Results tagged ‘ Eric Hinske ’

Yankees Leave Braves Stranded Without Victory

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“You got me stranded baby.. stranded
stranded, stranded.. I’m so stranded”

                                                                                                                   – Lyrics from “Stranded” by Mario

GAME 62

YANKEES 3, BRAVES 2

They pounded out 12 hits. They drew four walks. They had 13 at-bats with runners in scoring position. But, in the end they scored only two runs, left 13 runners on base and lost by a run.

But it wasn’t the Yankees! It was the Braves!

Curtis Granderson stroked a two-run home run in the sixth inning off Tim Hudson and Hiroki Kuroda and the Yankees’ bullpen dodged scoring threat after scoring threat all night as New York edged Atlanta on Wednesday to sweep the Braves in front of sellout crowd of 48,938 at Turner Field.

The Braves had just taken a 2-1 lead in the fifth inning when Brain McCann blasted a two-run home run into the right-field bleachers after Martin Prado had blooped a single to center off Kuroda.

However, the Yankees immediately answered back in the next half-inning when Derek Jeter led off the frame with soft lined single into right. Granderson followed by a hitting a 1-1 cutter off Hudson high and deep down the right-field line and over the outstretched glove Jason Heyward for his 19th home run of the season.

Kuroda and the bullpen were tasked with protecting that lead for the next four innings. They did just that but it was not easy.

The Braves put at least one runner on base in all nine innings and they left runners in scoring position in five of those innings against the Yankees.

Kuruda wriggled out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the second inning by striking out Hudson and retiring Michael Bourn on a groundout. In the fourth, he escaped with runners on second and third and two out by striking out Bourn swinging.

Kuroda (6-6) gave up nine hits and two walks and struck eight batters in six innings of work to earn the victory.

The Yankees’ bullpen did the rest.

Boone Logan walked two batters in the seventh inning with only one out. However, he got out of the inning by getting a fielder’s choice grounder off the bat of Heyward and a flyout from Eric Hinske.

Cody Eppley escaped a major jam in the eighth with runners on first and third and one out by inducing a double-play grounder off the bat of Prado.

Rafael Soriano pitched around a two-out single by Chipper Jones to retire Heyward on a broken-bat infield popup to preserve the win for Kuroda and earn his 11th save of the season in 12 opportunities.

The red-hot Yankees have now won six games in a row, 11 of their last 13 and 16 of their last 20. They also are an amazing 9-2 lifetime at Turner Field.

The Yankees took an early lead on Hudson and the Braves when Jeter led off the game with a double in the gap in right-center. Granderson advanced Jeter to third on a groundout and Alex Rodriguez followed with a hot-shot single through the middle.

Hudson (4-3) gave up three runs on six hits, walked none and he struck eight batters over six innings.

With the victory, the Yankees are 37-25, the best record in the American League. They also are a game up on the second-place Baltimore Orioles and two games up on the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League East. The Braves fell to 34-29.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Give Kuroda a lot of credit for toughing out a hard-earned victory. The Braves put pressure on him in every inning by getting on base and advancing runners into scoring position. But, other than the McCann home run, Kuroda was able to get outs by making tough pitches. In his last four starts, Kuroda is 3-0 with a 1.93 ERA.
  • Because of the loss of David Robertson, the bullpen has had to pick up the late-inning slack and tonight Eppley did an exceptional job in the eighth. Eppley gave up a leadoff single to Andrelton Simmons and pinch-hitter Jack Wilson advanced him to second on a groundout. Bourn then rolled an infield single into the hole at short to put runners at first and third. But Eppley got Prado, who came into the game hitting .318, to hit into an inning-ending double play. Prado had hit into four double plays all season.
  • Granderson’s home run was his 19th of the season, which ties him for third place in the majors with Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays and Carlos Beltran of the Cardinals. That hit also extended his modest hit streak to five games. He is 7-for-20 (.350) in that stretch.
  • Jeter collected two hits and scored two the Yankees’ three runs. He also extended his hitting streak to five games and he is 8-for-21 (.381) in that span. Jeter has been a career .404 hitter at Turner Field and he was 5-for-14 (.357) in the three-game series.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

When a team is on a roll like this there is no real reason to dwell on negatives. The Yankees were playing with house money having won the first two games of the series. On Wednesday, they just toughed it out and won a squeaker with solid starting pitching, a gutty bullpen and some timely offense. No cares now!

BOMBER BANTER

Good news for the bullpen: Roberrtson joined the team on Wednesday and he is expected to be activated for Friday’s game in Washington against the Nationals. Robertson has been on the 15-day disabled list since May 15 with a left oblique strain. He pitched two scoreless innings of relief in a minor-league rehab stint at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and flew to Atlanta to join the team on Wednesday. Manager Joe Girardi said Robertson will assume his old eighth-inning role and set up for Soriano.  . . .  Andy Pettitte threw a bullpen session on Wednesday before the game and said their are no lingering effects from the bruised left hand he sustained against the Mets in his last start on Sunday. Pettitte is scheduled to start on Saturday against the Nationals.

ON DECK

After extending the season-best winning streak to six games the Yankees will have Thursday off before opening a three-game weekend road series against the Nationals.

Phil Hughes (6-5, 4.76 ERA) will open the series for the Yankees. In his last two starts against the Tigers and Mets, Hughes has given up just three runs on 10 hits in 15 1/3 innings. Hughes has no record and no ERA in a limited relief outing against the Nationals.

The Nationals will start left-hander Gio Gonzalez (8-2, 2.35 ERA). Gonzalez is coming off a strong 6 1/3 inning outing in which he defeated the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on Saturday. However, while he was with the Oakland Athletics he had very little luck against the Yankees. He was 1-4 with a 7.27 ERA.

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

 

Yanks Need Fourth OF And Backup At First In 2012

With the disappointing loss to the Detroit Tigers in the American League Divisional Series a distant bad memory, the New York Yankees will look to reconstruct a championship caliber team for the 2012 season. To that end let’s look at what possible moves the Yankees might make to improve their roster. It might seem like a daunting task. But it sure could be worse. Think how tough a time the Boston Red Sox will have rebuilding without general manager Theo Epstein and manager Terry Francona.

