Results tagged ‘ Brian Matusz ’
YANKEES 5, ORIOLES 4
Whenever baseball announcers brought up the myriad injuries the Yankees have suffered through this season the name Eduardo Nunez rarely came up. It was as if the 26-year-old shortstop was the forgotten man among all those superstars that were languishing on the disabled list.
But Nunez served notice he was back in a big way on Saturday by rolling an RBI single up the middle with one out in the sixth inning that proved to be the game-winner as New York extended its winning streak to a season-high six games by edging Baltimore in front of a swelteringly hot paid crowd 42,678 at Yankee Stadium.
Nunez was activated from the disabled list just before the game after having not played in a game since May 5 due to a severely strained left oblique. He was immediately inserted into the lineup at shortstop and batted eighth.
He then sparked the Yankees by going 2-for-3 with a run scored and two RBIs after hitting just .200 with no home runs and four RBIs in the 27 games he played before suffering the injury.
Andy Pettitte (6-6) gutted out the 91-degree heat and high humidity to pitch into the seventh inning to collect his first victory since June 8 in Seattle against the Mariners, a span of five starts.
The Yankees trailed the Orioles throughout the early innings until the fifth against right-hander Chris Tillman (10-3).
With the O’s up 4-2, Nunez opened the inning with a lined opposite-field single to right and Chris Stewart followed with single to left. Brett Gardner advanced the runners a base with a sacrifice bunt and Ichiro Suzuki brought Nunez home with a bouncer up the middle that likely also would have scored Stewart.
However, Orioles second baseman Alexi Casilla made a diving stop on the outfield grass to keep Stewart at third. But the sparkling play could not prevent Robinson Cano from dumping a bloop single into left that scored Stewart with tying run.
The Yankees seized control of the game in the sixth when Lyle Overbay laced his third straight single of the day to open the frame and Luis Cruz bunted him to second. That set the stage for Nunez, who drove in the Yankees’ second run of the game in the second inning with a sacrifice fly, to come through with what proved to be the game-winning hit.
Tillman was charged with five runs on 10 hits and two walks while he struck out three in 5 1/3 innings. The loss broke a streak of seven consecutive winning decisions for the veteran right-hander.
Pettitte left with two out in the seventh having yielded four runs (three earned) on nine hits and no walks while he fanned four batters.
Relievers Shawn Kelley, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shut out the Orioles over the final 2 1/3 innings on two hits, no walks and three strikeouts.
Rivera twirled a scoreless ninth - striking out former Yankee Chris Dickerson swinging with the tying run on first for the final out - to earn his 29th save in 30 chances this season. That save ties the 43-year-old future Hall-of-Fame closer with the O’s Jim Johnson for the major-league lead in saves in his final season.
The Orioles got on the board in the first inning off Pettitte when Adam Jones slapped a two-out single to left and Chris Davis stroked his major-league-leading 33rd home run to dead center to make 2-0.
The O’s added an unearned run in the second whenPettitte made a wild throw over Overbay’s outstretched glove on a single off the bat of Nolan Reimold, which allowed Reimold to take second. Casilla followed with an RBI single to left to score Reimold.
The Yankees got back into the game with two runs in the second.
Travis Hafner drew a leadoff walk and advanced to second on an opposite-field single off the bat of rookie Zoilo Almonte. Overbay then laced a sharp single to right to load the bases and Cruz drove in a run in the third of the four games he has played with the Yankees with a single to left that scored Hafner.
Nunex then drove a ball deep into left-center to score Almonte, however, Reimold gunned down Stewart trying to advance to third for a double play, which effectively killed the rally.
The Orioles added a run in the third on a leadoff double by J.J. Hardy and he advanced to third on a fly ball to center by Reimold and scored one out later on a single by Taylor Teagarden.
The Yankees rally to win also provided them with a claim on second place in the American League East. The victory gives them a 48-39 record and they passed the Orioles, who are now 48-40. The Yankees trail first-place Boston by 5 1/2 games as the Red Sox play the Los Angeles Angels on the West Coast.
