Results tagged ‘ Miguel Cabrera ’
YANKEES 7, ORIOLES 5
With time running out in their chase for a playoff spot, the Yankees were hoping on Friday that struggling left-hander CC Sabathia could find some of his old magic to hold down the Orioles. But, instead, their rejuvenated offense came through with a five-run fifth inning to win the first game of a very important weekend series.
Ichiro Suzuki cranked a two-run homer and Robinson Cano added a key two-run single in the fifth as New York overcame a 4-2 deficit to defeat Baltimore and climb within a half-game of third place in the division standings in front of paid crowd of 45,159 at Yankee Stadium.
Sabathia (12-11) actually began the game pitching a perfect 3 1/3 innings before giving up a double to Manny Machado. Two batters later, Chris Davis blooped a single to center to score Machado with the game’s first run.
However, the Yankees reclaimed the lead in the bottom of the fourth when Cano drew a two-out walk from right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (8-7) and Alfonso Soriano swatted his 29th home run of the season and 12th since he was acquired by the Yankees on July 26.
The Orioles then answered with three runs off Sabathia on a two-run home run by Danny Valencia and two-out RBI single by Machado.
The Yankees took the lead for good, however, in the fifth when Curtis Granderson led off with a double and Mark Reynolds slapped an RBI double of the wall in left-center. Suzuki then cranked a two-run homer to right, his eighth of the season, that gave the Yankees a 5-4 lead.
Austin Romine doubled and Brett Gardner advanced him to third on a single to left. Derek Jeter then drew a walk that loaded the bases with no outs and ended Gonzalez’s evening.
Cano then greeted left-hander T.J. McFarland with a two-run single to right to put the Yankees up 7-4. The Yankees entered the evening 22-1 this season in games in which they have scored at least seven runs.
Gonzalez, who started the game with a career record of 2-1 with a 2.48 ERA in six starts against the Yankees, gave up seven runs on six hits and three walks in four-plus innings.
After Adam Jones led off the sixth with a double and Nick Markakis delivered a two-out RBI single, manager Joe Girardi elected to pull Sabathia from the game early.
Despite getting credit for the victory, Sabathia yielded five runs on seven hits and one walk while he fanned four in 5 2/3 innings.
The Yankees added an insurance run in the seventh off McFarland on a two-out RBI single by Alex Rodriguez that scored Cano.
The Yankees’ bullpen of Shawn Kelley, Boone Logan, David Robertson and Mariano Rivera shut out the O’s over the final 3 1/3 innings on two hits and a walk while they struck out one to preserve the victory for the Yankees.
Rivera pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 39th save in 44 chances this season.
The Yankees now are 71-63 on the season and they are eight games behind the first-place Boston Red Sox in fourth place in the American League East. However, they are only a half-game behind the Orioles, who are now 71-62. They are tied with the Cleveland Indians in the wild-card standings, 4 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays.
- It was unclear if Cano would be able to start because of a bruised left hand he sustained when he was hit with a pitch on Tuesday night by J.A. Happ of the Toronto Blue Jays. But Cano started and was 2-for-3 with a pair of singles, a walk, two runs scored and two RBIs. Cano still leads the Yankees in batting (.307), home runs (24) and RBIs (87).
- Since July 26, Soriano and American League MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers lead the major leagues with 12 home runs apiece. Davis of the Orioles, who leads the majors with 47, is third with 10. Soriano is hitting .270 with 12 homers and 35 RBIs in 32 games with the Yankees.
- Of the Yankees’ 13 hits, Reynolds contributed three of them, including a pair of doubles. Reynolds worked with batting coach Kevin Long to eliminate a left toe tap in order to shorten his swing and Reynolds has responded by going 7-for-12 (.583) with a homer and three RBIs in his past three starts.
- It is becoming quite clear that Sabathia is a liability as a starter this season. His season ERA now stands at 4.91, which would be the highest ERA he has recorded in a season since he was 17-5 with a 4.39 ERA in his rookie season with the Indians in 2001. The Yankees have no choice but to pitch him but they can’t expect much when he does.
- Base-running mistakes cost the Yankees some additional runs in this game. Reynolds was thrown out at third base by Jones from center-field on a single by Suzuki with one out in the sixth. With Soriano on third and Rodriguez on second with two out in the seventh, Granderson bunted a ball along the third-base line. Soriano froze at third, realized Rodriguez was advancing to third and he ended up being tagged out easily by catcher Taylor Teagarden. Reynolds also was thrown out at home by shortstop J.J. Hardy on a high-hopper off the bat of Romine in the eighth.
Though Cano returned to the lineup, infielder Eduardo Nunez missed a second straight game with a sore right knee. But Nunez insisted he was available to play if needed. Nunez twisted his knee in Tuesday’s game against the Blue Jays. . . . Reynolds started at first base despite the fact the right-handed Gonzalez was pitching because he been hotter at the plate than lefty-swinging Lyle Overbay. Since being signed off waivers from the Indians, Reynolds is batting .316 with two home runs and seven RBIs in 12 games with the Yankees. . . . The Yankees elected on Friday to move right-hander Phil Hughes’ next start back to Monday against the Chicago White Sox and named Andy Pettitte to start the series finale against the Orioles on Sunday. Hughes has not won a game since July 2 and he has lost 11 of his past 13 decisions.
The Yankees will have a chance to move ahead of the Orioles into third place in the division with a victory on Saturday.
Right-hander Ivan Nova (7-4, 3.14 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Nova walked six batters (one intentional) but still was able to hold the Rays to two runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision on Sunday. He is 4-2 with a 4.95 ERA in his career against the O’s.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Scott Feldman (4-3, 4.56 ERA). Feldman gave up one run on three hits and four walks in five innings in a victory over the Oakland Athletics last Saturday. He is 3-3 with a 4.78 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TIGERS 0
After being outscored 16-7 and outhit 26-12 in the first two games and having to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner in Sunday’s series finale, the Yankees countered that by throwing a former Cy Young Award winner of their own. The result was the polar opposite of what happened in the first two games.