PART FOUR – THE BENCH

PRIORITY NO. 1: Who will replace Eric Chavez and Andruw Jones?

The Yankees bench is the only place, other than the starting pitchers, where there will be a few changes. The Yankees will retain all their starters in 2012.

The bench will be a different story. starting at designated hitter.

Jesus Montero figures to be the current odds-on favorite to win that job coming off his very nice debut during the Yankees’ stretch run to the division title. Though he is only 21, Montero is showing skills with the bat that are far beyond his years.

Normally the Yankees would prefer to have a left-handed DH to take advantage of right-handed pitching and the short porch in right. But Montero has never been platooned in the minors and his power stroke is to right-center. If Montero does well in spring training it would be hard to keep him off the roster and even harder to not start him at DH.

Of course, there are those in the Yankee organization who believe Montero should develop as a catcher. But Montero’s defense behind the plate is still not as polished as it could be and the Yankees face a lot of teams like the Rays and Angels who will steal at the drop of a hat

But if Russell Martin is the starting catcher placing Montero as his backup would mean he would only start once a week and he could not DH, less the Yankees lose the DH if Martin is injutred. That is why it is more likely the Yankees will keep either Francisco Cervelli or rookie Austin Romine as the backup catcher to Martin.

Though Cervelli still needs to work on his throwing, he is still considered a very good defensive catcher who calls a good game and has the trust of the pitching staff. Likewise, both manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Tony Pena, who know a thing or two about catching believe that Romine, at age 22, is already a major-league catcher defensively.

The battle in the spring may come down to two factors:

(1) Cervelli, 25, will have to prove to the Yankees he is over the concussion that short-circuited his season in September and that he can stay healthy. Cervelli has sustained a broken wrist, various concussions and last season broke a bone in his right foot fouling off a pitch in spring training.

(2) Romine will have to prove he can improve as a hitter at the major-league level. Romine will never be the power threat Montero will become. But the Yankees would like him to at least hold his own much like Cervelli has since he has become the backup catcher.

Keeping either Cervelli or Romine will allow the Yankees to keep Montero as a DH and emergency catcher much like they had last season with Jorge Posada, though Posada was only used once in that capacity. Montero, however, could get some starts behind the plate against teams that do not steal bases. He surely will see some action behind the plate.

The only other holdover from the bench last season will be Eduardo Nunez, 24. Nunez received 309 at-bats last season as the primary infield backup in 2011. He was impressive, especially when he started at shortstop in place of an injured Derek Jeter and third base for an injured Alex Rodriguez.

Nunez hit .265 with five home runs and 30 RBIs. Nunez has the ability to drive the ball into the gaps and he also showed the ability to fly on the bases. In his 83 starts, he stole 22 bases. After that kind of rookie season, it is easy to see why general manager Brian Cashman bristled when the Seattle Mariners sought to add Nunez to a deal to bring Cliff Lee to the Yankees in 2010 that Cashman said no.

However, Nunez comes into camp with a lot of work to do on his defense. Nunez led the Yankees in errors with 20.

Nunez is tall and lean and his footwork on ground balls is atrocious. That leads to a lot of fielding errors. In addition, Nunez tends to throw wildly to first when pressed by fast runners or when he has to range deep for balls. That will take a lot of work this offseason and this spring to correct. The Yankees realize he will never be Ozzie Smith. They just would like him to cut his error rate to a respectable level.

Otherwise, 26-year-old Ramiro Pena will have a shot to reclaim his old job back. Though Pena is a lot steadier in the field, he hit only .100 in 40 at-bats last season and he does not have the line-drive bat or speed that Nunez presents.

Besides Posada, to whom the Yankees will decline to offer a contract, the Yankees also will not bring back reserve outfielder Andruw Jones or reserve infielder Eric Chavez.

Jones was largely a disappointment until midseason, when he got hot and hit .291 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs. Jones, 34, finished the season with a .247 average, 13 home runs and 33 RBIs as the right-handed=hitting DH and backup outfielder.

Chavez, 34, probably would be welcomed back by the Yankees if he wanted to play for the team. But Chavez is looking to possibly signing as a free agent to resume his career as a starting third baseman.

Chavez signed with the Yankees as a backup because of a series of neck and back injuries had him shelved for the better portions of the previous four seasons. Chavez signed with the Yankees in hopes of being able to re-establish himself as a starter who can still help a club.

He failed to stay healthy with the Yankees, though, when he broke a bone in his right foot running the bases in Detroit in early May and he did not return until July. In 160 at-bats, Chavez hit .263 with two home runs and 26 RBIs.

The Yankees would love to have his left-hand bat back as a backup to Rodriguez, who has been slowed by nagging injuries himself for the past four seasons and who is need of more rest these days at age 36. Chavez also spellled Mark Teixeira at first base and provided a veteran left-handed bat off the bench.

So now the Yankees will be looking to add a right-handed hitting outfielder and a lefty hitter who can play some first base and maybe some outfield and third.

The reason they need a right-handed hitting outfielder is because Brett Gardner and Curtis Granderson are left-handed hitters and Nick Swisher is a switch-hitter who will hit primarily as lefty with the predominantly right-handed starters in baseball. It would be nice to have a right-handed hitter to spell either Gardner, Granderson and Swisher.

In addition, Gardner hit a paltry .233 against left-handers last season. It would be nice to have a free-agent outfielder like Reed Johnson, who as a right-handed hitter who batted .309 overall and .305 against left-handers in 2011. Johnson is hustling overachiever who also plays solid defense in all three outfield spots. The only thing he can’t do like Gardner is run. He has only 39 career steals.

That is the kind of cheap role player the Yankees will be looking for. The Yankees do have a lot of young outfielders in the minors such as Chris Dickerson, Greg Golson, Justin Maxwell, Colin Curtis and Melky Mesa. But Dickerson and Curtis hit left-handed and Golson and Mawelll have been disappointments as right-handed hitters. Mesa, 24, may need a year of seasoning before he is ready.

