The All-Star Game will be at Citi Field in a couple of months, and there has been a lot of talk in Flushing about Matt Harvey, the Mets’ impressive rookie, perhaps getting the nod as the starting pitcher for the National League. Not to take any thunder away from Harvey, but it may not be a bad idea if the American League gave serious consideration to the Yankees’ Hiroki Kuroda as its starter.
Oh, sure, it’s far too early to get into that discussion. One thing is certain: when that topic does become heated, figure Kuroda to be in the middle of it, right up there with Felix Hernandez, Clay Buchholz, Matt Moore, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester and the other All-Star starter contenders.
Say what you want about the Blue Jays’ 17-25 start, but the Toronto lineup is still formidable. Yet Kuroda mowed through it seemingly without breaking a sweat.
“He had all three of his pitches going – fastball, slider, splitter,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He pretty much gave the bullpen the night off. He has been doing that for us all season.”
The first inning was an indication that it might be a special night for Kuroda. Melky Cabrera led off the game with a double. Kuroda then struck out Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion and got the third out by gloving a searing line drive by J.P. Arencibia.
“I felt good after those first two strikeouts,” Kuroda said.
Asked how he was able to catch Arencibia’s dart, Kuroda said, “I don’t know.”
After Melky’s hit, Kuroda got 19 consecutive outs before yielding a second hit, Encarnacion’s one-out single in the seventh. Kuroda walked Muenori Kawasaki in the third inning but picked him off. The righthander had five strikeouts in his eight innings, and it was hard to believe that 41 of his 109 pitches were called balls.
Kuroda improved his record to 6-2 and lowered his ERA to 1.99, clearly the best of each in the rotation. He has been a one-man gang against Toronto with 12 consecutive scoreless innings against the Jays. Opponents are hitless in their past 25 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Kuroda and 2-for-30 for the season. He has pitched at least seven innings without giving up a run in nine of his 42 starts with the Yankees, which matches Hernandez and the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw for the most such starts in the majors over the past two years.
The Yankees tied the score right away by scoring off Mark Buehrle in the first inning. Brett Gardner tripled to left-center and scored on a groundout by Robinson Cano. The first of two sacrifice flies by Jayson Nix gave Kuroda the lead in the fifth, and the bottom of the Yankees’ order constructed the bulk of a three-run rally in the seventh.
How about the 3-4-5-6 hitters combining to go 1-for-16 and still the Yankees winning, 5-0? Nix had a 0-for-0 game with two walks and two sac flies, the first Yankees player to get four plate appearances in a game without an official at-bat since Derek Jeter Sept. 12, 2006 against the Rays. Rookies David Adams and Austin Romine had a double and a single apiece, and rookie pitcher Preston Claiborne tossed another scoreless inning (that’s eight now in six appearances). Gardner also walked and singled in a run. It was all nice to see, but the way Kuroda pitched was unnecessary.
The Yankees’ disabled list continued to grow Friday night, adding Andy Pettitte, who came out of Thursday night’s game against the Mariners because of a tight left trapezius muscle. Pettitte said he felt better Friday but understood that he needed more time to get better, which frankly the Yankees do not have right now.
Pettitte’s next scheduled start would have been Tuesday night in Baltimore. He told general manager Brian Cashman that he could long-toss on his regular bullpen day and still be able to make the starting assignment. Pettitte reneged when it was explained to him that the Yankees could not afford to dig into the bullpen if he tightened up early in that game. Cashman pointed out that they lost CC Sabathia early in a rain-delayed game in Denver, had a doubleheader at Cleveland earlier in the week and an abbreviated start Wednesday night from Phil Hughes (2/3 innings).
“I’m frustrated, but it makes sense,” Pettitte said. “I hope we can get it cleared up and I can get back out there. I don’t see why it should be more than that [15 days]. I had high expectations of being able to pitch a full season, but I’ll have to deal with it.”