- Nunez blew a great opportunity to be the team’s utility infielder last season with some erratic play in the field. He also got injured and missed most of the 2012 season with a nagging right thumb injury. This season he was handed the shortstop job because Derek Jeter was rehabbing from left ankle surgery. But Nunez suffered a severe oblique strain that sidelined for two months. But when Nunez is right, he can help the Yankees as a career .264 major-league hitter with 40 steals in 49 attempts. His 2-for-3 day pretty much shows what the Yankees have missed from him.
- Cruz has been impressive ever since he joined the team as a free agent signee on Tuesday. He is 4-for-14 (.286) with three RBIs in four games. With the addition of Nunez as shortstop, the Yankees on Saturday moved Cruz to third base, which allowed them to sit a slumping David Adams. The Yankees need right-hand production in the lower part of the order and Nunez and Cruz may provide it.
- Overbay’s 3-for-4 day hopefully will get him turned around at the plate. In the previous nine games, Overbay was 6-for-28 (.214). Of course, since the season-ending wrist surgery was performed on Mark Teixeira the Yankees have been forced to play Overbay every day and he is hitting an anemic .190 against left-handers. The Yankees could use a right-handed hitter who can play the position.
- Gardner was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and three groundouts. In his past four games, Gardner is in a 1-for-17 (.059) slide that has dropped his season average from .288 to .276. The slump comes despite the fact that manager Joe Girardi rested him on Thursday.
- Two base-running blunders really hurt the Yankees but ultimately they did not cost them a victory. One was Stewart’s decision to go to third on Nunez’s sacrifice fly in the second inning. Stewart was thrown out easily by Reimold trying to slide into third base for the second out when Stewart was already in scoring position at second base. The other blunder came when Gardner dropped down a sacrifice bunt in the sixth. Nunez was on second and assumed that pitcher Brian Matusz would throw to first. But the left-hander threw to Manny Machado at third and Nunez was thrown out because he did not run hard.
- Though Pettitte did win the game, he did not pitch well. In his past five starts dating back to June 14, Pettitte has yielded 19 earned runs on 41 hits and eight walks in 31 1/3 innings. He is 1-3 with a 5.46 ERA and a WHIP of 1.56 over that span.
The Yankees placed right-hander David Phelps on the 15-day disabled list with a mild right forearm strain. Phelps, 26, will be shelved for 10 days and then will be re-evaluated. An MRI taken on Friday did not show any ligament damage. Phelps is 6-5 with a 5.01 ERA in 12 starts. To take his place on the roster the Yankees activated Nunez from the 60-day disabled list and they shifted Teixeira to the 60-day disabled list. Ivan Nova, who earned his first major-league complete-game victory on Friday pitching in place of Hiroki Kuroda will remain the rotation in place of Phelps. . . . Jeter will play in his first rehab game on Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in a game against Lehigh Valley. Right-hander Michael Pineda will make his final rehab appearance as the starter for the RailRiders in the same game. Pineda is 2-1 with a 2.60 ERA and 15 strikeouts in his previous four starts. The Yankees will have to decide whether to activate him from the disabled list or option him to Scranton.
The Yankees can pay back the Orioles for sweeping them at Camden Yards last week by pulling off a home sweep of their own against Baltimore on Sunday.
Kuroda (7-6, 2.95 ERA) will start for the Yankees after missing his scheduled start on Friday with soreness in his left hip. Kuroda lost to the O’s in his last start on June 30, giving up four runs on seven hits in six innings. He is 2-3 with a 3.90 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
Right-hander Jason Hammel (7-5, 5.19 ERA) will start for Baltimore. Hammel was tagged for five runs on nine hits and a walk while he struck out seven in a loss Tuesday to the Chicago White Sox. He has not won a game in his past six starts. He is 3-3 with 5.46 ERA lifetime 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.
YANKEES 6, ORIOLES 4 (10 Innings)
Some teams are built with a lot of money. Some teams are built with a collection of players with special skills. But successful teams are built with lots of players who have heart.
The 2013 New York Yankees are a team with an awful lot of heart and that was on display Monday at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Down 4-3 with one out in the ninth inning and Orioles closer Jim Johnson on mound, Travis Hafner blasted an opposite-field home run into the bleachers in left-center to tie it and Vernon Wells laced a game-winning RBI double in the 10th inning as New York came from behind to down Baltimore in front of a paid crowd of 24,133.