CC Sabathia shut out the Tigers on just four hits in seven innings to outduel Justin Verlander and the Yankees busted loose for seven runs and 13 hits as New York salvaged the third game of the series to whitewash Detroit in front of a paid crowd of 39,829 at Comerica Park.
Sabathia (1-1) put the controversy surrounding the reduced velocity on his pitches by showing excellent command of his fastball and changeup to prevent any Tiger baserunner to get past second base. Sabathia also improved his career record against the Tigers to 19-12.
Meanwhile, Sabathia received some welcome run support from a pair of unlikely run producers in the second inning.
Picking on a less-than-sharp Verlander (1-1) with one out and Ichiro Suzuki on first, Francisco Cervelli laced a line-drive double to the wall in left-center to score Suzuki with the game’s first run. One out later, Jayson Nix, who was subbing at shortstop for Eduardo Nunez, who was subbing for Derek Jeter, cranked a fat changeup into the first row of bleachers in left-field to give the Yankees an early 3-0 lead.
It was a lead that Sabathia refused to relinquish to a deep power-laden lineup that had destroyed the Yankees the past two games.
Sabathia ended his afternoon having walked three and striking out four. It was hardly a dominant outing but it did best Verlander, who left after 7 1/3 innings having surrendered seven hits and two walks while striking out four.
The Yankees then added a pair of runs in both the eighth and ninth innings off left-hander Phil Coke and right-hander Octavio Dotel, respectively.
Suzuki touched Coke with a run-scoring fly ball in the eighth and Cervelli followed with a lined RBI single to center.
Red-hot Kevin Youkilis capped the scoring with one out in the ninth off Dotel by lacing a two-run single.
David Robertson pitched a scoreless eighth and Mariano Rivera tossed a scoreless ninth to allow the Yankees to complete the shutout of the Tigers and salvage the series finale.
The Yankees’ season record improves to 2-4. The Tigers fell to 3-3.
- Sabathia hovered mostly in the 88-91 mile-per-hour range on Sunday but it was good enough to keep the Tigers at bay. The Tigers 3, 4 and 5 hitters - Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez - were a combined 0-for-9 with two strikeouts off Sabathia. More importantly Sabathia quieted the critics who ripped him after his Opening Day loss to the Boston Red Sox.
- Nix entered the game 0-for-7 with five strikeouts but he broke out of it in a big way against Verlander and Dotel. He was 3-for-4 with two runs scored and two RBIs. Nix was pleased because he has not had much success against Verlander in the past. ”It’s great. It feels really good,” Nix said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of success off him. He is who he is, you know?”
- With Nix batting ninth, Cervelli held up his end batting seventh. He was 2-for-4 with two big RBIs. That raised Cervelli’s early-season batting average to .308.
Every starter had at least one hit except Lyle Overbay (0-for-4), Sabathia pitched with great precision to shut down a powerful lineup and the team did not commit an error in the field. That is a reason not to dwell on any negatives in what has been a rough week for the team.
Nunez was unable to get back into the starting lineup on Sunday but he was able to pinch-run for Travis Hafner in the eighth inning and he scored a run. Nunez has been hampered the past two games because of a bruised right bicep he sustained when he was hit by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister on Friday. Nunez tried to swing a bat and throw on Sunday but his right arm was still sore. He is still listed as day-to-day. . . . Most experts figured the Yankees would not succeed with a bunch of aging newcomers and journeymen starting or filling in for injured starters. But Youkilis, Hafner, Overbay, Vernon Wells, Ben Francisco and Brennan Boesch were a combined 22-for-75 (.293) with four homers and 12 RBIs in the Yankees’ first five games.
The Yankees boarded a flight for Cleveland late Sunday and will open a three-game series against the Indians on Monday.
Right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (0-1, 13.50 ERA) recovered from a bruised right middle finger he suffered in the second inning of his first start against the Bosox on Wednesday and will pitch for the Yankees. Kuroda is 1-1 with a 2.40 ERA in his two career starts against the Indians.
The Indians will counter with right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-0, 1.50 ERA). Jimenez allowed one run on three hits, walked two and struck six in six innings in his season debut against the Blue Jays in Toronto on Wednesday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.
TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4
The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.
For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.
Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.
The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque – taking advantage of four walks - scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.
The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.
The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.
Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.
Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.
The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.
Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.
- Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
- Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
- Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.
- The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
- Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
- Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.
A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run. . . . Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return. . . . When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.
If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
TIGERS 10, YANKEES 6
Miguel Cabrera broke a 4-4 tie in the seventh with a two-run home run that sparked a five-run inning as Detroit overcame what was once a 4-1 deficit to down New York on Saturday at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, FL.
Cabrera’s fourth homer of the spring came off Cody Eppley (0-2), who failed to retire any of the five batters he faced in the frame and he was charged with all five runs.
Right-hander Darin Downs (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning in the top of the seventh to get credit for the victory.
Andy Pettitte started the game for the Yankees and he pitched well until he was tagged for three runs in the fifth inning. He ended up giving up four runs on eight hits and one walk while striking out five in 6 1/3 innings.
The Yankees broke out on top on the strength of an RBI single by Eduardo Nunez in the third inning, a solo home run from Ben Francisco – one of two home runs he hit on the day – and a two-run double in the fifth inning off the bat of Kevin Youkilis.
With the loss the Yankees dropped to 11-17 this spring. The Tigers improved to 16-11.
- Francisco’s solo shot in the fourth and two-run blast in the eighth were his first two home runs of the spring. Francisco, 31, may be a non-roster player but he is very quickly pushing his way into the outfield picture as part of a potential platoon with the lefty swinging Brennan Boesch. Francisco is hitting a sizzling .350 on the spring.
- Pettitte pitched much better than his final line indicated. He was in command and looking like he was in midseason form in the first four innings. Discounting the bad inning, Pettitte gave up one run on four hits and one walk while striking out five. Pettitte, 40, said after the game he felt good about the outing and that he just got too many pitches up in that three-run third.
- Youkilis snapped a small slump over the past week to drive in two big runs with his double with two out in the fifth inning off Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez. Youkilis now has eight RBIs this spring, which is second on the team behind outfielder Melky Mesa, who has 10.