The Yankees will recall lefthander Vidal Nuno from Triple A Scranton to take Pettitte’s spot in the rotation. Nuno earned his first major-league victory in the second game of the doubleheader Monday with five scoreless, three-hit innings at Progressive Field.
Chris Stewart’s groin injury is not as serious as it might have been. An MRI on the catcher was negative. Stewart is still in some pain, but he is not a candidate for the Yankees’ large disabled list where another catcher, Francisco Cervelli, is among those on the mend. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Stewart probably won’t play in the three-game series against the Blue Jays but could catch in an emergency.
Because of that, the Yankees do not plan to add another catcher for this weekend’s series as a backup to Austin Romine. That role for the time being will be filled by utility infielder Alberto Gonzalez, whose primary position is shortstop but who has also already pitched for the Yankees for the first time in his seven-season career. Gonzalez retired the only batter he faced Wednesday night in the Yankees’ 12-2 loss to the Mariners, so his ERA is 0.00.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Tuesday marked only the fourth time since the Cy Young Award was instituted by the Baseball Writers’ Association in 1956 that seven former winners started on the same day. CC Sabathia was among them, along with Felix Hernandez, Clayton Kershaw, R.A. Dickey, Bartolo Colon, Jake Peavy and Barry Zito). It also occurred April 21, 1974 (Vida Blue, Steve Carlton, Mike Cuellar, Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Jim Perry and Tom Seaver) and on both April 5 and April 10, 1993 with the same pitchers (Roger Clemens, Doug Drabek, Dwight Gooden, Orel Hershiser, Greg Maddux, Rick Sutcliffe and Bob Welch).
Patrick Vieira, former World Cup-winning soccer star and current head of the Elite Development Squad for Manchester City Football Club, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Vieira played on five World Cup-winning teams and nine league champions during his career. He made 107 appearances for the French national team, including winning performances at the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2000 UEFA European Championship. His time as a Manchester City player, which began in January 2010, concluded with an FA Cup Final victory in May 2011, marking the club’s first major trophy in 35 years.
Since retiring from the game in the summer of 2011, Vieira has worked as a Football Development Executive for Manchester City, traveling extensively in an ambassadorial role for the club and its academy. He has spent the last year developing his understanding of the business side of football and working on his UEFA coaching credentials.
Manchester City will make it first appearance at the Stadium in a 5:30 p.m. match Saturday, May 25, against Premier League rival Chelsea FC.
When the manager comes to the mound during an inning with the pitching coach and a trainer, it is never a good sign for a pitcher. That is what happened in the fifth inning Thursday night when Joe Girardi, Larry Rothschild and Mark Littlefield didn’t like what they saw after Andy Pettitte struck out the first two batters.
Video replays after the strikeout of Kyle Seager showed Pettitte grimacing. Girardi did not want to take chances with his 40-year-old lefthander and removed him after a brief conference. Shawn Kelley got all the time he needed to warm up and finishing the inning by striking out Kendrys Morales. The diagnosis on Pettitte was a tight left trapezius, a muscle that spans the neck and shoulder.
Pettitte said the area was tight all game but stiffened to the point that he could get no extension after the fourth inning. Between innings, he got a massage from Littlefield and felt better, but the tightness came back on the first pitch he threw that inning to Jason Bay.
“It’s frustrating,” Pettitte said. “I wanted to give us some length after we got a short start [Phil Hughes] Wednesday night. I hope it’s just a spasm that settles down.”
It was something of an uneven outing for Pettitte, who was touched for two runs and four hits with three walks, five strikeouts and a wild pitch in 4 2/3 innings. By leaving the game with the score 2-1 Mariners, Pettitte was not in position to have a chance for his 250th career victory. The Mariners hung on for a 3-2 victory to take the series, 2 games to 1. The Yankees were outscored, 18-8, by the second worst offense in the American League and came out of the series hobbling.