Hafner and Wells embody the heart of what has been called “The Replacements” and they provided the Yankees with the clutch hitting just when they needed it.
The Orioles took a 3-2 lead away from left-hander CC Sabathia and the Yankees in the bottom of the seventh inning when Nick Markakis slapped an RBI double to left-center to score Alexi Casilla and J.J. Hardy followed one out later with an RBI double down the right-field line.
The Orioles made their 2012 wild-card run largely on the strength of their incredible 24-6 record in one-run games. But 2013 is looking like a much different season for them.
Johnson, who had entered the game having blown his last two save opportunities, fell behind Hafner 3-1 when the 35-year-old designated hitter sent a belt-high outside fastball into the 80-degree evening air and by the time it landed Johnson was hanging his head in disbelief.
David Robertson (3-0) came in to pitch a scoreless ninth inning that sent the game into extra innings, where the Orioles posted an incredible 16-2 record in 2012.
What a difference a year makes!
Ichiro Suzuki opened the top of the 10th with a line-drive double into the right-field corner off right-hander Pedro Strop (0-2)
Wells, who entered the game as pinch-hitter in the eighth inning then picked on a 1-2 hanging slider from Strop and slashed it to the base of the wall in left and the ball bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double that scored Suzuki.
After Austin Romine bunted Wells to third, Brett Gardner was retired on hard grounder and Strop walked Robinson Cano intentionally.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter replaced Strop with left-hander Brian Matusz to face Hafner. But Hafner spoiled the strategy by slashing a 0-1 slider into right for a single to score Wells with an insurance run.
Mariano Rivera, who entered the evening a perfect 16-for-16 in saves this season, pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 10th, punctuating his 17th save by striking out Chris Dickerson swinging to push the Orioles’ current losing streak to six games.
Believe me when I say that this one really hurt the Orioles.
Sabathia, who was 19-4 with a 2.90 ERA in his career against the Orioles including two victories in the 2012 playoffs, was unable to keep any of leads the Yankees kept providing him with throughout the evening.
Cano opened the scoring with a solo home run - his American League-leading 13th of the season - off former Yankee right-hander Freddy Garcia with one out in the first frame. David Adams followed with a one-out homer of his own, his first in the major leagues, in the second inning.
But Chris Davis reclaimed a share of the A.L. lead in homers with his 13th home run off Sabathia with one out in the bottom of the second.
Two innings later, Markakis tied it up at 2-2 with a one-out RBI single to score Steve Pearce, who led off the inning with a double.
But Lyle Overbay promptly untied it for the Yankees in the seventh with a leadoff home run in the bleacher sin right center off left-hander Troy Patton.
Sabathia then ran out of gas in the seventh and surrendered the lead to the Orioles.
Sabathia gave up four runs on 11 hits and he struck out two in 6 1/3 innings. Garcia, meanwhile, yielded two runs on three hits and two walks while he fanned two in six innings for the O’s.
The Yankees extended their winning streak to three games and, combined with the loss by the Boston Red Sox to the Chicago White Sox, they extended their lead in the American League East to 1 1/2 games. The Orioles fell to 23-21 and they are now a whopping five games behind the Yankees in third place in the division.
- Hafner’s dramatic home run and RBI single in the 10th must have Yankee fans saying “Raul who?” because Hafner is making them forget how important Raul Ibanez was to the Yankees during the stretch drive and in the playoffs last season. Hafner is hitting .267 with eight home runs and 22 RBIs.
- Wells, another reclamation project courtesy of general manager Brian Cashman, knew his playing time would be reduced when Curtis Granderson returned but he is proving to be very valuable off the bench. With his game-winning double in the 10th, Wells is hitting .267 with 10 home runs and 24 RBIs, which is third on the club behind Cano and fellow “Replacement” Overbay.
- Adams’ rookie legend may be growing by leaps and bounds in just five major-league games. Adams was 2-for-4 including his homer. Adams also made some sterling plays in the field, which is surprising because he is not considered to be a good fielder. Adams is 6-for-18 (.333) with a home run and two RBIs and is looking like he might be staying long after Kevin Youkilis comes off the 15-day disabled list.
