Results tagged ‘ Torii Hunter ’

Tigers Take Out Claws On Hughes, Yanks’ Bullpen

GAME 5

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • 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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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 Claw Past Yankees On Cabrera’s Home Run

GAME 28

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.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • 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.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • 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.

BOMBER BANTER

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.

ON DECK

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.

 

Burnett Nixing Deal For Abreu Benefits Yankees

If A.J. Burnett does nothing more for the New York Yankees as a pitcher he did them a major favor off the field this week.

The Yankees and the Los Angeles Angels had worked a trade of the 35-year-old right-hander to the Angels in exchange for former Yankee outfielder Bobby Abreu.

However, as part of Burnett’s five-year contract with the Yankees, Burnett had the right to block a trade to up to 10 major-league teams. The Angels so happen to be one of those teams and he rejected the trade.

For the Yankees’ sake, I am very happy that A.J. rejected that swap. Abreu, who will turn 38 in March, is on a fast downward escalator in his career. A career .293 hitter, Abreu hit .255 in 2010 and a career low of .253 in 2011 with only eight home runs and 60 RBIs in 142 games.

Abreu is available because the Angels’ outfield is filled with left-fielder Vernon Wells, center-fielder Peter Bourjos and right-fielder Torii Hunter and, with the signing of free-agent first baseman Albert Pujols, the Angels already have a logjam at designated hitter between former starting first baseman Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo, who hit 29 home runs as a rookie first baseman last season.

The Angels were seeking Burnett as a No. 5 starter behind ace right-hander Jared Weaver, free-agent lefty C.J. Wilson and right-handers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana.

Abreu is owed $9 million in the final year of his contract and Burnett is owed $33 million over the final two seasons of his contract. It is unclear how much of Burnett’s salary the Yankees were willing to pay. A source did say it was a “considerable portion” and the Angels would not have been obligated to pay Burnett anything until the 2013 season.

Abreu likely would have assumed a platoon left-handed-hitting DH role with the Yankees in a tandem with the righty-swinging Andruw Jones. The Yankees would then have some money left over to re-sign backup infielder Eric Chavez to complete the 2012 roster. The Angels would get a No. 5 starter and be rid of an expensive bench player without adding money to the 2012 payroll.

Reports indicate that Burnett rejected the trade because his wife does not like flying to attend Bunrett’s games. That is the reason Burnett listed all of the West Coast teams on his 10-team no-trade list. The same reports indicate that the Yankees are still trying to pursue a trade for Burnett with the Pittaburgh Pirates.

So far the Yankees have struck out on deals for Burnett that included 30-year-old first baseman/outfielder Garrett Jones of the Pirates, 34-year-old first baseman/DH Travis Hafner and now Abreu. However, if they agree on a deal with the Pirates to unload a portion of Burnett’s salary and the Yankees can get a few young prospects from the Pirates in return for Burnett they likely would have enough money to sign a free-agent DH this weekend and work out a deal with Chavez.

The Yankees are looking to add former Phillie outfielder Raul Ibanez, who said he would be willing to accept less money in order to play with the Yankees. The team also possibly could sign two members of the Yankees’ 2009 world championship club in Johnny Damon and Hideki Matsui. Right-handed-hitting DH Vladimir Guerrero also expressed an interest in playing with the Yankess but the team is strictly looking at signing a left-handed hitter.

Let’s face reality here. The Yankees would be better off with a combination of either Ibanez and Chavez or Damon and Chavez than Abreu and Chavez. That is the reason the Yankees should actually thank Burnett for nixing the deal and exercising his no-trade rights. It now actually forces the Yankees into trying again with the Pirates.

Yankees general manager Brian Cashman and his Pirates counterpart Neal Huntington have spent so much time talking with each other this week they may end up picking out china patterns. The Pirates remain confident a deal can be reached, but the Yankees have told the Pirates they would like the deal completed before Burnett is required to report to the spring training in Tampa, FL, on Sunday.

The two teams are trying to come to agreement on how much money the Pirates will pay towards Burnett’s contract and what prospects the Pirates would be willing to trade.

STAY TUNED

 

Nova, Granderson Outshine Halos’ Rookie

GAME 115

YANKEES 9, ANGELS 3

Redemption.

That is a word that can apply to both Ivan Nova and Curtis Granderson. Nova is the rookie who was sent down to the minors and who is trying desperately to stay. Granderson is the veteran who had a horrible initial season with the Yankees but is making everyone forget because of his sterling 2011 season.

Both Nova and Granderson played key roles Wednesday night at Yankee Stadium as New York raced to an early and lead and coasted to victory over Los Angeles.

Nova (11-4) pitched his third consecutive solid game with six strong innings and Granderson provided the bulk of the offense with a pair of home runs and four RBIs as the Yankees defeated a pitcher making his major-league debut against them for the first time since July, 2004.

Nova, 24, gave up three runs on five hits and three walks over six-plus innings to take the lead in victories among all rookie major-league pitchers. In his three starts since he was recalled from Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, Nova is 3-0 with a 2.61 ERA. With Manager Joe Girardi looking to remove one starter from what is a six-man rotation at the moment, Nova is staking a claim for one of those five spots.

Granderson and the Yankees opened the scoring early on 23-year-old Garrett Richards, who was called up from Double-A Arkansas to make his debut. But jitters and a sellout crowd of 46,967 may have played a part as he walked Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter to begin the game. Two outs later, Granderson connected with a fastball from the right-hander and he deposited it into the bleachers in right-centerfield for his 30th home run of the season, which ties his career high set with the Detroit Tigers in 2009.

Richards then appeared to settle down for two innings. But the Yankees added a pair of runs in the fourth when Robison Cano opened the frame with a triple and Nick Swisher drove him in with a single. Eric Chavez then followed with a double off the wall in right-center to score Swisher.