- Eppley had one of those days he would like to forget. The sidewinding right-hander came into the game for Pettitte with one out in the sixth and proceeded to give up a single to Torii Hunter, the homer to Cabrera, a single to Quintin Berry, an RBI double to Victor Martinez and a RBI single to Matt Tuiasosopo before being removed from the game by manager Joe Girardi. Eppley is 0-2 with a 14.29 this spring. However, he likely still will make the 25-man roster.
- On a day when the Yankees scored six runs on 14 hits, designated hitter Travis Hafner - once again - contributed nothing to the attack. Hafner, 35, was 0-for-3 and did not get a ball out of the infield. He is hitting .118 on the spring and may end up being a huge bust. Perhaps signing free agent Jim Thome would have made more sense.
Derek Jeter grounded out in each of his four at-bats in a minor-league game played against the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Triple-A affiliate at the Yankees’ spring complex in Tampa. Jeter did not run hard on his surgically repaired left ankle but Jeter remains confident he will be able to be ready to play on Opening Day. . . . It was made official on Saturday: The Yankees announced they have signed right-hander Chien-Ming Wang to minor-league contract. Wang, 32, won 55 games over a four-year span with the Yankees, including two seasons in which he won 19 games. He was 6-6 with a 4.94 in 21 games with Washington Nationals last season. . . . Vidal Nuno has opened eyes this spring enough to be in the running for a spot in the bullpen, according to general manager Brian Cashman. With left-handed specialist Clay Rapada recovering from bursitis in his throwing shoulder, Nuno has a shot to make the 25-man roster. The 25-year-old lefty is 1-1 with a 0.68 ERA this spring. . . . Boesch was examined by a team doctor on Saturday and his sore left ribcage checked out fine. Girardi said Boesch could return to the lineup on Tuesday or Wednesday.
The Yankees return to George M. Steinbrenner Field to play host to the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday.
Right-hander Adam Warren will start for the Yankees and he will be opposed by right-hander Jeremy Hellickson.
Game-time will be 1:05 EDT and the game will be telecast locally by the YES Network and nationally by the MLB Network.
YANKEES 14, RED SOX 2
Most baseball experts pegged the Yankees to win the American League East and to have the best record in the American League in 2012. However, those same experts were not counting on them needing 162 games to accomplish it.
But in a season in which the team lost baseball’s best closer ever, a 24-year-old hard-throwing starting pitcher, their best base-runner and defensive outfielder and their All-Star third and first basemen for long stretches of games while they blew a 10-game lead they owned on July 18. But they held on to win their division and maintain home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Robinson Cano was 4-for-4 with two mammoth home runs and six RBIs and Curtis Granderson added a pair of home runs and four RBIs as the New York erupted with some heavy lumber to throughly thrash a hapless, listless and joyless Boston team on Wednesday in front of a jubilant paid Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,393.
Combined with the Oakland Athletics’ 12-5 victory over the Texas Rangers and the Tampa Bay Rays’ 4-1 defeat of the Baltimore Orioles earlier, the Yankees’ victory gave them the dual prize of champions of their division and the best record in the league. It was the Yankees’ third division title in the past four seasons and they made the playoffs for the 17th time in the past 18 seasons.
The Yankees will open their postseason quest for their 28th world championship on Sunday when they play on the road against the winner of the Baltimore-Texas inaugural one-game Wild-Card playoff game, which will be played on Friday in Arlington, TX.
After Freddy Garcia struck out the side in the ninth inning, the stadium broke into delirious cheers as the team and coaches celebrated on the field and put on their charcoal-gray American League East champion shirts and caps.
Though the journey was a long one and it was fraught with many ups and downs, the Yankees came into the game confident they held their fate in their own hands. They only needed to win this one game.
The Red Sox put up a run in the first inning off Hiroki Kuroda on a Jacoby Ellsbury single and he scored – after advancing to third on two groundouts – on Cody Ross’ sacrifice fly.
The rest of the night belonged to Cano, Granderson and some booming hits all over the turf off Red Sox starter Daisuke Matsuzaka and a tattered Red Sox bullpen.
After a 1-2-3 first inning, the real Matsuzaka (1-7) appeared in the second when Cano ignited the fireworks with a single to center and Nick Swisher drew a walk. One out later, Granderson launched his 42nd home run of the season into the bleachers in right-center to give the Yankees a lead they would not dare give up the rest of the evening.
An inning later, Alex Rodriguez rolled a one-out single into left and Cano crushed a Matsuzaka change-up into the second deck in right-field for his 32nd home run of the season. After a Swisher single, Bobby Valentine – rumored to be managing what will be his last game with the Red Sox – removed Matsuzaka after he gave up five runs on six hits and a walk in just 2 1/3 innings.
Meanwhile, Matsuzaka’s fellow countryman Kuroda (16-11) settled in nicely after the first frame to pitch a solid seven innings in which he gave up two runs on seven hits and two walks while he struck out four batters. Kuroda’s 16 victories are a career high since he came to the United States in 2008 and he also evened his career record to 57-57.
The Yankees were determined, however, to keep the pressure on the Red Sox and they did in the fifth when Rodriguez slapped a one-out double in the corner in left and Cano hit the first offering he saw off reliever Clayton Mortensen even deeper that his first homer into the second deck down the right-field line.
Though Cano entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he had multiple hits in each game and he was hitting an unbelievable .571 over that stretch, he was not through punishing Boston’s beleaguered pitching staff.
With reliever Pedro Beato on the mound in the sixth, the Yankees rallied again when Russell Martin reached base when he was struck in the left elbow on a 3-2 pitch. Derek Jeter singled and, after Suzuki forced Jeter on a groundout and stole second, Rodriguez drew a walk to load the bases.
Valentine removed Beato in favor of Scott Atchison and Cano said hello to him with a single into right to score Martin and Suzuki. The Yankees were up 9-1 and Cano had six RBIs.
After the Red Sox scratched out a two-out run in the seventh on a Pedro Ciriaco double and a Jose Iglesias RBI single, the Yankees put the game away by sending 10-men to the plate and scoring five runs on the Red Sox in the bottom of the frame.
