in the second. But he flied out to end the fourth. He hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth after Rodriguez was walked intentionally in front of him. He flied out to center to start the ninth. He grounded out to second to end the 11th. After singling and scoring in the 13th, he failed to deliver with bases loaded in the 13th with a tapper back the pitcher. In all, Cano stranded seven runners in the game.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixeira jogged in the outfield, took some ground balls and some swings in the batting cage at Yankee Stadium before Saturday’s game and experienced no issues with strained left calf. Teixeira will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday to accelerate his workouts in hopes of returning before the regular season ends. Teixeira was originally injured on Aug. 27 and missed 10 games. He came back and reinjured it in his first game back. He since has missed the last 12 games.    . . .  The Yankees’ bullpen was down two pitchers because of the recent use of closer Rafael Soriano and David Robertson. Soriano reported a dead arm in the wake of Friday’s blown save against the A’s. Robertson had pitched in each of the previous three games.

ON DECK

The Yankees stand just one game away of the final step in what can be called the “Pay Back To The Punks” weekend series against the A’s.

Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (14-10, 3.26 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda struck out the first six batters he faced and finished with 10 as he defeated the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 3.21 ERA in his career against Oakland.

The A’s will start rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin (6-1, 2.45 ERA). Griffin allowed five runs on eight hits in 4 2/3 innings against the Detroit Tigers to take his first loss of the season. He was tagged for three home runs. He is 1-0 with a 3.00 ERA in his one start against the Yankees.

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

 

Yanks Pay Back Cocky A’s On Martin’s Walk-Off HR

GAME 150

YANKEES 2, ATHLETICS 1 (10 INNINGS)

If you took a poll on New York sports talk shows on what Yankees has had the most disappointing season the result would come back Russell Martin. Of course, if you took a poll on who the most popular Yankee is on Friday you would come out with the same result.

Martin, suffering through a season in which he has been struggling with a batting average that is 32 points below his career low of last season’s .237, hit the second pitch he saw from left-handed reliever Sean Doolittle and parked it well into the bleachers in left-field as New York took a walk-off victory in 10 innings over a stunned young Oakland squad.

Martin’s home run, his 16th of the season, allowed the Yankees to maintain their one-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. It also gave the Yankees a bit of payback on an Oakland team that swept the Yankees in four games in Oakland and the all the games were one-run games.

The Yankees actually thought they had the game won after CC Sabathia shut down the A’s on four hits and two walks and he struck out 11 over eight innings. However, Rafael Soriano gave up a one-out home run in the ninth to pinch-hitter Brandon Moss to tie the game at 1-1.

It was only Soriano’s fourth blown save if the season but two have them have come against the A’s.

The Yankees had forged that slim margin in the fourth inning off starter Jarrod Parker.

Nick Swisher opened the frame with a single to right and one out later Alex Rodriguez slapped a single to left-center to advance Swisher to third. Curtis Granderson then scored Swisher with a sacrifice fly.

Parker then shut down the Yankees, giving up one run on six hits and no walks and he struck out seven.

Doolittle (1-1) relieved Parker in the ninth and he threw a scoreless inning to push the game into extra innings.

David Robertson (2-7) came on for the Yankees in the tenth and retired the side in order to earn the victory in relief.

Martin then strolled to the plate and he picked out a fat 0-1 fastball up in the strike zone and blasted into the seats to bring most of the paid crowd of 40,759 at Yankee Stadium to its feet and the Yankees’ players racing out of the dugout to celebrate with their beleaguered catcher.

Doolittle is a very aptly named gentleman because the pitch he threw to Martin did do very little except hang up in the sights of the veteran Martin.

It was only the Yankees’ third walk-off victory of the season. One came against the Mets in June and the other came in April against Tigers.

Even with the walk-off heroics of Martin, the actual story of the night was the return to dominance of Sabathia.

The 31-year-old left-hander has not won a game since Aug. 24 and he had to be placed on the disabled list on two occasions this season. In his last two starts, Sabathia had given up nine earned runs on 14 hits and two walks over a span of 13 innings. There was concern that  Sabathia was concealing an injury because his velocity had dropped.

But from the opening pitch on Friday, Sabathia was crisp and clean with his pitches.

He walked the second batter of the game in Jonny Gomes but did not allow a hit until Stephen Drew’s single up the middle in the sixth inning. His 11 strikeouts were the most he has recorded since he fanned 12 Tampa Bay Rays in a loss at Yankee Stadium on June 7.

So with the playoffs just on the horizon, the opposition might want to think again about discounting the health of Sabathia.