The Yankees also will be in the market for a left-handed hitting infielder who can play first, some third and perhaps the outfield. In other words, they are looking for an “Eric Hinske type.” Hinske, 34, has made a career as backup at third, first and the outfield and he has played on a lot of teams that have made the playoffs.

Last season, he hit .238 with 10 home runs and 28 RBIs in 236 at-bats with the Braves. Hinske, however, is not a free agent.

The Yankees might take a look at Russell Branyan, 36, who has hit two of the longest home runs in Yankee Stadium history. Branyan hit .197 with five home runs and 14 RBIs in 127 at-bats for the Diamondbacks and the Angels last season. Branyan can play first, third and the outfield, however, he would be a real liability in the outfield.

But Branyan can still hit for power. He has 194 career home runs and most of them have been as a bench player.

He also could help the Yankees as a lefty DH against some tough right-handers.

The Yankees do have Brandon Laird to play both first and third base. However, Laird is a right-handed hitter and the Yankees are already loaded with right-handed hitters on the bench. Laird seems more likely to be ticketed back to Triple-A or a trade to another organization with A-Rod blocking his path to the majors.

But, in any case, the Yankees are not going out of their way to sign expensive free agent hitters this winter. If Yankee fans envision a lineup of Albert Pujols batting fourth, Prince Fielder batting fifth, Rodriguez hitting sixth, Carlos Beltran hitting seventh and Nick Swisher batting eighth and Teixeira batting ninth, you can keep on dreaming. It is not going to happen.

This team is going to allocate its free-agent dollars to acquiring starting pitching, period.

The rest of the moves Cashman will make are small ones like adding two bench players like he did in signing Jones and Chavez last winter.

This concludes the series on potential off-season moves. I will have an update to the starting pitching search in my next post. Stay tuned!


Yankees Unlikely To Offer Contracts To Hairston, Hinske



The champagne has flowed, the parade down the Canyon on Heroes is over and now the New York Yankees must make the difficult decisions about what to do about the roster for 2010. What free agents should they keep and who should they let go. The choices made this winter will affect the team’s chances to repeat as champions. Let’s examine these choices one by one and see what General Manager Brian Cashman and his staff may be weighing before the first warrmup toss is made in Tampa this spring.


PART 2: ERIC HINSKE AND JERRY HAIRSTON JR.

Yankee fans may forget that the Yankees began the 2009 season with a bench comprised of Jose Molina, Brett Gardner, Angel Berroa and Melky Cabrera. Brett Gardner was starting in centerfield and Cody Ransom was filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez at third base.
By the time the season reached the trade deadline, General Manager Brian Cashman added veterans Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston Jr. to the team to strengthen the bench.
Both paid immediate dividends. 
Hinske hit five home runs in his first 21 at-bats with the Yankees after coming over in a deal in July with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Though he only hit two more home runs the rest of the season, Hinske provided a veteran power bat off the bench and he played the corner outfield spots and third base.
Hairston, who is capable of playing every spot in the field except pitcher, hit .237 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 45 games with the Yankees after being acquired from the Cincinnati Reds at the July 31st trade deadline. He also filled in at all three outfield spots and at third, shortstop and second.
Hairston might have produced more with the bat but he was suffering from a painful left wrist injury that he tweaked late in the season with the Yankees. In the playoffs he contributed a key hit and scored the winning run in the 13th inning of Game 2 of the AL Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels.
Both Hinske and Hairston are free agents and Cashman must decide whether to offer them contracts to return.
In Hinske’s case, it is unlikely that he will be offered a deal to come back unless the Yankees can get him at a huge discount. The Yankees have options at the minor-league level with left-hand hitting first baseman Juan Miranda and right-hand hitting Shelley Duncan, who can play the same positions as Hinske.
If the Yankees are not satisfied with their bench options this spring, they can always hit the free-agent or trade markets and land a veteran bat like Hinske.
Hairston is another story. Because he can hit for average and run and he plays good defense at any position he is asked to play, he has some value to the Yankees.
With Ransom and Berroa out of the picture now because they both failed to deliver any offense subbing for A-Rod, the Yankees do have Ramiro Pena to play third, short and second, however, he is not considered capable enough to play the outfield.
The Yankees sent him back to Triple-A Scranton during last season and asked him to try playing centerfield, but it is doubtful Pena will rise to the level of versatility that Hairston has reached.
Hairston has also played 12 seasons in the major leagues without playing for a championship team until last season. So Hairston might be willing to come back to the Yankees for a chance to win another title.
But whether he would sacrifice some dollars elsewhere to do that is a question mark.
Cashman would love for a homegrown player like Pena to stick with the Yankees as a reserve. Pena did hit .287 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 69 games in 2009. He also swiped four bases.
So the decision Cashman will make comes down to whether he feels the Yankees have enough outfielders to able to allow Hairston to go in favor of Pena.
My sense is that Cashman will elect to do that and Hairston would only return if he does not receive an offer from another team and would be willing to take a pay cut to rejoin the Yankees. That is the only scenario where I see Hairston coming back.
Given Hairston’s ability to play so many positions, the likelihood of him receiving no competitive offers from other teams is extremely unlikely.
So it is more than likely that both Hairston and Hinske will not be back with the Yankees next season. And, of the two, Hairston would be the only one the Yankees might be interested in keeping.

