Results tagged ‘ Nelson Cruz ’

Orioles Edge Yankees On Bloop Singles In Ninth

GAME 9

ORIOLES 5, YANKEES 4

With Mariano Rivera retired and his successor David Robertson on the disabled list the Yankees will admit that their bullpen is not as strong as it could be. Robertson’s replacement Shawn Kelley found out just how frustrating life can be pitching in the ninth inning.

Nick Markakis hit a bloop RBI single and Chris Davis later added a sacrifice fly off Kelley to break a 3-3 tie as Baltimore edged New York to win their three-game series in front of a paid crowd of 39,412 at Yankee Stadium.

The Orioles opened the ninth off Kelley(0-1) with a double off the bat of Ryan Flaherty and a bloop single by Jonathan Schoop. Markakis then muscled his single that scored Flaherty.

Delmon Young then dunked in another bloop single to load the bases and Davis smacked a deep fly ball to center that scored Schoop.

Brian Matusz pitched a scoreless two-thirds of an inning of relief to earn the victory. Tommy Hunter was credited with a save despite being tagged with a sacrifice fly off the bat of Brian Roberts that scored Alfonso Soriano, who doubled to lead off the frame.

The game actually was supposed to feature Japanese right-hander Masohiro Tanaka, who was making his debut at Yankee Stadium.

However, Schoop put a damper on that with two outs in the second inning.

With Matt Wieters on first and Flaherty at second, Schoop launched a 1-0 pitch high and deep down the left-field line for his first home run of the season and only the second of his career. That cast a huge hush over the crowd.

But the Yankees managed to recover against right-hander Miguel Gonzalez when Carlos Beltran led off the second inning with a his first home run as a Yankee and the 359th of his career, which pushed him past Yogi Berra on the all-time list.

Two batters later, Kelly Johnson hit his second home run in as many nights to make it  3-2.

Beltran also sparked the rally that tied the game in the fourth when he led off with a double, advanced to third on a flyout and scored on Soriano’s RBI groundout.

Although Tanaka gave up the three-run homer he ended up giving up seven hits and one walk but he frustrated the power-laden Orioles by striking out 10 batters, most of them on his signature split-finger fastball.

After striking out eight batters in Toronto in his first start, Tanaka became only the second pitcher in Yankee history to strike out at least eight batters in his first two games since Allen Russell did it in 1915.

With the defeat the Yankees fell under the .500 mark at 4-5. The Orioles have the same record.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Tanaka, 25, may still be learning that No. 9 hitters in the major leagues are tougher than those in Japan but he still pitched a quality game. He threw 71 of his 101 pitches for strikes. Tanaka also struck out Young, Adam Jones and Nelson Cruz twice apiece and Markakis, Davis, Wieters and Schoop once.
  • Beltran had himself a very nice breakout game in which he was 3-for-3 with a homer, a double, a single, two runs scored and and an RBI. With Brett Gardner on third and two outs in the eighth inning, Orioles manager Buck Showalter had Matusz walk Beltran intentionally in order to pitch to Brian McCann. McCann flied out to end the threat.
  • Johnson was 2-for-4 with a homer, a single, a run scored and an RBI. He has now raised his early-season average to .280. The Yankees need Johnson to provide power in the absence of first baseman Mark Teixeira and Johnson is proving that he can do just that.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • McCann’s struggles at the plate continue though he did do better than the his 0-4 indicated. He had one hit taken away by the severe shift the Orioles employed with third baseman Schoop fielding his ground ball in shallow right and throwing him out. His flyout to center in the eighth just missed the warning track and was well struck. Nonetheless, McCann is hitting just .152 and his struggles are hurting the offense.
  • After coming into the game as the Yankees’ hottest hitter, Jacoby Ellsbury was 0-for-4 in the game. In his defense, however, he lined out hard to left- and right-field in two of his at-bats. Ellsbury is still hitting a robust .364 and the Yankees seem to like him in the No. 3 spot with Teixeira out of the lineup.
  • Kelley gave up two runs on four hits in a very ugly ninth inning but he was not hammered all over the yard. The Orioles benefitted from three consecutive singles by Schoop, Markakis and Young that sounded like they were hit with a wet newspaper. Two out them came on two-strike pitches and the 1-0 pitch Markakis hit was ankle high. The point is that you can blame the loss on Kelley but he did not pitch poorly. The Orioles were more lucky than good.

BOMBER BANTER

The Yankees elected to option catcher Austin Romine to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Wednesday and they recalled right-hander Shane Greene from the same club. Greene, 25, was the Yankees’ Minor-League Pitcher of the Year in 2013 after he was 12-10 with a 3.38 ERA. Though Greene is starting pitcher he will pitch out of the bullpen for the Yankees. The move gives the Yankees 13 pitchers and 12 position players.  . . .  Jones, the Orioles’ loud-mouth outfielder got touchy when reporters asked him about having to face Tanaka. “Why don’t you ask Tanaka about me?,” Jones bellowed. “I’m the one who’s been over here in the major leagues for a while. Congratulations, he did it over there. Don’t make it like he’s the dirtiest guy in the world. He was 24-0-in Japan  . . .  At the end of the day, we’ve got to judge it off major-league hitters, not the Japanese hitters. We’re a little bit better over here as hitters.” Tanaka struck out Jones the first two times he faced him.

ON DECK

The Yankees open a four-game home weekend series against the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.

Right-hander Michael Pineda (0-1, 1.50) will make his Yankee Stadium debut in pinstripes. After missing two full seasons, Pineda yielded one run on five hits with no walks while he fanned five in six innings in a loss to the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday.

The Red Sox will start right-hander Clay Buchholz (0-0, 12.46 ERA), who was hammered for six runs on 13 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. He has not fared well against the Yankees. He enters the game with an ERA of 5.32 against them.

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

 

Jeter Helps Yanks Down O’s In Final Home Opener

GAME 7

YANKEES 4, ORIOLES 2

On a cold and gusty afternoon in the Bronx, the Yankees reunited the “Core Four” to throw out a pair of ceremonial Opening Day pitches at Yankee Stadium. Andy Pettitte threw to Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera did the same to Derek Jeter, who will join the other three in retirement at the end of the season.

Then Jeter took the field for his final home opener and cracked a double and scored a run to help lead New York to a victory over the Baltimore Orioles in front of a sellout crowd of 48,142.

Hiroki Kuroda (1-1) held the Orioles to just two runs on eight hits and no walks while he fanned four to pick up his first victory of the season.

The Yankees, meanwhile, made Orioles right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez (0-2) throw strikes to run up his pitch count to 109 in less than five innings.

The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Yangervis Solarte drew a leadoff walk and Brett Gardner advanced him to third with a single to center. Jeter then rapped into a double play that allowed Solarte to score.

The Orioles tied it in the fourth when Adam Jones singled and advanced to second on a flyout off the bat of Chris Davis. He then scored on an RBI single by Matt Wieters.

But the Yankees reclaimed the lead for good in their half of the fourth when Alfonso Soriano stroked a one-out single and Kelly Johnson drew a two-out walk. Solarte, who came into the game leading the team in RBIs with five, then slapped a single to right to score Soriano.

The Yankees added a pair of runs and chased Jimenez from the game in the fifth.

Jeter led off the frame with a high arcing drive to left that Jeter thought was a home run. However, the ball hit just below the top of the wall and Jeter had to scramble into second to beat a relay throw from left-fielder David Lough.

Jacoby Ellsbury then looped the next pitch into right-center to score Jeter.

After Ellsbury was thrown out attempting to steal second, Carlos Beltran singled. One batter later, Soriano singled and Jimenez walked Brian Roberts to load the bases.

Orioles manager Buck Showalter removed Jimenez and called in left-hander Zach Britton.

Johnson then drew another walk on to score Beltran to give the Yankees a 4-1 lead.

Jimenez was charged with four runs on eight hits and five walks while he struck out four in 4 2/3 innings.

The Orioles did mount a rally in the seventh off Kuroda when Davis led off with a double. Wieters followed with a bloop single to advance Davis to third and Nelson Cruz singled to score Davis.

However, Kuroda retired Steve Lombardozzi on a line out to left and relievers Matt Thornton and David Phelps retired Ryan Flaherty and Jonathan Schoop, respectively, to end the threat.

Kuroda yielded two runs on eight hits and no walks and he struck out four in 6 1/3 innings.