The victory gives the Yankees a record of 87-63 on the season. They have now won six straight games and eight of their last nine contests. The A’s, on the other hand, fell to 85-65.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia did tire a bit in the eighth. He gave up a one-out single to Drew, a two-out single to Collin Cowgill and he hit Gomes with a pitch to load the bases. But he got out of the jam by inducing Josh Reddick to hit a weak fly ball to left. He had struck out Reddick in his three previous at-bats. This was vintage Sabathia and it should give manager Joe Girardi more confidence in his ace as he looks toward the playoffs.
  • There is now visual proof Ichiro Suzuki is not just red hot with the bat. He is lucky, too. Suzuki was 2-for-3 in the game and one of his hits was a tapped comebacker to Parker on the mound in the third inning. But the ball rolled up Parker’s right arm and fell into his A’s jersey, preventing him from making a play on Suzuki. Since Sept. 6, Suzuki is 20-for-38 (.526) with eight RBIs and eight runs scored.
  • After kind of stinking up the joint in his three games against the Blue Jays, Rodriguez came through with two hits against the A’s. His hit in the fourth inning to advance Swisher to third was huge because it set up Granderson’s scoring fly ball that gave the Yankees’ their 1-0 lead. The power may not be there but Rodriguez is getting key hits.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It is real easy to get down on Soriano because he blew the save. However, Soriano has been overused of late and it showed in his work on Friday. In addition to giving up the home run to Moss, Soriano gave up two-out walks to Derek Norris and Drew before striking out pinch-hitter Seth Smith swinging. Soriano actually warmed up on Thursday but could not go because he had pitched in six games in the previous seven days, including both games of a doubleheader on Wednesday.
  • Robinson Cano is back to hitting like a rockhead. He was o-for-4 in the game with two strikeouts and he also hit into an inning-ending double play in the sixth inning. Cano is fouling off pitches he normally crushes and he is starting to swing at some pitches out of the strike zone again. It pains me to see him getting himself out by not having the discipline to hit only the pitches he can hit squarely. His season average has dipped to .297.
  • Despite his sac fly RBI, Granderson struck out in all three of his other at-bats. His 179 strikeouts are a new career high and he has earned every one. Every time you see the change-up heading for the dirt at home plate you just know Curtis is going to swing and miss it.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi chose to play Eduardo Nunez at shortstop and allow Derek Jeter to rest his bone bruise on his left ankle as the designated hitter on Friday.  . . .  Jeter laughed when ESPN’s Rick Reilly blew up a national story that said Jeter would consider playing for another team. Reilly twisted what Jeter was saying to him about Peyton Manning having to leave the Indianapolis Colts to play for the Denver Broncos. Jeter said that if the Yankees decided they did not want him anymore and he still wanted to play he would have to look elsewhere. Reilly made it seem if Jeter wanted to leave, which is not the case.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game “Payback The Punks” series with Oakland on Saturday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (12-7, 4.85 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. If Nova is anything like he was in his last start, the A’s are in trouble. Nova came off the disabled list to throw six innings of two-run baseball and he struck out eight Rays in one of his best outings of the year. Nova is 1-0 with a 3.29 ERA lifetime against the Athletics.

Nova will be opposed by left-hander Travis Blackley (5-3, 3.36 ERA). Blackley is taking the place of Brett Anderson in the rotation and this will be his first start since Aug. 29. He is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA as a starter. Blackley has never faced the Yankees.

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

 

Yankees Outslug Blue Jays In Ugly But Key Victory

GAME 149

YANKEES 10, BLUE JAYS 7

Let’s make this perfectly clear. This game on Thursday is not going to go down as a Yankee Classic. With both teams combining for 17 runs on 18 hits, 13 walks, two hit batters, an error, two wild pitches and two passed balls, it likely could be disseminated without the expressed written consent of the either team.

But it was a victory for the Yankees and they will take it.

Ichiro Suzuki continued his hot hitting by driving in three runs and Nick Swisher blasted his third grand slam of the season as part of seven-run fourth inning as New York outslugged Toronto to give themselves a one-game lead in the American League East over the idle second-place Baltimore Orioles.

Phil Hughes (16-12) did not so much win this game as he did not lose it. He gave up four runs on four hits and three walks while he struck out nine batters in five innings to collect his team-leading 16th win of the season.

The Yankees, meanwhile, had to wait out soft-tossing left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-6) to throw a pitch within a neighboring area code of the strike zone before they drove him out of the game in the fourth.

The Blue Jays held a slim 2-1 lead in the fourth when Laffey issued a leadoff walk to Russell Martin and Curtis Granderson reached when second baseman Kelly Johnson treated his routine grounder as if it was a hand grenade.

Laffey then issued another one of the five free passes he handed out on the evening to Casey McGehee to load the bases for Suzuki, who started the night 7-for-8 in the series and had homered in his first at-bat off Laffey to lead off the third inning.

Suzuki brought most of the paid crowd of 40,511 at Yankee Stadium to their feet with a two-run double that gave the Yankees their first lead of the night. Little did they know they would hold the lead for the rest of the night.