A-Rod’s Second Half An Amazing Recovery


THIRD BASE


ALEX RODRIGUEZ  – Age 33


Going into the 2009 playoffs, Alex Rodriguez’s last two at-bats were home runs and they drove in seven runs. Is there anyone in baseball going into the postseason with better momentum? Is there anyone whose playoff performance will be more scrutinized?
But what Alex Rodriguez accomplished with those two at-bats is to ensure he would have 13 straight seasons with at least 30 home runs and 100 RBIs despite missing the first 28 games after having hip surgery.
The Yankees were just lucky to have their third baseman at all after he missed all of spring training with the surgery. He returned to the lineup on May 8 and the Yankees recorded the best record in baseball from that date at 90-45.
A-Rod’s truncated first half was pretty good considering he missed those games. In 58 games he hit 17 home runs and drove in 50 runs and hit .256. The power numbers were there but the batting average was well below his norm.
In three previous seasons with the Yankees, Rodriguez had averaged 41 home runs, 127 RBIs and a .302 average. So even though A-Rod knew he could not match those numbers he had a lot to prove in the second half.
Yankee fans may also forget that Rodriguez likely returned to the Yankees too quickly. He slumped mostly all through May and early June until manager Joe Girardi did not start him in two consecutive games against the Marlins on June 19 and June 20. At the time, A-Rod was hitting ,212 with 9 home runs and 27 RBIs.
Over his next 63 at-bats, Rodriguez had 27 hits (.343) with 8 home runs and 23 RBIs. A-Rod indeed had come back too soon and Girardi mistakenly had played him every game. But once that was addressed and A-Rod was rested, the All-Star third baseman was back doing his usual damage at the plate.
Girardi vowed to give Rodriguez regular rest throughout the second half by batting him as a DH or taking him out the lineup altogther. He also followed through with the plan and Rodriguez benefitted from the cautious treatment.
He also improved immeasurably in the field and on the bases. Early in his return from hip surgery, A-Rod was tentative in the field and slow on the bases.
In the second half, every thing came together for him, in 66 games he hit .310 with 13 home runs and 50 RBIs. He also stole 11 bases in 13 attempts. He also finished the season with just nine errors in the field. 
Although the hip still has robbed him of some of his speed, Rodriguez was still able to make the plays in the field and steal bases when he was called upon.
Rodriguez was also credited with helping Mark Teixeira put up great numbers at the plate when he returned. Whether that was true or not, A-Rod combined with the Teixeira to give the Yankees one of the most potent No. 3 and No. 4 hitters in baseball.
Rodriguez also enter the postseason knowing he does not have to carry the whole load for the Yankees on offense. So he should be more relaxed and focused on just what he can contribute to the Yankees.
Perhaps the hip surgery also allowed the hoopla over the performing-enhancing drug scandal die down with his absence from the game. Rodriguez drew support from his Yankees teammates in March when he addressed the media and the team seems to be closer as a result also.
I gave A-Rod a first half grade of C for the time he missed and his sluggish start when he returned. But you have to give him an A+ for raising his game in the second half. I also would give him an overall grade of B for the season. From June 21 on, A-Rod was everything the Yankees could have hoped for and more.
CODY RANSOM – Age 33

Ransom was named as the starting third baseman to replace Alex Rodriguez in spring training on the basis of a solid spring and the fact he hit .302 in 43 games late last season. Ransom was not a young prospect but a older player who is capable of playing all the infield positions. He certainly was an upgrade as a reserve from Wilson Betemit last season.
However, when given the opportunity to contribute in A-Rod’s absence, Ransom flopped miserably. He was the starter from Opening Day until April 24 when he pulled a quad muscle running the bases on a rainy night in Boston.
He was hitting a paltry. 180 with no home runs and 6 RBIs when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Ransom also was very shaky in the field at third base. He seemed to be back on his heels on every ball hit to him and looked tentative.
Once Ransom was disabled the position at third base was split up between Ramiro Pena and Angel Berroa. Pena was the superior player of the two. Offensively, he showed a good ability to work the count and get on base. In the field, Pena showed he could make the tough plays at third even though he is a better shortstop.
I would give Ransom, Pena and Berroa and overall grade of D in replacing A-Rod. It is not because I expected any of these three to replace A-Rod’s numbers at the plate. It was just that Ransom and Berroa were exceptionally bad replacements. Pena showed promise but he was just adequate.
Perhaps if Girardi and general manager Brian Cashman had reacted more quickly in spring training they could have avoided this mess at third base. Instead of looking to make a deal to get an experienced backup third baseman they chose to plug the leak from within. It flopped and the team suffered as a result.
There were a number of people who suggested that former third baseman Teixeira could play third and Nick Swisher could play first just until A-Rod was able to return. It was rejected by Girardi and we will never know how much this would have improved the team’s offense and defense at third and first.
The Yankees finally got Ransom back off the DL and he was designated for assignment and he was sent back to Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. The Yankees then traded for Eric Hinske and Jerry Hairston, who both could play the position adequately. Hinske could provide power at bat and Hairston could provide singles, occasional power and speed.
In September the Yankees recalled Pena, who also could play here. So the Yankees enter the playoffs with more options at the position but none of the three can match A-Rod’s production. But they will be valuable hitters off the bench and they all can play in the field adequately in the playoffs.
MID-SEASON POSITION GRADE: A*
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: B



