Results tagged ‘ Brett Cecil ’
YANKEES 5, BLUE JAYS 4
The New York Yankees season is looking like the scene in the 1975 film classic “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when the Black Knight insisted on continuing his sword fight with the Green Knight despite having no limbs left and saying “I will bite your leg off.” The only difference is that the injury-riddled Yankees have a lot of bite left in them.
The Yankees’ knight in shining armor on Saturday was Travis Hafner and his bat was mightier than the sharpest sword. Hafner was given a rare start against a left-hander and proved to manager Joe Girardi he should have been starting against lefties all along.
Hafner blasted a three-run home in the fourth inning that drew the Yankees into a 3-3 tie and he added an RBI triple in the seventh inning that broke a 4-4 tie as New York defeated Toronto for a third straight game in front of a paid crowd of 40,258 at Yankee Stadium.
Despite not having his best stuff, CC Sabathia (4-2) pitched eight innings to win a fourth game in April for the first time in his 10 major-league seasons.
The Blue Jays opened a 1-0 lead on Sabathia by pushing a run across in the third on infield groundout by Rajai Davis following a one-out single by Maicer Izturis and a double by Emilio Bonifacio.
They added a run in the fourth on a leadoff home run by Jose Bautista.
Edwin Encarnacion followed Bautista’s home run with a single and he advanced to second on an infield groundout by J.P. Arencibia. He then advanced to third on a passed ball by Chris Stewart, who was playing in his first game as the new starting catcher replacing Francisco Cervelli.
Brett Lawrie then lofted a fly ball to medium right that Ichiro Suzuki caught and Suzuki fired a strike to home plate in time to nail Encarnacion, however, Stewart dropped the ball as he applied the tag, giving the Blue Jays a 3-0 lead.
The Yankees were able to get to left-hander J.A. Happ in the bottom of fourth when Vernon Wells and Kevin Youkilis, playing in his first game in a week, opened the frame by drawing walks. Hafner then launched a 2-1 fastball into the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center field for his sixth home run of the season.
Unfortunately, Sabathia coughed up another home run to begin the sixth inning when Lawrie connected for an opposite-field shot to right-center.
But Sabathia battled and did not allow a base-runner after the home run, retiring the final nine hitters he faced.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to rally in the seventh inning when Robinson Cano slapped a one-out double into right-field off right-hander Esmil Rogers (1-2) and Wells followed with an RBI single to center to score Cano with the tying run.
One out later, Jays manager John Gibbons replaced Rogers with left-hander Brett Cecil. Hafner, who was 0-for-11 lifetime off Cecil, then launched a fly ball to center that ticked off Davis’ glove at the wall in center-field for an RBI triple that scored Wells with the go-ahead run.
The injury-riddled Yankees also were without their two top relievers in David Robertson and Mariano Rivera because Girardi did not want to use them in a third consecutive game. So Girardi instead used Joba Chamberalin to close out the game in the ninth.
Despite giving up a one-out infield singles to both Izturis and Bonifacio, Chamberlain was able to retire Davis and Melky Cabrera for his first major-league save since the 2010 season.
With their third victory in a row the Yankees improved their season record to 14-9. The Blue Jays have sunk to 9-16.
- With Ben Francisco hitting a miserable .103, Girardi elected to start Hafner against a left-hander and it paid off big-time. Hafner was 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs and he is now hitting .309 with six home runs and 14 RBIs. His 14 RBIs are now second on the club behind Cano’s 17.
- Wells was 1-for-3 with an RBI and two runs scored as he continues his assault on his former team. Wells is 13-for-29 (.448) with three home runs and six RBIs in six games against the Blue Jays this season. For the Yankees, Wells is hitting .309 with six home runs and 12 RBIs.
- Cano is also continuing his hot streak. He was 2-for-4 with a run scored on Saturday and is 28-for-72 (.389) with seven homers and 17 RBIs since April 8.
- Stewart is kind of a mixed bag as a starting catcher. Though he threw out two base-stealers on Friday he has committed two passed balls in consecutive games and his dropping of Suzuki’s perfect peg to home plate to get Encarnacion in the fourth inning was inexcusable. It hurt Suzuki and Sabathia and it cost the team a run. He better have thanked Hafner after the game for bailing him out.
- I hate to pick on Youkilis but he returned to the lineup in the midst of a slump and he was the only starter without a hit in the game. He is now 3-for-31 (.097) in his last eight starts. In addition, Youkilis is just 1-for-21 against left-handers this season! You would think Youkilis would be smashing lefties but he is not. He needs to start doing it and soon.
- Sabathia gave up four runs (three earned) on nine hits and no walks while he struck out four in eight innings. Though he won the game, Sabathia looked very pedestrian at times. He also has given up five home runs in last two starts and that is very much not like the veteran ace left-hander.
Cervelli was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a broken right hand on Saturday and rookie catcher Austin Romine was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to replace him on the roster. Cervelli underwent successful surgery on his hand on Saturday and he is will miss a minimum of six weeks. Romine was 14-for-42 (.333) with a home run and four RBIs in 14 games with Scranton. Girardi said he will play matchups in deciding between Stewart and Romine as starters. . . . The Yankees also placed right-hander Ivan Nova on the 15-day disabled list with inflammation in his right triceps. Nova, who was 1-1 with a 6.48 ERA in four starts, was replaced on the roster by left-hander Vidal Nuno, who was the rookie sensation of spring training. Nuno was 2-0 with a 1.54 ERA in four starts at Scranton and he will join Boone Logan as a second left-hander in the bullpen. Girardi said David Phelps will replace Nova in the starting rotation. Because Nuno was not on the 40-man roster the Yankees were forced to shift Derek Jeter to the 60-day disabled list in order to call him up.