Manager John Farrell mercifully ended Laffey’s evening in favor of right-hander Brad Lincoln. However, unlike the vehicles that sport his name, Lincoln was neither original or inspired.

Lincoln walked Jayson Nix to refuel the bases to full and he put it in gear to face Derek Jeter. But Jeter stroked a lined single into right to make it 4-2.

Lincoln then wished he could have put the whole thing in reverse or hit the brakes when Swisher smacked a fat 2-1 fastball into the third row of bleachers in right-center over the auxiliary scoreboard to put a serious dent in the Blue Jays’ night and give the Yankees what they thought might be some breathing room so they could rest up for their weekend series with the Oakland Athletics.

Laffey’s line read five runs given up (four earned) on just two hits but five walks and he struck out three in three-plus innings.

However, in his effort to get five innings in for his victory, Hughes surrendered a two-run home run to  to rookie Moise Sierra in the bottom of the fifth.

The Yankees got those two runs back in the bottom of the frame off reliever Brett Cecil on RBI singles by Nix and Jeter to make it 10-4.

After Derek Lowe pitched two shaky but scoreless innings, manager Joe Girardi called upon Cory Wade to pitch the eighth.

Wade spent most of the season at Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre because he was unable to get anyone out consistently at the major-league level this season. That should have been a huge red flag for Girardi.

Wade opened the third by giving up a solo home run to Johnson that still might be traveling. A single, a strikeout and a double later and Wade was gone in a New York minute. Joba Chamberlain then allowed a an RBI single to Brett Lawrie and a Mike McCoy drove in another run on a fielder’s choice groundout to make it 10-7 .

Chamberlain then gave up a single to Edwin Encarnacion to bring up the tying run in Adam Lind. I bet Girardi loved this part of the game.

Fortunately, Chamberlain got Lind to fly out to medium right and David Robertson struck out the side in the ninth to collect his second save of the season.

It’s a good thing, too. Whew!

With the victory, the Yankees have now officially righted themselves and have won seven of their last eight games. Their season record improved to 86-63 and they have but 13 contests left to play. The Blue Jays are pretty much sucking on the tailpipe of their own Lincoln after having been swept in the series and they are now 66-82.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • All Suzuki did in the three-game series was go 9-for-12 (.750) with a home run, three doubles, four stolen bases, four runs scored and four RBIs. About the only thing he did not do was deliver margaritas in the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar. Girardi has chosen to keep Suzuki in the lineup against left-handers because Andruw Jones seemingly has not gotten a big hit since Memorial Day.
  • Swisher struck out three times and walked in the game. However, his grand slam was the biggest hit of the game and it was a game the Yankees needed to win badly. Swisher hit a franchise record-tying 10th grand slam of the season and it was his third. It also was the seventh grand slam of his career. Swisher now has 21 home runs and 83 RBIs on the season. He has hit at least 20 home runs and driven 80 runs in all four of his seasons with the Yankees.
  • Hughes tied a franchise record when he struck out four batters in the fourth inning. Hughes struck out in order J.P. Arencibia, Adeiny Hechavarria, Anthony Gose and Lawrie, however, Hechavarria reached first on one of the two passed balls charged to Russell Martin on the evening. A.J. Burnett also did it for the Yankees on June 24, 2011 against the Colorado Rockies.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankees scored 10 runs but Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with a walk. That snapped his modest four-game hitting streak and pushed him under the .300 mark this season. Cano is having an unusually quiet September, hitting just .279 with three home runs and eight RBIs.
  • Wade had pitched 3 2/3 scoreless innings in his two appearances since his Sept. 1 recall but he was tagged hard by the Blue Jays. Wade is 0-1 with a 5.84 ERA on the season after he was 6-1 with a 2.04 ERA for the Yankees last season. It is not likely Wade will make the postseason roster and his days with the team appear numbered.
  • Martin’s two passed balls give him seven on the season, which is the most he has been charged with in any of his major-league seasons. The Yankees still rave about his defense but it is hard to imagine the Yankees will re-sign him after he thoroughly flopped at the plate this season.

BOMBER BANTER

Mark Teixeira took swings in a batting cage at Yankee Stadium before the game on Thursday and he will travel to Tampa, FL, on Monday in order to rehab his left calf strain in some Instructional League games. Teixeira is targeting a Sept 27 return date so he can get in some game action before the playoffs.  . . .  The Yankees elected not to activate Brett Gardner on Thursday although the move is imminent in the next few days.

ON DECK

The Yankees open a three-game weekend series against the A’s beginning on Friday and they have some payback in mind after they were swept in Oakland.

The Yankees send to the mound left-hander CC Sabathia (13-6, 3.63 ERA). Sabathia has allowed nine earned runs in his last two starts covering 13 innings. Though the Yankees say he is fine, Sabathia has not pitched well since his return from the disabled list with left elbow soreness. He is 8-8 with a 4.80 ERA lifetime against the A’s.