Miranda Delivers Yankees’ 15th Walk-off Victory

YANKEES 4, ROYALS 3


New York Yankees fans waived their right to remain silent on Tuesday night.
September call-up Juan Miranda singled off the leg of an old friend, Kyle Farnsworth, with two outs in the ninth inning to drive in Eric Hinske with the winning run as the Yankees engineered their 15th walk-off victory of the season, a 4-3 win over the Kansas City Royals.
It was the Yankees’ sixth victory in a row and put them at a season’s best 46 games over .500.
The oddest part of the victory was that manager Joe Girardi had all but conceded the game by replacing Derek Jeter, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez in the eighth inning with the Yankees trailing 3-2.
However, Girardi could not have foreseen that Royals manager Trey Hillman would insert former Yankees whipping boy Farnsworth to close out the game for Kansas City. In his two-plus seasons with the Yankees, Farnsworth was 6-9 with a 4.33 ERA and he often drew the ire of Yankees fans by blowing leads and giving up 28 home runs in his 170 1/3 innings of work with the Yankees.
For the 44,794 fans in attendance, it was deja vu all over again with Farnsworth in the ninth inning. Only this time he was wearing road grays.
Farnsworth opened the frame by striking out Brett Gardner looking. But reserve catcher Francisco Cervelli dribbled a single off Farnsworth’s hand for an infield single.
Girardi, seizing an opportunity for a victory, sent Eric Hinske up as a pinch-hitter for Ramiro Pena and Hinske slapped a single into right and Cervelli was able to make it to third base on the hit.
Robinson Cano, who had just entered the game the previous inning to play second base and bat in Derek Jeter’s spot in the batting order, lofted a 3-0 pitch to the deepest part of centerfield for a sacrifice fly that scored Cervelli and tied the game at 3.
Further seizing an opportunity with Johnny Damon at the plate, Girardi gave Hinske the steal sign and Hinske slid into second as catcher John Buck’s throw eluded Yuniesky Betancourt and rolled into centerfield allowing Hinske to take third.
Hillman then thought he saw a way Farnsworth might escape further damage. With Teixeira out of the game and Miranda in the on-deck circle, he had Farnsworth walk Damon intentionally so Farnworth could pitch to Miranda, who had only five major-league at-bats this season and only one hit.
But Miranda spoiled the Hillman strategy by hitting an 0-1 fastball off the leg of Farnsworth and the ball rolled to Farnsworth’s left past the first-base line between first base and home plate. Before Farnsworth could retrieve the ball Hinske scored the winning run and Miranda reached first base and fell down rounding the bag.
Bedlam broke out as the Yankees rushed out of the dugout onto the field to congratulate the first baseman who was called up this month from Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre. A few moments later he was indoctrinated in the Yankees walk-off ritual: a face full of whipped cream courtesy of the Yankees starting pitcher on the night, A.J. Burnett.
The Yankees struggled on offense all night, courtesy of a Double-A righthander named Anthony Lerew, who threw change-up after change-up and mixed in a sinker to keep the Yankees off-balance all night.
Lerew shutout the Yankees for the first five innings on just two hits until Teixeira, with two outs, blasted a high change-up into right-center that bounced off the top of the wall and bounded into the seats for his 39th home run. The home run tied the game in the sixth and gave Teixeira a tie with the Rays’ Carlos Pena for the American League lead in home runs.
Nick Swisher greeted Lerew with a leadoff home run in the seventh inning to make it 3-2. Swisher took a 0-2 mistake and ripped a long drive to centerfield and chased Lerew from the game.
In six-plus innings Lerew gave up just the two runs on five hits and two walks and he struck out three batters.
Burnett, meanwhile, pitched well for a third straight outing. 
He gave up an RBI single to Billy Butler in the third inning but he otherwise kept the Royals in check. He left with one out and one on in the seventh inning. In 6 1/3 innings he gave up just three hits, all in the third inning, walked three and struck out eight.
Phil Coke then came on to give Little League participants a clinic in how NOT to field your position.
Alex Gordon started the clinic off with a bunt that Coke took his time in both fielding and throwing to first base only to have Gordon beat the throw. One batter later, Josh Anderson hit a one-hopper right back to Coke.
Coke whirled towards second base threw the ball well to Jeter’s right and into centerfield to allow Mark Teahen, who Burnett had walked to begin the frame, to score an unearned run. Gordon reached third and Anderson took second on the misplay.
Mitch Maier then hit another comebacker to the mound that Coke fielded cleanly. However, instead of throwing home to cut down Gordon easily, Coke chose to throw to first and allowed a second unearned run to score.
Fortunately for Coke and for Girardi, Farnsworth stepped in to snatch victory for the Yankees out the jaws of defeat.
The Yankees will go for a sweep of the three-game series with the Royals on Wednesday night. Joba Chamberlain (9-6, 4.72 ERA) will make his last start of the regular season and he will be opposed by righthander Robinson Tejeda (4-2, 3.41 ERA).
Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

A-Rod’s 4 RBIs Give CC His 16th Victory

YANKEES 10, ORIOLES 2


Yankees manager Joe Girardi is finding out that resting Alex Rodriguez for a day certainly pays big dividends in the future. 
On Wednesday night, the three-time MVP busted open a close game in the seventh and touched off a rout in the ninth as the New York Yankees won their sixth straight game and swept the Baltimore Orioles 10-2.
Rodriguez, who sat out Monday’s game against the Orioles, reached the 2,500-hit plateau with a single to center in the fifth inning off Orioles starter Jason Berken. He then added a two-run single in the seventh inning to give the Yankees a 3-1 lead and another two-run single in the ninth that touched off a seven-run frame to put the game out of reach.
“He’s been the man,” Johnny Damon told MLB.com. “We do have to pay attention and give him those days off so he can feel fresh, and when he feels fresh, you see how fast his swing is. Tonight was great.”
Of Rodriguez’s 75 RBIs this season, 36 have either tied the game or put the Yankees out in front.
“He has been really good in those situations for us, whether it’s been a game-winning home run or tying the score late,” Girardi said. “He’s been really good in those situations, and that’s what you want.”
The seven-run explosion in the ninth clinched the victory for CC Sabathia, who is the first pitcher in the major leagues to win 16 games. Though Sabathia started off shaky, he collected himself to pitch seven innings, giving up just one run on seven hits and a walk and he fanned nine batters.
“It feels good just being able to go out and help this team win,” Sabathia said. “I’ve just been pounding the strike zone and getting ahead. It has been working out.”
The Orioles, though, did have the veteran left-hander in trouble in the first two innings. In the first inning, Brian Roberts led off with a bunt single. After one out, Nolan Reimold hit a check-swing bloop single to right to move Roberts to third. Nick Markakis then lined out to left to score Roberts with the game’s first run.
The Orioles then pushed Sabathia to the wall in the second with singles by Matt Wieters, Ty Wigginton and Felix Pie. But Sabathia escaped the bases-loaded, one-out jam by striking out Roberts and Cesar Izturis.
Sabathia (16-7) then stiffened up to give up just a double to Pie in the fifth and single by Ty Wigginton in the seventh. 
Sabathia remains undefeated since July 28, a span of seven starts. He is 6-0 and has an ERA of 2.45 in those seven starts.
“He’s been really, really good for us all year long,” Girardi told MLB.com. “He’s done what we expected. He’s been a true ace for us — innings, wins, everything. He’s done everything we’ve asked.”
The Yankees got Sabathia back in the game in the third inning when Eric Hinske touched Berken for a 400-foot blast to right-center for his eighth home run of the season. Hinske had hit five home runs in his first seven games with the Yankees beginning on July 6.
But Hinske had not hit another since July 31 until Tuesday night when he connected on a solo home run in the seventh inning. So after his home run drought through August, Hinkse has now connected in two consecutive games.
Hinske also has 14 hits as a Yankee and seven are home runs.
He was in the lineup on Wednesday ostensibly to give a rest to first baseman Mark Teixeira. Hinske played right-field and Nick Swisher filled in at first for Teixeira.
The game stayed 1-1 until the Yankee half of the seventh inning. Rookie reliever Kam Mickolio walked Damon to start the inning. Swisher followed with his second opposite field bloop hit to left — this one was a double and it moved Damon to third.
Rodriguez then swatted a line single to center to score both Damon and Swisher and give the Yankees their first lead of the night.
The Orioles did pull to within a run on a Reimold solo home run with one out in the eighth inning off struggling right-hander Brian Bruney. But Phil Coke and Phil Hughes got an out apiece to shut down the Orioles to close out the eighth.
The Yankees then torched Orioles closer Jim Johnson and Dennis Sarfate in the ninth. Johnson, struggling with his control walked Derek Jeter and Swisher — sandwiched around a Damon single — to load the bases. Rodriguez then stroked a 0-2 pitch that caught the plate for a single to left to score Jeter and Damon.
After a deluge of seven hits, two walks and 12 batters made it to the plate, the Yankees had padded the 5-2 lead to 10-2 on RBI singles from Hideki Matsui, Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina, Jeter and Damon.
Phil Hughes pitched the ninth inning and struck out the side to complete his second major-league save. Mariano Rivera, who pitched in the first two games of the series and saved both games, was unavailable to pitch on Wednesday because of a tightness in his left groin.
He was not needed, though. In the three-game sweep, the Yankees outscored the Orioles by a combined score of 24-9. The Yankees have now defeated the Orioles in 10 straight games.
“Give credit where credit is due,” Orioles manager Dave Trembley said to MLB.com. “They have a tremendous team. We try to do everything we possibly can, and it just has not measured up and allowed us to get a win.”
The Yankees also were able to extend their lead in the American League East to 7 1/2 games over the second-place Red Sox, who lost 8-5 in St. Petersburg, FL to the Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees “magic number” for clinching the division is now 23.
“We’re not counting our blessings just yet,” Rodriguez said. “We have a long way to go, and there’s a lot of baseball to be played. But overall, our health has been good, for the most part, and we have a deep team.”