- Sabathia was just not very sharp at all in this game. In his past two starts, Sabathia has given up 21 hits and two walks in 12 1/3 innings for Walks and Hits to Innings Pitched (WHIP) of 1.82. The Orioles used an opposite-field approach against the left-hander and they burned him repeatedly with it. Sabathia is also paying for a dip in velocity in his fastball.
- Granderson is struggling at the plate and it may be a byproduct of rushing through his rehab in just five games. Granderson was 0-for-4 with a strikeout and he did not get a ball out of the infield. He is 4-for-19 (.211) without a home run and an RBI in five starts.
First baseman Mark Teixeira reported on Monday that he took his first at-bats in a simulated game in Tampa, FL, and he was 1-for-2 with a double and a walk. It was the first at-bats for Teixeira since he tore the sheath in his right wrist in March. Teixiera is hoping to play in his first game of the season by June 1 but that timetable may be a bit too optimistic. . . . Both Youkilis (back) and Alex Rodriguez (hip) took ground balls and batting practice at the team’s spring complex on Monday as both rehab their injuries. Manager Joe Girardi said that Youkilis likely will not be activated before the Yankees return home in a week. Though Rodriguez was able to take ground balls at third base on Monday, his timetable has not changed. He is expected back some time after the All-Star break. . . . The Yankees entered the day with a all-time major-league best 18-0 record in one-run games this season and they were within two outs of losing their first one-run game. But Hafner’s homer and Wells’ RBI double allowed them to extend the mark to 19 games.
The Yankees will continue their three-game road series with the Orioles on Tuesday.
Right-hander Phil Hughes (2-3, 5.88 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Hughes will have to better on Tuesday because he is coming off what he called his worst major-league start on Wednesday against the Seattle Mariners. Hughes lasted only two-thirds of an inning and gave up seven runs on six hits and two walks. He is 6-5 with 5.47 ERA lifetime against the Orioles.
Baltimore is countering with right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 4.58 ERA). Gonzalez is being activated from the 15-day disabled list after he sustained a troublesome blister on his right thumb. He is 2-1 with a 2.75 ERA in his career 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.
ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 1
Brian Roberts doubled twice and scored two runs and left-hander Brian Matusz pitched two scoreless innings as Baltimore defeated New York in front of a crowd of 7,335 at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.
Roberts’ doubles sparked the Orioles to an early 2-0 lead. He stroked a one-out double in the first, advanced to third on a balk and scored on a two-out RBI single from Adam Jones. Roberts slapped another one-out double in the third and scored on an RBI single by Nick Markakis.
Matusz (1-0) gave up two hits to the first two batters he faced but retired the next five to earn the victory. Left-hander Vidal Nuno (0-1) took the loss despite the fact that five of the six batters he retired struck out looking, including Markakis, Matt Wieters, Chris Davis, Conor Jackson and Manny Machado.
The Yankees’ scored their lone run in the ninth inning on a walk and stolen base by Corban Joseph and an RIBI single by Walter Ibarra. The run broke a string of 19 consecutive scoreless innings for the Yankees.
The Yankees fell to 1-2 in Grapefruit League play while the Orioles are 3-0.
- Leadoff hitter Brett Gardner was 3-for-3 with three singles and second batter Jayson Nix collected two singles in three at-bats. The rest of the Yankees were 3-for-28 (.107). Gardner, who missed virtually all of the 2012 season with a right elbow injury, is hitting .667 in the early going. Nix is hitting .750 in the two games he has played.
- Though Nuno was touched for Roberts’ double and Jones’ RBI single, he certainly looked impressive in striking out five batters in his two innings of work. Nuno, 24, was signed by the Yankees last winter off the independent Washington Wild roster and he’s been dominating minor-league hitters ever since. At Double-A Trenton Nidal was 9-5 with a 2.45 ERA and 100 strikeouts in 114 innings in 20 starts last season. Since he has learned a change-up he being tabbed as an older version of Manny Banuelos, who will miss the 2013 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
- Josh Spence, a 25-year-old Australian left-hander, was the only Yankee hurler to pitch a perfect 1-2-3 inning and that was in the ninth. The Yankees claimed Spence off waivers from the San Diego Padres in early November after he was 4-2 with a 4.20 ERA 31 games at Triple-A Tucson.