Granderson keyed that inning with his 43rd home run of the season, a solo-run shot over the Yankee bullpen wall in right-center to start the uprising. The home run was also a historic one for the team. Granderson’s blast was the 245th home run for the team this season, which broke the previous record of 244 by the 2009 Yankees, who won their 27th world championship that season.
By that time, the Orioles had already lost to to the Rays and the Yankees already knew they reached their goal. That just left playing out the string of the next few innings against a dispirited Red Sox team, which were outscored 28-7 over the three-game series sweep.
The loss of Mariano Rivera and Michael Pineda for the season and the injuries that shelved starting left-fielder Brett Gardner for most of the season and took Rodriguez and Teixiera out the lineup for key parts of the campaign are but a distant memory now.
The next step will be to rest the wounds of the season and await manager Joe Girardi’s difficult choices for a 25-man playoff roster.
But the champagne still flowed freely in the clubhouse, the smiles were genuine and there is, no doubt, a lot of relief that their epic struggle to get to this point was finally over. As Jeter said it after the game, “Now the real season begins.”
- Is it possible for the Yankees to send Cano to play some games somewhere so his red-hot bat does cool off before Sunday? In his final nine games, Cano was 24-for-39 (.615) with seven doubles, three home runs and 14 RBIs. Cano finished the season hitting .313 with a career-high 33 home runs and 94 RBIs. In his last at-bat, Valentine brought in left-hander Craig Breslow to face him with one out and two on. Breslow walked him on four pitches to load the bases. Smart move!
- Granderson’s two home runs and four RBIs give him a team-leading 43 home runs and 106 RBIs on the season despite the fact he struck out a career-high 193 times and hit just .232 this season. It goes without saying the Yankees’ lineup is a deep one but Granderson was hitting seventh on Wednesday despite the fact his 43 homers tied him with Josh Hamilton of the Rangers for second in the majors to Miguel Cabrera of the Tigers, who hit 44.
- Kuroda put in a good performance in advance of his next start behind CC Sabathia in the playoffs. Kuroda had struggled somewhat in September (3-1 but with a 5.22 ERA). His outing was very sharp and he pitched very well once the Yankees had staked him to a big lead. Kuroda was, by far, the Yankees’ best and most consistent pitcher this season. The Yankees need him to pitch well in the playoffs.
A typical New Yorker might have found some faults here or there in this game. Yankee fans are a hard bunch to please. But I am not going to go there. They needed to win this game and they did it. Why be negative?
After some questioning from the media about his lineup on Tuesday, Girardi moved Suzuki back to the second spot, shifted Cano up to fourth and batted Teixiera sixth. Good thing, too, because Teixiera still does not have his timing at the plate down and he was 0-3 with a walk and a run-scoring fly ball. Cano, meanwhile, cleaned up in the cleanup spot. . . . It will be interesting to see how Girardi selects his bench and bullpen for the playoffs. Backup catcher Chris Stewart, outfielder Raul Ibanez, corner infielder Eric Chavez and middle infielder Eduardo Nunez are assured of spots but Andruw Jones may lose his spot in favor of Gardner. There also is a good possibility that Derek Lowe will make the roster and Garcia won’t because Lowe has proven to be valuable as a reliever.
The Yankees will open their playoff series in either Baltimore or Texas on Sunday. Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees.
The best-of-five American League Division Series will be telecast nationally by TBS.
YANKEES 9, TIGERS 4
In the play “Richard The Third” King Richard says “A horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse!”
In the second inning, Yankees manager Joseph Elliott Girardi (The First) must have been beseeching his charges with the refrain, “A hit, a hit, my stewardship for a hit.” After all, the Yankees have been like a barren desert when it comes to hits with the bases loaded this season.
Thankfully, Curtis Granderson must have heeded the calling and delivered a grand slam home run that staked the Yankees to a 5-1 lead they never relinquished as CC Sabathia and his New York teammates vanquished Detroit in a contest Friday at Comerica Park.
Sabathia (7-2) wobbled in the first (he gave up a run) and third innings (he gave up two runs) and threw 71 pitches in the first three innings. However, he shut out the Tigers on just two hits over the final four innings to record his sixth quality start in his last seven outings.
Meanwhile, the Yankees preyed upon 23-year-old Casey Crosby in his major-league debut. Crosby opened the second inning by walking three of the first four batters he faced. After Chris Stewart was unable to get his fly ball to left deep enough to score a run (My stewardship for a hit), Derek Jeter stepped to the plate with two out.
Crosby missed with a 3-2 pitch and Jeter drove in a run to tie the game at 1-1. (I’ll take the walk but my stewardship for a hit.)
Granderson, who struck out looking on three pitches in his first at-bat, lashed out at a 1-1 fastball and hit into the seats in deep right-field for his 17th home run of the season. (King, uh, manager Girardi’s prayers were finally answered.)
But once Sabathia found his footing with the game at 5-3 after three innings, the Yankees managed to tack on a run in the fourth on an RBI single by Stewart, which chased Crosby, a run in the eighth on a two-out double by Andruw Jones and two runs in the ninth on Alex Rodriguez’s eighth home run of the season.
Crosby (0-1) became the third pitcher who has made his debut against the Yankees this season and the third who has gone down to defeat. He was touched for six runs on four hits and four walks and struck out three in 3 1/3 innings.
Sabathia gave up three runs on eight hits and two walks and he struck out five in seven innings. Rafael Soriano came in the ninth inning with the bases loaded and one out and induced Miguel Cabrera to hit into a game-ending double play to earn his seventh save in as many tries.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 28-23. The Tigers fell to 24-28.
- Granderson is beginning to get hot with the longball again. He now has homered in three of his last four games. In that span he is 6-for-19 (.316) with three home runs and eight RBIs. His 17 home runs leads the team and he is tied with Adam Dunn and Edwin Encarnacion for the second most home runs in the American League this season.