Granderson added a run in the fifth with a one-out solo home run off Richards again, this time it landed in the second deck down the right-field line. Granderson now has has a career-high 31 home runs and 91 RBIs on the season.

Richards (0-1) pitched five innings, giving up six runs on six hits and two walks and he struck out two.

Nova was touched for a solo home run off the bat of Peter Bourjos in the fifth and he was chased in the seventh after he gave up a walk to Torii Hunter, a single to Mark Trumbo, an RBI single to Vernon Wells that scored Hunter and a walk to Alberto Callaspo to load the bases. Before the sixth inning, Nova had recorded 14 of his 18 outs on ground balls.

Rafael Soriano was summoned from the bullpen to replace Nova. He did allow Trumbo to score but the Yankees gladly gave up the run to complete a Jeter to Teixeira double play. Soriano then retired Jeff Mathis on a flyout to end the threat.

The Yankees meanwhile tacked three more runs on the board off reliever Joel Pineiro. Cano struck the big blow in the seventh with his 19th home run of the season, a two-run lined shot to the opposite field in left-center.

With the victory, the Yankees improved their season record to 70-45. They also gained a full game on the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East as the Minnesota Twins defeated Jon Lester and his teammates 5-2 at Target Field. The Yankees now trail by 1 1/2 games. The Angels, meanwhile, fell to 64-53.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Nova was unable to locate his slider at all. So he was forced to rely on his sinking fastball and curveball exclusively. Catcher Russell Martin said Nova’s stuff was the worst he has had since he was recalled but the decision to scrap the slider showed how much Nova has matured as a pitcher in a short time. His effort means Girardi must decide to trim a starter from between Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett.
  • Granderson showcased his unbelievable revival season to a national TV audience on ESPN. Though most pundits believe Adrian Gonzalez of the Red Sox is the front-runner for the A.L. MVP award, Granderson is giving the first baseman a run for his money with his magnificent season. To have 31 homers, 91 RBIs, a major-league-leading 104 runs scored and a .275 average with 22 stolen bases in early August is not too shabby.
  • Cano is beginning to rediscover his home run stroke. He has three home runs in his last seven games and he is 10-for-28 (.357) with seven RBIs over that span. Five of his 10 hits have been for extra bases. Cano is batting .343 in August and has raised his average to .299.
  • Soriano is proving his arm is sound after returning from two months on the disabled list with right elbow inflammation. In his five appearances, Soriano has not given up a hit or a run in his five innings of work. He also has not walked a batter and struck out five. His presence deepens the bullpen and takes some pressure off David Roberston and Mariano Rivera.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

There is not much to criticize tonight. Nova pitched well, the offense got untracked early and there were some exceptional defensive plays that helped the Yankees maintain their lead. Breaking their three-game losing streak was very much needed.

BOMBER BANTER

Alex Rodriguez will get back into action on Friday as the designated hitter at a minor-league game in Tampa, FL. Rodriguez, who is recovering from right knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus, will either play for the Class A Advanced Yankees or the Gulf Coast League Yankees and then play third base in a game on Saturday. The Yankees hope to activate Rodriguez on their road trip to Kansas City that begins on Monday.  . . .  For the third consecutive game, Chavez was inserted as the designated hitter against a right-handed starter instead of Jorge Posada. With Andruw Jones drawing the DH duties against left-handers, it appears Posada, who is hitting .167 in August after hitting .217 in July, is without a defined role on the team.  . . .  Despite blowing his fifth save of the season on Sunday and losing his second game of the season on Monday, the Yankees are not concerned about Rivera. Despite the back-to-back setbacks, Rivera is 1-2 with a 2.23 ERA and 29 saves in his 46 appearances.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to win the rubber game of theie three-game home series against the Angels on Thursday.

Bartolo Colon (8-6, 3.33 ERA) will get the start for the Yankees. Though Colon lasted only 4 2/3 innings on Friday against the Red Sox, he gave up only two runs on six hits in a game the Yankees won 3-2. Colon beat the Angels on June 5 in Anaheim, giving up three runs on six hits in 5 1/3 innings. He is 7-5 with a 3.25 ERA against them since 2001.

Colon will be opposed by Angels rookie right-hander Tyler Chatwood (6-8, 4.10 ERA). Chatwood has given up 11 runs over 11 2/3 innings in his last two starts. He has just one win since June 25. He has never faced the Yankees before.

Game-time will be at 1:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be televised by the YES Network.

 

Tex Hits Pair As Yanks’ Pen Frustrates Angels

GAME 57

YANKEES 5, ANGELS 3

Getting runner after runner on base to only leave them there. Getting hits and walks to pressure the pitchers to throw strikes only to not score. That pretty much sounds like a description of a majority of the Yankees’ 24 losses this season.

But, on Sunday, as Yogi Berra might have said, the foot was in the other shoe.

Los Angeles trailed the Yankees by a 4-2 score heading into the fifth inning and they ended up scoring one run in the fifth but left a total of eight runners on base in the last five innings as New York held on to beat the Angels and win a road series at Angel Stadium for only the second time in 10 series played there since 2005.

Mark Teixeira provided most of the offense for the Yankees with a solo home run in the third inning and a two-run shot in the fifth, both coming off losing pitcher Joel Pineiro (2-3). The second home run broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Yankees a lead they would never relinquish. Nick Swisher added a solo home run in the eighth inning off reliever Kevin Jepsen to give the Yankees a very important insurance run.

Yankee starter Bartolo Colon (4-3), coming off a dominating complete-game three-hit shutout of Oakland, was not quite as sharp in this outing. He was tagged by a solo home run by Mark Trumbo in the third inning and the Angels followed that up by singling twice and scoring Hank Conger on a sacrifice fly by Maicer Izturis in the same frame to tie the game.