Oakland will start right-hander Jarrod Parker (11-8, 3.51 ERA). Parker allowed two runs on seven hits with one walk and seven strikeouts in seven innings in a victory over the Orioles on Saturday. He is 1-0 with a 1.13 ERA in his one career start against the Yankees.

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

 

Ichiro’s Heroics Nudge Yankees To Sweep Of Jays

GAME 148

YANKEES 2, BLUE JAYS 1

By the time 10-time All-Star Ichiro Suzuki came up in the eighth inning with the game on the line, he already had a what could be considered a great two games in the day-night doubleheader. He was 6-for-7 with two doubles, two stolen bases and two runs scored plus a game-saving catch in the first game.

Suzuki obviously was not satisfied with it.

With Curtis Granderson at third and two out, Suzuki sliced a bloop single into left off reliever Aaron Loup that broke a 1-1 tie and New York went on to complete a sweep of Toronto in the doubleheader to insure they will remain in first place in the American League East.

Since Suzuki was acquired from the Mariners in July, he is 52-for-164 (.317).

Rafael Soriano was summoned in the ninth and he dispatched the Blue Jays in order to record his second save of the day and his 42nd save in 45 chances on the season.

The Yankees were just happy to carve out a victory at Yankee Stadium in a game when they had repeated chances to score but they could not come through with the big hit until Suzuki did it in the eighth.

The Blue Jays claimed an early 1-0 lead in the second inning by taking advantage of the one inning of the game rookie right-hander David Phelps struggled with his control.

Phelps issued back-to-back one-out walks to J.P. Arencibia and Kelly Johnson before he managed to fan Yan Gomes swinging for the second out. But Adeiny Hechavarria slapped a single under Phelps’ glove and into center-field to score Arencibia.

The Yankees got the run back in the bottom of the inning off Blue Jays left-hander Ricky Romero, who entered the contest with a franchise-tying record of 13 consecutive losing decisions dating back to June 22. The Yankees also took advantage of some wildness by Romero.

Romero issued a one-out free pass to Jayson Nix and Nix stole second before Romero also walked Casey McGahee.

Suzuki singled into center-field but Colby Rasmas threw out a sliding Nix at the plate with a perfect throw to Arencibia.

Chris Stewart then followed with a ground-rule double down the left-field line that scored McGahee.

But in the rest of the contest, the Yankees pretty much squandered chance after chance to score off Romero, who gave up seven hits, walked five and struck out five in six innings. They did the following:

  • The Yankees had Derek Jeter on first with his 200th hit of the season in the first and Nick Swisher walked. But Robinson Cano flew out and Alex Rodriguez hit into an inning-ending double play.
  • After Stewart’s double in the second, they had runners at second and third and two out but Jeter struck out swinging.
  • Swisher and Cano stroked consecutive one-out singles in the fifth but Rodriguez and Granderson both struck out swinging.
  • Suzuki hit a two-out single in the sixth and he stole second and third base while Stewart drew a walk. However, Jeter grounded out to third.
  • After Suzuki’s RBI single broke the tie in the eighth, he stole second and third base for the second time in the game. Stewart drew a walk and he also stole a base. Then Jeter drew a walk from reliever Brandon Lyon to load the bases. But Swisher struck out swinging.

Other than Stewart’s RBI double and Suzuki’s two singles with runners on second, the Yankees were 0-for-11 with runners in scoring position and left 12 runners on base.

However, they did break out a new weapon in their arsenal: The stolen base. They stole a season-high seven bases in the game, including Suzuki’s four.

Phelps deserved a better fate. He gave up one run on just three hits and three walks and he struck out six in 6 1/3 innings.

Cody Eppley (1-2) pitched to one batter in the eighth and struck him out to get credit for the victory.

Blue Jays reliever Steve Delabar (4-3) took the loss after surrendering a leadoff walk to Granderson in the eighth. Nix sacrificed him to second on a perfect bunt.

Loup then came on and struck out pinch-hitter Steve Pearce swinging but Suzuki was able to come through with his fourth hit of the game and give the Yankees an important victory.