- Sabathia was not sharp but he somehow found a way to win his team-leading seventh game. The key point of the game was after he gave up two runs in the the second inning, Sabathia loaded the bases with two out by walking Gerald Laird. He ended up striking out Brennan Boesch swinging to end the threat.
- Jeter was 2-for-4 along with his RBI walk in the second inning and he extended his modest hitting streak to six games. In that span, Jeter is 9-for-26 (.346). His .340 season average is fourth in the A.L.
- The normally very reliable bullpen was not that good on Friday. Cody Eppley faced one batter (Cabrera) in the eighth inning and gave up a double. Boone Logan faced two batters and gave up an infield single to Delmon Young that advanced Cabrera to third. Cory Wade then came in and gave up a sac fly to pinch-hitter Jhonny Peralta. Clay Rapada opened the ninth with a 9-4 lead and ended up leaving in favor of Soriano with the bases loaded and one out after walking two batters and giving up a hit.
- Prior to Rodriguez’s two-run home run in the ninth, he was 0-for-4 in the game with three strikeouts. Crosby fanned him twice, once looking, and Brayan Villarreal blew a fastball past him in the eighth inning. Rodriguez is struggling with just eight home runs and 21 RBIs on the season despite the fact he is hitting .280.
- Though he walked and scored in the second inning, Robinson Cano was 0-for-4 with two strikeouts and he grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fifth. In his last four games, Cano is just 2-for-18 (.111) with seven strikeouts. His season average has dipped to .286.
The Yankees will continue their three-game weekend series with the Tigers on Saturday.
The Yankees will start 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (4-6, 3.96 ERA), who is coming off a sterling eight innings of shutout baseball against the Oakland Athletics on Sunday. Kuroda held the A’s to only four hits to win his first road contest of the season. He is 0-1 with a 4.50 ERA against the Tigers in his career.
The Tigers will counter with right-hander Rick Porcello (3-4, 5.21 ERA). Porcello threw a quality start against the Twins on Sunday but ended up with a no-decision. He is 2-2 with a 5.56 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
YANKEES 6, TIGERS 2
When your team’s starting pitching is ineffective and its bullpen is being taxed by having to pitch too many innings, the ace of your staff must step up and deliver a victory and go most of the way.
CC Sabathia did just that on Sunday for the Yankees.
Sabathia (3-0) pitched eight innings of two-run baseball and his offense backed him with home runs from Curtis Granderson and Andruw Jones as New York took the weekend series against Detroit with a victory at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Sabathia limited the Tigers to just four hits and two walks while he struck out eight en route to his third consecutive victory.
His mound opponent, Max Scherzer (1-3), spent most of his outing dodging disaster while he was doling out hits and walks like candy to children. Scherzer gave up seven hits and a career-high seven walks in 4 2/3 innings but somehow only gave up three earned runs.
The Yankees loaded the bases on Scherzer in the second inning when Derek Jeter reached first safely on an infield single with two outs. Curtis Granderson got credit for an RBI when Scherzer walked him on a 3-2 pitch. The Yankees tacked on another run when Alex Rodriguez rolled an infield single that Miguel Cabrera was unable to field cleanly.
Prince Fielder halved the Yankees lead in the fourth with his third home run of the season, a solo blast into the second deck in right-field.
The Yankees got that run back in the fourth on Granderson’s eighth home run of the season and his fifth in his last nine games. Tigers center-fielder Austin Jackson nearly leaped over the wall and brought it back in what would have a been a spectacular catch. However, he was unable to keep the ball in his glove as his left arm hit the fence which separates the stands from the Yankees’ bullpen.
The Tigers drew to within a run in the sixth on a Brennan Boesch single with one out and Cabrera followed with an RBI double off the wall in center-field.
Sabathia was forced to pitch with the slimmest of leads despite the fact the Yankees had put 17 runners on base over the first six innings without getting that one big hit that could have broken the game open.
They did, however, break through in the seventh inning off rookie reliever Luke Putkonen, who was making his major-league debut.
Backup catcher and No. 9 hitter Chris Stewart started it with a leadoff single. Jeter drew another walk and Granderson just missed a second home run to center but both Stewart and Jeter were able to advance a base. Stewart then scored when Cabrera chose to throw home on a bouncer off the bat of Rodriguez and Stewart slid safely under the tag of Gerald Laird.
Robinson Cano added a sacrifice fly to score Jeter and the Yankees finally provided a three-run cushion for Sabathia.
Jones hit his third home run of the season in the eighth off reliever Collin Balester to give the Yankees their final margin.
With the victory, the Yankees improved to 12-9. The Tigers fell to 11-11.
- Sabathia was at his best on Sunday, hitting his spots with his fastball and striking out batters with his slider. With his eight strikeouts on Sunday, Sabathia is now leading the American League in that category with 38. He also lowered his ERA to 4.68. More importantly, a weary bullpen got some rest. David Robertson pitched a perfect ninth to close it out but pitchers like David Phelps, Clay Rapada and Boone Logan got some much needed rest.
- Granderson’s home run turned out to be the deciding run of the game and it overcame a situation where the Yankees were a horrible 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position. Granderson leads in the team in home runs and he is second to Nick Swisher in RBIs with 16. Granderson is hitting .364 in his last nine games with five home runs and 10 RBIs.
- Rodriguez’s two RBIs gave him 1,904 for his career, which moved him past Willie Mays for ninth place on the all-time list. After a slow start with the bat this April, A-Rod has nine RBIs in his last eight games and he now has four home runs and 11 RBIs on the season.
- Cano contributed two hits and an RBI but he still has been largely MIA this season with one home run, four RBis and a .264 average.
- Hitting with runners in scoring position seems to be a particular problem for the Yankees this season. It was in this game. Cano grounded out weakly to first base with two on and one out in the first and he struck out swinging with the bases loaded and two out in the second. The Yankees left the bases loaded three times in the game and stranded 15 runners overall. This has to change.
- Mark Teixeira must have finally realized it was April. After his two-homer, six-RBI game against the Red Sox on April 20, Tex has fallen into a 2-for-24 (.083) tailspin. He was 0-for-5 on Sunday and he was 0-for-12 in the weekend series against the Tigers. He is now hitting .223. But, cheer up, Mark! The month of May begins on Tuesday and you can start hitting then like you always do.