After Teixiera homered again to give the Yankees a 4-2 lead, the Angels responded with two outs in the fifth with back-to-back doubles by Izturis and Erick Aybar to draw within a run but they ended up stranding two runners. Colon then gave up a leadoff double to Alberto Callaspo in the fifth and, one out later, Manager Joe Girardi elected to bring David Robertson.

Robertson set the tone for the bullpen the rest of day. He induced Trumbo to hit a grounder to Derek Jeter in which Jeter threw Callaspo out at third trying to advance. However, Robertson walked Conger and Peter Bourjos to load the bases. But he escaped by fanning Izturis swinging on a 2-2 curve in the dirt to strand three more runners.

After one out in the seventh inning, Joba Chamberlain was brought in to replace Robertson and he promptly gave up two singles sandwiched around a popout by Torii Hunter. But Chamberlain wiggled out of the jam by striking out Howie Kendrick on a 3-2 slider to strand two more runners.

In the eighth Chamberlain walked Conger with one out but induced Bourjos to hit into an inning-ending double play.

Mariano Rivera entered in the ninth inning and gave up a pair of singles to Izturis and Bobby Abreu sandwiched around a strikeout of Aybar. But Rivera got Hunter to end the game by hitting into a 5-4-3 double play started by Alex Rodriguez to strand another runner. Rivera earned his 16th save in 19 chances.

The victory gives the Yankees a 33-24 record and they reached a season-high nine games over .500. They remain a full game in first place in the American League East ahead of the Boston Red Sox in advance of their three-game series at Yankee Stadium that begins on Tuesday. The Angels dropped to 30-31.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Former Angel Teixeira bit his former club in the butt with his two home runs. The two home runs not only took the team home run lead away from Curtis Granderson, but Teixeira’s 18 home runs leave only two in back of major-league leader Jose Bautista of the Blue Jays. Teixeira has now hit nine home runs in his last 16 games. In that span he is 17-for-65 (.262) with 19 RBIs. Though Teixeira is hitting .258 on the season, he has 18 home runs and has driven in 41 runs, which ties him for the team lead with Granderson.
  • Brett Gardner was 2-for-4 and he contributed a two-out RBI double to score Robinson Cano with the game’s first run in the second inning. Very quietly, Gardner was 4-for-7 (.571) in the last two games of the road trip. That raised his average back to .258.
  • Cano made a sensational defensive play in the third inning that saved a run and possibly more for Colon. After an intentional walk to Abreu, Boujos and Abreu executed a double steal with Hunter batting. Hunter then hit a bouncing ball over the head of Colon that was headed into center-field. Cano, not only kept the ball in the infield, he barely nipped Hunter at first to end the inning. That play stranded two more Angel runners.
  • Robertson may have created most of his own problems in the sixth by walking Conger and Boujos to load the bases, however, his ability to escape from jams is reaching epic proportions. Here is a statistic that indicates how good Robertson is in tough situations. The average reliever prevents 70% of inherited runners to score. In his career, Robertson has prevented 87.5% of inherited base-runners to score. Robertson is also one of only two pitchers in the majors who has pitched at least 100 innings since 2009 and struck out batters at a rate above 12 per nine innings. The other pitcher is Cubs closer Carlos Marmol.
NAGGING NEGATIVES
  • Give struggling DH Jorge Posada credit for a game in which he was 2-for-4 and raised his average to .178. But Posada also hit into a double play in the second inning and got thrown out on the bases in the fourth trying to stretch a double into a triple. Posada, inarguably the slowest Yankee runner, tried to take advantage of Kendrick’s throw from left field to the wrong base (second). But Trumbo trailed Posada from his first base position to take the Kendrick’s errant relay and threw Posada out easily trying to reach third.
  • Francisco Cervelli was given a start on Sunday because starting catcher Russell Martin is in a 1-for-24 slump and his average has fallen to .236. But Cervelli was not much help with the bat either. He was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts. Cervelli in limited play this season is batting a woeful .167.
  • Relievers Robertson, Chamberlain and Rivera combined to give up four hits and three walks in only 3 2/3 innings but got out the sixth and seventh with two-out strikeouts and the eighth and ninth with inning-ending double plays. That is an escape act that is too close for comfort in close games. The Yankees were lucky they did not get burned. The Angels were 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position on the day.

BOMBER BANTER

Girardi decided to take advantage of the off day scheduled for Monday by reshuffling his rotation for the week. After Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett open the three-game series with the Boston Red Sox, Girardi will start CC Sabathia on Thursday on his regular four days of rest. That will shift Ivan Nova to open the seres against the Cleveland Indians on Friday. The move also will give Colon an extra day of rest before he pitches against the Indians on Saturday.  . . .  Jeter picked up a single off Pineiro in the third inning and that is his 2,986th hit for his career, just 14 shy of the 3,000 mark. Girardi said it unclear if Jeter will get a day off after playing every game the Yankees have played since May 5. Girardi pointed out that Jeter has gotten somewhat of a break by acting as a DH in six of those games but said he is playing to win.  If Jeter feels he needs a day off he will ask for one, Girardi said.

ON DECK

The Yankees ended their road trip 6-3, despite dropping the first two games in Seattle. They now fly home and will have a day off on Monday before opening a big series with Red Sox on Tuesday.

Garcia (4-4, 3.54 ERA) will start the opener. He is coming off a game in which he gave up three runs in seven innings against Oakland in a 10-3 victory. In a previous start against Boston this season, he gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings in a loss on May 15. He is 8-3 with a 4.56 ERA against the Red Sox since 2001.