“I didn’t feel like I was real sharp,” Pettitte said. “It has been a real battle the past four starts.”
It was a rough night all around for the Yankees’ battery. Catcher Chris Stewart tweaked a groin running the bases in the seventh inning and was replaced by Austin Romine. Stew underwent an MRI after the game. The Yankees were hopeful about the result because Stewart had told Girardi he didn’t hear a pop. Keep your fingers crossed. With Francisco Cervelli already on the disabled list, the Yanks are running out of catchers.
Pettitte’s counterpart, Mariners starter Hector Noesi, also made an early exit and did not qualify for a winning decision. Noesi, who was an emergency starter for Aaron Harang (back spasms) and on a moderated pitch count (79), was replaced by Oliver Perez after Stewart singled David Adams, who was hit by a pitch leading off the fifth, to third base with one out. Perez got out of the jam with a strikeout of Brett Gardner and an infield pop by Jayson Nix.
Noesi, who was 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA for the Mariners last year, has not won a game in more than a year. The righthander has lost nine straight decisions since his most recent victory May 6, 2012, 5-2, over the Twins. What proved the deciding run was a home run to center off Kelley by Michael Morse, who had a damaging series (7-for-11, 4 runs, 1 double, 2 home runs, 2 RBI).
Despite the homer by Morse, Kelley pitched well with five more strikeouts in two innings. He has struck out 12 of the past 17 batters he has faced and 30 overall in 17 1/3 innings. Among the other few positives for the Yankees was Ichiro Suzuki ended a 0-for-22 slump with a seventh-inning single and Curtis Granderson getting three hits and stealing a base.
The Yankees provided some drama in the ninth when Brett Gardner singled with one out off Mariners closer Tom Wilhelmsen (11th save) and stole second and third. Girardi could not use Travis Hafner, still bothered by left shoulder tendinitis, as a pinch hitter so Jayson Nix hit for himself and struck out. Robinson Cano had the last crack and grounded out.
The door keeps revolving in the Yankees’ clubhouse. Pitcher Dellin Betances was the latest arrival from Triple A Scranton for Thursday night’s series finale against the Mariners. The righthander was 3-2 with a 5.40 ERA in six starts and two relief appearances totaling 28 1/3 innings.
Heading back to Scranton was pitcher Brett Marshall, who made his major-league debut in Wednesday night’s 12-2 loss to Seattle. The righthander threw 108 pitches and allowed five earned runs, nine hits and five walks in 5 2/3 innings but was praised by manager Joe Girardi for saving the bullpen. Marshall deserves credit for taking one for the team in taking punishment to keep the relief corps from having to toil in a lopsided loss.
Betances was the choice for promotion because Marshall would not be available to pitch for at least four days. Adam Warren pitched four innings only three days ago, so the Yankees need a middle-innings reliever who can give them some length. Girardi said that Betances was the most stretched-out of the pitchers at Scranton.
Marshall was one of five players to make their major-league debuts for the Yankees in the first 40 games. The others were pitchers Preston Claiborne and Vidal Nuno and infielders David Adams and Corban Joseph. The Elias Sports Bureau points out that the previous time as many as five players made their big-league debuts with the Yankees within the club’s first 40 games was in 1995 – pitchers Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, Brian Boehringer and Jeff Patterson and shortstop Derek Jeter.
Adams, who also played in his first major-league game Wednesday night on his 26th birthday, was only the fourth player in 95 seasons to get a hit in his first game on his birthday. The others were the Cleveland Indians’ Dave Clark Sept. 3, 1986 at Toronto, the Atlanta Braves’ Bruce Benedict Aug. 18, 1978 at St. Louis and the Washington Senators’ Sept. 13, 1939 in the second game of a doubleheader at Chicago, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Another familiar face Thursday night was that of Mariners starter Hector Noesi, who pitched for the Yankees in 2011 and was traded with catcher Jesus Montero to Seattle for pitcher Michael Pineda, who has yet to pitch for the Yankees. Montero was Noesi’s catcher Thursday night.