Coupled with the Baltimore Orioles’ 10-inning 3-1 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees maintained a half-game lead in the American League East. The Yankees are also a game up in the loss column at 84-63. The Blue Jays fell to 66-81.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Suzuki’s day was just absolutely mind-boggling. He did it all with his glove, his bat and his feet. The 7-for-8 day raised his season average to .277. Also give credit to Girardi for playing the 38-year-old Suzuki in both games despite the fact Romero is a left-hander and Suzuki had been benched against most lefties lately. Of course, Suzuki was 9-for-25 (.360) in his career against Romero. So it was an easy decision.
  • Phelps was a late addition to start this game because the Yankees did not want to have Phil Hughes and Pettitte on the same rest next week. So Hughes was pushed back a day and Phelps pitched a real gem. In his 10 starts this season, Phelps is 2-2 with a 3.81 ERA. He now becomes a valuable arm in the bullpen because he is 4-4 with a 3.24 ERA overall.
  • Stewart had his best game in a while. He was 1-for-2 with a double, two walks and a stolen base. He also called a great game for Phelps and he even caught the American League second-leading base-stealer in Rajai Davis trying to take second in the third inning.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The 0-for- 11 number for the starters other than Suzuki and Stewart is important. This team needs to start doing a better job with runners in scoring position if they want to advance in the playoffs. Home runs will not bail them out against top-flight pitching. So they better improve on this in a hurry.
  • Rodriguez was the poster child for the team’s futility. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and he grounded into a double play. With Mark Teixeira still out for the forseeable future, A-Rod has to deliver with runners on base and stop stinking up the joint as he did Wednesday.
  • Jeter’s hit gave him 200 on the season which makes him the sixth oldest player in the majors to reach 200 hits in a season. He is the first player to reach 200 hits at age 38 since Paul Molitor did it in 1996. But he also failed two times with runners in scoring position to deliver the big hit. He left four runners on base and A-Rod left five.

BOMBER BANTER

Jeter returned to short in the second game of the doubleheader, his first start at the position in a week due to a nagging deep bone bruise in his left ankle. Jeter committed his 10th error of the season on a high throw to first after fielding a ball off the bat of Arencibia in the seventh inning.  . . .  The Yankees elected not to activate outfielder Brett Gardner from the disabled list. Gardner, who has missed most all of the season with a strained right elbow and elbow surgery, may be activated on Thursday but it will require the Yankees to make a move on their 40-man roster. They activated Andy Pettitte by moving pitcher Dellin Betances to the 60-day disabled list.

ON DECK

The Yankees will go for a sweep of their three-game series with the Blue Jays on Thursday.

Hughes (15-12, 3.96 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes is coming off 7 1/3 innings of shutout baseball in a victory over the Boston Red Sox last Thursday. He has a 3.24 ERA since June. He is 4-5 with a 4.66 ERA in his career against the Blue Jays.

The Blue Jays will start journeyman left-hander Aaron Laffey (3-5, 4.55 ERA). Laffey gave up three runs on four hits and four walks in just 3 2/3 innings against the Red Sox. He has lost his last four starts. He is 0-2 with a 9.56 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Andy Just Dandy As Yankees Stay Atop A.L. East

GAME 147

YANKEES 4, BLUE JAYS 2

Since June 27, Yankees manager Joe Girardi has been dreaming about the return of all five of his starters, including 40-year-old left-hander Andy Pettitte. On Wednesday afternoon he got his wish and what he got had to exceed even his expectations.

Pettitte threw five scoreless frames, giving up four hits and two walks in a workmanlike 75-pitch outing, as New York put up three runs in the first inning and made them hold up to defeat Toronto in the opener of a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium.

Pettitte (4-3) was making a comeback from a broken left fibula he suffered on a hard-hit comebacker by Casey Kotchman of the Cleveland Indians on June 27. Held to a pitch count of about 70 pitches, Pettitte stranded six Blue Jays by inducing ground ball outs to escape any damage. He also struck out three batters.

His most impressive inning was his last in which he retired Rajai Davis, Colby Rasmus and Brett Lawrie in order using only seven pitches.

The Yankees’ offense got busy early off Blue Jays right-hander Henderson Alvarez (9-13).

Ichiro Suzuki opened the frame with a solid single to right. Nick Swisher followed with a lined single up the middle and Robinson Cano scored Suzuki with line-drive double that Rasmus misjudged in center-field and allowed to bounce off the wall.

Alex Rodriguez scored Swisher and advanced Cano to third with an RBI grounder and Curtis Granderson drove in Cano with a sacrifice fly to center.

The 3-0 margin held up until the eighth inning when David Robertson again got smacked around by the Blue Jays.

Lawrie greeted him with a double off the wall in left-center and he advanced to third on a seeing-eye single by pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia that got past Jayson Nix at shortstop and rolled into left-field.

Pinch-hitter Kelly Johson then slapped a single into left to score Lawrie.

Robertson fanned Moises Sierra looking but veteran Omar Vizquel doubled into the corner in right to score Arencibia and advance Johnson to third.

Robertson fanned Adeiny Hechavarria looking and Girardi chose to bring in closer Rafael Soriano for what would be his sixth four-out save of the season.

Soriano walked rookie Anthony Gose to load the bases but Davis was retired on a sharp sinking line drive to left that Suzuki made a sliding grab on and barely held onto as the ball rolled up his right arm.

The Yankees added a crucial insurance run with two out in the bottom of the eighth inning off Blue Jays reliever Darren Oliver.

Suzuki started it by slapping a bloop ground-rule double just inside the line in shallow left-field that was just out of the reach of a diving Gose.