The Yankees will go for a very rare four-game sweep of their home series against the Blue Jays on Sunday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 5.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes pitched seven innings of two-run baseball against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday but he did not get a decision. He is 5-5 with a 5.03 ERA lifetime against Toronto.
Hughes will be opposed by reigning National League Cy Young Award winner R.A. Dickey (2-3, 4.66 ERA). Despite tightness in his upper neck and back, Dickey is 2-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his last three starts. He is 3-1 with a 3.13 ERA against the Yankees in his career.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 9, BLUE JAYS 4
A lot of the experts predicted the Toronto Blue Jays would win the American League East in 2013 and that the injury-riddled New York Yankees would finish in last place. I wonder after watching Friday’s game at Roger’s Centre if those so-called “experts” feel the same way.
Andy Pettitte showed no signs of any problems with his back in pitching into the eighth inning and the Yankees teed off on the Blue Jays for three home runs - two of them by former Blue Jays - as New York pounded Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 40,028.
Pettitte (3-0) gave up three runs on six hits and one walk while he struck out five in 7 1/3 innings to notch his 23rd career victory against the Blue Jays. The 40-year-old left-hander had not pitched in 10 days because his spot in the rotation was skipped due to back spasms.
Meanwhile, the Yankees were able to build Pettitte a huge lead early against right-hander Brandon Morrow (0-2).
The Yankees scored two runs in the opening frame on Travis Hafner’s RBI double and a RBI groundout off the bat of former Blue Jays Vernon Wells.
They added three more runs in the third inning on Hafner’s fifth home run of the season and a two-base throwing on Toronto center-fielder Colby Rasmus that allowed two unearned runs to score.
The Yankees finally chased Morrow in the sixth when former Blue Jay Lyle Overbay led off with a solo home run and Francisco Cervelli slapped an opposite-field ground-rule double.
Jays manager John Gibbons replaced Morrow with left-hander Brett Cecil and Brett Gardner greeted him with an RBI triple. Robinson Cano then scored Gardner and on an RBI groundout to make the score 8-1.
Wells, who was booed heavily by Blue Jays fans each time he was introduced, closed out the scoring for the Yankees by slapping a line-drive home run to left off Cecil in the seventh.
Morrow gave up seven runs (five earned) on nine hits and one walk and he struck out four in 5 1/3 innings of work.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 9-6. The Blue Jays fell to 7-10.
- Hafner’s early-season hot streak continued on Friday. He was 2-for-5 with a double, a home run, a run scored and two RBIs. He now leads in the team in hitting with a .349 average. He also is tied for the team lead in home runs with Cano with five and second to Cano in RBIs with 10.
- Wells and Overbay came back to the Rogers Centre with a vengeance. They were a combined 3-for-10 with a single, two home runs and three RBIs. Both were booed heavily throughout the game by the fans that used to cheer them. But they both also got a measure of revenge of against the team for which they used to toil.
- Pettitte did give up a leadoff triple to Rajai Davis that led to an RBI groundout by Melky Cabrera in the inning. He also gave up a two-run home run to Jose Bautista in the seventh following a Cabrera single. But the rest of night he was in command. He threw only 90 pitches on the night and 61 of them were strikes (68 percent). He also lowered his season ERA to 2.01.
- Kevin Youkilis was 0-for-4 and he is in a bit of batting slump over his past six games. He is 3-for-25 (.120) with no home runs or RBIs. That has lowered his season average from .424 to .293.
- Eduardo Nunez is also in a bit of a batting funk. He was 0-for-4 and his season average is at .206. Nunez got the news on Thursday that he will have a chance to start at shortstop until Derek Jeter returns after the All-Star break but he might lose the role to Jayson Nix if he does not produce.
- Shawn Kelley came in to pitch the final 1 2/3 innings and he could not resist giving up a solo home run to J. P. Arencibia with two outs in the ninth. Kelley has been tagged for four home runs in just seven innings over five appearances this season. His season ERA is 9.00.
For those baseball experts who thought the Yankees would be in big trouble without Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson on the disabled list and with free agents like Nick Swisher, Russell Martin, Raul Ibanez and Eric Chavez elsewhere here is a statistic for you to chew on. The Yankees lead the American League with 25 homers.
The Yankees will continue their weekend three-game series in Toronto on Saturday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 2.87 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda is coming off a complete-game shutout against the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. He gave up five hits, walked none and fanned five. Kuroda, 38, is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA lifetime against the Jays.
The Jays will counter with left-hander Mark Buehrle (1-0, 7.31 ERA). Buehrle shut down his former Chicago White Sox teammates on just two runs for his first victory of the season. He is 1-8 with a 6.38 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:07 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 3, BLUE JAYS 0
It is an old adage but it has always proved true: Good pitching and timely hitting are a perfect recipe for baseball success.