- For the second straight day the Yankees’ offense was pretty much missing in action. If Ibarra had not driven in Joseph in the final frame the Yankees would have been 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position in their last two games.
- If Matt Diaz and Juan Rivera are seeking to stake a claim to replace Curtis Granderson as the team’s starting left-fielder as he recovers from a broken right forearm they have got to do better than they did on Monday. Diaz was 0-for-3 and stranded six base-runners. He hit into a double play and did not get a ball out the infield. Rivera also was 0-for-3 including a strikeout.
- Before you get too angry at the Yankees’ pitching staff for giving up five runs just remember that pitchers such as Nuno, Bryan Mitchell, Corey Black, Shane Greene, Ryan Pope, Kelvin Perez and Spence are not battling for roster spots. They are all headed back to the minors. The Orioles, in contrast, threw veterans like Matusz, Tommy Hunter, Pedro Strop and Mark Hendrickson.
With the Yankees looking to replace Granderson, veteran outfielder Johnny Damon told ESPN Radio’s Michael Kay that he would be interested in returning to the Yankees if he got a call to come to spring training. Damon, 39, said he is willing to fill in for Granderson for the six weeks he will miss, he would play for the minimum salary and would need about three or four weeks to get in shape. Asked about the possibility of bringing Damon to camp, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said, “We will focus on what we have at this time.” . . . Mariano Rivera threw 32 pitches in a live batting-practice session on Monday, and CC Sabathia threw batting practice to hitters for the first time this spring as the rehabbing hurlers continue prepare for Opening Day. . . . Manager Joe Girardi said that outfield prospects Tyler Austin and Slade Heathcott will not be considered to open the season in New York. . . . Yankees outfielder Melky Mesa said that even after Granderson’s injury, he still plans to leave camp to play for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. Bench coach Tony Pena will be managing the Dominican squad.
The Yankees will travel to Clrawater, FL, on Tuesday to take on the Philadelphia Phillies.
Hot prospect right-hander Jose Ramirez will draw the start for the Yankees. He will be opposed by veteran right-hander Kyle Kendrick.
The Yankees will send Robinson Cano, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Youkilis and Travis Hafner to play in the game. Relievers Joba Chamberlain and David Robertson are also scheduled to make the spring debuts.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be broadcast live on the MLB Network.
BLUE JAYS 2, YANKEES 0
TAMPA - A dark cloud hung over the Yankees before spring training even began as they lost third baseman Alex Rodriguez for half the season due to hip surgery. They opened their home exhibition season on Sunday under a blanket of gloomy dark clouds that hung over George M. Steinbrenner Field throughout the game.
But that was nothing compared to the dark cloud casting a pall over the team upon learning that starting outfielder Curtis Granderson would be lost to the team until mid-May with a fractured right forearm after he was struck by J.A. Happ breaking ball in his very first at-bat of the spring in the first inning.
While the business of spring training will continue manager Joe Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman will be tasked with trying to find a way to replace Granderson’s 43 home runs on a team that is already missing 109 home runs from last season’s squad.
The game was pretty much academic. The result did not matter.
Emilio Bonifacio followed an Anthony Gose triple with an RBI single in the third inning and Sean Ochinko doubled in a run in the eighth while the Yankees pounded out 11 hits but went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position and left 13 runners on base as Toronto blanked New York in front of a crowd of 10,184.
Happ (1-0) gave up three hits in two innings but got credit for the victory. Cody Eppley (0-1) took the loss. Rich Thompson pitched a scoreless ninth to earn a save.
- As far as we know no other Yankee starters were injured in the contest.
- Kevin Youkilis made his debut in pinstripes and came within about 10 feet of a grand slam home run in the first inning but Jays outfielder Ryan Langerhans made a running catch on the warning track. Youkilis also slapped a screaming line drive to third with two on and two out in the third that was caught by Brett Lawrie. In his final at-bat, Youkilis led off the sixth by sending a drive to the warning track in center that was run down by Gose. That pretty much defined the Yankees’ day.
- Robinson Cano followed his home run on Saturday with three line drives but he ended up with just one hit because his old pal Melky Cabrera robbed him of a hit in the first with a sliding catch.