Swisher left the game for a pinch-runner (Jones) in the third inning with a mild strain of his left hamstring and he is expected to miss the next few games, at least. However, the Yankees do not believe Swisher will need to go on the disabled list at this time. He is listed as day-to-day for now. . . . As expected, the Yankees have announced that struggling right-hander Freddy Garcia will pitch out of the bullpen and Phelps has been elevated to the No. 5 spot in the rotation. Garcia, 35, is 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA in his four starts and he was chased after giving up six runs in 1 2/3 innings on Saturday. Phelps, 25, is 0-0 with a 3.57 ERA in six appearances covering 17 2/3 innings out of the bullpen. The rookie right-hander figures to make his first major-league start on Thursday in Kansas City against the Royals. . . . The Yankees made a roster move on Sunday to bolster their overtaxed bullpen by calling up rookie right-hander D.J. Mitchell from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and sending right-hander Cody Eppley to Scranton.
The Yankees open a three-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles on Monday.
Hiroki Kuroda (1-3, 4.38 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 innings to the Texas Rangers on Tuesday. However, he lost in a pitcher’s duel against fellow countryman Yu Darvish. Kuroda has never faced the Orioles in his career.
The Orioles will counter with right-hander Jason Hammel (3-0, 1.73 ERA). Hammel is coming off an outing in which he shut out the Toronto Blue Jays over seven innings en route to a 3-0 victory. He is 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.
TIGERS 7, YANKEES 5
For the second straight start veteran right-hander Freddy Garcia got knocked out in the second inning and a last-ditch ninth-inning rally fell just short as Detroit defeated New York on Saturday at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Garcia was shelled for six runs on five hits and two walks in 1 2/3 innings, the big blows were a three-run home run by Andy Dirks in the first inning and a two-run double by Miguel Cabrera in the second that chased him from the game. Garcia is now 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA.
Meanwhile, 22-year-old rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (1-0) pitched six innings, giving up only one run on Nick Swisher’s home run the bottom of the first inning, to pick up his first major-league victory.
The Yankees, meanwhile, made it interesting in the late innings when Curtis Granderson homered off former Yankee left-hander Phil Coke in the seventh inning and they added three runs in the ninth inning off Tigers closer and resident hot dog Jose Valverde.
Swisher began the inning with his second home of the game and his sixth of the season. Alex Rodriguez then drew a one-out walk. Granderson later added a two-out single to score Rodriguez.
Pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez slapped an RBI double down the left-field line to score Granderson and draw the Yankees to within two runs and brought the tying run to the plate in pinch-hitter Eric Chavez.
Chavez slapped a high drive down the right-field line that was caught just at the warning track by right-fielder Don Kelly to end the rally and allow Valverde to get his heart out of his throat. Instead of his usual victory dance after the last out, the clown just walked off the mound sporting an embarrassing 5.59 ERA.
The loss dropped the Yankees’ season ledger to 11-9. The Tigers snapped a five-game losing streak and are 11-10.
- Swisher’s two home runs came from each side of the plate and he extended his American League-leading total of RBis to 23. Because Swisher’s contract expires at the end of the season, he is hoping a good season will convince the Yankees to offer him a long-term deal to stay. Considering in his last 10 games, Swisher is hitting .350 with four home runs and 12 RBIs it might be a good idea to do it before the season ends.
- Granderson’s solo home run in the seventh gave him seven on the season. In his last eight games, Granderson is hitting .367 with four home runs and eight RBIs. His only negative this season is his 24 strikeouts in 78 at-bats.
- Cody Eppley gave up a solo home run to Cabrera in the eighth inning and that was the only run the bullpen allowed after Garcia left in the second inning. Clay Rapada, David Phelps and Eppley combined to give up just the one run on two hits and two walks in 7 1/3 innings. Phelps, who seems to be assured of a start soon, faced the minimum nine batters in his three innings of work, striking out two.
- Garcia has started his last game for some time and it may be his last start for the Yankees, period. Manager Joe Girardi said Garcia may land on the disabled list so the Yankees can determine why his pitches have dropped so much in velocity from last season. Girardi may have some announcement about it on Sunday.
- Robinson Cano has been a major disappointment all season. He was 0-for-4 on Saturday and he saw only 11 pitches in those at-bats. He lined out sharply in the first, struck out looking on three pitches in the fourth and flied out weakly in the sixth and ninth innings. Cano is hitting .253 with just one home run and three RBIs batting third or fourth for the Yankees behind a red-hot Derek Jeter. Something is not adding up here.
- The Yankees managed only Swisher’s home run, a Rodriguez single and two walks off Smyly in his fourth major-league start. This has ben a pattern with the Yankees when they face a pitcher for the first time. They take way too much time trying to figure out how to approach them and end up on the losing end.
Andy Pettitte’s minor-league start scheduled for Monday has been shifted from the cold climate of Portland, ME., to the warmer weather of Tampa, FL. Pettitte, 39, will start for Class-A Tampa on Monday and he expected to throw about 90 to 95 pitches. The veteran left-hander came out of retirement in the spring and hopes to rejoin the Yankees in mid-May.
The Yankees will try to win the three-game weekend home series with the Tigers on Sunday.
CC Sabathia (2-0, 5.27 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Sabathia has won his last two starts and he is coming off an 8-inning outing in which he gave up four runs against the Rangers on Monday. Sabathia is 15-12 with a 4.54 ERA lifetime against the Tigers.
Max Scherzer (1-2, 8.24 ERA) will oppose Sabathia. Scherzer has struggled in all of his four starts this season. His 3-0 with a 2.84 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.
YANKEES 7, TIGERS 6
Sometimes you win games with clutch hits that are placed perfectly to score a run. Sometimes you win games with heroic catches to save games. Then there are times you just are patient enough to watch a young relief pitcher unravel in front of 41,200 fans at Yankee Stadium.
The latter happened to Tigers reliever Brayan Villarreal – with some help from catcher Alex Avila – on Friday and it cost him and his team a victory against the Yankees on Friday.