Adam Warren hurled a scoreless eighth and Shawn Kelley pitched a perfect ninth to earn his first career save.

With the victory, the Yankees moved over the .500 mark for the first time this season at 4-3. The Orioles fell to 2-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • It seems that in every game he plays Solarte does something to help the team win. Today he was 1-for-3 with a walk, a run scored and an RBI. On the season the 26-year-old rookie from Venezuela is 9-for-20 (.450) with four doubles and six RBIs. In the eighth, Solarte cranked a high drive off right-hander Ryan Webb that looked to be home run to right-field. However, the wind held it up and Nick Markakis caught it just in front of the wall.
  • Soriano entered the game 1-for-19 after beginning the season 0-for-17. But he was 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored in the game and he looks to be coming out of his early-season funk.  Soriano had been swinging at pitches that were bouncing in the dirt.
  • Despite looking shaky in the seventh inning, Kuroda actually pitched a very good game. In his two starts Kuroda has given up four runs on 11 hits and one walk while he struck out nine in 12 1/3 innings. Kuroda gave up only two runs to the Astros last Wednesday but got no run support and ended up losing the game. He got some run support on Monday and he won.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Brian McCann was 0-for-4 in the game and he is 5-for-25 (.200) with no homers and two RBIs this season. Despite the slow start at the plate, McCann is playing well defensively. In the fifth inning he picked off Schoop straying too far away from second base to end the inning.

BOMBER BANTER

The season is just one week old and the Yankees have now suffered their second significant injury. The Yankees will have to place closer David Robertson on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 1 strain of his left groin, manager Joe Girardi told reporters on Monday. Robertson sustained the injury on Sunday closing out the Yankees’ 6-4 victory in Toronto against the Blue Jays. Kelley, who closed out Monday’s victory over the Orioles will assume the closer’s role. The Yankees could recall either left-hander Cesar Cabral or right-hander Shane Greene to take Robertson’s spot on the roster.  . . .  Mark Teixeira, who is on the 15-day disabled list with a Grade 1 strain of his right hamstring, was cleared on Monday to begin an exercise program on Tuesday. Teixeira hopes to be able to return on April 19, the day when he is first eligible to come off the DL.  . . .  The Yankees announced on Monday that they have traded infielder Eduardo Nunez to the Minnesota Twins in exchange for 20-year-old minor-league left-hander Miguel Sulbaran. Nunez was designated for assignment on March 31 after the Yankees elected to make room on the 40-man roster for Solarte. Sulbaran is 21-10 with a 3.15 ERA in 55 games (45 starts) in the minors. The Twins assigned Nunez to Triple-A Rochester.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their three-game home-opening series with the Orioles on Tuesday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (1-0, 3.18 ERA) will start for the Yankees coming off a victory over the Astros on April 3. Nova won despite giving up six hits, walking five and hitting two batters in 5 2/3 innings of work. Nova used four double plays to hold the Astros to only two runs.

Nova will be opposed by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (0-1, 6.35 ERA), who was blasted for four runs on 12 hits in 5 2/3 innings in a loss to the Boston Red Sox last Wednesday. He is 0-2 with a 4.86 ERA in three career starts at Yankee Stadium.

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

 

Yankees, Rays Look To Be Class Of Tough A.L. East

The American League East is a division loaded with talent. It consists of a world champion, a playoff team, the winningest franchise in baseball history and two power-laden clubs with some pitching. Of those five teams it is possible that three teams could claim playoff spots. Let’s look into the magic ball and see what we can predict. In no particular order let’s look at the teams:

NEW YORK YANKEES

After an injury-marred 2013 season managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner loosened the pursestrings and allowed general manager Brian Cashman to throw out nearly $500 million to free agents. That brought in the best available pitching free agent in Masahiro Tanaka, the best in catcher available in Brian McCann, two All-Star outfielders in Jacoby Ellsbury and Carlos Beltran, a left-hander for the bullpen in Matt Thornton and two important infielders in Kelly Johnson and Brian Roberts.

Needless to say the Yankees are not planning on winning 85 games and missing the playoffs as they did in 2013.

Added to what the Yankees already had, this team is loaded for a playoff run. The rotation is five deep with CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova, Tanaka and the sensational return of Michael Pineda this spring has the other teams in the division worried. Only the Tampa Bay Rays can boast a rotation close to this and they only have four healthy starters at the moment.

The bullpen is missing Mariano Rivera and no one will tell you that David Robertson will make anyone forget the greatest closer in history. But no one can believe he can’t do as well as Rafael Soriano did in 2012. The rest of the bullpen has undergone a makeover because of the loss of Boone Logan and Joba Chamberlain. Shawn Kelley and Thornton will handle the late-inning work. The addition of 6-foot-8 rookie Dellin Betances is going to give the bullpen depth because Betances might have the best stuff of the group.

Add to this corps three starting pitchers shifted to the bullpen, David Phelps, Adam Warren and left-hander Vidal Nuno. Phelps and Warren are holdovers from last season and Nuno, 26, gives the Yankees a second lefty to go with Thornton.

The Yankees only need to hope that Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter return to form. They both missed virtually all of the 2013 season and both are being counted upon to help the offense. They also are hoping that Johnson can fill in for the suspended Alex Rodriguez and Roberts can fill the huge hole left by the childish and petulant departure of Robinson Cano. The Yankees issued Cano’s No. 24 to spring training invitee Scott Sizemore. That tells you what they think of Cano after he left.

Ellsbury will combine with Brett Gardner to provide speed and daring on the bases. McCann and Beltran will join Teixeira and last season’s acquisition Alfonso Soriano to give the Yankees a lot of power in the middle of the lineup. Johnson and Roberts can provide double-digits power as well at the bottom of the order.

The bench features the catcher many teams wanted this spring in Francisco Cervelli, All-Star outfielder Ichiro Suzuki and a pair of hot-hitting rookie infielders in Dean Anna and Yangervis Solarte. Slick-fielding shortstop Brendan Ryan starts the season on the disabled list with an upper-back injury.

Top to bottom the Yankees are loaded with talent, power, speed, a great rotation, a solid bullpen and a versatile bench. They will go a long way in deciding who wins the division and who ends up in the playoffs.

TAMPA BAY RAYS

The Rays are a product of a similar model that used to keep afloat the small-market Minnesota Twins. You try and keep a small corps of good young players together long enough to win until they start leaving via free agency. Of course, this method requires that you keep all the plates spinning at once for a long, long time.

If you don’t you lose.

The Rays were fortunate to keep left-hander David Price off the open market for a year. He will join left-hander Matt Moore and right-handers Alex Cobb and Chris Archer to provide the only rotation in the division that can rival the Yankees. Jeremy Hellickson begins the season on the disabled list but he has not been real effective when he has been healthy so I am not sure how his season will go.

The Rays dumped Fernando Rodney because he blew too many saves and was shaky in those he did save. Enter former Rays right-hander Grant Balfour, who was not signed by some other teams because of some medical questions. Balfour has only had one season as a closer and there is no guarantee the Rays can get another season out of him.

The rest of the bullpen is good. Balfour’s fellow senior citizen, Joel Peralta, is the setup man. He is joined by lefty Jake McGee and former closer Heath Bell. Right-handers Josh Lueke, Brandon Gomes and lefty long man Cesar Ramos round out a pretty solid corps.

The Rays are really lacking speed this season. Their only real base-stealing threat is Desmond Jennings, who is been doing a very bad imitation of Carl Crawford since he arrived.

Now the Rays are looking to generate lots of power with Evan Longoria and Will Myers in the middle of the lineup. The problem is Matt Joyce is coming off a disappointing season and he has not lived up to expectations at all. They also have to hope an aging Ben Zobrist can bounce back after a down 2013 campaign.

The additions of James Loney at first base and Yunel Escober at shortstop helped the offense and defense last season. They hope Ryan Hanigan can provide defense and leadership behind the plate this season.

As always, manager Joe Maddon will mix in spare parts like Sean Rodriguez, David DeJesus and Jose Molina. In addition, he will shift his defense to drive opponents nuts, But if the Rays should falter, Price will be on the trading block before the league deadline. If that happens, the Rays season is over.

In any event, this will be Price’s last year with the Rays and the Rays have to roll the dice they win the division this year. Otherwise, it’s lights out at Tropicana Field for their fan base of 7,500. If things don’t pick up at the gate the team could be headed elsewhere.