Swisher followed with a hot smash that snuck under the glove of Lawrie at third base and rolled into left to plate Suzuki.

Soriano retired the Blue Jays in order in the ninth, striking out two batters, to record his 41st save in 44 opportunities this season. What was left probably one-third of the paid crowd of 39,859 from last night’s rainout stood and cheered the clutch victory.

The Yankees, for the moment, pulled back ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East by a half game. Their season record is 83-63. The Blue Jays fell to 66-80.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • The Yankees got rolling in May when Pettitte joined CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Ivan Nova and that quartet was 30-5 over a stretch of a month and half before Pettitte was injured. Since then the Yankees have also lost Nova and Sabathia in certain stretches and their 10-game lead on June 18 shrunk to zero. But Pettitte showed he could still compete and he has two more starts to build up his stamina for the playoffs. I think the Yankees are breathing a lot easier than they were a few weeks ago.
  • Suzuki was 3-for-4 with a double and two runs scored to raise his season batting average to .272. His catch on Davis’ sinking liner in the eighth inning preserved the victory for Pettitte and Yankees. With Derek Jeter out of the lineup, Suzuki fulfilled his role as a the consummate table-setter at the top of the lineup and he threw in a game-saving catch to boot. The trade the Yankees made to obtain from the Mariners is starting to pay major dividends.
  • Swisher was 2-for-4 with a huge RBI single in the eighth that made the ninth inning more comfortable for Soriano and the Yankees. Swisher entered the contest in an 0-for-10 slide but he got a big hit when it counted.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The way Robertson is pitching lately has to concern the Yankees some. He was tagged for two runs on four hits two-thirds of inning and he is now 0-3 with a 7.88 ERA in his last 10 appearances. Although his overall ERA is still a respectable 2.98, Robertson has been far more hittable lately and the Yankees need him to shut down teams in the eighth to go anywhere in the postseason.
  • Swisher has played marvelous defense at first base for the most part but he actually made two errors on one play in the third inning. With Davis on first and one out, Lawrie hit a ball well off the bag at first. Swisher should have held the ball but attempted an awkward toss to Pettitte covering first and it rolled to the dugout screen to allow Davis to reach third. Pettitte bailed out Swisher by retiring Adam Lind on an inning-ending double-play ball.
  • The top three Yankee hitters in the lineup – Suzuki, Swisher and Cano – collected all seven of the Yankees’ hits in the game. The rest of the batting order was a combined 0-for-17. That is a big reason why Alvarez stayed in the game for seven innings despite giving up three runs in the first frame.

NOTE: The BOMBER BANTER and ON DECK features will appear in the post from the second game of the doubleheader.

 

Yankees Do ‘Little’ Things To Cloud Rays’ Horizon

GAME 146

YANKEES 6, RAYS 4

Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon out of necessity to cover for his team’s weak offense employs a combination of aggressive base-running, bunts and forces the opposition into making mistakes. There also is an old axiom of sports if that a team loves to employ a certain strategy they really hate it when you turn the tables on them.

The Yankees did just that on Sunday by frustrating the Rays with four stolen bases, two sacrifice bunts and they forced two errors as New York played a little “small ball” to send Tampa Bay out of Yankee Stadium with a series loss and pushed them a game further back in the pennant chase.

The Yankees batted around and scored five runs in the bottom of the third inning to send left-hander Matt Moore (10-11) to the showers early using two walks, two stolen bases, a sacrifice bunt, a wild pitch and finally a good old-fashioned home run to put the Rays in a deep hole early.

Eduardo Nunez sparked the uprising by drawing a leadoff walk and stealing second base after Moore had made four attempted pickoffs. Derek Jeter followed with a single into center in which center-fielder B.j. Upton’s throw was off-line, allowing Nunez to score and Jeter to take second.

Nick Swisher, on his own, laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Jeter to third and Alex Rodriguez singled up the middle through a drawn-in infield to score Jeter.

Moore compounded his misery by throwing a pitch in the dirt to Robinson Cano that got past catcher Jose Lobaton and allowed Rodriguez to take second. Rodriguez amped up the pressure by stealing third base and a frustrated Moore walked Cano on four pitches.

Moore then had Russell Martin down 0-2 in the count but Martin battled back to a 3-2 count before he slapped a four-seam fastball to the opposite field and it landed out of the reach of right-fielder Sam Fuld and into the first row of the bleachers in the short porch in right-field for Martin’s 17th home run of the season.

The damage left Moore pitched out, having thrown 45 pitches in the inning. It also gave Hiroki Kuroda (14-10) a nice cushion to work with.

Kuroda came out blazing against the Rays, striking out the side in the first two innings.

But Ben Zobrist nicked him for a solo home run to lead off the fourth inning. From there Kuroda sailed through the Rays’ lineup until the sixth inning.