Garcia will be opposed by left-hander Jon Lester (7-2, 3.94 ERA). Lester has been in a pitching rut of late. He has given up four or more runs in his last fur starts. But he was the winning pitcher over Garcia on May 15 and he is 7-1 with a 3.94 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 MY9.

Girardi’s Indecision Allows Morales To Strike Again

GAME 18
ANGELS 8, YANKEES 4

Manager Joe Girardi thinks to walk switch-hitter Kendry Morales, then he thinks to bring in right-hander David Robertson for Damaso Marte and then he thinks to let Marte throw a 3-0 pitch to Morales with the game on line.
The result was not pretty.
Morales blasted a two-out three-run home run to give the Los Angeles Angels a 8-4 victory over the New York Yankees on Sunday at Angel Stadium in Anaheim.
It was Morales’ second game-winning home run of the series. In the three weekend games against the Yankees, he was 7-for-10 with two home runs and six RBIs.
Scott Kazmir (2-1) pitched 5 1/3 shaky innings but still was credited the victory. Javier Vazquez (1-3), who has the distinction of losing half the Yankees’ games this himself, pitched horribly again and was the loser.
The Yankees’ record dropped to 12-6 and they fell 1 1/2 games behind the Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East standings. The Angels evened their season record to 10-10.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • It is hard to win a game with only three hits, but two of the Yankees’ hitters came to play on Sunday: Robinson Cano and Jorge Posada.
  • Cano blasted a solo home run in to the right field stands of Kazmir in the fifth inning to make the score 5-4. Cano now has five home runs and 14 RBIs on the season, both of which lead the team.
  • Posada came up in the second inning after Cano had been hit by a pitch and drilled and two-run home run that gave the Yankees an early 2-0 lead on Kazmir. Posada has four home runs and 11 RBIs on the season.
  • Derek Jeter drove in the third run in the second inning by beating out a attempted double play that scored Marcus Thames from third base. Thames had the only other hit in the game for the Yankees with his double off Kazmir after Posada’s home run.
  • Left-hander Boone Logan and right-hander Alfredo Aceves did their job by shutting down the Angels after they had scored five runs off Vazquez. Combined the pair pitched to nine batters and gave up only one hit. That hit was a single by — you guessed it — Morales.
THE NEGATIVES

  • This loss is squarely on the shoulders of Girardi and his indecision in the seventh inning. This is very similar to the loss in Game 3 of the A.L. Championship Series to the Angels. In that game, Girardi replaced a perfectly dominant David Robertson in bottom of the 11th inning to have Aceves pitch to Howie Kendrick and Jeff Mathis. Both Kendrick and Mathis doubled and the Yankees lost the game 5-4.
  • Vazquez is actually very close to becoming the Yankees’ next version of Ed Whitson, who came to the Yankees in 1985 after a 14-8 record and a 3.24 with San Diego Padres. Whitson was 10-8 with a 4.88 ERA that season and was booed so heavily in 1986 he was sent to the bullpen with an ERA of 7.54. An angry fan actually followed Whitson home after one bad outing and Whitson was quickly traded back to San Diego at midseason.
  • In his three losses, Vazquez has given up 17 runs on 19 hits and eight walks in 14 2/3 innings. That is an ERA of 10.43 and a WHIP of 1.84. 
  • Marte entered the game with a perfect ERA but it was immediately apparent that Marte entered the game without any control. He walked left-hand hitter Bobby Abreu on fi
    ve pitches and hit right-hand hitter Torii Hunter with his second pitch, which lit the fuse in the seventh inning. After forcing Abreu at third an a Matsui slow roller, I was sure that Girardi would have Marte walk Morales so Robertson could come in to pitch to Juan Rivera, who was 2-for-9 in the series and batting 90 points lower than Morales. But I was wrong.
DIAMOND NOTES

Girardi said after the game: “I screwed up, in a sense. I could have done it (walked Morales). Your first instinct is sometimes your best.”  . . .  Bobby Abreu owes Javier Vazquez a nice Christmas card every year. His home run in the third inning was his 10th home run off Vazquez in just 72 at-bats.  . . .  Yankees DH Nick Johnson was not in the lineup on Sunday but said his lower back stiffness was getting better. Johnson said he hopes to play Tuesday when the Yankees open a series with the Orioles in Baltimore.  . . .  The loss on Sunday broke the Yankees’ series winning streak at five. If they had won they would have set a franchise record.  . . .  The loss also means the Yankees have now lost three of their last four games.  . . .  The Yankees stopped to visit the White House on Monday to meet with President Barack Obama. The president honored the Yankees for their 27th world championship in a ceremony in the East Room. He said, “This is a team that goes down to spring training every year expecting to win it all — and more often than not, you guys get pretty close. Of course, if I had [Mariano] Rivera, I’d get pretty close too.” Obama is a devoted fan of his hometown Chicago White Sox. The Yankees presented him with pinstriped No. 27 jersey signed by the team and he posed with the team holding the championship trophy.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees move to their last series in a long 11-day road trip by opening a series with the Baltimore Orioles at Camden Yards. Phil Hughes (2-0, 2.19 ERA) will start for the Yankees. In his last start on April 21, he no-hit the Oakland A’s for seven innings before settling for a 3-1 victory. He is 2-2 with a 6.82 ERA against the Orioles in his career.
The 3-16 Orioles will counter with their ace, Kevin Millwood (0-3, 3.38 ERA). Millwood gave up four runs on six hits and three walks in a loss to the Mariners on April 21. In nine career starts against the Yankees Millwood is 2-4 with a 4.86 ERA.
Game-time will be 7:05 p.m. EDT and the game will be broadcast locally by the MY9.