- Adam Warren, 25, started the game and pitched two scoreless and hitless innings. Warren looked sharp with his location and fanned two batters. Though Warren is ticketed for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, he could be factor later in the season if does well this spring.
- Eppley proved why he is a specialist used primarily against right-handers. After striking out the right-handed-hitting Lance Zawadzki, left-handed-hitting Gose tripled and the left-handed-hitting Bonifacio singled him in. Eppley showed why he is exposed as a pitcher when he has to face lefties.
- Though Brett Gardner and Ichiro Suzuki were on base after three of their six plate appearances neither of them stole a base. Suzuki did attempt a steal in the third inning with Cano up but Cano fouled the pitch off. Neither made another attempt to steal. It would seem that as home run hitters are dropping like flies for the Yankees that running the bases a lot would be a good idea.
- This game had the look of the American League Championship Series against the Detroit Tigers. No home runs, plenty of chances with runners on base but no big hit came. This might be a repeating scenario and we will have to watch it closely this spring.
Derek Jeter is targeting March 10 for his first spring training action as he recovers from surgery on his fractured left ankle, Cashman said on Sunday. Jeter ran for the first on the infield at Steinbrenner Field on Saturday and he hopes to begin spring play as a designated hitter with an eye on being ready to start at shortstop at home on Opening Day on April 1 against the Boston Red Sox. . . . With Granderson out of action for 10 weeks the immediate outlook would dictate that non-roster outfielders Juan Rivera and Matt Diaz may now be vying for a starting outfield spot. The Yankees do have minor-league outfielders Zoilo Almonte and Melky Mesa on the 40-man roster but the Yankees may not elect to use either as starters, Almonte has not played above Double-A Trenton. Cashman could also look to engineer a trade but it is pretty clear the Yankees do not want to add much to the current payroll and other teams are going to drive hard bargain because they know the Yankees might be a bit desperate. Not making an offer for the Washington Nationals’ outfielder/first baseman Michael Morse is looking like a real bad move now. He was traded to the Seattle Mariners instead.
The Yankees head to Sarasota, FL, on Monday to face the Baltimore Orioles.
Left-hander Vidal Nuno, 24, will get the start for the Yankees. The Orioles are scheduled to start left-hander Brian Matusz.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EST and the game will be telecast nationally on tape-delay at 9 p.m. by MLB Network.
“Choices are the hinges of destiny.”
- Pythagoras, Greek philosopher
ALDS GAME 3: KEY MOMENT
In the pivotal game of the Yankees-Orioles division series, manager Joe Girardi made one the boldest and ballsiest calls in major-league postseason history.
With his big power-hitter Alex Rodriguez 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and 1-for-12 with seven strikeouts in the series, Girardi elected to sit the most dangerous home run hitter of this generation and replace him with a 40-year-old left-handed hitter to face the American League’s best closer this season in right-hander Jim Johnson.
The Yankees were down 2-1 and they were two outs away from being left down in the playoff series 2-1 to the upstart Orioles.
But Girardi was resolute in his decision. He told Rodriguez to sit and Ibanez to grab a bat.
Think of the blowback if Ibanez had failed. The New York scribes would have had a foot race to the clubhouse for reaction from A-Rod. Headlines would have blared “Joe Loses Cool By Subbing Raul” or “Joe Panics; Yanks Fall.”
That, of course, is the nature of the New York media. They are with you until you fail and then you are left out to dry. Billy Martin, Yogi Berra Dick Howser were folded spindled and mutilated by the headline hungry denizens in the Bronx Zoo.
But after Johnson had retired Ichiro Suzuki, the crowd on the one hand stunned and, on the other hand, hopeful with fingers and toes crossed routed on Ibnez as he lumbered to the plate.
“Raul had to come through,” Girardi said. “Raul had some kind of day for us today, and you have to make decisions sometimes that are tough decisions. But I just had a gut feeling.”
Ibanez had his share of travails this season, too.
In spring training, Ibanez hit in the first three weeks of spring training as if he just picked up a bat at age 40 and was giving the major leagues a try. It was if he could not hit a ball off a tee he was so bad. But Girardi told the press that Ibanez was a professional hitter his entire career and that he had faith he would turn it around soon.