David Phelps pitched five excellent scoreless innings and Juan Rivera was 3-for-4 including a bases-clearing double in the fifth inning as New York shut out Toronto on Sunday at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Phelps (2-1) continued to stake his strong claim to the No. 5 starter spot by surrendering only three hits and a walk while striking out three batters to get credit for the victory.
Rivera’s bases-loaded double came off losing pitcher Brett Cecil (1-2) after the veteran left-hander had walked Brett Gardner, Blue Jays shortstop Mike McCoy botched a potential double play grounder off the bat of Jayson Nix and Cecil also issued a free pass to Kevin Youkilis.
The victory snapped the Yankees’ four-game spring losing streak and improved the Grapefruit League record to 4-11. The Blue Jays are now 7-8.
- Phelps, 26, is making it down-right impossible for manager Joe Girardi to send him to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. In his four spring starts, Phelps is 2-1 with 0.64 ERA with six strikeouts in 14 innings. Phelps is battling right-hander Ivan Nova, 26, for the final rotation spot. The loser could land in the bullpen, although Nova has virtually no experience as a reliever.
- Rivera’s 3-for-4 day with a double and three RBIs improved his spring batting average to .346 and it is looking like he is going to win a spot on the 25-man roster. Rivera is primarily an outfielder but Girardi has been using him at first base as a potential fill-in for Mark Teixeira when the season starts.
- Youkilis was 1-for-2 with a double and a walk on Sunday. His first-inning double was his first hit of the spring and his first with the Yankees. He entered the contest 0-for-9. Youkilis also has been impressive fielding his position at third base. Though Youkilis won a Gold Glove with the Red Sox as a first baseman in 2007 there does not seem to be any thought of moving him there in Teixeira’s absence.
After going 3-11 in the first part of spring the Yankees finally put together a game in which they scored on a big hit with the bases loaded, they did not allow a run and they did not commit an error in the field. So I am not going to mention anything negative. Perhaps things will start looking up now.
Ace left-hander CC Sabathia, who has been recovering from surgery to remove a bone spur in his left elbow, will make his Grapefruit League debut on Friday at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL. Sabathia, 32, threw about 50 pitches in a simulated game in Tampa on Sunday and he will be on about a 65 pitch count on Friday. . . . Left-hander Boone Logan threw some pitches off flat ground and also threw some in the bullpen on Sunday. Logan has been bothered by soreness in his left elbow. He is scheduled to threw a few more bullpen sessions and one batting practice session before he will be ready to return to game action. Girardi said Logan is still on track to be ready by Opening Day. . . . Derek Jeter, who made his spring debut on Saturday, will play on Monday and again will serve as the designated hitter. Jeter hopes to be able to play shortstop in a game on Wednesday.
The Yankees will be at home on Monday to face the St. Louis Cardinals.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda, 38, will make his second official start of the spring for the Yankees. His last start was Wednesday against the Dominican Republic team from the World Baseball Classic. He pitched three shutout innings in that exhibition game.
Kuroda will be opposed by right-hander Lance Lynn.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast live by ESPN.
YANKEES 9, BLUE JAYS 6
Through the course of a 162-game season, teams have to go through many difficult tests to prove their worthy of moving on to the playoffs. On Sunday, the Yankees were down 5-1 to Blue Jays after five innings in a game the Yankees desperately needed to win.
Somehow and someway they got off the mat and scored one of their most crucial victories of the season in front of a paid crowd of 31,418 at Rogers Centre.
The Yankees benefitted from a wild pitch to tally a run in the sixth, tied it with three runs in the eighth (the tying run scoring on another wild pitch) and Eduardo Nunez hit a sacrifice fly to deep left to score Curtis Granderson with the tie-breaking run in the eighth as New York came back from the brink of despair to down Toronto and clinch their 17th playoff spot over the past 18 seasons.
The victory also allowed the Yankees to maintain a first-place tie in the American League East with the Baltimore Orioles, who completed a three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox.
The heroic comeback began in the sixth when Robinson Cano led off with a double and he advanced to third on Nick Swisher’s line-drive single to right off Blue Jays starter Henderson Alvarez. With Granderson at the plate, Alvarez tossed 1-2 pitch into the dirt past catcher J.P. Arencibia to allow Cano to score.
The Yankees opened the seventh against lefty reliever Brett Cecil with a lined single by Eric Chavez, who had accounted for the Yankees’ first run of the game in the third with a solo home run, his 16th of the season.
Manager John Farrell replaced Cecil with right-hander Steve Delabar and Derek Jeter greeted him with a ground-rule double down the right-field line to chase Chavez to third. Ichiro Suzuki scored Chavez with a sacrifice fly to center.
Alex Rodriguez then battled back from 0-2 count to draw a walk and Cano laced a double into deep right to score Jeter and advance Rodriguez to third.
Farrell replaced Delabar with left-hander Aaron Loup and, with Swisher at the plate, Loup tossed a slider into the dirt past Arencibia to allow Rodriguez to tack on the tying run.
The Yankees hoped the rally would continue with Cano on third and one out, but Swisher laced a bullet line-drive that Yunel Escobar caught with a dive to his right and he threw to Brett Lawrie at third to double up Cano.
But the Yankees were not through by any stretch.
In the eighth, Granderson drew a leadoff walk from veteran left-hander Darren Oliver (3-4) and Raul Ibanez followed it by lashing a single into right, forcing Farrell to replace Oliver with right-hander Brandon Lyon.