The Blue Jays come to Yankee Stadium Friday night to open a three-game series. Probable starting pitchers: Hiroki Kuroda (5-2, 2.31) vs. Mark Buehrle (1-2, 6.19) at 7:05 p.m. Friday on Channel 9, David Phelps (1-2, 4.33) vs. Brandon Morrow (1-2, 4.69) at 1:05 p.m. Saturday on YES and CC Sabathia (4-3, 3.19) vs. R.A. Dickey (3-5, 4.83) at 1:05 p.m. on YES. All games are on WCBS Radio (880 AM).
Sunday’s matchup will mark the third time this season that Sabathia, the 2007 American League Cy Young Award winner, will be paired against a fellow recipient of that honor. The other games were April 7 against the Tigers’ Justin Verlander (2011), a 7-0 Yankees victory at Detroit, and May 14 (Tuesday night) against the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2010), a 4-3 Yanks victory at the Stadium. CC got the victory over Detroit and a no-decision against Seattle. Dickey was the 2012 National League Cy Young Award winner with the Mets and was traded to the Blue Jays.
The Yankees were probably due for one of these games, but it always painful to watch when it happens. The offensively-challenged Mariners bolted out of the game with seven runs in the first inning and kept adding to their light-hitting totals on the way to a 12-2 victory Wednesday night behind the solid pitching of the latest Japanese sensation, Hisashi Iwakuma.
Leading the way was none other than Raul Ibanez, who has been a terror against his 2012 team. Showing that he has lost none of his power stroke at Yankee Stadium, Ibanez belted two home runs, one a grand slam, and knocked in six runs. That gives him three home runs and eight RBI in the past two games. What does he think this is, the American League Division Series or the AL Championship Series?
The Yankees have had 11 come-from-behind victories, but this proved too uphill a climb for them. Iwakuma gave up solo home runs to Vernon Wells and Chris Stewart and little else in his seven innings as he improved to 5-1 with a 1.84 ERA. Iwakuma, 32, is proving that his 9-5, 3.16-ERA record in 2012 for Seattle was no fluke. He and Felix Hernandez have been a dangerous 1-2 pitching combination, although they rarely get this kind of run support.
Phil Hughes suffered his poorest outing of the season and one of the worst of his career in giving up seven runs, six hits and two walks in two-thirds of an inning, which shot his ERA up from 4.43 to 5.88. It was only the second time a Yankees starter failed to complete the first inning in the current Stadium. It also happened May 21, 2009 with Joba Chamberlain against the Orioles (2/3 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs).
“Phil was up in the zone,” manager Joe Girardi said. “You can pitch up in the zone, but he got too many balls in the middle of the plate.”
“I didn’t have much of a fastball, so I tried changeups and sliders,” Hughes said. “I kept trying to find something. I’m going to have trouble sleeping the next four nights. You have to put the team in a situation like this where eventually some guys are playing out of position. The last thing you want is for someone to get hurt.”
Girardi did resort to some musical chairs in the blowout. Stewart moved from behind the plate to play first base. In the ninth when poor Brett Marshall in his major-league debut was wiped out by throwing 108 pitches, Girardi had shortstop Alberto Gonzalez get the last out.
“I didn’t want to use another reliever and asked Alberto about it before the inning,” Girardi said. “I picked him because shortstops usually have the most accurate arms.”
In the same move, Wells, who had been the designated hitter, played second base. Last week, the career outfielder played an inning at third base.
There were not too many bright sides for the Yankees, but there were some. Preston Claiborne added to his scoreless stretch of pitching with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit, two-strikeout relief and has now been unscored upon in five appearances and seven innings. Triple A Scranton call-up David Adams made his major-league debut on his 26th birthday and had a single in four at-bats and handled five chances in the field without incident.