Sure enough, Ibanez starting roping line drives all over the place at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, FL, and the wolves (the writers) were forced to stop baying at the moon.
Ibanez then became an integral part of the Yankees success this season. Forced into playing more outfield than he had expected in the absence of starting left-fielder Brett Gardner, Ibanez hit 19 home runs, drove in 62 runs and batted .240 in 340 at-bats this season for the Yankees.
Of course, Ibanez also fell into a severe slump in late August that bled into September. Once again, Girardi kept faith with his veteran outfielder/designated hitter. And again Ibanez rewarded the skipper.
Beginning with a Sept. 22 game against Oakland in which Ibanez entered the game as pinch-hitter in the fifth inning and he ended up hitting two game-tying homers, he went on a full-fledged tear in the final two weeks of the season. Ibanez went 15-for-37 (.405) with five home runs and nine RBIs down the stretch.
He also punctuated his hot streak with a game-tying two-run pinch-hit home run in the bottom of the ninth and a game-winning RBI single in the 12th in a must-win 4-3 victory the Red Sox on Oct. 2.
But those heroics on Sept. 22 and Oct. 2 were but a dress rehearsal for what he was being asked to do on Wednesday. It is one thing to pinch-hit for Casey McGehee (as he did on Sept. 22) or Eduardo Nunez (as he did on Oct. 2). It is quite another to pinch-hit for A-Rod.
That is pressure.
But Ibanez was able to cast it aside enough to concentrate on what he wanted to do: Get a Johnson sinker up enough so that he could launch it into the seats. Johnson provided it on the very first pitch and Ibanez took care of it.
The subdued but hopeful crowd of 50,497 seemed to rise as one while the baseball traveled on a low, line-drive trajectory towards the straightaway right-field. It rose well over the head of Oriole defensive replacement Endy Chavez and some five rows into the bleachers.
On the top step of the dugout cheering loudly was A-Rod.
“Maybe 10 years ago, I’d react a much different way. But I’m at a place in my career right now where team means everything,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t think there was anybody in the ballpark more excited for Raul than me.”
That home run, harkening Yankee fans back to the days of Bucky Dent, Reggie Jackson and Aaron Boone, allowed the Yankees to stave off what would have been a saddening blow to their playoff hopes. But Ibanez wasn’t having it.
The game remained tied until Ibanez’s next at-bat leading off the bottom of the 12th. Orioles manager Buck Showalter had opted to leave in left-hander Brian Matusz to face him.
Again, Ibanez was looking for a pitch up to drive. Matusz threw a chest high fastball but it was in the middle of the plate. Ibanez was ready and the sound so familiar to the fans rang out all over Yankee Stadium.
Ibanez, knew, Matusz knew and the fans there and those watching at home knew where it was going.
In one mere stretch of just two swings in two at-bats, Ibanez – should the Yankees advance to their 28th world championship – will be remembered in Yankee lore for what he did this evening.
While they are at it, they should also remember the guts it took for Girardi to push the correct button. Managers seem to get little of the credit and most of the blame in baseball.
This is not one of those instances. Girardi played his roster like a maestro and the music hit a real high note in the Bronx.
YANKEES 2, ORIOLES 1
Just when the pundits, press and fans became apoplectic over the inconsistency of the Yankees’ starting pitching Hiroki Kuroda followed CC Sabathia’s outstanding eight-inning outing on Sunday with a gem of his own on Monday.
Kuroda (2-3) held the Orioles to one run on four hits and one walk and struck out three over seven innings of work and he got a two-run home run from Eric Chavez as New York continued their dominance over Baltimore at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
The 37-year-old right-hander even protected his one-run lead with a dazzling defensive play of his own at home plate in the seventh inning.
With Nick Markakis on third and Matt Wieters on second and two out, Kuroda threw a 1-0 pitch to Wilson Betemit that hit the dirt and rolled past Russell Martin. Markakis broke for home, Martin scrambled to the ball, made a backhand toss to Kuroda, who blocked the plate and applied the tag to Markakis to end the inning.
Right-hander Jason Hammel (3-1) took his first loss of the season, giving up two runs on five hits and two walks and fanning five in six innings. His big mistake came on a first-pitch fastball to Chavez in the second inning with Mark Teixeira on first and one out.