Russell Martin slapped a sacrifice bunt to Lawrie at third to advance Granderson and pinch-runner Brett Gardner and Nunez hit the very next pitch to deep right and right-fielder Moises Sierra made a spectacular grab of the ball before it reached the wall. However, it was plenty deep enough to score Granderson and give the Yankees their first lead in the game.
Jeter provided insurance by dropping a sinking liner into right to score Gardner.
The Yankees even added a pair of runs in the ninth by loading the bases with no outs against veteran right-hander Jason Frasor and Granderson laced a two-run single into right to give the Yankees a seemingly “comfortable” 9-5 lead. The RBIs for Granderson gave him exactly 100 on the season.
While the Yankees did not receive much in the way of pitching from 16-game winner Phil Hughes, the bullpen pitched well enough to allow the Yankees to make their comeback.
Hughes was tagged for five runs on eight hits and two walks while he struck out four batters in 4 2/3 innings.
Veteran sinker specialist Derek Lowe relieved Hughes in the fifth after Hughes gave up three runs on five hits and left the game with runners on first and third and two out. But Lowe ended the inning by getting Arencibia on a flyout.
Lowe then retired the next four batters he faced on groundouts before Boone Logan (7-2) came with one out in the seventh and he retired the side despite issuing a two-out walk to Escobar.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth, which set up the Yankees hoped would be a routine ninth with Rafael Soriano on to close it out.
However, anyone who has followed this tortuous and trying season with the Yankees knows there is no such thing as routine when it comes to the Yankees and their victories.
Lawrie opened the frame with a single and Rajai Davis added his ninth hit of the series with a single to center. Soriano then walked Colby Rasmus to load the bases.
But Soriano was able to induce Escobar to hit into a double-play, which scored Lawrie but left the Yankees with just one out to get. Soriano then retired Adam Lind on a groundout from Cano to Swisher to end the game.
The Yankees collected on the field to celebrate but it was a subdued one. They are waiting to really celebrate when they win the division.
The Yankees are 92-67 – as are the Orioles. But they also are one game behind the Texas Rangers for the best record in the American League. The Blue Jays, who seemed to play this series to a tie as if their lives were on the line, fell to just 70-89, 21 games back in fourth place in the division.
- Nunez’s sacrifice fly was huge and it could not have happened to a more deserving player. Nunez battled his way back from a demotion to Triple-A and a thumb injury to come back with vengeance since his Sept. 1 recall. He has driven in runs in three of his last four games and there is a good possibility that the Yankees might use him as a right-handed designated hitter in the playoffs over outfielder Andruw Jones.
- After slumping much of September, it appears Cano is getting back on track at the plate. He was 3-for-5 with two doubles, one RBI and two runs scored. He now has a six-game hitting streak in which he is 15-for-24 (.625) with five RBIs. With Mark Teixeira out of the lineup and Alex Rodriguez scuffling all month, Cano pretty much has had to produce for the Yankees to have a chance to win.
- Lowe stopped the bleeding in the fifth and retired all five batters he faced. Though Lowe got cuffed around pretty good in his first eight appearances (0-1 with a 5.79 ERA), he has pitched much better over his last eight appearances (0-0 with a 1.46 ERA). There is a good chance Lowe could make the postseason roster over Freddy Garcia because he has more value out of the bullpen.
- Hughes did not pitch very well at all. But the Blue Jays are a bad matchup for a flyball pitcher like Hughes. The Blue Jays scored two off Hughes in the first, keyed by a one-out double by Escobar. Lawrie tagged him for a two-run homer in the fifth, the 28th Hughes has given up this season. Sierra chased him with an RBI single later in the fifth. Hughes is 1-1 with a 7.16 ERA in his last three starts. This is not how Hughes wanted to enter the playoffs.
- Soriano’s shaky ninth was a bit of a concern. But you have to chalk that up to the fact that he has only pitched one-third of an inning overt the past week because he has not gotten save opportunities in the games the Yankees have won in that stretch. His last save was on Sept. 19 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays.
- Lost in the excitement over the victory is the fact the Yankees did not take full advantage of their situation in the sixth after Alvarez uncorked a wild pitch to allow Cano to score. Granderson was up with Swisher at second but he grounded out to Alvarez, which was an unproductive out. Ibanez grounded out weakly to Lind at first and Martin struck out swinging. This is a microcosm of the Yankees’ season. They blow a lot of chances to score runs by not delivering with runners in scoring position.
Girardi said Teixeira will start at first base on Monday for the Yankees in his first action since he reinjured his left calf on Sept. 8. Teixiera worked out in Tampa, FL, on Sunday after playing the previous day in an Instructional League game and he reported no issues with his injured calf. Teixeira will see the team physician in New York on Monday and he is expected to be cleared to play. . . . Nunez will make the postseason roster because reserve infielder Jayson Nix is expected to miss the next 10 to 14 days with a strained left hip flexor. Nix sustained the injury during Thursday’s game against the Blue Jays. . . . The Yankees continue to have Ivan Nova penciled in as the starter for Tuesday’s game but no definite word has been issued. Nova is 1-1 with a 6.23 ERA in his three starts since coming off the disabled list.
The division title is on the line and the Yankees will have to beat the “Dead” Sox to win it over the last three games.