The Yankees then used an error, two stolen bases, a walk and sacrifice fly to score an unearned run in their half of the fourth.

Nunez reached first after reliever Brandon Gomes misplayed his comebacker to the mound. Nunez then stole second and third base. Jeter walked and, one out later Rodriguez launched a sacrifice fly to the warning track in right-field to score Nunez.

Kuroda, meanwhile, was pitching a gem through five innings, having given up just the one run on two hits and he had walked no one and struck out nine. But he stumbled in the sixth.

The 37-year-old right-hander walked Lobaton to open the frame and Desmond Jennings followed with an infield single. Kuroda then walked Zobrist to load the bases.

Evan Longoria then hit a potential double-play grounder to Rodriguez at third but the ball took a big hop over his glove and two runs scored on the single as Zobrist raced to third.

Matt Joyce followed with an actual double-play grounder to score Zobrist, which drew the Rays to within two runs.

However, the Yankees bullpen shut the Rays down over the next three innings with rookie David Phelps striking out Jennings looking with runners at first and second and two out in the seventh to preserve the lead.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and Rafael Soriano came in to toss a scoreless ninth to pick up his 40th save in 43 chances this season.

How frustrating was the loss for the Rays? They drew two ejections.

Maddon was ejected from the game in the third inning after home-plate umpire Paul Emmel chose to warn both teams after Moore had thrown a pitch that buzzed over the head of Curtis Granderson two batters after Martin’s home run. When Maddon questioned Emmel’s warning he got the heave-ho.

Joyce was tossed from the game by Emmel after he struck out looking on a Robertson curveball to end the eighth inning.

With the victory the Yankees improved their season ledger to 83-62 and they also maintained their one-game lead in the American League East over the second-place Baltimore Orioles. The Rays are now 78-68. They are five games in back of the Yankees in the division and trail in the wild-card standings by four games.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nunez has brought back the one element the Yankees have been lacking all season: Speed on the bases. Nunez stole three bases in the game, which gives him 10 on the season. He is second on the team and he trails Rodriguez by three despite the fact he has been at Triple-A most of the season. Nunez is also hitting .294, which means he might be a more viable option as a right-handed DH then a slumping Andruw Jones.
  • Martin’s home run is part of a huge resurgence for him since Aug. 21. Martin is 19-for-67 (.283) in that span with four home runs and 14 RBIs. That has finally raised Martin’s season average over the “Mendoza line’ and he is now hitting .209. All Yankee fans can say to him is “It is about time, Russell.”
  • Kuroda’s line did not indicate just how well he pitched despite the sixth inning. He did give up four runs in six innings but Kuroda ended up giving up just four hits and two walks while he struck out 10. Unfortunately for him, both of those two walks ended up scoring. The bottom line is Kuroda is the true ace of the staff at this point of the season.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

I have been hoping for a game like this where there was some “small ball” mixed in with some long-ball. It was, for the most part, a well-pitched game and the Yankees were able to keep their lead in the division with the toughest part of their schedule now behind him. Nothing to criticize about that.

ON DECK

The Yankees will get a day to rest their bumps and bruises before resuming their homestand on Tuesday starting a three-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The atmosphere will be electric as left-hander Andy Pettitte (3-3, 3.22 ERA) will make his first start since he went on the disabled list on June 27 with a fractured left ankle. Pettitte will be limited to about 70 pitches. Over the past 10 years, Pettitte is 12-9 with a 4.84 ERA against the Blue Jays.

Left-hander Ricky Romero (8-14, 8.57 ERA) will start for the Jays. Romero is in the midst of a 13-game losing streak, which ties him with the franchise record for futility. He is 3-7 with a 5.00 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

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

 

Nova’s Star Reignited As Yankees Dim Rays’ Hopes

GAME 145

YANKEES 5, RAYS 3

So much of life seems to move in circles and Ivan Nova’s path to Saturday’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays certainly came full circle.

Nova reached the All-Star break 10-3 with a 3.92 ERA coming off a brilliant rookie season in which he was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA. But then came a surprisingly rapid decline in which he was 1-4 with a 7.28 ERA in his last eight starts and he ended up on the 15-day disabled list on Aug. 22 with inflammation of his right rotator cuff.

Nova, coming off the DL to make his first start in three weeks, was simply brilliant in pitching six-plus innings in front of a national television audience on FOX Sports as New York reclaimed sole possession of first place in the American League East with a clutch victory over Tampa Bay.

Nova (12-7) gave up two runs on just four hits and two walks and he struck out eight batters in an 85-pitch effort that drew a standing ovation from most of the paid crowd of 46,856 at Yankee Stadium as he left in the seventh inning.

The victory for the Yankees, coupled with the 5-2 loss of the Baltimore Orioles to the Oakland Athletics later on Saturday, allowed the Yankees to reclaim a one-game lead over the Orioles in the standings while the Rays dropped to four games back in third place.