Pettitte’s Pitching Dominance Is Hell On Hapless Halos

GAME 17
YANKEES 7, ANGELS 1

Andy Pettitte pitched eight dominant innings and the Nick Swisher and Francisco Cervelli drove in two runs apiece as the New York Yankees thrashed the Los Angeles Angels 7-1 in a nationally broadcast game on Saturday from Angel Stadium in Anaheim, CA.
Pettitte (3-0) stayed perfect on the season, giving up just one run on six hits with no walks and eight strikeouts. Joel Pineiro (2-2), who defeated the Yankees 6-2 on April 14 in Yankee Stadium, was charged with six earned runs on 11 hits over six innings.
The Yankees tied the three-game series at one apiece and moved their season record to 12-5. They are a half-game in back of the Tampa Bay Rays in the A.L. East standings. The Angels dropped to 9-10 in the A.L. West.
YANKEE POSITIVES

  • Pettitte was at his best on Saturday, mixing his pitches and changing his locations on the Angels. A leadoff double by Erick Aybar in the sixth inning led to the shortstop eventually scoring a sacrifice fly by Torii Hunter, which spoiled Pettitte’s bid at a shutout. Pettitte threw 75 strikes out of the 114 pitches he made. He reached three-ball counts on only five of the 28 batters he faced and he retired four of them.
  • Robinson Cano had four of the Yankees’ 14 hits. He was 4-for-5 with four singles, scored three runs and drove in another. Cano raised his batting average to .389.
  • Cervelli, filling in behind the plate for Posada following the night game, delivered the key hit of the game with two out and the bases loaded in the fourth inning. Cervelli slapped a single past Angels third baseman Brandon Wood to score Alex Rodriguez and Cano to make the score 3-0. Pineiro had walked Curtis Granderson intentionally with one out in order to challenge Ramiro Pena and Cervelli instead. Pena struck out but Cervelli spoiled the strategy with his solid single. Cervelli is batting .500 in his limited at-bats this season.
  • Nick Swisher, as expected, has come out of his funk on the road. Swisher was 2-for-4 with two RBIs with an RBI double to open the scoring the second inning and a RBI single in the fourth that built the score to 6-0. Swisher is 5-for-15 on the road trip.
  • Brett Gardner is becoming a big thorn in the side of the Angels. He was 3-for-5 with two singles, a triple, scored two runs and stole his ninth base of the season. In the third inning, the left fielder threw Angels catcher Mike Napoli out at third trying to take an extra base on a single by Wood.
THE NEGATIVES

  • Ramiro Pena, playing third base while Rodriguez took a half-day off as the team’s DH, was 0-for-4 on the day and struck out badly in the fourth inning with the bases loaded. He swung at a Pineiro pitch that actually bounced in front of the plate. But, in defense of Pena, he did make a great leaping grab of a line drive off the bat of Juan Rivera in the second inning that robbed Rivera of a sure hit.
  • Rodriguez struck out twice looking in the game. Once in the fifth by Pineiro and once in the seventh by reliever Scot Shields. He stranded two runners in scoring position in the process.
  • Though Mark Teixeira did have an RBI double in the seventh inning, he was 1-for-5 in the game and his average is now a paltry .123.
  • Cervelli did pull a base-running blunder in the fourth inning. Derek Jeter singled to score Curtis Granderson but Hunter threw out Cervelli trying to take an extra base on the play. He was out by 30 feet at third base.
DIAMOND NOTES

Angels catcher Bobby Wilson, who was bowled over at home plate by Teixeira in the third inning of Friday’s 6-4 victory over the Yankees, was placed on the 15-day disabled list and replaced on the roster by catcher Ryan Budde. CT scans on Wilson’s left ankle were inconclusive because of swelling and he is scheduled for an MRI for Monday.  . . .   Teixeira said he feels “horrible” about the injury to Wilson, who was briefly his teammate in Los Angeles in 2008. Teixeira said he tried calling the Angels clubhouse and left messages for Wilson but has not heard back. “I hope he is doing all right.”  . . .  If you need any more proof of Pettitte being historically strong in April, he now leads all active major-league pitchers with 29 career wins in the month. His 1.29 ERA is the lowest he has ever had in April.  . . .  Oft-injured DH Nick Johnson will be out of the lineup until at least Tuesday with lower back stiffness. Johnson incurred the injury while taking extra batting practice before Friday’s series opener. Johnson was 1-for-4 on Friday but treatment on his back prior to Saturday’s game failed to relieve the stiffness. Manager Joe Girardi opted to give Rodriguez a half-day off as the team’s DH and shift Gardner to Johnson’s No. 2 spot in the order.  . . .  FOX play-by-play man Joe Buck did the national broadcast of the game and did his usual number of unloading subtle shots at the Yankees throughout the game. Twice in the early going he reminded viewers that the Yankees “had blown a 3-1 lead” in Friday’s game and lost to the Angels. Well, Joe, that 3-1 lead lasted for about two minutes before the Angels scored three runs in the next half-inning to make the score 4-3. In fact, Nick Swisher tied the game in the fourth inning and it stayed tied until the two-run home run by Kendry Morales in the eighth inning that won it. Shouldn’t you have mentioned that the Angels blew a 4-3 lead, Joe? Buck also got really excited in the fifth inning when a 2-2 pitch from Pineiro came close to the inside corner on Rodriguez as if he expected the pitch to be called a strike. It wasn’t. But Buck got his chance to rejoice happily when Rodriguez watched the next pitch be called strike three with a Gardner still stranded at third. But, once the Yankees took the lead over the Angels to 6-0, Buck not only stopped taking his usual subtle digs at the Yankees, he became pretty disinterested in the game altogether. Buck has stated many times publicly that he actually dislikes baseball and he only broadcasts games in honor of the legacy of his late father, Jack.
THE NEXT GAME