The Yankees now fly to Toronto to begin a four-game series at Rogers Centre. They will start Chad Gaudin (5-10, 4.90 ERA) in the opener Thursday night. Gaudin is starting in place of Sergio Mitre, who is nursing a bruised right forearm he sustained when he was hit by a line drive off
the bat A.J. Pierzynski on Saturday. 
Gaudin will be making his second start with the Yankees. In his first start, Gaudin pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings of one-hit ball against the Oakland A’s. He walked five batters however, and he was removed because of a high pitch count.
The Toronto Blue Jays will start young lefty Ricky Romero (11-6, 3.95 ERA). Romero allowed 13 base-runners over 5 1/3 innings but gave up three runs in a loss to the Red Sox on Saturday. In two previous starts against the Yankees, Romero is 1-0 with a 4.38 ERA.
Gametime is 7:07 p.m. EDT.

Some Random Thoughts

COMMENTARY


Before the national broadcast Here a few thoughts about the Yankees I want to share:
  • I like the deal that brought Jerry Hairston to the team from the Reds. He can play every position in the field except catcher and pitcher but he also provides another base-stealing threat off the bench. Defensively, he is also very steady.
  • If the Yankees do plan to change Joba Chamberlain’s role than they are going to have to bite the bullet and acquire a frontline starter. I can’t see why with CC Sabathia’s inconsistency, Chien-Ming Wang’s loss for the season and the fact Sergio Mitre has no business pitching on a major-league roster, that you even entertain the thought of shutting Chamberlain down now. 
  • Something is definitely wrong with Alfredo Aceves. After his horrific outing in Oakland last Saturday, he followed it up with another disastrous outing in Chicago on Friday night. Pitching through pain and discomfort is not heroic. It makes the team vulnerable. If he is hurt, the Yankees need to shut him down now.
  • If Sergio Mitre pitches again for the Yankees again I am going to scream. It is obvious to me as it must be to the manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Dave Eiland that he has no control of his sinker and none of his other pitches are that great. I thought I was watching early season videotape of Chien-Ming Wang. He’s got to go.
  • There is not much available to the Yankees to replace Mitre at the minor-league level. Ian Kennedy is unavailable because he had to undergo surgery for an aneurysm in his pitching shoulder. That leaves our old friend (and I use the term loosely) Kei Igawa and former major-league flops Josh Towers and Casey Fossum. No one at the Double-A level looks ready either. Perhaps Cashman may not have wanted to pay the price by the trade deadline. He may have to now.
  • Eric Hinske needs to play more. I do not understand the Yankees reluctance to use him at first or third base. He came up as an infielder and he looks merely adequate in right field. I would much rather see him play than Cody Ransom.
  • Speaking of Ransom. He got a reprieve today when the Yankees put Jerry Hairston on the roster. The Yankees Likely will have to send Shelley Duncan back to Triple-A despite after just one day on the roster. Duncan has 25 home runs at Scranton-Wilkes Barre and never complained when he was sent down after a solid spring. Duncan is just a great player to have on a team.

Matsui’s Walk-Off Blast Ties Yanks For First

YANKEES 2, ORIOLES 1


Hideki Matsui may not know all the customs of American baseball yet but he learned Monday night that you better toss your batting helmet before you touch home plate when you hit a walk-off home run for the Yankees.
The Japanese baseball star hit a dramatic solo home run with one out in the bottom of ninth inning to lead the New York Yankees to their ninth walk-off victory of the season in a 2-1 nail-biter against the Baltimore Orioles at the new Yankee Stadium.
The victory also gave the Yankees a share of first place in the American League East with the Boston Red Sox, who lost to the Texas Rangers 6-3.
So Matsui had many reasons to toss that helmet. 
“I was just going to step on home plate normally, but I was told to throw my helmet,” Matsui told MLB.com through an interpreter. “So I threw my helmet. I’ve never done it before; it was a little uncomfortable. But I’d like to follow whatever the team’s rules are.”