Villarreal (0-1) uncorked a pitch in the 10th inning that hit off the glove of Avila for a passed ball and allowed Derek Jeter to score the tie-breaking run in the bottom of the ninth inning as the Yankees rallied to hand the Tigers their seventh loss in their last eight games.
The Yankees had just tied the game in the eighth inning off reliever Joaquin Benoit on a single by Alex Rodriguez, a single by Robinson Cano that advanced Rodriguez to third and a sac fly to deep center by Mark Teixeira.
Mariano Rivera (1-0) then needed only 11 pitches to retire the Tigers in order in the ninth to set the stage for the Yankees rally off the 24-year-old right-hander in the bottom of the inning.
After one out, Jeter drew a walk and he advanced to third on a Villarreal wild pitch on what was ball four to Curtis Granderson. Villarreal dug himself an even larger hole by throwing the first two pitches out of the strike zone to Rodriguez.
His third pitch also veered outside, hit off Avila’s glove and rolled to the wall behind home plate. Jeter started back to third initially but then raced home and knocked the ball out of Villarreal’s glove as he slid in safely with the winning run.
In what was thought would be a pitcher’s duel between reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander and Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova was anything but a duel as the game unfolded.
Nova surrendered six runs on 11 hits and three walks and struck out five in 5 /13 innings. However, because the Yankees rallied to tie the game after he left, Nova keeps alive his 15-game winning streak dating back to June 2011. He is just a game behind the team record set by Roger Clemens.
Verlander was victimized by a solo home run by Rodriguez in the fourth and a two-run blast by Russell Martin in the fifth. He ended up giving up five runs (four earned) on seven hits and struck out four in six innings.
Yankee Stadium remains the only A.L. park in which he has not won a game.
With the victory the Yankees improve to 11-8. The Tigers fall to 10-10.
- It was nice to see Rodriguez begin to swing the bat well for a change. He came into the contest hitting .221. But he was 3-for-4 with a home run and two RBIs in the game. He stroked an opposite-field single to drive in Granderson in the first inning to give the Yankees a short-lived 1-0 lead. In the fourth he hit career homer No. 633 to the bleachers in right-center to bring the Yankees to within a run at 3-2. He then just missed hitting a second home run to center off Verlander in the fifth that would have given the Yankees a 5-3 lead. He later started the eighth-inning rally with a leadoff single and scored the tying run.
- It was also nice to see Martin hit a two-run homer off Verlander that gave the Yankees a 4-3 lead after five innings. Martin is the only Yankee regular hitting under .200. He came into the game hitting .182 with one home run and four RBIs. With one swing he doubled his home run total and plated half of his previous RBI total.
- The bullpen, once again, saved the Yankees in a huge way. After Nova left in the fifth, Cory Wade, David Robertson and Rivera combined to shut out the Tigers on a hit, a walk and struck out four over the final 3 1/3 innings. Shaky starting pitching continues to put the bullpen to the test and they keep doing the job.
- Nova entered the top of the sixth with a 4-3 lead and promptly gave it right back to the Tigers. Jhonny Peralta opened the frame with a single to left and Ryan Raburn followed with a single to right-center. Austin Jackson, who was 4-for-5 on the night, then smacked a two-run double to the wall to score Peralta and Raburn. After one out, Miguel Cabrera was walked intentionally and Boone Logan was summoned to retire Cecil Fielder. But Fielder slapped his second opposite-field RBi single to left and the Yankees fell into a 6-4 hole. Nova was very lucky the Yankees rallied to tie the game up and later won it.
- I have said this before and it bears repeating: Raul Ibanez has no business playing the outfield at age 39. That became obvious in the second inning when Brad Eldred, who was just called up from Triple-A Toledo on Friday, followed a leadoff walk to Don Kelly with a pop fly to left that Ibanez played into a triple that scored Kelly and tie the game a 1-1. It is situations like this that make the Yankees appreciate the Gold Glove-quality defense they receive from Brett Gardner.
- Logan was one member of the bullpen who did not enjoy a good night. He was called upon in the sixth with runners on first and second and one out, trailing the game 5-4. Logan had to face Fielder and Kelly, a pair of lefties. Fielder singled in a run and Logan walked Kelly on a 3-2 pitch. He exited the game without retiring either lefty.
Manager Joe Girardi was ejected from the game in the bottom of the seventh inning by home-plate umpire Joe West after Martin was rung up a 1-2 Octavio Dotel pitch that replays showed was clearly outside. Girardi was not upset the pitch was called a strike. What really upset him was that a number of similar outside corner pitches from the Yankees’ pitchers were NOT called strikes. This has been an ongoing problem with West throughout his entire career. Because he has been in the game so long, West believes in his heart that those fans in the stands who fork out $150 a ticket come to see him call balls and strikes. Should you even get the thought into your head about questioning his ever-changing strike zone, he runs you out of the game with a hair-trigger temper. But I loved what the gutless fat slob did after Girardi showed him that the third strike Martin took was in the left-handed batter’s box. While Girardi’s back was turned and he was heading back to the dugout West said something. That is what cowards do when they know they are wrong. Thanks, Bud Selig, for giving us baseball fans the umpiring equivalent of Napoleon. Heck, Joe, try umpiring with your right hand tucked in your shirt. You stink! You need to retire now. The act, like you, is getting old.
The Tigers played the game without starting left fielder Delmon Young, who was arrested early Friday morning by New York City police for an alleged assault of man in front of a downtown hotel. He will be charged with aggravated harassment and it could be escalated to a hate crime, according to a police spokesman. Young remains in custody and he is awaiting arraignment. A detective told the Detroit Free Press that some “anti-Semetic remarks” were made during the incident. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers handle this considering they never punished Cabrera, their best player, for a pair of DUI charges. . . . Jeter had his 15-game hitting streak stopped on Friday. Though he was 0-for-4 starting the ninth, Jeter drew a walk and later scored the game-winning run. That is how good it has been going for Jeter. He helps win the game without getting a hit. . . . Andy Pettitte will make his next scheduled start for Double-A Trenton on Monday against the Portland Sea Dogs in Maine. Pettitte, 39, is expected to throw 90 to 95 pitches. Pettitte is on track to return to the major leagues in mid-May.