The Yankees have won all five of their season series. They are the first team since the 1926 Yankees to do it. Now they will go for No. 6 on Sunday against the Angels with Javier Vazquez on the mound. 
Vazquez (1-2, 8.27) is trying to iron out his problem of rushing his delivery. In his last game on Tuesday he beat the Athletics, giving up three runs in 5 1/3 innings. But he also gave up two home runs and he hopes to do better. He is 0-2 with a 3.51 ERA in five career starts against the Angels.
The Angels will start left-hander Scott Kazmir (1-1, 7.45 ERA). Kazmir altered his delivery in his last start and earned his first career victory at Angel Stadium against Detroit on Tuesday. Kazmir is 6-6 with a 3.14 ERA in 16 appearances against the Yankees. However, of late, Kazmir has not pitched well against the Yankees. On April 15, the Yankees tagged him for six runs on eights hits and three walks in four-plus innings in a 6-2 loss in Yankee Stadium.
Game-time will be 3:35 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast by the YES Network.

Andy Just Dandy As Yankees Claim 40th Pennant

ALCS GAME 6
YANKEES 5, ANGELS 2


He started 2009 without a contract from the New York Yankees but Andy Pettitte shined in the postseason lights on Sunday night like there was no doubt he belonged there.
Pettitte pitched 6 1/3 innings of gritty, determined baseball to win a major-league record 16th postseason game as the Yankees finally threw a big rally monkey off their backs by downing the Los Angeles Angels 5-2 to win their 40th American League pennant.
By virtue of winning the American League Championship Series by four games to two, the Yankees defeated an Angels franchise that had bounced them out of the postseason in 2002 and 2005 and earned the right to face the National League and defending World Series champion Philadelphia Phillies in the World Series, which will begin on Wednesday night.
Controversy swirled amid Pettitte’s start Sunday after Saturday night’s postponement of Game 6 at Yankee Stadium. Pundits wondered why manager Joe Girardi would not start CC Sabathia on four days rest to vanquish the Angels rather than Pettitte.
But Pettitte’s effort in the Bronx quelled those fears and will allow Sabathia to open the World Series against the Phillies on Wednesday night. Sabathia earned a piece a hardware for himself by being named the Most Valuable Player of the series by virtue of his dominant wins in Game 1 and Game 4.
Pettitte (1-0) gave up only one run on seven hits and one walk and fanned six batters to win his 16th postseason game, which broke a tie at 15 that Pettitte shared with John Smoltz. Pettitte’s overall postseason record is now 16-9.
He also won a major-league best fifth series-clinching victory to pass Catfish Hunter, Roger Clemens and Dave Stewart.
“That’s great, it’s great,” Pettitte said. “But the greatest thing is to be able to clinch this game and to help this organization get back to the World Series. That’s very special for me.”
In his two starts in the ALCS, Pettitte was 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA.
“What can you say about him?” Derek Jeter said to MLB.com. “He’s a guy you want to see on the mound in that situation. He’s pitched in every big game. He’s had a lot of success. You never see him fazed by anything. We have a lot of confidence in him.”
This after a 2008 postseason in which the Yankees allowed Pettitte to become a free agent and they signed to a late contract for $11 million less than he made last season. Pettitte actually pitched so well during the season that he ended up being the Yankees second-best starter with a 14-9 record and a 4.04 ERA.
“Pettitte pounded the strike zone today,” Torii Hunter said. “He’s usually a guy who throws a lot of balls. He pounded the zone and was ahead of everybody today.”
It also was fitting that the Yankees closeout victory in the ALCS would come with Mariano Rivera pitching the final the two innings to collect his 37th career postseason save and his second of the series.

“You know that he’s unbelievable when he goes out there,” Girardi told MLB.com. “Let me tell you, it’s nice having him down there.”