BOSTON RED SOX

Most Yankee fans forgot what happened in 2013 so we will leave it at that.

The Red Sox prospects for 2014 would seem to be bright. After all, they hope to have the same rotation they finished with back this year.

They are counting on Jon Lester, Clay Buchholz, John Lackey, Jake Peavy and Felix Doubront to be just as good in 2014. Problem is Lester is notch below what an ace should be. Look at most fantasy drafts this season and you will find Lester going in the middle rounds because of his high ERA and even higher walks-to-innings-pitched (WHIP) ratio.

Clay Buchholz also is going late in drafts because he has had a hard time staying healthy. His recurring back problems are not going away. He can only treat it to stay on track.

Lackey and Peavy are also on the north side of their usefulness. Both are crafty veteran pitchers and they will win their share on guile. But this group pales in comparison to the Rays and Yankees. That does not even take into account Doubront, who if you look as his 2013 numbers you wonder why the Red Sox like him so much.

To be sure, Koji Uehara was a miracle worker for them after the Bosox tried a number of unsuccessful closers since Jonathan Papelbon left years ago. But Uehara turns 39 on Wednesday and there is no net for him if he fails to do what he did late last season.

Boston does have lefty Andrew Miller and Junichi Tazawa back and they added Edward Mujica. But they do not have Craig Breslow at the start of the season and this bullpen is just a lot less deep than it was in 2013.

The same can be said for the starting lineup. Instead of bringing Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley Jr., and Daniel Nava off the bench they will have to play to fill holes when Ellsbury, Stephen Drew and Jarrod Saltalamacchia left the team.

Grady Sizemore actually beat out Bradley in center but the Red Sox know they can’t just run the oft-injured former All-Star out there every day. Bogarerts at short, Will Middlebrooks at third and center are unsettled positions with unknown quantities in them. A.J. Pierzynski takes over behind the plate and should be an offensive upgrade from Salty but teams are going to run wild on him on the bases.

The Red Sox just hope they can get another year out of fading DH David Ortiz, who at age 38 is well beyond borrowed time. He had a horrible spring and players at 38 do not get better. They fade.

The Red Sox will still revolve around Dustin Pedroia at second and they just hope that Shane Victorino (who begins the season injured), Mike Napoli, Jonny Gomes, Mike Carp can still do what they did last season. But as we know it is hard to repeat as champion. The last team to do it was, well, the New York Yankees in 1998, 1999 and 2000. Red Sox Nation remembers that period of time.

So I do not think there is going to much in the way of magic at Fenway this season. It just not in the cards.

TORONTO BLUE JAYS

The Jays are all about redemption.

They gave a fading infielder out of Pittsburgh Pirates and a disappointing third baseman out of the Cincinnati Reds a place on the team and they were rewarded with Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. Those two players form the most feared middle-of-the-order pair in baseball. Both could easily hit more than 40 homers apiece.

The Blue Jays even rehired manager John Gibbons even after they fired him three years ago.

So the Blue Jays were the cool team to pick in 2013 after they added Melky Cabrera and Jose Reyes to what they already had in Adam Lind, Brett Lawrie and Colby Rasmus. But their recipe for success did not count on a complete meltdown of their starting rotation.

Ace R.A. Dickey pitched with a bad back, Brandon Morrow was also hurt and former ace Ricky Romero forgot completely how to pitch successfully. Last season was just not pretty for the Jays.

But they have renewed hope in 2014. Dickey is healthy again and Mark Buehrle can still eat up innings with his soft-tossing junk. Add to that a healthy Morrow and you have the makings of a staff, But the other two spots will go to Drew Hutchison, who at 23 hopes he can establish himself as a starter this year, and an old friend Dustin McGowan, who last pitched as a regular in the Jays rotation in 2008. he is now 32 and he is an expert in rehabs.

Now that is some reclamation project.

Casey Janssen fell into the closer role when Sergio Santos was injured and now both form a nice tandem at the end of the game. Lefty Brett Cecil and hard-throwing righty Steve Delabar make the Jays bullpen one of the best in the division this season.

But bullpens have a way of wearing down when the starters do not succeed and have to be taken out early. In the rough and tumble American League East, the Blue Jays rotation just lacks the ability to hang with the big boys.

There is no doubt their offense is impressive. They will hit their share of home runs. But they also will lose a lot of games by scores of 9-7 and 8-5 because of this shaky rotation.

BALTIMORE ORIOLES

Cashman pointed out this spring what was painfully obvious. The luck the Orioles used to make the playoffs in 2012 was bound to be paid for in 2013. Orioles manager Buck Showalter took offense. But the truth always hurts, Buck.

The Orioles did not win those one-run and extra-inning games they won in 2012 and they finished with the Yankees in a tie for third place in 2014.

It is hard to see how the Orioles make it much better in 2014 even with the addition of right-handers Ubaldo Jimenez and Bud Norris and outfielder Nelson Cruz.

The issue with the Orioles is the same as last season. The starters Jimenez, Chris Tillman, Miguel Gonzalez, Wei-Yin Chen and Norris are all fine pitchers in their own right but who, for Pete’s sake, is the ace? And is that ace better than the pitchers they face routinely like David Price, Masahiro Tanaka, Clay Buchholz, R.A. Dickey or Matt Moore?

The answer is no and Showalter will learn that quickly.

Jimenez is just a middling starter and Norris just looked good compared to all the awful pitchers the Astros kept running out there. Neither make the Orioles much better.

The addition of Cruz is curious because the Orioles are loaded with offense in mega-power threat Chris Davis added to Adam Jones, Matt Wieters, and J.J. Hardy. Cruz adds to that power but it is hard to see how that helps keep runs of the board.

The Orioles bullpen also took a major hit when Jim Johnson left for Oakland and took the 101 saves he recorded for the O’s the past two seasons with him. The Orioles are asking journeyman right-hander Tommy Hunter to do a job he has never done before and close games.

They did not add much around him either. They still rely on right-hander Darren O’Day and left-hander Brian Matusz to set up. Getting to them may be an issue because none of the rest of Orioles bullpen is really proven.

So Showalter just has to hope that his team can score runs in droves night after night to cover for a weak pitching staff. The mix of this starting staff and bullpen may be the worst in the division because the Blue Jays actually boast a much stronger bullpen.

Showalter may be an excellent manager but he can’t turn cubic zirconium into diamonds. There just no magic left for the Orioles.

 

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH

 

1) NEW YORK YANKEES

2) TAMPA BAY RAYS 

3) BOSTON RED SOX

4) TORONTO BLUE JAYS

5) BALTIMORE ORIOLES

 

I see a close race between the Rays and Yankees and both will easily make the playoffs. The Red Sox will not collapse but I do see them fading as the season progresses when their rotation routinely starts breaking down. The Blue Jays will win their share of games with their offense and bullpen. But there will be days when good pitching will beat good hitting. On those days the Blue Jays will lose. The same for the Orioles. If they do not average seven runs a game they are in a heap of trouble. No team can do that consistently enough and no one can in this tough division. They will fall to the basement with a loud thud. Sorry, Buck. The truth hurts, huh!

 

 

Nuno Stars But O’s Edge ‘Watered-Down’ Yankees

GAME 18

ORIOLES 2, YANKEES (SS) 1

Jonathan Schoop scored pinch-runner Jemile Weeks on a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning to break a 1-1 tie as Baltimore edged a New York split squad on Saturday at Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL.

Non-roster outfielder Delmon Young opened the seventh with a double of right-hander Mark Montgomery (0-1). Weeks pinch-ran for Young and stole third to set up Schoop’s scoring fly ball.

Korean right-hander Suk-min Yoon (1-0) pitched a scoreless inning of relief in his first major-league appearance to get credit for the victory. Evan Meek pitched the ninth inning to earn his second save of the spring.

With most of the Yankees’ best players either in Panama participating in the two-game Legends Series or resting at the team’s spring complex in Tampa, FL, the Yankees – who brought 13 players who were not on their 40-man roster or who were not invited to spring training – scored their lone run of the game on a leadoff homer in the sixth inning by Francisco Arcia off Orioles starter Chris Tillman.

Tillman had held the Yankees scoreless on two hits and two walks and struck out five in five innings before Arcia’s blast chased him from the game.