Ace lefty CC Sabathia (14-6, 3.42 ERA) will open the series. Sabathia is coming off an impressive outing in which he gave up two runs on six hits and struck out 10 in eight dominant innings against the Minnesota Twins. He is 7-9 with a 4.35 ERA lifetime against the Red Sox.
Clay Buchholz (11-7, 4.22 ERA) will start for the last-place Red Sox. Buchholz gave up four runs on eight hits and two walks over six innings in loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in his last start. He is 2-4 with 5.84 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 1
When CC Sabathia was placed on the 15-day disabled list after a June 24 start against the Mets with a strained left groin, the Yankees were 43-28 and 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. After Sabathia completely shut down the Toronto Blue Jays for six innings on Tuesday the Yankees are 56-34 and lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by 9 1/2 games.
Nothing can be better than stretching your division lead with your ace on the shelf, except when you get your ace back and win your eighth game out your last 10.
Sabathia shut out Toronto on four hits and a walk and struck out six over six innings and Andruw Jones hit a three-run home run in the second inning to stake him to an early lead as New York clinched its three-game series with a victory over Toronto in front of a paid crowd of 44,975 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (10-3) entered the game with a 12-3 career record against the Blue Jays and he was 7-0 in his last eight starts against them.
Jones provided all the runs Sabathia really needed when he followed a leadoff single by Robinson Cano and a walk to Nick Swisher with a line-drive shot into the left-field corner bleachers off left-hander Brett Cecil (2-2) for his 12th home run of the season.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was mixing his fastball, slider and change-up to throw 66 strikes in 87 pitches (76 percent).
Cecil settled in after Jones’ homer and held the Yankees to just two more hits before he left having given up three runs on six hits and two walks while he fanned five batters in his six innings of work.
However, the Yankees took advantage of the Blue Jays’ inexperienced bullpen in the seventh inning.
Jayson Nix opened the frame with a leadoff single off rookie right-hander Sammy Dyson. After failing to get a bunt down, Chris Stewart bounced a high hopper down the left-field line past third baseman Brett Lawrie and the ball rolled into the left-field corner.
Nix was able to score on the double and Stewart advanced to third on an errant throw from left-fielder Rajai Davis.
Derek Jeter then laced a double down the right-field line to score Stewart.
Curtis Granderson reached on a single and Mark Teixeira drew a walk to load the bases. Then Alex Rodriguez completed the Yankees’ scoring by driving in Jeter on fielder’s choice groundout.
The Blue Jays spoiled the shutout by scoring a run in the eighth off reliever Chad Qualls on a leadoff double by Jeff Mathis, a flyout by Davis that advanced Mathis to third and he scored on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Colby Rasmus.
Qualls, who currently has a 6.75 ERA in his 6 2/3 innings of work with the Yankees, started off the ninth by giving up a leadoff double to Edwin Encarnacion and a one-out walk to Yunel Escobar.
Manager Joe Girardi then pulled Qualls in favor of left-hander Clay Rapada, who then botched an attempted bunt by rookie Anthony Gose for an infield single that loaded the bases.
Girardi then summoned closer Rafael Soriano, who induced pinch-hitter J.P. Arencibia to hit into line-drive unassisted double play to Teixeira to end the game and earn Soriano’s 24th save of the season.
By scoring six runs on Tuesday, the Yankees set a franchise record by scoring three or more runs in 41 consecutive games.
With the loss, the Blue Jays fell to 45-46, 11 1/2 games behind the Yankees.
- Sabathia was in command and likely could have pitched longer if Girardi had not chosen to play it safe with his pitch count. Sabathia is now 10-3 with a 3.27 ERA and still has a very good chance to win 20 games for the second time in his career.
- Jones was 0-for-9 in his previous at-bats against Cecil until he laid into a fastball and drove it on a line into the left-field seats. Jones has only 28 bats in July and is hitting .286 with five home runs and nine RBIs.
- Cano’s single leading off the second inning extended his career-high hitting streak to 20 games. In that span he is 32-for-79 (.405) with six home runs and 20 RBIs.
- From June 16 through July 7, Cory Wade gave up 16 runs on 21 hits and three walks in six innings for a 24.00 ERA, which got him demoted to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. His replacement Qualls is about to join him if he keeps pitching the way he did on Tuesday. In his six appearances with the Yankees he has given up five runs on 10 hits and two walks in 6 2/3 innings. The fact that he was unable to give Girardi the confidence he could hold a 6-1 lead in the ninth proves all you need to know. He is on a real short leash now.
In order for the Yankees to activate Sabathia from the 15-day disabled list on Tuesday they decided to designate outfielder Darnell McDonald for assignment. McDonald played in four games with the Yankees and was hitless in four at-bats since he was claimed off waivers on July 5 from the Boston Red Sox.
The Yankees will be going for a three-game sweep of the Blue Jays on Wednesday.
Veteran right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (8-7, 3.67 ERA) will take the mound for the Yankees. Kuroda surrendered five runs on eight hits and one walk in 7 1/3 innings in his last start on Friday against the Los Angels Angels. Kuroda actually pitched better than the numbers show because he only gave up two runs in the first six innings before he ran out of gas in the seventh. Kuroda is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA against the Blue Jays.