Lyle Overbay had two more hits, a double and a single, to continue his terrific job at replacing Mark Teixeira at first base. Over the Yankees’ first 40 games, Overbay is batting .266 with 10 doubles, one triple, six home runs and 24 RBI. Through 40 games a year ago, Teixeira hit .229 with nine doubles, five homers and 22 RBI.
The only good thing the Yankees could say about the top of the first inning Wednesday night is that they still had 27 outs to try and get back into the game. Man, was that one ugly frame.
Many folks were still walking to the seats while the Mariners were running all around the bases on the way to a 7-0 lead that they gave to starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma, the former Japanese Olympics and Pacific League star who has gotten off to a great start here in the U.S. (4-1, 1.74 ERA).
Yankees starter Phil Hughes could not get into a rhythm and was gone before the lengthy inning was over. Seven consecutive Seattle batters reached base at one point, four of whom scored on one swing, a familiar swing at that, by Raul Ibanez, who crushed a 0-1 fastball to right-center for his fifth home run of the season and second in this series. In his first five at-bats in his return to Yankee Stadium since last October’s postseason heroics, Ibanez has wounded his former team with two home runs and six RBI.
Hughes had no command of his breaking pitches and was forced to rely on his fastball, which the Seattle hitters knew was coming since nothing else was working for the righthander. A one-out walk to Dustin Ackley got the rally started and was followed by three singles that produced two runs and another walk before Ibanez lowered the boom.
Home runs tend to be rally killers, but not this time. Former Yankees prospect Jesus Montero joined Ibanez in haunting the Yankees with a single. After a fielder’s choice, Michael Saunders chased Hughes with a run-scoring double. Fans were none too kind to Hughes, whose ERA rose to 5.88, as he walked to the dugout. The fans’ attitude improved when reliever Preston Claiborne ended the inning with a strikeout.
This was a stunning development considering that the Mariners rank next to last in the American League in team batting average and runs scored. Seven runs are often the most they can score in a whole series let alone one inning.
It was also a wild start in a major-league debut of David Adams, the starting third baseman who was called up by the Yankees from Scranton. Chris Nelson was optioned to the Triple A affiliate to make room on the 25-man roster for Adams, who turned 26 Wednesday. That’s some birthday present.
Are you ready for hockey at Yankee Stadium? It will be Hockey Week in the Bronx come next January.
Two outdoor regular-season National Hockey League games will be played at the Stadium during the 2013-14 season as part of the 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series. And these are not just any two games. The first game will be Sunday, Jan. 26, between the Rangers and the Devils. The second game will be Wednesday, Jan. 29, between the Rangers and the Islanders.
The two games at Yankee Stadium complete the four-game 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series scheduled for next season. The Anaheim Ducks will play the Los Angeles Kings Jan. 25 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, and the Chicago Blackhawks will play the Pittsburgh Penguins at Soldier Field in Chicago.
“The innovative nature of the Stadium Series affords the opportunity to have all three NHL teams in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area play, outdoors, at one of the most-celebrated stadiums in the world,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said. “We’ll be able to create a multi-faceted, multi-day experience for our fans, and we thank the teams, Coors Light, the New York Yankees and Yankee Stadium for their support of this memorable NHL event.”
In just five years of its existence, the Stadium already has provided the setting for some of the country’s most popular events as the baseball diamond has been transformed to be the site of games between several of college football’s finest programs – including the annual New Era Pinstripe Bowl – concerts by Grammy Award-winning acts, top-tier soccer talent from around the world and a super welterweight title boxing match. The 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series will be the first time the Stadium has been used for hockey.
“We have long thought that Yankee Stadium would be a great venue for outdoor hockey,” Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost said. “In addition to being a first-class baseball facility, Yankee Stadium was designed to house unique and memorable events, such as the NHL Stadium Series. Hosting two of the NHL’s classic rivalries at Yankee Stadium will be a great kickoff for the worldwide sporting events in the New York/New Jersey metropolitan area scheduled in early 2014.”