The Yankees were able to get to Rays starter James Shields in the second inning.

Raul Ibanez opened the frame by drawing a walk and, one out later, Curtis Granderson timed a change-up and drove it deep into the bleachers in right-field for his 39th home run of the season.

Three pitches later, Eduardo Nunez smacked a high cutter into the stands in left-field to make it 3-0. Nunez, playing his third consecutive game for a hobbling Derek Jeter at shortstop, also had his season come full circle after being sent down to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on May 11 and being recalled on Sept. 1. For Nunez it was his first home run of the season.

The Yankees added a run off Shields (14-9) in the fifth inning with two out. Ichiro Suzuki, batting leadoff for the Yankees for only the second time since he was acquired for the Mariners on May 23, singled to left and stole second base. Jeter then drove in Suzuki with hot smash up the middle.

The Rays were finally able to get to Nova in the bottom of the sixth inning when Evan Longoria was able to launch a two-out solo home run into right-center.

Nova, returning with a very strict pitch count, left in the seventh after giving up a leadoff single to Jeff Keppinger.

Manager Joe Girardi elected to bring in Boone Logan. Logan retired pinch-hitter Ben Francisco on botched bunt attempt in which Logan was able to throw out Keppinger at second. However, Ryan Roberts stroked a double down the left-field line to advance Francisco to third.

Joba Chamberlain replaced Logan and promptly retired pinch-hitter Sam Fuld on a hard-hit ball that Chamberlain snagged on a high bounce and threw out Fuld to save two runs. Nonetheless, Chamberlain was tagged for a two-out, two-run single by pinch-hitter Luke Scott to cut the Yankees’ lead to a single run.

Chamberlain was able to escape further damage by striking out Desmond Jennings on an 0-2 curveball.

David Robertson pitched a perfect eighth and the Yankees added an insurance run in their half of the inning on a one-out double by Robinson Cano off lefty reliever Jake McGee and Alex Rodriguez followed with RBI single up the middle.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and he pitched around a Francisco single and walk to Carlos Pena to strike out pinch-hitter Elliot Johnson swinging for his 39th save in 42 opportunities this season.

With the victory the Yankees ran their season record to 82-63. The Rays are 78-67 and are finding their hopes of winning the division looking very bleak.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Though Nova refused to blame his weak second-half performance on his shoulder injury, it was obvious that something was definitely wrong with him. But 23 days of rest brought back Nova’s velocity and command of the strike zone. The Rays also might have had something to do with it. Nova is 5-1 with a 3.04 ERA in his eight career starts against the Rays.
  • Granderson is getting his home-run stroke back after a long slide at the plate. Gramderson has hit five home runs in his past six games. He is 7-for-22 (.318) with five home runs and 11 RBIs in that six-game span. After being benched for a few games against left-handers, it appears Granderson is starting to get hot again.
  • Rodriguez was 2-for-4 with a big RBI in the eighth inning. Since coming off the disabled list, Rodriguez is 14-for-47 (.298) with three home runs and nine RBIs. Only five of his 14 hits have been for extra bases but A-Rod appears to concentrating on making contact and hitting the ball where it is pitched rather then swinging for the fences.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The bullpen was a little leaky on Saturday. Chamberlain had been pitching much sharper of late but he was victimized by Scott’s single that allowed two inherited runners to score. Though Soriano and Roberston have had good seasons in the wake of the loss of future Hall of Fame closer Mariano Rivera, the rest of the bullpen has been a bit more inconsistent in the second half. They need to get better with the playoffs looming.
  • Eric Chavez was 0-for-3 in the game and he suddenly has fallen into a prolonged slump. Since Aug. 19, Chavez is 10-for-51 (.196) with no home runs and two RBIs. His season average has dropped from .305 t0 .283 in that span.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi said using Suzuki in the leadoff spot had to do with Suzuki’s success against Shields and was not something that will be happen frequently. Suzuki entered the game 14-for-46 (.307) against Shields. The move paid dividends because Suzuki was 1-for-3 off Shields with a stolen base and a run scored.  . . .  If his rehab continues without any setbacks, outfielder Brett Gardner could be activated from the disabled list next week. Gardner has only played in nine games this season and his return was delayed by surgery on his right elbow in July. Gardner is not able to swing a bat but he could be used as a pinch-runner and a defensive replacement in the outfield.

ON DECK

The Yankees can win the series against the Rays with a victory in the rubber game on Sunday.

In their final regular-season meeting with Rays the Yankees will send Hiroki Kuroda (13-10, 3.17 ERA) to the mound. Kuroda gave up three runs in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision the Yankees lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 6.17 ERA against the Rays.

The Rays will counter with rookie left-hander Matt Moore (10-10, 3.68 ERA). Moore gave up two runs in four innings in his last start against the Orioles. He is 2-1 with a 3.44 ERA against the Yankees.

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

 

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