The Yankees, meanwhile, got four strong innings of shutout baseball from 26-year-old left-hander Vidal Nuno. Nuno yielded only a hit and a walk while he fanned three batters against an Orioles lineup that included starters Nick Markakis, J.J. Hardy, Nelson Cruz and Chris Davis.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, the Orioles tied the score with two out in the sixth when Davis launched his third home run of the spring off right-hander Danny Burawa.

The Yankees’ Grapefruit League record slipped to 8-8-2. The Orioles improved their record to 10-5.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nuno made a strong case for the fifth spot in the rotation with his effort on Saturday. Nuno threw 38 of his 59 pitches for strikes and only reached three-ball counts on three hitters. Nuno spotted his fastball well and mixed in his off-speed pitches more to keep the Orioles off-balance. Though Michael Pineda is expected to get the No. 5 spot, Nuno showed he deserves some consideration. His spring ERA is now down to 1.50.
  • Brian Roberts was one of the few starters to make the trip and he had a great day against his former teammates. Roberts was 2-for-3 and he also contributed a fine defensive play in the sixth inning to rob Cruz of a single. Roberts, 36, may not be Robinson Cano but he is a fine second baseman as long as he can stay healthy.
  • Ramon Flores was 2-for-3 on Saturday, including a double and single. Flores, 21, is hitting only .217 this spring but, after a season where he hit .260 with six homers and 55 RBIs in 136 games at Double-A Trenton, he will have a chance to develop this season at Triple A.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • It may be time for Ichiro Suzuki to admit that his days in baseball are waning. He was 0-for-3 on Saturday and he is 3-for-24 (.125) this spring with only three singles and two RBIs. He has not really stung the ball much this spring either. Though the Yankees might be open to trade Suzuki, it is hard to see if there would be any suitors for his services. Suzuki is in the final year of two-year contract with the Yankees and he is slated to be the fifth outfielder this season.
  • After getting off to a quick start with the bat this spring, Austin Romine has been slumping of late. Romine, 25, batted cleanup and was 0-for-2 with a walk on Saturday. He is 5-for-25 (.200) with no RBIs in 11 games. Though Romine is a superior defensive catcher, his weak bat makes it almost certain that Francisco Cervelli will win the backup catching job. Romine likely will be sent to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
  • Burawa learned a valuable pitching lesson on Saturday. With two out in the sixth, Davis came up the plate for his last at-bat with his team trailing 1-0. Obviously Davis was thinking about hitting a home run to tie it. Burawa, 25, opted to pitch aggressively to Davis instead of making him hit pitches out of the strike zone. His 1-1 fastball was thigh high and Davis drove it deep to left-center and over the wall. If he had walked Davis, Burawa would then have pitched to Steve Pearce, a journeyman who had four homers last season. Davis hit 53. Duh!

ON DECK

The Yankees split squad returns to George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday to play host to the Atlanta Braves.

Free-agent right-hander Masahiro Tanaka will make his second start of the spring for the Yankees. Catcher Brian McCann and Mark Teixeira are also scheduled to play in the game.

McCann’s former team will start right-hander Julio Teheran. Brothers Justin and B.J. Upton, Jason Heyward and Andrelton Simmons are scheduled to make the trip for the Braves.

Game-time will be 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast by the YES Network and MLB Radio through WFAN (660-AM/99.1-FM).

 

Garcia Bests Rangers Despite Hamilton’s Blasts

GAME 117

YANKEES 3, RANGERS 2

The final score on Wednesday should read Yankees 3, Rangers 0, Josh Hamilton 2.

On a night where a pair of mammoth solo home runs by Hamilton was all Texas could muster for an offense, Freddy Garcia and New York held on to take the first three games of a four-game series between the two top teams in the American League.

The Yankees scored three runs in the third inning off Rangers starter Scott Feldman (6-8) on an RBI double by Nick Swisher, a sacrifice fly off the bat of Curtis Granderson and a big two-out RBI single by the red-hot Eric Chavez.

That was all Garcia eventually would need. But Hamilton made it interesting by launching a 400-foot blast off Garcia into the second deck in right with one out in the fourth inning. It was the first regular-season home run Hamilton has hit in the new Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009.

The home run also ended a drought of 20 innings in which the Rangers were held scoreless in this series by the Yankees.

The Rangers were able to load the bases on Garcia right after the Hamilton homer. However, Garcia was able to wriggle out of further trouble by inducing Geovany Soto to hit into an inning-ending double play.

But with one out in the sixth, Hamilton was able to connect off Garcia again with a moon shot measured at about 455 feet into second deck in right. It was his major-league leading 34th home run of the season.

But Garcia was able to complete 6 2/3 innings. Other than the two home runs, Garcia shut down the Rangers on just two other hits and a walk and he struck out six to win his third straight start. Garcia now has won five games since he was inserted into the rotation on July 2, which leads the team.

Garcia also is 5-0 with a 1.90 ERA in his last seven starts against the Rangers, dating back to 2004.

Jayson Nix, playing in place of an ailing Robinson Cano, opened the third against Feldman with an infield single, stole second and advanced to third on a lined single by Derek Jeter. Swisher, who was 3-for-8 with two home runs and seven RBIs in the first two games of the series, added to the Rangers’ misery with a bloop opposite-field double that landed just inside the line in left-field to score Nix while Jeter made it to third.

Granderson followed with a high fly to deep center that easily scored Jeter. Then, one out later, Chavez, who entered the day hitting .550 in his last five games, stroked an opposite-field single that scored Swisher.

But after that inning, Feldman got stingy and pitched around a lot of danger to keep the game close.

Feldman left after six innings having given up thee runs on seven hits and four walks and he struck out seven. After going 3-for-3 with runners in scoring position in the third, the Yankees were held to 0-for-8 the rest of the game and they stranded 10 runners.

Boone Logan replaced Garcia with two out and nobody on to retire pinch-hitter Michael Young to end the seventh. David Robertson then pitched a 1-2-3 eight, striking out two batters.

Rafael Soriano came on in the ninth and struck out Hamilton swinging and retired Adrian Beltre on a deep line drive to the warning track in left.

On a play in which Swisher dug out a one-hop throw from Chavez and stayed on the bag on a grounder off the bat of Nelson Cruz, first-base umpire Marty Foster incorrectly ruled that Swisher came off the bag for what was scored an error on Chavez. That added a bit of drama for the crowd of 45,921 who braved an hour and 45 minute rain delay in the Bronx to see this clash of A.L. titans.

But Soriano pitched around the error and retired David Murphy on a ground-ball force out to pick up his 29th save in his 31 opportunities this season.

With the victory, the Yankees have won seven out of their last eight games. They also have a streak of eight straight home victories over the Rangers that dates back to last season.

Their season record is now 70-47, the best record in the American League. The victory also gives the Yankees a six-game edge over the second-place Baltimore Orioles in the American League East. The Rangers fell to 67-49.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • What has been the biggest knock on the 2012 Yankees? Their supposedly suspect starting pitching, of course, with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte on the disabled list. But David Phelps, Hiroki Kuroda and Garcia have combined to give up just four runs on 12 hits and four walks and fanned 13 batters in 18 2/3 innings against a very good hitting Rangers team. That is a starters’ ERA of 1.93 and a WHIP of 0.86. This staff is better than they might seem just looking at their ERAs. In his nine starts since July 2, Garcia has not given up more than three earned runs in eight of them and he has an ERA of 3.69 in those starts.
  • Chavez continues to turn back the clock to his 2001 season with Oakland in which he hit .288 with 32 home runs and 114 RBIs. Chavez was 3-for-3 with a walk and an RBI in the game. In his last six starts, Chavez is 14-for-23 (.609) with three home runs and seven RBIs. The 34-year-old veteran is doing more than his share filling in for an injured Alex Rodriguez.
  • Swisher is just about as hot as Chavez. In the series he is 4-for-13 (.308) with two home runs and eight RBIs. In his last nine games, he is 13-for-39 (.333) with two home runs and 11 RBIs. His hot streak has raised his season batting average to .263.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Some poor strategy and some poor execution of a bunt cost the Yankees a few potential chances to tack on to their lead. Ichiro Suzuki led off the sixth with an infield single. Instead of having Suzuki steal or having Nix bunt Suzuki over, manager Joe Girardi had Nix swing away and he hit into a double play. In the eighth, Nix did bunt after another leadoff infield single by Suzuki and Nix reached first because the bunt was so well placed. However, Jeter popped up his bunt attempt and reliever Mike Adams let it drop and turned it into a double play that killed the rally.
  • Mark Teixeira had a night to forget. He was 0-for-4, struck out three times and he did not get a ball out of the infield. Teixeira entered the game with an eight-game hitting streak in which he was 11-for-32 (.344) with three homers and five RBIs.
  • Russell Martin’s season from hell continues. The Rangers’ pitchers pretty much used the catcher, who entered the game hitting .199, as an escape hatch to big innings. Martin was 0-for-3 with a walk and he stranded seven runners. Martin lined out to right on the first pitch off reliever Alexi Ogando with the bases loaded in the seventh inning.