Left-hander Ricky Romero (8-5, 5.03 ERA) will start for the Blue Jays. Romero gave up only one run on six hits and two walks in six innings against the Cleveland Indians on Friday but lost 1-0 to Justin Masterson. He is 3-4 with a 4.02 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
YANKEES 6, BLUE JAYS 3
With the bases loaded and two out in the eighth inning, the Yankees had Raul Ibanez striding to the plate carrying an 0-for-11 mark this season with the bases loaded. Well, after Monday’s game he is now 1-for-12 with a grand slam home run.
Ibanez’s dramatic blast off Jason Frasor broke a 2-2 tie and gave New York a hard-fought victory over Toronto to win their seventh of their last nine games in front a paid crowd of 42,819 at Yankee Stadium.
David Robertson (1-3) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to pick up his first victory of the season. Rafael Soriano came in the ninth to get the last two outs to notch his 23rd save in 24 chances this season.
With the game tied in the bottom of the eighth, Alex Rodriguez stroked a one-out single to left off reliever Aaron Loup (0-1) and advanced to second a passed ball by J.P. Arencibia. Robinson Cano then hit a single up the middle that second baseman Kelly Johnson was able to keep in the infield for a single.
Blue Jays manager John Farrell removed Loup in favor of Frasor, who hit Mark Teixeira in the right foot on a 2-2 pitch to load the bases.
Nick Swisher, who struck out looking with the bases loaded and two out in the first inning, did the same thing in the eighth, leaving it all up to Ibanez.
Frasor got behind in the count 3-1 before serving up a room-service fastball that Ibanez was able to drive deep into the second deck in right-field for his 12th home run of the season. It was also his 10th career grand slam but his first for the Yankees.
The Yankees broke out to an early 2-0 lead on the Jays on the strength of an opposite field solo home run with two out in the second inning by Russell Martin and Rodriguez and Cano hit to back-to-back one out doubles in the third inning off Jays starter Henderson Alvarez.
However, the Jays were able to claw back against Yankees starter Phil Hughes on a two-out solo home run by Adam Lind in the fourth and Edwin Encarnacion blasted a one-out double to the wall to score Jose Bautista from first to tie the game up in the sixth inning.
Hughes gave up two runs on four hits and three walks and struck out four over seven innings.
Alvarez coughed up two runs on five hits and four walks and struck out a career-high six batters in his six innings of work.
With the victory the Yankees improved their major-league-best record to 55-34. They also hold a commanding nine-game lead over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Blue Jays dropped to 45-45 in last place in the division and trailing the Yankees by 10 1/2 games.
- After slumping through June, when he hit only .162 with two home runs and seven RBIs, Ibanez has started off July going 8-for-25 (.320) with a home run and five RBIs. Ibanez is hitting .242 with 12 home runs and 40 RBIs on the season and he is playing more games in left-field than he was expected to play.
- Cano’s RBI double in the third inning extended his hitting streak to a career-high 19 games. During that span, Cano is 31-for-75 (.413) with six home runs and 20 RBIs. Cano is hitting .321 with 21 home runs and 55 RBIs this season. Cano also made a spectacular play on a hard-hit ball off the bat of Colby Rasmus to lead off the seventh inning. The ball caromed off the glove of Teixeira but Cano was able to grab the carom and throw to Robertson covering first to nip Rasmus.
- Rodriguez popped up to first with the bases loaded and two out in a 10-8 loss to the Angels on Sunday but he was 2-for-4 on Monday and scored two runs. Rodriguez has actually collected hits in seven of the last eight games in which he has started and is 11-for-35 (.314) during that span. He may not be hitting for much power but he has raised his season average to .273.
- Swisher was 1-for-4 and left a total of seven runners on base in the game. After hitting a robust .321 with four home runs and 14 RBIs in June, Swisher is slumping badly in July. He is 7-for-37 (.189) with one home runs and five RBIs. He also has struck 14 times in his 37 at-bats.
- Derek Jeter had an unusual 0-for-4 night and only got one ball out of the infield. Jeter entered the game with a modest four-game hitting streak but he is still hitting .364 in his last 10 games and .340 in July.
- Dewayne Wise was inserted into the game in the ninth for Ibanez in left-field as a defensive replacement. However, Wise kicked away the ball on a bloop single off the bat of Arencibia in the ninth that allowed Johnson to score a run and force Soriano to get the last two outs while those batters represented the potential tying run.
The ongoing Brett Gardner right elbow rehab saga has taken another ugly turn for the worse. Gardner took four at-bats in a simulated game in Tampa, FL, on Sunday and felt soreness in his elbow. Gardner has been on the disabled since April 17 after he injured his right elbow making a diving catch. He has come close to completing two rehab stints before feeling pain in his elbow and having to shut the process down. It is now unclear how long Gardner will be out. . . . Rodriguez was scheduled to play third on Monday but complained a slightly stiff neck and he was shifted to designated hitter. Eric Chavez played third base for the Yankees and was 0-for-3 with a walk. . . . Mariano Rivera said on Monday that it could be possible he may not be out for the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Rivera told Michael Kay on ESPN Radio that his rehab is going so well that he possibly could return in September.
The Yankees will continue their three-game series with Blue Jays on Tuesday.
CC Sabathia (9-3, 3.45 ERA) will make his first start since he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained left groin. As a result, Sabathia was unable to pitch in the 2012 All-Star Game, though he was selected to the team. In his 16 career starts against the Blue Jays, Sabathia is 12-3 with a 3.16 ERA.