“The New Jersey Devils are proud to have been selected to host the first of two games at Yankee Stadium,” Devils president and general manager Lou Lamoriello said. “The NHL Stadium Series will be a memorable experience for our organization, our players and, most importantly, our fans. We are thrilled to play our divisional rival, while adding to the legacy of one of the nation’s most recognized sports facilities.”
“The New York Islanders are honored to take part in the National Hockey League’s outdoor stadium series,” Islanders general manager Garth Snow said. “Our fan-base is one of the most passionate in the NHL. The support we consistently receive from our fans was on display during the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and I expect it to be on an even greater scale when we take on the Rangers. This is what makes the games against the Rangers one of the best rivalries in the league. I look forward to seeing a strong contingent of the orange and blue in the stands at Yankee Stadium.”
“The New York Rangers are honored to participate in these two historic games at Yankee Stadium, bringing hockey into the home of another one of New York’s iconic sports franchises,” Rangers president and general manager Glen Sather said. “Playing hockey outdoors takes the game back to its roots and reminds us all why we laced up our skates as youngsters. We are excited to be able to bring that experience and thrill to our fans and the city of New York.”
The Rangers, Islanders and Devils have combined to win 11 Stanley Cup championships. They are division foes during the regular season and have also have battled each other in memorable postseasons.
The Rangers and Devils have met six times in the playoffs. Perhaps the most memorable of those series was in 1994 when the clubs faced off in the Eastern Conference Final with the Rangers’ Stephane Matteau winning the deciding Game 7 in double-overtime. The Rangers went on to win the Stanley Cup in seven games over the Vancouver Canucks. The Devils countered 12 months later by winning the first of their three Stanley Cup titles over the following nine seasons.
The Rangers and Islanders have met eight times in the postseason, including four straight years from 1981-84. The Devils and Islanders have met once in the postseason, with New Jersey earning a 4-2 series victory in the 1988 Patrick Division Semifinal.
The Rangers first played the Islanders in a regular-season game Oct. 21, 1972, at Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale, Long Island – a 2-1 Rangers victory. The Rangers first faced the Devils in a regular-season game (after the team moved to New Jersey) Oct. 8, 1982, at Brendan Byrne Arena in East Rutherford, N.J. – a 3-2 Devils victory.
Further details on this special NHL event, including national broadcast information and specifics on ticket opportunities for the season-ticket holders of each team, will be released shortly. Fans interested in receiving more information on ticketing, news and special offers around the event should register at http://www.NHL.com/2014NewYork.
The NHL recently announced that the 2014 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic is scheduled for Wednesday, Jan. 1, when the Detroit Red Wings will play the Toronto Maple Leafs at Michigan Stadium on the University of Michigan campus in Ann Arbor. Since the facility holds a capacity of 101,000, it is anticipated that the game will set a world record for attendance at a hockey match.
The first-ever NHL regular-season game contested outdoors was in 2003 between the Edmonton Oilers and the Montreal Canadiens at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alta. Since then, the NHL has played six additional regular-season games outdoors.
It is not entirely true that the marquee matchup Tuesday night of the Yankees’ CC Sabathia and the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, a couple of former American League Cy Young Award winners, did not materialize. Each had impact in the game. It is just that the outcome occurred after they had departed.
Neither starter was involved in the decision, although for a time it seemed that Hernandez would be the winner and Sabathia the loser. This was a game that ended up decided by the bullpens. In that case, it is no contest against the Yankees these days.
Shawn Kelley took over for Sabathia in the seventh with the score 3-1 Mariners, runners on first and third with one out and retired Kelly Shoppach on a strikeout and Raul Ibanez on a fly to left. After a botched attempt for a force on a sacrifice bunt gave Seattle runners on first and second with none out in the eighth, David Robertson worked another of his Houdini tricks by striking out Michael Saunders and getting pinch hitter Justin Smoak to line into a double play. Mariano Rivera provided a spotless ninth to make it 16-for-16 in save opportunities this season.