BOMBER BANTER

Cano was held out of Wednesday’s game due to a stiff neck, but Girardi said he did not think it was anything serious. Nix replaced Cano at second base and was 2-for-4 with a stolen base and a run scored.  . . .  In Rodriguez’s absence, Chavez, Nix and Casey McGehee have gone a combined 26-for-68 (.382) with seven homers, 15 RBIs and 17 runs scored in 19 starts at third base.

ON DECK

The Yankees can take out their brooms and complete a four-game sweep of the mighty Rangers on Thursday.

Right-hander Ivan Nova (11-6, 4.70 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Nova gave up two runs on five hits and a walk and struck out 10 in 7 1/3 innings to defeat the Toronto Blue Jays on Saturday. He is 2-1 with a 4.67 ERA in his career against the Rangers.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Derek Holland (7-6, 4.92 ERA). Holland was locked in a pitching duel with Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers on Saturday. Holland struck out nine and retired 22 of the 24 batters he faced, but he settled for a no-decision. He may want to wear a batting helmet on the mound Thursday because he is 0-5 with a 9.26 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.

 

Swisher’s Sweet Slam Starts Texas-Sized Swoon

GAME 115

YANKEES 8, RANGERS 2

Ryan Dempster was navigating carefully through the New York Yankees’ lineup and he opted to walk Derek Jeter to load the bases with one out in the third inning. But Nick Swisher and a hanging slider proved to be his undoing on Monday.

Swisher’s sixth career grand slam and the 200th home run of his career was all part of a five-run inning and Swisher ended up driving in five runs as New York pounded Texas in the opener of a four-game series at Yankee Stadium between the two American League teams with the best records.

Dempster (6-6) began the third with a 2-0 lead, having retired the first six batters he faced. But, Russell Martin led off by lacing a sharp single to right and Raul Ibanez followed with another hard-hit lined single to right.

Ichiro Suzuki then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance Martin and Ibanez.

On a 2-2 pitch, Jeter smacked a split-finger fastball down the left-field line that just hooked foul. Dempster then opted to toss two pitches off the plate to walk Jeter as if he wanted to pitch around Jeter to look for a double-play ball off the bat of Swisher.

But Dempster hung a slider on a 1-0 delivery and Swisher blasted a mammoth shot into the second deck of the bleachers in right to turn a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead on one swing. The crowd of 45,676 let out  huge roar as a smiling Swisher rounded the bases.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old rookie right-hander David Phelps, pitching in place of the injured CC Sabathia, tossed a solid five innings to win his first major-league game as a starter.

Phelps (3-3) gave up a bloop two-out RBI single to Nelson Cruz in the first inning and a solo home run to David Murphy to lead of the second inning. However, he settled in and retired nine of the last 14 batters he faced. In addition, he picked off two Rangers base-runners.

Phelps gave up two runs on six hits and a walk while he struck out three in five innings in which he threw 51 of his 78 pitches for strikes.

Newly acquired 39-year-old right-hander Derek Lowe pitched four scoreless innings in his Yankees debut to pick up his first major-league save since he was a closer for the Boston Red Sox during the 2001 season.

The Yankees offense made only Dempster’s third A.L. start of his career a living nightmare.

After Swisher’s grand slam, the Yankees reloaded the bases in the third and Curtis Granderson lofted a deep fly ball in center to score another run.

Red-hot Eric Chavez, who entered the game 9-for-16 with two home runs and five RBIs in his last four games, swatted a monstrous solo home run of his own over the Yankees’ bullpen in right-center to lead off the sixth inning.

Jeter added an RBI double in the eighth, which chased Dempster, and Swisher ended his night with an RBI single to center off reliever Michael Kirkman to close out the scoring.

Dempster was tagged for eight runs on nine hits and two walks and he fanned four batters in six-plus innings.

The Rangers have lost nine of their last 13 games against the Yankees and are 23-45 against them during the regular season since 2004. They have lost nine of their last 10 regular-season games at Yankee Stadium.

With the victory, the Yankees have the best record in the American League at 68-47. They lead the second-place Tampa Bay Rays by 5 1/2 games in the American League East. The Rangers are now 67-47.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Swisher was 2-for-4 with home run and five RBIs on the night. It was his 15th homer of the season as well as the 200th of his career. In his last seven games, Swisher is 11-for-30 (.367) with a home run and seven RBIs. The hot streak has raised Swisher’s season average to .264.
  • Phelps faced what is arguably the best hitting team in the league and pitched exceptionally. Despite throwing 26 pitches in the first inning, Phelps was able to pitch the longest outing of his career in his fourth major-league start. The rookie is 3-3 with a 2.53 ERA. He entered play having not been scored upon in his last seven relief appearances covering 10 2/3 innings. He had given up just three hits and a walk while striking out 14 in that span.
  • Chavez hit his 13th home run of the season and he was 2-for-4 in the game. So Chavez is 11-for-20 (.550) with three home runs and five RBIs. Chavez did not play at all in the road series against the Blue Jays because the team faced three left-handers and Chavez was also unable to play due to back stiffness.
  • Lowe, 39, was released by the Cleveland Indians after a July 31 start in which he was blasted for seven runs in 2 1/3 innings against the Royals in Kansas City. The Yankees officially signed him on Monday and he paid immediate dividends by throwing four innings of two-hit, no-run baseball in his debut. Lowe will slot in as a long reliever while Phelps pitches in place of Sabathia.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

This was a game the Yankees were supposed to lose. Sabathia is on the disabled list and Phelps had not gotten past 4 2/3 innings in any of his previous starts. But the Yankees were able to put up eight runs on the Rangers and they coasted to a huge victory over a sure-fire playoff team. There is nothing negative to say.

BOMBER BANTER

When Lowe was signed and added to the roster the Yankees optioned right-handed reliever Ryota Igarashi back to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Igarashi gave up three runs on three hits in two innings in Sunday’s 10-7 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays and he has no record an 18.00 ERA in his four appearances with the Yankees.  . . .  Mariano Rivera threw off flat ground on Monday at Yankee Stadium with pitching coach Larry Rothschild looking on. But manager Joe Girardi said there is 99.9 percent chance Rivera would not pitch for the Yankees this season. Rivera has been on the disabled list since May 3 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.

ON DECK

The Yankees will continue their four-game home series against the Rangers on Tuesday.

Hiroki Kuroda (10-8, 3.24 ERA) will start for the Yankees. Kuroda gave up three runs on 10 hits and fanned five in 6 1/3 innings in a no-decision the Yankees rallied to win over the Detroit Tigers on Thursday. Kuroda lost in a pitcher’s duel with fellow countryman Yu Darvish on April 24 and he is 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA against the Rangers lifetime.

The Rangers will counter with left-hander Matt Harrison (13-6, 3.31 ERA). Harrison gave up four runs on eight hits and three walks in 4 2/3 innings against the Red Sox in a no-decision on Wednesday. Harrison was tagged with five runs in 4 2/3 innings in his last start against the Yankees. He is 2-2 with a 4.76 ERA against them in his career.

Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by My9.

 

Beltre, Rangers Do Texas Two-Step On Yankees

GAME 18

RANGERS 7, YANKEES 3

Adrian Beltre homered and drove in three runs on Wednesday to lead Texas to series victory over New York at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

Mike Napoli and Mitch Moreland added solo home runs for the Rangers and Robbie Ross (4-0) threw 2 2/3 innings of perfect relief to get credit for the victory.

For the fourth consecutive start, Phil Hughes (1-3) failed to pitch six innings, giving up four runs on five hits and striking out two in 2 2/3 innings. David Phelps, thought to be in line to get a shot at starting, was not much better, surrendering three runs on five hits and three walks in 2 1/3 innings.