Matsui’s home run off Orioles reliever Jim Johnson was his second career walk-off home run and his 15th of the season, a season marked by knee problems that have limited him to just DH duty.

“We’ve always felt that he was real important,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to MLB.com. “Our biggest concern was his health, and he has been really good. He’s had big hit after big hit. He’s a guy that knows how to hit in that position.”

After the home run, the helmet toss and the celebration, Matsui was indoctrinated into another Yankees walk-off victory custom: The whipped cream pie in the face courtesy of pitcher A.J. Burnett.

“The moment I got hit, I realized, ‘Man, I had totally forgotten about it,'” Matsui said. “I was watching everybody else and I knew about it, but I was just caught in the moment and I had totally forgotten.”

The Yankees’ victory, their fourth in a row, was keyed by a strong outing from veteran lefthander Andy Pettitte. Nick Markakis touched Pettitte for a solo home run in the first inning. But Pettitte rediscovered his cutter and tied his longest outing of the year by pitching 7 1/3 strong innings.

Pettitte set a season high with eight strikeouts and gave up just six hits and walked two.

“I’ve been feeling so good that it’s been awfully frustrating for me,” Pettitte said. “I couldn’t feel any better about the way stuff has been going, and when the results aren’t how you want them to be, it’s really frustrating. I’m just hoping I can keep doing what I’ve been doing.”

Pettitte left in the eighth inning in a big jam. With one out, Pettitte had given up a single to Cesar Izturis. Brian Roberts then followed with a double to the rightfield wall that should have scored Izturis easily with the tie-breaking run.

But Robinson Cano faked like he was taking a throw and Izturis slid into second. Then Izturis started back to first base until he finally moved on to third base. But wit
h the throw already in from Eric Hinske in rightfield he was unable to score.

Girardi brought in Phil Coke to replace Pettitte so the lefty could face Markakis. The Yankees then turned away two potential runs with sensational defensive plays at home plate.

Markakis hit the first pitch hard to first baseman Mark Teixeira, who fired an off-balance throw to catcher Jose Molina. Molina caught the ball at the top of the webbing of his mitt and tagged out a sliding Izturis without losing the ball.

“I got my glove down and there wasn’t somebody there to tag, and then I looked up and saw him there going wild,” Molina told MLB.com. “My reaction was to just go get him because I didn’t want him touching that plate.”

Coke’s next delivery to right-hand batter Adam Jones drifted outside and low and bounced off Molina’s chest protector. But Molina quickly retrieved the ball as Coke dashed to cover home plate. Molina’s toss to Coke came just as Roberts was sliding head-first into home.

Roberts missed the plate with his left hand and he attempted to get his left foot to slide over the plate. But Coke tagged him before he could make it. Roberts argued briefly but home-plate umpire Adrian Johnson was adamant Roberts did not tag the plate.

“If you don’t make those plays, you don’t necessarily win the game,” Girardi said to MLB.com.

With both Phil Hughes and Mariano Rivera unavailable to pitch, Coke began the ninth and hit Adam Jones on the left foot with a pitch. Jones later stole second. And, after Coke got Aubrey Huff on a soft line drive that Melky Cabrera made a shoestring catch on, Girardi brought in Alfredo Aceves.

Aceves got Melvin Mora to fly out to Cabrera. Then, after Luke Scott was walked intentionally to put two runners on base, Aceves got rookie Nolan Reinold to fly out to left to end the threat.

The Yankees late-inning heroics were dictated by their inability to solve Orioles rookie righthander David Hernandez. Though Eric Hinske blasted a 2-0 fastball for a solo home run in the second inning, Hernandez did not give up another hit through six innings.

The Yankees had forced Hernandez to throw 35 pitches in the first inning and loaded the bases on the 24-year-old rookie. However, Cano lined out sharply to left and the Yankees did not score. The Yankees this season have had problems, at times, with young starters they have never faced before.

But luckily Pettitte matched Hernandez with zeros and Matsui was able to deliver another walk-off victory for the Yankees. 

Now Matsui knows all the important Yankees customs.

The Yankees will try to extend their winning streak to f
ive games on Tuesday by using their eighth different starting pitcher of the season. To replace injured starter Chien-Ming Wang the Yankees will call up from Triple A Scranton-Wilkes Barre righthander Sergio Mitre (2-1, 2.40 ERA). Mitre is 10-23 in five seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs and Marlins.

Mitre will face Orioles righthander Rich Hill (3-2, 7.22 ERA), who is coming off a good start against the Blue Jays before the All-Star Break. He scattered seven hits through six innings and gave up only two runs in a no decision that the Orioles won 4-3 in 12 innings. Before that start Hill had surrendered at least six earned runs in each of his three previous starts. This will be his first start against the Yankees.

Gametime is 7:05 p.m. EDT.

NOTES . . . Since the All-Star Break ended, the Yankees starters have flourished in the past four games. They have pitched 27 innings, allowed 20 hits, five earned runs, walking 13 and striking out 21. The ERA is a stingy 1.67 . . . Chien-Ming Wang suffered a setback in his rehabilitation of his right shoulder injury. The righthander played catch before the Orioles game for the first time since going on the disabled list July 5 and felt tenderness in his bicep. Wang will not throw again until at least Friday. There is no timetable set for Wang’s return.