Opposing Sabathia will be left-hander Brett Cecil (2-1, 6.75 ERA). Cecil surrendered seven runs in 4 1/3 innings in his last start against the Chicago White Sox. He is 4-3 with a 3.96 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast locally by MY9.
Today marks the beginning of the 2012 season for the New York Yankees. After a 33-game spring schedule, the team took shape. How will they finish in the American League East? What about the other teams in the division? How will they do this season? Let’s take a look.
Last season marked a titanic shift in the division.
After the Boston Red Sox recorded the biggest implosion in major-league history in September, they are no longer looked upon as an elite in this division. The loss of general manager Theo Epstein and the decision to blame Terry Francona for the team’s demise were bad enough.
But the real shock was to watch the Red Sox take a different approach to trying to fix the team this winter. Instead of just going out and aggressively signing the best free agents available and making bold trades to infuse new blood, the Bosox actually started a coupon-clipping method of solving their problems.
The big names that could have helped them went elsewhere and the Red Sox found that their once-vaunted minor-league system was bereft of immediate-impact talent.
They begin the 2012 season with one of the most important positions on the team left n the hands of someone inexperienced.
If ever this was a microcosm of the Red Sox problems this is it. They allowed Jonathan Papelbon to walk away via free agency. Maligned for his foibles and his occasional blown saves, Papelbon was still an important piece of the success of the franchise. The fans and the press treatment of him bit the team in the rear end.
To replace him the Red Sox traded for Andrew Bailey of the Oakland A’s, a competent closer who at the same time has had a series of arm ailments that have slowed his development. At the end of spring training, Bailey came up with a thumb injury that will require surgery to repair. He will miss two months – at least.
The Red Sox also traded for Houston Astros closer Mark Melancon. The conventional wisdom was Melanco would replace Bailey. After all, why trade for a closer if he is not going to close? But new manager Bobby Valentine announced that jack-of-all-trades (and master of none) reliever Alfredo Aceves would close instead.
Welcome to Red Sox Nation’s worst nightmare. On Opening Day, Aceves coughed the winning run in a non-save situation.
If there is anyone out there who honestly believes this team can win the A.L. East, I want to know what you are smoking.
There are only two elite teams in this division and they are the Yankees and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The Rays had an interesting spring where they played a lot like the some of the teams in 1960s like the Dodgers and White Sox, who were so deep in pitching talent they shut out any team. However, at the same time, the offense is so bad that scoring runs is going to take some real effort.
Don’t get me wrong. The Rays and manager Joe Maddon have ways of scoring. Carlos Pena may struggle to keep his average around .190 but he will likely hit 30 home runs. Evan Longoria, surrounded by lightweights, will be pitched around and his average will suffer also. But he will win his share of 2-1 games with home runs.
Desmond Jennings, B.J. Upton and the rest of Rays also use their feet to create havoc on the bases. That will get them their share of runs at times. But the old adage “You can’t steal first base” comes into play. The Rays have to reach base in order to steal bases. This team also lacks the athleticism past teams had when Carl Crawford was here.
How many bases will catcher Jose Molina steal? I rest my case.
No, the Rays’ sole means of winning comes with their starting rotation. James Shields, David Price, Jeremy Hellickson, Matt Moore and Jeff Niemann are the center of the ballclub. The Rays have attempted to build a bullpen around them but they begin the season with their closer, Kyle Farnsworth, on the disabled list with a sore elbow.
That is huge red flag to me.
Could you say that the Yankees would be favored to win a championship with Mariano Rivera on the DL and expected to miss two months like Bailey? How about if Rivera complained he had a sore elbow?
Nope. No matter how stacked your pitching staff is you have to have a closer and Farnsworth is the best the Rays had in 2011. If he is lost for a long period of time, it puts pressure on Maddon to “shorten” his bullpen. That means keeping his starters on the mound longer than most managers would allow.
That exposes them to possibly losing close games because starters do run out of steam at some point. While a manager like Charlie Manuel might take Cliff Lee out after 121 pitches because he has Papelbon and a deep bullpen, Maddon may say let’s let Price get out of this in the eighth because I do not think J.P. Howell has been effective lately.
It becomes a slippery slope and you start lengthening and lengthening your starters until they begin wearing down.
That is my concern with the Rays.
In addition, they do not have the money and means to ever go to a Plan B. What they have on the roster has to work or they fall.
One team that intrigues me is the Blue Jays.
They already have Jose Bautista. You add to that third baseman Brett Lawrie and a bunch of guys who hit the ball hard and you have the makings of a great offense. Too bad the Rays do not have this offense.
The Blue Jays will put a lot of runs on the board. They have a lot of power and line-drive hitters top to bottom in the lineup.
However, their pitching revolves around Ricky Romero and Brandon Morrow. Brett Cecil has been sent to the minors and Dustin McGowan’s comeback has been slowed by injury. Their bullpen does have a closer in Sergio Santos they stole from the White Sox and a former closer in Francisco Cordero they signed from the Reds.
If manager Jon Farrell can piece enough starters to go six, the Blue Jays just might have what it take to pass the Red Sox in third place in this division. Stranger things have happened.
The one given in the division is where the Orioles will finish. Mismanagement, bad luck and foolish spending have really derailed this franchise.