With the loss the Yankees’ season record falls to 10-8. The Rangers are 15-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Raul Ibanez was one of the few bright spots for the Yankees. He was 2-for-4 including a solo home run off Neftali Feliz in the seventh and an RBI double in the fourth to plate the Yankees’ first run. In limited play, Ibanez, 39, is hitting .271 with three home runs and 11 RBIs.
  • Derek Jeter is hotter than a July evening in Texas. He was 2-for-4 in the game to raise his season average to an astounding .420, which is third in the major leagues behind the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp and Red Sox DH David Ortiz.
  • Other than Phelps, the bullpen did a good job of keeping the Yankees close for most of the game. Clay Rapada, Cody Eppley, Boone Logan and Rafael Soriano kept the Rangers scoreless over the three innings they pitched, giving up only one hit and a walk. Despite some of the starters struggling the bullpen is still holding up well.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The time has come for the Yankees to place Phil Hughes in the bullpen. Trailing 1-0 with one out in the third inning, Hughes unraveled. Mitch Moreland singled and Ian Kinsler followed with a bloop opposite-field double to right. After an RBI groundout by Elvis Andrus, Hughes hit Josh Hamilton with a pitch. Beltre, who homered off him in his previous at-bat, stroked an RBI single and Michael Young followed with an RBI double. After Hughes brushed Nelson Cruz’s jersey with an inside pitch, Girardi removed him from the game. Hughes is 1-3 with a 7.88 ERA.
  • Curtis Granderson looks absolutely clueless at the plate. He was 0-for-3 with a walk and two strikeouts in the game. In the series, Granderson was 1-for-9 with three walks and five strikeouts. None of the swinging strikeouts came on pitches that were in the strike zone.
  • After going 5-for-9 with runners in scoring position in their victory over the Rangers on Monday, the Yankees were 2-for-14 over the last two games. Alex Rodriguez was the poster boy for the futility, going 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and he did not get a ball out of the infield.

BOMBER BANTER

If losing the game were not enough, the Yankees learned earlier Wednesday that right-hander Michael Pineda has a slight anterior labral tear and he will have to undergo season-ending arthroscopic surgery next Tuesday. Dr. David Altchek, the Mets’ team physician, will perform the surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, assisted by Yankees team physician Dr. Christopher Ahmad. Pineda, 23, will miss a minimum of 12 months. Pineda and 19-year-old right-hander Jose Campos were acquired in February in a trade with the Seattle Mariners for 22-year-old slugger Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.  . . .  Meanwhile, left-hander Andy Pettitte gave up four runs (three earned) in five innings and took the loss as Double-A Trenton lost to Erie 10-4 on Wednesday. Pettitte struck out three and walked one and threw 59 of his 81 pitches for strikes. Pettitte is scheduled to make two more starts before being placed on the major-league roster.

ON DECK

The Yankees finished the road trip with a 3-2 mark and now they come home to face the Detroit Tigers on Friday.

The good news is their best starting pitcher will open the series. Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79 ERA) is riding a streak of consecutive victories and he can tie Rogers Clemens’ team record of 16 with a victory. Nova gave up two runs on seven hits and fanned five batters last Friday as the Yankees defeated the Red Sox 6-2 on Fenway Park’s 100th birthday. Nova is 0-0 with a 0,00 ERA against the Tigers but did defeat them in Game 1 of the ALDS last October.

Unfortunately, the Yankees will be facing Justin Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA). Verlander blanked the Rangers for six innings while striking out eight in his last start. The reigning American league MVP and Cy Young Award winner is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against the Yankees in his career.

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

 

Yankees Get 8 CCs Of Sabathia To Outgun Rangers

GAME 16

YANKEES 7, RANGERS 4

If you want to be the best team in the American League than you want to play the best team in the A.L. and beat their best with your best. New York did just that to Texas on Monday at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, TX.

CC Sabathia pitched a solid eight innings and Alex Rodriguez homered and Derek Jeter contributed four hits as the Yankees defeated what was a red-hot Rangers team.

Sabathia (2-0) gave up four runs on seven hits and one walk while striking out eight batters to win his second consecutive start. Mariano Rivera pitched a perfect ninth inning to record his fourth save of the season.

The Yankees’ offense, meanwhile, made life a living hell for Rangers starter Derek Holland (2-0). Holland gave up seven runs on nine hits and four walks and struck out one in six innings. He is now 0-5 in his career against the Yankees.

The Yankees struck early off Holland, loading the bases in the first inning and Curtis Granderson hit a looping two-out single to center give the Yankees an early 2-1 lead.

After the Rangers scored a run on a Josh Hamilton double-play grounder, the Yankees struck for four runs in the fifth inning, capped by Rodriguez’s 414-foot blast into the left-field seats for a three-run home run to give the Yankees a 6-1 lead.

They added a run in the sixth when backup catcher Chris Stewart hit a one-out double off the wall in left-center and Jeter scored him with a double off the wall in right-center.

Sabathia did surrender a solo home run to Hamilton in the sixth and a two-run double by Craig Gentry in the seventh. But he retired the last five batters he faced on routine grounders before giving way to Rivera.

Before the game, manager Joe Girardi was hoping Sabathia would pitch into the late innings to give a needed break to his overtaxed bullpen and Sabathia did just that, throwing 77 of his 109 pitches for strikes and keeping the Rangers’ power-laden offense at bay long enough for the Yankees to get to Holland.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 10-6 and they are now tied with the Toronto Blue Jays for first place in the A.L. East. The Rangers fell to 13-4.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Sabathia did give up four runs but this was, by far, his best performance of the season. Other than the scratch run he allowed in the first and Hamilton’s home run in the fifth, Sabathia pitched dominant baseball for the first six innings. He hurt himself with a leadoff walk to Nelson Cruz in the seventh and then he gave up one-out doubles to Brandon Snyder and Gentry, who were the No. 8 and No. 9 hitters in the lineup. He is now 11-3 in his career against the Rangers.
  • Jeter’s amazing start to the season just keeps getting better by the day. He reached on a infield single in the first, singled to left-center in the second, rolled a single into left in the fifth and then stroked his RBI double in the sixth. His 4-for-5 night raised his season average over .400 to .411. He also has 13 RBIs from the leadoff spot.
  • Rodriguez hit his third home run of the season off Holland on an 0-1 fastball that did not get in as far as Holland would have liked. Rodriguez, who was walked in his first two trips to the plate, was waiting for it and sent it into the bleachers in left-center. After a slow start at the plate, Rodriguez has homered twice in his last three games and has driven in five of his seven runs in that span.
  • Granderson’s two-run single set the tone for the game because it came after Mark Teixeira had struck out for the second out of the inning with the bases loaded. Granderson hung in against the left-handed Holland to fist a 1-2 pitch into center to score two runs and give Sabathia an early cushion against the Rangers.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • Teixeira entered the game having great success against Holland, who had given up three home runs to him in his young career. But Teixeira struck out with the bases loaded in the first, rolled into a double play in the the third and bounced out to short again the fifth against Holland. He was 0-for-4 in the game coming off his six RBIs against the Red Sox on Saturday.
  • With Brett Gardner on the disabled list, Girardi elected to use Andruw Jones in left and insert Eduardo Nunez as the DH on Monday. They combined to go 0-for-8 and Nunez only managed to get one ball out of the infield.
  • Jeter made a careless error in the second inning on a ground ball off the bat of Cruz. Jeter lobbed the ball to first and it short-hopped Teixeira and bounced away from him. Fortunately, the error did not hurt the Yankees. Sabathia retired the next two batters and Cruz was stranded at first.

BOMBER BANTER

The status of right-handed starter Michael Pineda will have to wait another day. A scheduling conflict will force Pineda to meet with the team physician on Tuesday and he also will undergo an MRI dye contrast test on his ailing right shoulder. The Yankees hope to have the results of the tests later that evening. Pineda, 23, had to halt a bullpen session in Tampa, FL., last week after 15 pitches due to weakness in his shoulder.  . . .  Freddy Garcia has received a reprieve from Girardi. Garcia will make a start in the weekend home series against the Detroit Tigers, despite an 0-3 record and a 9.75 ERA in his first three starts. Girardi said Garcia will pitch either Saturday or Sunday.