The relievers’ 2 2/3 combined innings extended the pen’s current scoreless streak to nine games covering 23 2/3 innings. The relief corps has pitched to a 0.77 ERA and held opposing hitters to a .161 batting average with seven walks and 36 strikeouts over that stretch.
One of the three runs off Sabathia, who pitched 6 1/3 innings, was not earned due to an error by first baseman Lyle Overbay that led to a run in the third. Overbay would atone for that bobble in the seventh with a sacrifice fly that unlocked a 3-3 score. Overbay had doubled in a run to get the Yankees on the board in the sixth against Hernandez, who came out after that inning because of back spasms. That was the opening the Yankees needed.
Seattle’s bullpen was not the support system for King Felix that the Yankees’ was for CC. Yoervis Molina gave up a leadoff single in the seventh to Chris Nelson and wild-pitched him to second base. One out later, lefthander Charlie Furbush walked left-handed batting Brett Gardner and yielded a two-run, game-tying double to right-center by lefty-swinging Robinson Cano, the Yankees’ only hit in 11 at-bats with runners in scoring position.
Furbush walked Vernon Wells intentionally to get at another left-handed batter, back from the disabled list Curtis Granderson, and walked him quite unintentionally. Overbay, also swinging from the left side, put a charge into a 3-2 fastball for a drive to deep enough center to score Cano with the go-ahead run. The Yanks’ pen handled matters from there.
The other two runs off Sabathia, who walked two batters and struck out 10, came on a home run in the sixth by Ibanez, who returned to Yankee Stadium for the first time since he was a 2012 postseason hero for the Yankees. CC enjoyed when Ibanez poked homers to right field last October against the Orioles and Tigers but not at all when he found his favorite area for homer No. 4 this season.
No one at the Stadium was expected to cheer Ibanez when he homered against the Yankees, but the reaction from the crowd of 41,267 to Ibanez when he first came to the plate, in the second inning, was curious to say the least.
Considering the dramatic impact of his heroics seven months ago, it was somewhat surprising that Ibanez received such a tepid response from the fans, who applauded politely but with few of them standing. There were even some sounds of boos, although that might have been chants of “Ra-oool.” You can never tell when guys have names that rhyme with “boo.” Think of Moose Skowron or Lou Piniella or Goose Gossage, for example.
Rivera could see Ibanez in the dugout in the ninth and was determined to keep him there. Ibanez was in the hole two batters away when Mo ended the game.
Umpires have often been the center of attention often this year, which is never a good thing. The best umpiring is that which you don’t notice. Umps are a lot like closing relief pitchers or housecleaners in that nobody pays attention to the job unless it is done poorly.
Reversed calls have become a norm in the game these days. The umps were at it again Tuesday night at Yankee Stadium, although the play in question did not figure in the scoring. With a runner at first base and one out in the fourth inning, Lyle Overbay hit a ground ball in the hole between first and second bases. Mariners second baseman Robert Andino made a nice play stopping the ball, left his feet and turned for a possible play at second and then threw to first where both first baseman Kendrys Morales and pitcher Felix Hernandez were covering.
Morales gloved the ball and tagged the bag ahead of Overbay, who had to try to make his way around Hernandez. The umpires huddled to discuss the play because the rules do not permit them to view it on videotape replay. Each manager had a point to make.
Seattle’s Eric Wedge contended that Overbay was already out by the time he made contact with Hernandez, which was true. However, the Yankees’ Joe Girardi insisted that Overbay had slowed down as he approached the bag because Hernandez was standing on it. This is known in baseball as obstruction, and that was the call the umpires eventually agreed upon. Overbay came back onto the field, and the Yankees had a rally going – until Hernandez struck out Ichiro Suzuki and Jayson Nix, that is.