Chavez blasted the pitch 375 feet off the wall of the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to give the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish thanks to Kuroda and the bullpen duo of David Robertson and Mariano Rivera.
Robertson pitched a perfect eighth by striking out the side. Meanwhile, the 42-year-old future Hall-of-Fame closer Rivera needed only nine pitches to dispatch the Orioles in the ninth for his fifth save of the season and the 608th of his career.
The Orioles broke the seal on the scoring in the top of the second inning when Adam Jones drew a walk, he adavnced to third on a Matt Wieters single and he scored on a deep sacrifice fly off the bat of Chris Davis. However, Kuroda, with help from the Yankees’ bullpen, shut down the Orioles the rest of the way.
With the victory the Yankees improved their season record to 13-9. The Orioles, who have now lost all four contests they have played against the Yankees this season, fell to 14-9.
- It is real easy to see now why the Yankees shelled out $10 million on a one-year contract for Kuroda. He kept the Orioles off balance with a mixture of sliders and split-finger fastballs. He threw 52 of his 87 pitches for strikes (60 percent) and he lowered his season ERA to 3.69. In his last two outings against good-hitting teams in the Rangers and the Orioles, Kuroda has given up just three runs on nine hits and three walks in 13 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of 2.03 and a WHIP of 0.90.
- Once Kuroda handed off the one-run lead to Robertson and Rivera, it was lights out for the Orioles. Robertson blew away the Orioles with a fastball clocked as high as 94 mph. He fanned Betemit swinging and Mark Reynolds and Robert Andino were caught looking on perfectly placed fastballs on the outside corner at the knees. Rivera has not been scored upon since he blew his first save on opening day against Tampa. In his last 7 1/3 innings, he has given up just three hits and no walks and he has struck out seven batters.
- Chavez’s home run in the second was his third of the season and that is one more than Chavez hit all of last season for the Yankees in 58 games. Chavez is getting more playing time with Brett Gardner on the disabled list and manager Joe Girardi’s decision to use Alex Rodriguez more often as the designated hitter. The 34-year-old veteran is taking advantage of it, hitting .321 with three home runs and five RBIs.
- Teixeira was 2-for-3 in the game and he finished April with a .244 average, which is far cry better than his career average of .190 in the opening month.
When the starter goes seven innings, the bullpen holds a slim one-run lead and the team plays errorless defense, there is not much negative to say. The Yankees could have gotten their offense untracked more, but Hammel is the Orioles’ ace and he entered the game with a 1.73 ERA.
Eduardo Nunez made his first major-league start in left-field and he handled all five of his chances without making an error. He made an excellent catch on sinking liner off the bat of Markakis in the first inning and he made an excellent catch at the wall on Davis’ sac fly in the second. But his catch of liner off the bat of Andino was a bit of an adventure as he caught the ball sprawling awkwardly to the turf. . . . One reason Nunez played left was because Nick Swisher is out with a slight strain of his left hamstring. Swisher hopes to return in three days but Girardi said it will be closer to a week before he allows Swisher play. . . . Gardner, meanwhile, is targeting a return from the disabled list on Thursday when he is eligible to be activated. He has been sidelined with a strained right elbow . . . The numbers may not show it, but Andy Pettitte declared himself ready to help the Yankees now. Pettitte gave up six runs (five earned) on 10 hits, walked none and struck out eight in six innings of work for Class-A Tampa in the Florida State League on Monday. Pettitte threw 96 pitches and he said he could make his next start for the Yankees. However, general manager Brian Cashman said the Yankees would prefer that Pettitte make one more minor-league start on Saturday and he could be ready to pitch for the Yankees on May 10.
The Yankees will continue their three-game home series with the Orioles on Tuesday.
The Yankees will start right-hander Phil Hughes (1-3, 7.88 ERA). He lasted just 2 2/3 innings of his last start against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday. Hughes is 4-2 with a 5.24 ERA in his career against the Orioles.
The Orioles will counter with struggling left-hander Brian Matusz (0-3, 5.66 ERA). Matusz gave up two runs in six innings in his last start against the Toronto Blue Jays but he did not get a decision. He has lost 12 straight decisions dating back to last season and he is 2-5 with a 5.10 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.