ON DECK

Since Hideki Matsui pretty much retired the nickname “Godzilla” then the second game of the Yankees-Rangers series between two former Japanese League stars should be titled “Rodan vs. Anguirus” if you are up on your 1950s Japanese movie monsters.

The Yankees will start 37-year-old right-hander Hiroki Kuroda (2-1, 5.00 ERA). Kuroda, who pitched 11 seasons for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp, has been bad, good and then bad again in his first three starts. He gave up six runs on 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings against the Twins on Wednesday. He is 0-1 with a 6.75 ERA against the Rangers.

Opposing him will be Yu Darvish (2-0, 3.57 ERA). The 25-year-old Darvish, who pitched seven seasons for the Hokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, gave up just two hits but walked and struck out five in 6 1/3 innings in a 10-3 victory over the Tigers. Darvish has never faced the Yankees.

Game-time will be 8:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by the MLB Network and locally by the YES Network.

 

Yankees Will Defeat Rangers With Pitching, Experience

Before the American League Division Series, I predicted the New York Yankees would sweep the Minnesota Twins in three straight games on the basis of the superior pitching. Now the Yankees move on to the American League Championship Series and a showdown with Cliff Lee and the Texas Rangers. Needless to say, with Lee and home-field advantage, the Rangers present a stiffer challenge. Who will win?

OFFENSE

The Yankees hit .314 as a team in the ALDS against the Twins and they hit .360 with runners in scoring position. It also looks like manager Joe Girardi’s decision to rest injured players in September to get them healthy also paid big dividends.
The hitters will also begin the ALCS with a full five days of rest. For a veteran club like the Yankees, that could be a huge edge heading into the series. The Yankees begin the series without a major injury to any of their hitters.
Curtis Granderson led the Yankees with a .455 average in the ALDS, picking up where he left off when he finished the last month of the season with nine home runs and 25 RBIs. Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira also hit well during the series. Brett Gardner, who hit .200, was the only regular who struggled in the series.
The Rangers hit .253 as a team in their best-of-five series with the Tampa Bay Rays. More alarming was they hit a dreadful 14-for-66 (.212) at home in the two games they lost. Oddly, the Rangers did not hit well with runners in scoring position. They were 6-for-30 (.200) and they were 1-for-11 (.091) at home.
Ian Kinsler had a red-hot ALDS with three home runs, six RBIs and a .444 batting average. Nelson Cruz added three solo home runs and hit .400. However, Josh Hamilton, nursing broken ribs, hit .111, third baseman Michael Young hit .150 and first baseman Mitch Moreland hit .200.
Of course, the Rangers played a very aggressive style on the bases against the Rays with bunts, steals and taking extra bases. Oddly it is the same style of play that the Rays employ. I would suspect that the Rangers will try to do the same in the ALCS.
The Yankees have their share of speed, too. Gardner is the best base stealer in this series and Granderson and Jeter will run on occasion. But the Yankees will not run the bases recklessly and give up outs.
There is a decided hitting edge to the Yankees here. With their power and circular lineup, they scored the most runs in the majors this season. They also can play a running game but they prefer to play it smart. They love to run when they are ahead.
The Rangers are not getting production from Young and Hamilton and it hurt them, especially in the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington. Hamilton is their only left-handed power threat and the Rangers are going to see a lot of right-handed relievers to neutralize Vladimir Guerrero, Kinsler and Cruz.
DEFENSE

The Yankees committed the fewest errors in the American League this season and they committed no errors in the ALDS with the Twins.
The strength of the defense is their Gold Glove infield around the horn of Alex Rodriguez (two Gold Gloves), Derek Jeter (four), Robinson Cano (who is likely to win his first this season) and Mark Teixeira (three).
The outfield features speed in left and center (Gardner and Granderson) and some good outfield arms (Gardner and Swisher combined for 22 outfield assists this season).
The only weaknesses are Posada’s tendency towards passed balls and his poor arm behind the plate and Swisher does not have the best range in right-field. Girardi likes to use Greg Golson as a defensive replacement for Swisher late in games when the Yankees have a lead. Golson has great range and an electric throwing arm.
The Rangers are not a very good defensive club, particularly in the infield. The left side of the infield (Young and Elvis Andrus) committed 35 errors this season. In contrast, the Yankees’ left side if Rodriguez and Jeter committed 13.
Kinsler is also very shaky in the field at second base.
The outfield is excellent. Hamilton in center and Cruz in either left or right are good fielders with good throwing arms. Julio Bourbon has great range and David Murphy committed only one error all season.
The Rangers have a solid defensive catcher in Bengie Molina with a good arm behind the plate. In addition, his pitch-blocking ability has not slipped with age. He had only one passed ball all season. 
Backup catcher Matt Treanor can cut down a running game. He threw out a higher percentage of base-stealers than Molina (39% vs. 31% for Molina). He is not as skilled as Molina but he is not much of step down either.
The Yankees likely will be cautious in the running game in this series.
But there is no doubt the Yankees have the big edge in defense. They do not make many errors and they also play solid fundamentals by hitting cutoff men and not giving the opposition extra bases.
The Rangers are likely to commit some errors in this series and the Yankees are also good at forcing the other team into mental or physical lapses.
STARTING PITCHING

The Rangers and the Yankees split the season series and that is why a lot of pundits are focused on saying the Rangers’ hitters present problems for the Yankees. 
Here is something to chew on: The Yankees swept a three-game series with Texas at Yankee Stadium in April with CC Sabathia and Andy Pettitte winning two of the games. Sabathia, in fact, beat C.J. Wilson in the opener 5-1.
The teams split a two-game series in Arlington in August, both of them one-run games settled by the bullpens. But, against Lee and Wilson, the Yankees scored six runs on 13 hits and three walks in 11 2/3 innings (4.63 ERA). 
In fact, in the second game, Lee tired and blew a 6-1 lead in a game the Yankees eventually won 7-6 after Lee left the game. In defense of Lee, though, he was suffering from severe back pain and eventually had to be shelved for a time to recover.
The Rangers then swept a three-game series in Texas in September, However, the Yankees started Javier Vazquez and A.J. Burnett in the first two games of that series, as they did in the two-game series in August. The Rangers won both of those games by one run.
In the finale, Lee dominated the Yankees, giving up only one run on two hits and three walks in 8 1/3 innings. However, his mound opponent was Dustin Moseley.
So although the Rangers won four games, they only faced Sabathia and Pettitte once and they did not face Phil Hughes at all. 
Also take in to account the Yankees played that September series without Swisher and Gardner, who were out nursing injuries. The Yankees also did not play Jeter in the second game and Rodriguez in the finale. So the Rangers did not face the Yankees with their best lineup or their best pitchers in all three games.
The Yankees’ top three of Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes were 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA in the ALDS. In the regular season, they were a combined 50-18 during the regular season with a 3.53 ERA.
The Rangers’ top three of Lee, Wilson and Colby Lewis were 3-0 with a 0.66 ERA against the Rays in their ALDS. In the regular season they were a combined 39-10 with a 3.41 ERA.
The Yan
kees will be starting A.J. Burnett in Game 4. He was awful for most of the season with the Yankees. He was 10-15 with a 5.26 ERA. The Rangers will counter with Tommy Hunter in Game 4, who was 13-4 with a 3.73 ERA.
The Yankees have one big edge in this series. They will not face Lee until Game 3 and Lee also will only be available to pitch a potential Game 7. That means the Yankees will be starting their two winningest starters in the regular season (Sabathia and Hughes) against the Rangers’ No. 2 and No. 3 starters (Wilson and Lewis).
There is a good possibility the Rangers could be down 0-2 in the best-of-seven series before Lee even throws a pitch. The Yankees are also lined up well for Games 5, 6 and 7 with Sabathia, Hughes and Pettitte scheduled to pitch those games.
As a result, the Yankees have a very slight edge in pitching. If the Rangers want to win this series they will have to beat either Sabathia and Hughes in the first two games. That is going to be tall order. Hughes has not given up an earned run to the Rangers in his career in 11 1/3 innings.
The Rays’ ability to extend the series to five games really hurt the Rangers leading into the ALCS.
BULLPEN