Curtis Granderson, activated from the 15-day disabled list Tuesday, was thrown right into the fire as the starting left fielder and cleanup hitter against the Mariners and Felix Hernandez at Yankee Stadium to open the homestand following a 6-2 trip through Denver, Kansas City and Cleveland.
Granderson played all three outfield positions during his injury-rehabilitation stint at Triple A Scranton. Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he will use Granderson in each spot, although it appears that left field will be the one where he will play most often. Brett Gardner has done an outstanding job in center field during Granderson’s absence, and Girardi noted that while he has played some left field Ichiro Suzuki is more comfortable in right field.
Center field with the Yankees is one of the sexiest positions in baseball, yet Granderson told reporters before Tuesday night’s game that he is fine with his new surroundings. Just being back in the major leagues is satisfying enough for Granderson, who enjoyed being back at the Stadium where he was also visited by Michael Weiner, executive director of the Major League Players Association. Granderson is the Yankees’ player representative to the union.
Granderson is among several Yankees individual players with good career numbers against King Felix, who entered the game with an 8-5 record and 3.08 ERA in his career against the Yankees. The righthander has been especially tough at the current Stadium with a 4-1 mark and 1.13 ERA.
Granderson is a .273 hitter with two doubles, one triple and two home runs in 55 at-bats against Hernandez. Others with good numbers are Robinson Cano (.366, 2 doubles, 2 homers in 41 at-bats) as well as Ichiro (.400) and Jayson Nix (.500) in a limited number of at-bats. Ichiro is 2-for-5 and Nix 5-for-10.
Missing from the lineup will be designated hitter Travis Hafner, who was scheduled to undergo an MRI on his right shoulder that has been sore for several days. The Yankees hope the situation is not serious, but Hafner has had shoulder problems in the past. Vernon Wells, who had manned left field while Granderson was out, was in the lineup as the DH.
CC Sabathia will start for the Yankees in the matchup of former Cy Young Award winners. This is the pairing of Sabathia, who won the American League Cy Young Award in 2007 with the Indians, and Hernandez, the 2010 AL winner. It marks the fourth time former Cy Young Award winners will meet at the current Stadium after the winning the award. The others were Sabathia against Lee June 16, 2009, Sabathia against Roy Halladay June 15, 2010 and Sabathia against Johan Santana June 20, 2010.
Sabathia took a 12-4 record and 2.46 ERA in his career against the Mariners into the game. He has won each of his past eight starts against Seattle dating to Aug. 13, 2009 with a 1.20 ERA in 60 innings over that stretch.
The unfortunate side of the Granderson transaction is that pitcher Vidal Nuno, who got his first major-league victory in the second game of Monday’s doubleheader at Cleveland, was optioned to Scranton to create roster space. It was the obvious move because having pitched five innings Monday Nuno could not be used for several days. The lefthander, who pitched eight scoreless innings in two appearances for the Yankees, made a strong impression and will be in Scranton’s rotation to get innings and be available if the Yankees need pitching help down the road, which they almost surely will.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Nuno and righthander Adam Warren became the second pair of Yankees pitchers to earn their first career victory and first career save, respectively, in the same game. The others were Alan Closter (victory) and Fritz Peterson (save) July 25, 1971 in the second game of a doubleheader at Milwaukee. Warren was also the winning pitcher of the Yanks’ victory Thursday at Denver. Elias points out that he and Nuno marked the first pair of Yankees pitchers to earn their first major-league victories on the same trip since Matt DeSalvo and Tyler Clippard in May 2007.
The Yankees shut out their opponent in Game 2 of a doubleheader after being shutout in Game 1 of the DH for only the second time in the past 37 years. They also turned the trick on May 12, 2010 at Detroit, dropping Game 1, 2-0, and winning Game 2, 8-0. The Yankees are 4-0 in games immediately following a shutout loss this season, and have gone 30-9 (.769) in such games since 2008 when Joe Girardi took over as manager.