Swisher Makes Up For Loss of Nady

RIGHT FIELD


NICK SWISHER – Age 28


Nick Swisher was an unexpected Yankee contributor this season. 
Originally acquired as a first baseman, Swisher lost his starting position when the Yankees signed Mark Teixeira as a free agent. Swisher’s only hope to start was as a rightfielder and he lost that battle in spring training to Xavier Nady.
So the fact that Swisher became a starter so quickly was one surprise. The fact that he practically carried the team in the absence of Alex Rodriguez and despite the sluggish start by Teixeira was even more shocking.
Over the past three seasons, Swisher did average 27 home runs, 81 RBIs and a .245 average. However, Swisher was coming off a horrendous season after being traded from the Oakland Athletics to the Chicago White Sox. He had 24 home runs and 69 RBIs but batted a woeful .219.
The Yankees, however, liked the fact that Swisher drew a lot of walks (An average of 93 the past three seasons). 
So Swisher was, in a sense, replacing first baseman Jason Giambi, another power hitter with a low batting average and high walk total the Yankees were letting go as a free agent.
Swisher became a full-time starter when on April 14, Nady felt a twinge in his previously surgically repaired right elbow and was placed on the disabled list. After a few months attempting to rejoin the team this season, Nady had a setback and will now have to undergo Tommy John ligament replacement surgery and miss 10 to 12 months.
Swisher luckily was there to fill the void for Nady. It was his hot April, though, that kept the Yankees afloat. He hit .312 for the month with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. Girardi handed him the job as the starter in right field and Swisher responded.
Unfortunately, Swisher soon came back to Earth. His batting average reached a low of .222 on May 26. The strikeouts mounted too. Swisher whiffed 29 times in 80 at-bats in May. Manager Joe Girardi has stuck with Swisher, though, because he is still drawing walks. He has 53 walks and his on-base percentage is a respectable. 360.
He also is a switch-hitter but he is a much better hitter from the left side (.240 and 11 home runs) than he is from the right (.222 and 3 home runs).
He has 14 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .237 average. Not exactly the big numbers the Yankees were hoping from Nady, but close enough to have made a difference in keeping the Yankees in the race in the American League East.
Swisher’s defense is quite another story. He is not exactly akin to a gazelle in rightfield. His range is just adequate and, though he has a strong arm, his throws can be very erratic. Swisher has committed four errors and has just one outfield assist.
Swisher is just not a very instinctive outfielder and is prone to taking the wrong route to the ball. But he does make up for his sloppy play with all-out hustle. Sometimes he will make a good catch on shear effort alone.
Girardi has, of late, been switching up his outfield by using Melky Cabrera to rest Damon in leftfield and Swisher in rightfield. This allows Girardi to start centerfielder Brett Gardner, who does not have Swisher or Damon’s power but adds speed to the lineup.
Girardi also can use newly acquired reserve Eric Hinske to play rightfield or leftfield. Hinske also adds power from the left side.
But Swisher’s value to the Yankees besides his hot April has been an intangible: He simply is very different from any player the Yankees have had in recent years, He simply is a free-spirit and fun-loving guy and Girardi credits him with loosening up a formerly businesslike Yankees clubhouse.
That contribution is harder to measure but given the Yankees record at the mid-point it appears to be something very real.
I give Swisher a midseason grade of C. His batting average and defensive deficiencies are the two reasons why he is rated so low.
OVERALL POSITION GRADE: C

Damon May Be Yankees Best Clutch Hitter

LEFT FIELD


JOHNNY DAMON – Age 35


In his past three seasons, Damon has averaged 18 home runs and 71 RBIs with a .286 average. As a the leadoff hitter he also has averaged 101 runs scored and 27 stolen bases. Those numbers are exceptional for a leadoff hitter.
But in spring training, Joe Girardi decided he liked the idea of Damon batting left-handed with Derek Jeter on first base where he could shoot the ball through the hole between second and first base.
The switch has been a big boost for Jeter, who is hitting .321 and has stolen 17 bases. Damon is not doing bad either. He has 16 home runs, 50 RBIs and is batting .276. Here is something even odder.
Damon has scored more runs than Jeter: 62 for Damon and 56 for Jeter. The only thing lagging is Damon’s steal totals. He only has eight. However, at age 35 perhaps Damon’s high total steal days were waning anyway.
But there is no doubt that Damon is proving the move to the second spot was a success. He has a great chance to deliver career highs in home runs and RBIs. Though his power numbers are viewed skeptically by some baseball experts.
The reason is that the new Yankee Stadium reputedly has a jetstream that pushes routine flies over the fence in mid-rightfield, which just so happens to be where most of the balls Damon hits go. So the fact he has 16 home runs must mean Damon is getting lucky and he is not that much of a power hitter.
But teams have tailored parks to the team’s strengths for years. If you have speed and little power you build a big ball park. If you have powerful righthanded hitters, build a shorter park in leftfield. So the Yankees have a abundance of lefthand power so why not have a short rightfield?
But the critics continue to complain.
Damon is just playing his game and, at age 35, he is acting like he would like to stay with the Yankees. There is no doubt he can make a case for it.
He was the Yankees best hitter last season with runners in scoring position and he is hitting .322 with RISP this season. You actually can make case for Damon being the player you want up with the game on the line. He is hitting .393 in the late innings of close games.
Though Jeter, A-Rod and Teixeira get a lot of attention, Damon may actually be the team’s most underrated asset as a hitter. 
Where he is a liability is the field.
Damon and the Yankees freely admit that Damon may have the worst outfield arm in baseball. Teams take advantage of that fact all the time, even sending slow lumbering runners to the plate from second base on balls hit to him.
But, in defense of Damon, he probably would not be playing leftfield at all if Hideki Matsui had a healthy set of knees. Matsui’s recurring knee injuries have forced Damon to play leftfield instead of designated hitter, where Damon really belongs.
Damon has even further declined in the field this season. He has allowed easy flies to drop out of his glove, he appears slow in getting back to the fence on long flies and he sometimes appears as if he is skates on routine flies to him.
Do not think the Yankees do not recognize this.
Girardi has been giving Damon days off against lefthand pitchers and has used Melky Cabrera as late-inning defensive replacement for him. Look for that to become more frequent in the second half.
The Yankees know they can’t hide Damon in left but they can limit the amount of innings he is out there. So if the Yankees have a lead in the late innings look for Cabrera, Nick Swisher or even Eric Hinske to play out in left for Damon going forward.
I am giving Damon an overall midseason grade of B. He misses getting an A because a somewhat lower batting average and because of his outfield deficiencies this season. 
Because of Cabrera’s exceptional range, defensive ability and arm, the overall position ranking here is slightly higher.
OVERALL POSITION RANK: B+
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