Rivera did give up a run in the eighth inning on a Vladimir Guerrero RBI single to bring the Angels to within one run but the Yankees managed to add two runs in the bottom of the eighth without the benefit of a hit and two more uncharacteristic Angels errors.
With the Yankees leading by a run in the bottom of the eighth, the Yankees benefitted from a leadoff walk to Robinson Cano. Then the Angels misplayed consecutive sacrifice bunts by Nick Swisher and Melky Cabrera to score one run.
Angels second baseman Howie Kendrick, covering first, dropped a throw from catcher Mike Napoli on Swisher’s bunt. Then Angels pitcher Scott Kazmir shot-putted a throw over the head of Kendry Morales on Cabrera’s bunt and Cano scored on the play.
The Angels, who finished fourth in the American League with the fewest errors, made a total of eight errors in the series. These two in the really eighth sealed their fate.
On Kazmir’s bonehead toss, Brett Gardner (pinch-running for Swisher) and Cabrera moved to third and second, respectively. After one out and a walk to Johnny Damon, Mark Teixeira closed out the scoring with a sacrifice fly to deep center to score Gardner and make it 5-2.
The Yankees built their 3-1 lead by chasing lefty starter Joe Saunders in the fourth inning. That inning also started with a walk to Cano and Swisher followed with a single. Cabrera sacrificed them up a base. 
After a walk to Jeter, Johnny Damon put the Yankees ahead in the game 2-1 with a two-run single to left. After Teixeira beat out an infield single to deep short, Saunders walked Alex Rodriguez with the bases loaded to make it 3-1.
Saunders (0-1) also punched his ticket out of Game 6. He left after just 3 1/3 innings, giving three runs on seven hits and five walks. 
Much was made of the fact that Saunders had entered Game 6 having gone 7-0 in his nine starts since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 26. After Sunday night at the new Yankee Stadium, Saunders is now 7-1 in his last 10 starts.
Darren Oliver entered the game to replace Saunders and induced Jorge Posada to hit into an inning-ending double play and he pitched two more shutout innings to keep the Angels close.
The Angels only run off Pettitte came in the third inning when Angels catcher Jeff Mathis, who entered the game hitting .600 in the series, doubled to the gap in right-center. After Erick Aybar fanned, Chone Figgins, who hit .086 in the postseason, grounded out to Cano as Mathis moved to third.
Pettitte then hung a breaking pitch to Bobby Abreu, who singled sharply to right to score Mathis with the game’s first run.
While the Angels struggled again on defense in clutch situations, the Yankees turned in a number of sparkling plays in the field to frustrate the Angels’ offense.
In the second inning, Morales lined out sharply to right and Swisher ran in quickly to catch it and threw to first base to double off Guerrero, who had strayed too far off the base.
Cano’s stop of Figgins’ grounder in the third actually robbed Figgins of a hit and kept Mathis from scoring before Abreu came to the plate.
In the seventh inning with one out and Juan Rivera on first with a single, pinch-hitter Maicer Izturis lined a hard one-hopper to Jeter at short. But the ball bounced away from Jeter right to Cano standing on second. Cano alertly picked up the ball to force Rivera.
In the eighth inning Figgins blooped a single just out of the reach of Jeter in short left. Abreu t
hen rocked Rivera with a broken bat bouncer headed for rightfield, but Teixeira dove to his right to stop it and got back to his feet and beat Abreu to the bag for a key first out as Figgins took second.
With Figgins a threat to steal third base, Cano stayed just to the right of second base when Hunter bounced what looked like a single up the middle to centerfield. But Cano ranged to his left to snag it and threw Hunter out easily for the second out.
Figgins did score to make it 3-2 on Guerrero’s single but the plays for Teixeira and Cano certainly limited the damage as the Yankees won their fifth postseason game at home with no losses.
The Yankees were a major-league best 57-24 at home this season and they are now 37-9 at home after the All-Star break, including the postseason wins.
The only drama left was left to Rivera pitching the ninth inning. The crowd of 50,173 stood and cheered  every pitch as Rivera retired Howie Kendrick on an easy bouncer to Teixeira for the first out and Juan Rivera lofted a easy fly to Cabrera, who had replaced Swisher in right for the ninth, for the second out.
The crowd got even louder as Rivera ran the count full to pinch-hitter Gary Matthews Jr. Then Rivera threw his 34th and final pitch of the night and Matthews swung and missed. 
Euphoria erupted from the pitcher’s mound up into the third decks of the Yankees sparkling new palace, which had seen the Yankees collect its first pennant under the pristine glow of its lights.
The players quickly ditched their uniform caps and donned brand new ones emblazoned with the official 2009 World Series logo.
“They played an incredible series,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. “They outplayed us, and they deserved to win. Naturally, they’ll represent our league in the World Series, and we wish them well.”

“It’s a great feeling, with what these guys did and how hard they worked,” Girardi told MLB.com. “They never gave up. Even when we went through some tough times, they were there. They kept fighting back. Our team has shown a lot of character.”
The Yankees are now but four games away from the 27th championship and, on this night in the Bronx, they put those thoughts aside to celebrate what had taken them six seasons to achieve: Playing in the World Series.
“In order to win a World Series, you have to get there,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve done that, and hopefully, the good Lord blesses us for four more.”



Failures of Figgins, Abreu and Rivera Killing Rally Monkey

ALCS GAME 4: KEY MOMENT


It is the bottom of the fifth inning and the New York Yankees lead the Angels 5-0, having broken through and chased starter Scott Kazmir with five runs over the previous two innings. CC Sabathia is rolling again after having given up just a walk and infield single over the first four innings. The Angels, trying desperately to avoid going down in the best-of-seven championship series 3-1 must break through against the 2007 American League Cy Young Award Winner.

After one out, there is a glimmer of hope as first baseman Kendry Morales drives a high fastball into left-center for a solo home run. The Angel fans among the 45,000 in attendance begin banging their thunder sticks, trying to ignite their team.

It’s Rally Monkey time in the Big A.

GLIMMER OF HOPE

As Morales gets the glad hand all around in the Angels dugout, Mike Napoli steps to the plate. Napoli is catching despite the fact that starter Jeff Mathis had doubled in his last three at-bats and drove in the winning run the day before.
Napoli works to a 1-1 count and slaps a single just past the dive of Alex Rodriguez down the leftfield line. Now the fans are on their feet, thunder sticks flapping at 100 miles per hour. The Rally Monkey is finally awake.
After Napoli, Erick Aybar digs in determined to work the count on Sabathia and he does it. He fouls off some tough pitches to get the count to 3-2. Sabathia knows that Aybar has choked up on the bat and shortened his swing. 
His efforts to throw pitches on the corner are thwarted when Aybar reaches across the plate and fouls it off. He tries high in the strike zone and Aybar fouls it off. Sabathia has worked the first four innings in an amazing 38 pitches.
But Aybar is determined to drive that pitch count up all by himself. The next pitch will be Sabathia’s ninth to Aybar. Sabathia tries outside again and Aybar just flicks the bat and flips the ball into shallow centerfield. It drops in front of Melky Cabrera and the Angels now have two runners on and one out.
The fans are really into it now. Thunder sticks resonate in every corner of Angel Stadium.
The Angels rally is now up to two of its best hitters of the regular season; Chone Figgins and Bobby Abreu. 
Figgins hit .298 and led the American League with 114 runs scored. He was the catalyst for the team’s offense all season long. Abreu hit .293 and drove in 103 runs. The two had also combined on 72 steals.
THE HOPE FADES