The Yankees strong starting pitching meant the bullpen was not used much in the ALDS. They pitched only seven innings and gave up just one earned run (1.29 ERA). 
As usual, Mariano Rivera was two-for-two in save opportunities. Boone Logan and David Robertson were unscored upon. Kerry Wood pitched well as the setup man for Rivera in the first two games but faltered in Game 3, giving up an earned run after a regular season in which he had given up only one earned run since he joined the Yankees on Aug. 1.
Joba Chamberlain, Dustin Moseley and Sergio Mitre were not used in the ALDS.
This group has been a strength of the Yankees after the All-Star break and they look primed for another good run in the ALCS. When Rivera and Wood are on top of their games, the Yankees effectively reduce the game to seven innings.
While the Rangers’ starters were at the top of their games against the Rays, their bullpen did not do a very good job at all.
Closer Neftali Feliz did not have a save and he posted a 6.75 ERA in two games. The Rangers also enter this postseason without former closer and setup man Frank Francisco with a strained right ribcage. 
Lefties Derek Holland and Darren Oliver also did not pitch well. They combined for an ERA of 5.00 in five appearances. Hard-throwing rookie Alexi Ogando blew a save opportunity.
The only real effective reliever the Rangers had was right-handed side-armer Darren O’Day, who was perfect in his two innings over four appearances.
Feliz showed, at age 22, he might have been a little too amped up in his first postseason. But, remember that only Oliver has extensive postseason experience in this group and the absence of Francisco makes the Rangers a bit more vulnerable in this series.
The Yankees have a decided edge here. Veterans like Wood and Rivera are far superior to the young guns of Feliz and Ogando. 
BENCH

The Yankees feature a platoon at DH with lefty Lance Berkman and righty Marcus Thames. They combined to hit .364 with two home runs and four RBIs against the Twins. The Yankees only used Golson as a defensive replacement in right-field for Swisher.
They did not use Austin Kearns, Ramiro Pena and Francisco Cervelli at all. With the starters healthy and the team in command of all three games, there really was no need to use them.
The Rangers have Treanor, Jorge Cantu, Julio Bourbon and Jeff Francouer in a platoon with David Murphy in the outfield. 
This group was a combined 2-for-26 (.077) in the ALDS.
This is not a strength of either team but the Rangers definitely use their bench more. They have some former starters from the regular season in Francouer, Cantu and Murphy. Bourbon also played extensively when Hamilton was hurt.
The Rangers have a slight edge here. But their weak showing in the ALDS is telling.
MANAGER

Ron Washington is managing in his first postseason with a team that has won its first postseason series in franchise history. Washington won’t be awed by the “big stage” but there could be a few players who might be.
Washington plays an aggressive style by allowing Andrus, Kinsler, Hamilton and Cruz to run the bases at will. He even will send Guerrero and Molina stole a base in Game 5. They also can hit for power with Kinsler, Cruz, Guerrero, Hamilton and Young capable to hitting a ball out of any park.
However, the Rays silenced the Rangers in two games at Arlington and, if it were not for Lee, the Rays may have won the series in Game 5. 
Girardi is not seen as a great manager because of the team he manages and their payroll. But his decision to rest his starters in September proved to be a huge in the ALDS with the Twins. 
The Yankees pitching staff entered the ALDS full of questions. But Sabathia, Pettitte and Hughes answered them. The offense was able to come from behind in the first two games and they broke the game open early in Game 3.
That made Girardi look very smart. In this series he will have to manage more and there is no doubt he will be able to keep up with Washington on tactics.
This area is even.
INTANGIBLES

The Rangers do have home-field advantage with Game 6 and Game 7 (if necessary) in Arlington. However, the Yankees did not seem to have a problem with that in the ALDS and they played well on the road all season.
The Rangers’ biggest intangible is their aggressive style of play. The bunts, the steals and taking their chances on the bases. The Antlers. Not mention they have power. The Claw.
But the Yankees are the most fundamentally sound team in baseball. They rarely make errors that give the other team an edge. As long as Jeter is playing shortstop you can count on him to make a play or two that can takes outs away from the other team.
He has done it so many times, the Rangers are going to have to be careful taking extra bases or rounding the bags in this series. 
For that reason the intangibles belong to the Yankees.
PREDICTION: YANKEES IN SIX


Yankees Pester Rangers Then Power Way To Victory

GAME 11
YANKEES 7, RANGERS 3

For Rangers ace Scott Feldman the New York Yankees hitters were like pests. In just 2 1/3 innings they made the right-hander throw 73 pitches and the next thing Feldman knew he had been tagged with his first loss of the season.
The Yankees used patience at the plate, speed and finally power to score early and often and A.J. Burnett did the the rest by pitching seven innings of shutout baseball as the Yankees routed the Texas Rangers 7-3 on Saturday at Yankee Stadium.
Burnett (2-0) scattered six hits, walked two and struck seven batters to earn the victory. Feldman (1-1) gave up four runs on seven hits and two walks in his shortest outing since July 29 against Detroit.
The Yankees have now won three straight games and ran their record to 8-3 on the season. They also remain atop the A.L. East standings. The Rangers dropped to 5-6 this season.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Patience – The Yankees made Feldman throw 23 pitches in the first inning and 38 pitches in the second inning. In the second inning they loaded the bases on Feldman. Nick Johnson walked to score the game’s first run and Mark Teixeira ended his hitless streak at 0-for-17 with an infield single that made the score 2-0. Feldman threw 12 more pitches in the third inning and had runners on second and third with one out before he was lifted by Rangers manager Ron Washington.
  • Power – After reliever Doug Mathis retired a batter and allowed another run to score on an infield single in the third, Derek Jeter blasted a two-run home run — his third of the season — to make it 6-0. The next inning Alex Rodriguez connected for his first home run of the season off Mathis to make it 7-0.
  • Speed – Brett Gardner and three other Yankee hitters combined to hit six infield singles. Gardner had three infield singles that probably traveled less than 120 feet. His first extended the second inning and he scored the second run. His dribbler to short in the third scored Jorge Posada with the third run. He later stole second on a double-steal attempt that scored Curtis Granderson on a throwing error by Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden.
  • Pitching – Burnett threw 105 pitches over seven innings and was in command the whole way. He struck out A.L. home run leader Nelson Cruz three times swinging. He lowered his ERA on the season to 2.37.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Can the starting pitchers be too good? The fact the starters are going deep into games and there have been a two off-days early this season have left some members of the bullpen rusty. Alfredo Aceves showed it when he gave up a single and a walk before grooving a fastball to Cruz for a three-run homer in the eighth inning. Aceves was immediately taken out in favor of Damaso Marte.
  • Jeter extended his hitting streak to 11 games with his three hits but Robinson Cano went 0-for-4, which broke his 10-game hitting streak and his 26-game April hitting streak.
  • Swisher may have made Feldman throw him 10 pitches in his first at-bat in the second inning but he struck out looking and went on to post an 0-for-4 day that dropped his average to .222 on the season.
  • Though his RBI infield single may have helped Teixeira feel somewhat better, he also popped out weakly, flied out and struck out looking. He is hitting .100.
DIAMOND NOTES

Jorge Posada’s single in the second ining was his 1,500th hit of his career becoming the 19th Yankee and the fourth catcher to reach the mark. Yogi Berra, Bill Dickey and Thurman Munson also reached that plateau.  . . .  Rodriguez’s home run in the fourth inning was the 584th of his career and he passed Mark McGwire for eighth place on the all-time home run list.  . . .  Considering Burnett is 2-0 with a 2.37 ERA with Posada having caught all his games, perhaps all the talk about their inability to see eye-to-eye on pitch selection will finally come to an end.  . . .  Before the game Curtis Granderson was presented with the 2009 Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award by the Baseball Players Association. Granderson was selected by
a secret ballot among his fellow players for his service to baseball, on and off the field. Mark Teixeira, a member of the association’s executive board, made the presentation. Granderson beat out fellow finalists Torii Hunter and Albert Pujols.  
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees have already clinched the three-game series with the Rangers and they have won all four series they have played this season. On Sunday they will go for a sweep of the Rangers with left-hander Andy Pettitte (1-0, 0.75 ERA) scheduled to start. Pettitte held the Angels to five hits in six scoreless innings on Monday. He 10-9 with a 5.41 ERA against the Rangers in 22 career starts.
The Rangers will send out right-hander Rich Harden (0-0, 2.79 ERA). Harden held the Indians to two runs in six innings of a no-decision on Monday. He is 1-2 with a 4.50 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
Game-time is scheduled for 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast locally by the YES Network.
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