The three-game series with the Tigers continues on Saturday.
For fans planning to attend the game, I suggest you arrive early enough to see Freddy Garcia start the game for the Yankees. You may not see him for long after that. Garcia (0-1, 9.75 ERA) has not pitched six innings in any of his previous three starts and only lasted 1 2/3 innings against Boston last Saturday. Fortunately, the Yankees rallied from a 9-0 deficit and beat up on Bosox 15-9. He is 18-8 with a 3.88 ERA against the Tigers over the past 10 seasons.
The Tigers will counter with rookie left-hander Drew Smyly (0-0, 1.13 ERA), who has allowed two runs or less in his first three starts. He held the Rangers to one run on five hits and two walks on Sunday but ended up with his third no-decision. He has never faced the Yankees.
Game-time will be 4:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by FOX Sports.
ALDS – GAME 5 PREVIEW
I don’t pretend to know everything about baseball but when it comes down to a crucial Game 5, I would much rather have a pitcher going who has not lost a game since June 3.
That is what the New York Yankees having going for them in their showdown with the Detroit Tigers at Yankees Stadium on Thursday night.
Ivan Nova, 24, was 16-4 with a 3.70 ERA this season and he also won Game 1 of this series 9-3 with 6 1/3 innings of solid relief of CC Sabathia. His last loss came against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, CA on June 3. His last loss at Yankee Stadium came on May 12 to the Kansas City Royals.
Another thing in Nova’s favor is that he comes into the game without showing any sign of nerves. Nova also showed the Yankees something last season in his first major-league start last August.
In a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, Nova surrendered a home run to Jose Bautista in the first inning. When Bautista came up for his second at-bat, Nova decked him with a fastball up and in. Bautista took exception and Nova challenged him to come out to the mound to do something about it.
The Yankees knew then they had a pitcher who was relaxed on the big stage and who also had a competitive nature.
Nova was very disappointed when the Yankees decided to send him to the minors when Phil Hughes returned from the disabled list in July. Nova, after all, was 8-4 with a 4.12 ERA. But the Yankees rotation was full of productive veterans like Sabathia, Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett. Manager Joe Girardi and pitching coach Larry Rothschild just told him to go down to Triple-A, work his slider and force the Yankees to keep him on the roster when he returned.
Nova did all that and then some.
He returned to the Yankees on July 30 and won the second game of a doubleheader against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium and he did not lose in any of his last 10 starts. He was 8-0 with a 3.30 ERA.
The numbers merely reflected what Girardi and Rothschild could see: Nova was a far better pitcher then he was before. The biggest difference was his slider. Instead of just spinning up to the plate it was dropping sharply. Hitters were getting fooled and Nova finally had a pitch that could keep hitters off his 94-mile-per-hour fastball.
Here is a couple more facts that might sober Tiger fans. Nova, according to Girardi, did not have his best stuff on Saturday when he shut out the Tigers for 6 1/3 innings. (Luis Ayala allowed two of Nova’s runners to score after Nova was removed.) Nova has had an uncanny knack of being able to adjust when he does not have a his best stuff. That is very unusual for a rookie.
In addition, Nova over the span of his brief career had never surrendered a lead he has been given as a starter. How many pitchers can make that claim?
The Tigers, meanwhile, are touting 27-year-old Doug Fister, Nova’s mound opponent.
Fister was 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA with the Seattle Mariners when he was acquired at the trade deadline by the Tigers. In the Motor City he has racked up an impressive 8-1 record with a 1.97 ERA, easily one of the best trades made this season.
However, before Fister went on that 8-1 streak, his last start was against the Yankees on July 26 in Yankee Stadium and he lost that game. His next appearance in the Bronx was on Saturday in relief of Justin Verlander in Game 1. He lost that game also.
The most telling part of that start on Saturday was Fister’s meltdown the third time through the batting order.
The first nine batters Fister faced were 2-for-9 (.222) with four strikeouts. The next nine batters were 3-for-9 (.333) and scored a run. Fister then faced only six more batters and four of them reached and the Yankees scored two more runs. He was removed from the game, Al Alburquerque came in to pitch to Robinson Cano with the bases loaded and we all know what happened after that.
Another point: Much has been made of the fact that the Yankees have not hit well in the series. I am not understanding what series those pundits are watching. The Yankees have outscored the Tigers 26-14 in the series. They are hitting .272 as a team. The Tigers are hitting .188.
The Tigers won two games in this series because Verlander and Scherzer pitched well and the Tigers held on to hold off late Yankee rallies. They will need a similar effort from Fister tonight. However, even if Fister does pitch better than he did on Saturday, the Tigers are going to have to wake up their bats against Nova.
I am not sure that is going to happen.
Another point lost on Tuesday night amid the parade of seven hits the Yankees collected in the eighth inning against the Tigers were that two of them came from Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod was hitless in his first 12 at-bats with three walks and a sacrifice fly to deep center on Tuesday just before he put up those two hits.
If the Yankees were hitting well and scoring runs without Rodriguez contributing much, how will they do if he finds his power stroke tonight?
If Fister thinks he can feast off the bottom of the Yankees’ batting order to get outs, he better think again. No. 9 hitter Brett Gardner is 5-for-13 (.385) with five RBIs. In contrast, Tiger MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera is hitting .250 with a home run and three RBIs. However, all of those hits and RBIs came in Game 2. He has been held hitless in the other three contests.
The Yankee crowd also will play a big part, too. There will likely be a record crowd on hand tonight and their noise and energy will very much impact the game. Yankees fans are so smart they know when not to interfere with a ball in play as they did in Game 1 on Robinson Cano’s double. They also can impact an umpire and how a game is called.
There is a reason the Yankees fought through a 162-game schedule and it was to get home-field advantage. This is it.
The Bronx will be rocking and loud tonight and I love the Yankees’ chances to advance to the American League Championship Series. They seem to have the Tiger by the tail.