Sabathia fires two quick called strikes on Figgins and Figgins realizes he will not be able to work the count. He will have to be aggressive and protect the plate. He fouls off the next pitch and is still behind in the count 0-2.
Sabathia, from the stretch, throws his next pitch and Figgins’ bat rolls over the top of it and it bounces right to Robinson Cano at second base. Cano tries to get rid of the ball quickly to Derek Jeter to get Aybar at second. 
Second base umpire Dale Scott calls Aybar out but Figgins is too fast to double up at first base and the Angels still have a chance with Napoli at third and Figgins at first with two out.
It will take a two-out clutch hit from Abreu, who had many such hits for the Angels all season long. Cast adrift by the Yankees after the 2008 season, Abreu hoped to sign as lucrative a deal as the one he had with the Yankees at $16 million per season.
But because economic hard times hit baseball at the midpoint of the free-agent signing period, Abreu waited, waited and waited some more before having to settle for a low-ball $5 million plus incentives contract with the Angels.
Abreu worked a walk in the first inning but Sabathia struck him out looking in the third. In the series, the Yankees have been backing Abreu off the plate with pitches inside and throwing low and outside pitches to get Abreu out.
Abreu is usually a patient hitter, unafraid of hitting with two strikes. But Sabathia’s command has forced Abreu to be more aggressive. Angel fans have the thunder sticks and the Rally Monkey going strong, hopeful Abreu can come through.
Sabathia throws a strike. Ohhhhh! Angel fans have seen this all night.
On the second pitch Abreu sees a pitch he likes and swings but he misses it low, popping it up harmlessly into the Anaheim sky to centerfield. Cabrera camps under it and uses two hands to make sure it nestles into his glove.
Ohhhh! Angel fans fall silent, thunder sticks halt and the Rally Monkey has been foiled.
The Yankees would go on to score five runs in the final two innings and the final score ends up 10-1. The Yankees are 3-1 in the best-of-seven series and need only one victory for a trip to the World Series.

Meanwhile, the Angels squandered another chance to get to Sabathia in the sixth when Torii Hunter walked and Vladimir Guerrerro singled to lead of the inning. Juan Rivera followed by hitting into a double play and Howie Kendrick lined out to first baseman Mark Teixeira to end the Angels last serious threat. 

Figgins, Abreu and Rivera are probably the poster children for the Angels’ plight in this series. Their failures to hit in clutch situations is the main reason why the Angels are losing. Combined they are 6-for-49 in the series, a woeful .122 average. They have one RBI between them.

In a key moment in Game 4, they all failed to deliver a big hit. Now the Rally Monkey is hanging by a thread on life support with very little hope left of recovery.



Aybar’s Miscue Set Tone For Angels’ Sloppy Night

ALCS GAME 1: KEY MOMENT



It is the bottom of the first inning and the New York Yankees had just scored the first run of Game 1 in their best-of-seven series with the Los Angeles Angels. Alex Rodriguez had lofted a fly ball to centerfield that scored Derek Jeter from third. Angels centerfielder Torii Hunter threw the ball to third base to keep Johnny Damon from advancing to third on the play. Angels starter John Lackey next had to face Hideki Matsui with two out and Damon at second.

The only reason Damon was at second was because leftfielder Juan Rivera had misfired with his throw into second base on Damon’s bloop single. He missed so badly that Damon was able to take second and Rivera was charged with an error, the first of a franchise postseason record of three errors the committed in the game.

THE PLAY

Lackey starts Matsui off with a pair of breaking pitches. His backdoor slider is called a strike by home-plate umpire Tim McClelland. His curveball misses outside. On the 1-1 pitch, Lackey throws a fastball on the inside corner and Matsui swings late. The ball hits off the trademark of the bat and the ball is popped up to the left side of the Angels’ infield.
Third baseman Chone Figgins backs up to the edge of the infield as the popup settles between him and shortstop Erick Aybar. Aybar is about six feet to the left of Figgins and about 10 feet behind him. It is a cold night. It is 45 degrees and a steady wind is swirling inside the stadium, making it seem colder.
Damon, running at the crack of the bat with two outs, is cruising around third base and heading towards home plate as he runs out the routine pop fly.
The first sign of trouble is when Figgins stopped backing up and looked at Aybar. Just at that moment, Aybar looked at Figgins, who he spotted backpedaling towards the ball. Neither player called out with the customary “I got it.”
When Aybar finally realized that Figgins was deferring to him to catch the ball, it way too late for him to make a play. As the ball rapidly descended Aybar began to reach out but the ball landed harmlessly three feet in front of him.
The crowd of 48,699 mostly Yankee fans at Yankee Stadium cheered at Damon crossed home plate with the Yankees’ second run of the inning. John Lackey who had ran behind home plate to back up catcher Jeff Mathis in case there was a throw to the plate was hunched down in a crouch.
As the ball dropped Lackey rose to his feet and cursed.
Aybar looked at Figgins. Figgins looked at Aybar. The damage had been done, however.
The Yankees’ gift-wrapped second run proved to be the deciding run of the game. CC Sabathia pitched eight innings and gave up only four hits and one run as the Yankees went on to defeat the Angels 4-1 in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.
The Angels would go on to make two more errors in the game. Lackey would throw away a pickoff attempt at first base and Hunter would allow a Jeter single to clank off his glove to allow Jeter to reach second. Both of those errors came in the sixth inning when the Yankees scored their fourth and final run. 
Lackey, almost fittingly, was removed from the game after Hunter’s miscue.
Two of the Yankees’ four runs were unearned. It proved to be the downfall of the Angels on Friday night.
Aybar’s misplay on the Matsui popup was the key moment of the game because it set the tone for the evening.
                                                *********
“One of us has got to catch it,” Figgins said. “Simple as that.”

                                                   *********

“That’s out of character for us,” said Hunter, “We play the game right.”

                                                         


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