Buck Showalter is a good manager but this team is mired with problems. The young pitching the Orioles counted on has failed to take the big leap forward they expected.
They made big bets on players like Brian Roberts, Nick Markakis and Adam Jones and they have underwhelmed. They lack a big bopper like a Bautista who can change a game. Instead, they can build around emerging star catcher Matt Wieters.
That just about sums up the Orioles.
Now we come to the Yankees.
They won 97 games last season despite the fact Alex Rodriguez played in 99 games, only Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano had good seasons with the bat and their rotation contained Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon.
How many will they win when they get a healthy season out of Rodriguez, more of their hitters have better seasons with the bat and a rotation that now has Hiroki Kuroda, Andy Pettitte, a healthy Phil Hughes to go along with ace lefty CC Sabathia?
Their bullpen even without Joba Chamberlain is loaded with Rivera closing like he always has at age 42 and David Robertson and Rafael Soriano shortening games to six innings.
The team has closed the pitching gap with the Rays and their offense is simply the best in the division. Add to that the division’s best bullpen and a veteran bench and you have the makings of another A.L. East title for the team in the Bronx.
I have not seen evidence that would contradict the premise. The only thing that could derail the Yankees is the age of the team. Injuries also are a great equalizer. But, other than a bad spate of injuries there is nothing that will stop this team in 2012.
Here is the predicted order of finish:
1) New York Yankees
2) Tampa Bay Rays (Wild Card)
3) Toronto Blue Jays
4) Boston Red Sox
5) Baltimore Orioles
If this order holds up, look for Valentine to be scanning the help wanted ads in October. He already has the team hating him. If it gets much worse he might be scanning those ads in July.
BLUE JAYS 6, YANKEES 1
OK, guys, a joke is a joke, but where have you stashed the “real” New York Yankees?
A team “masquerading” in the Yankees’ navy-blue batting practice jerseys managed to lose their fourth consecutive Grapefruit League game on Thursday to Blue Jays and they now have lost those four games by a combined score of 26-8. We know it is early but the question is when will early become too late?
J.P. Arencibia and Travis Snider homered and Brett Cecil and six other Toronto pitchers held these “Faux Yankees” to one run and eight hits at Florida Auto Exchange Stadium in Dunedin, FL.
Cecil (1-0) gave up a hit, a walk and struck out one batter in his two innings of work to get credit for the victory. On the other hand, Ivan Nova (0-1) struggled with his command in the second inning and ended up get tagged for five runs on six hits in 2 2/3 innings.
The Yankees’ lone run came on a solo home run from Colin Curtis in the ninth inning off Chad Beck. In their last two games, the Yankees have scored a run on only 10 hits.
The Yankees’ spring record slipped to 2-4 and the Blue Jays are 4-2.
- Got to give Curtis credit for the home run to prevent the Yankees from being shut out in two consecutive games. It was the first Yankee home run since Alex Rodriguez hit one out in the first inning against the Roy Halladay and the Phillies on Saturday.
- Backup infielder Ramiro Pena is thought to be a longshot to make the team over Eduardo Nunez, but he did come to play on Thursday. Pena doubled and singled in his three at-bats and raised his early spring batting average to .500.
- Dellin Betances did give up a pair of hits in the seventh inning but he did not allow a run to score and he has a spotless 0.00 ERA early in the spring. Betances figures to begin his 2012 season at Triple-A Empire State and he needs to work on the command of his pitches and keeping his mechanics consistent.
- Nova’s second spring appearance did not go well at all. Adam Lind led of the inning with a double and Brett Lawrie singled to drive him in. Nova then fell behind Arencibia 2-0 and paid for it by surrendering a two-run homer. He was charged with two more runs in the third inning. Nova’s early spring ERA is a shockingly high 11.57.
- Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Raul Ibanez, the numbers three, four and five hitters in the lineup, were a combined 1-for-8 in the game. Teixiera singled for the only hit between them.
- Cesar Cabral, the Rule 5 draftee attempting to make the club as a second left-hander, gave up a solo home run to Snider in the sixth inning. If Cabral does not make the 25-man roster after spring training he will have to offered back to the Kansas City Royals.
If the four consecutive losses were not bad enough, the Yankees actually suffered what could be a more damaging blow. All-Star reliever David Robertson fell down a flight of stairs moving boxes at his residence on Wednesday and he will require more extensive tests on his sprained right midfoot. Robertson went to a Tampa hospital on Thursday to have a CT scan and a weight-bearing X-ray taken on his right foot and the team hopes to have more information on the injury on Friday. In the meantime Robertson has been fitted for a walking boot but the extent of the injury is still unknown. . . . Closer Mariano Rivera completed his second bullpen session on Thursday in Tampa, FL., and proclaimed himself ready for game action. Rivera is scheduled to make his spring debut on Sunday at home against the Philadelphia Phillies.
After faltering on the road in three of their last four losses, perhaps it is good thing the Yankees return home to George M. Steinbrenner Field to host an Atlanta Braves split squad on Friday.
Veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Rafeal Soriano is also scheduled to pitch. Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano, Russell Martin, Curtis Granderson and Nick Swisher are expected to be in the starting lineup for the Yankees.
The Braves are countering with right-hander Julio Teheran, who gave up six home runs in his spring debut against the Detroit Tigers on Sunday. Will Teheran awaken the Yankees’ slumbering bats?
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.