Ibanez’s power makes up for loss of Gardner’s speed
A home run derby was expected to break out Monday night at Yankee Stadium between the Yankees and the Blue Jays, the top two power-hitting teams in the major leagues. That may well occur throughout this three-game series, and indeed the long ball factored heavily in the Yanks’ 6-3 victory in the opener of the set.
The game had been a pitcher’s duel for the most part. It was a 2-2 game into the eighth inning with each team getting one of its runs on homers – Russell Martin for the Yankees and Adam Lind for the Jays.
Raul Ibanez’s 10th career grand slam in the eighth, off righthander Jason Frasor, was the deciding blow, of course, and a majestic one, landing in the right field second deck. The Yankees loaded the bases on singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano and a hit by pitch of Mark Teixeira. Frasor got a big strikeout of Nick Swisher, who took a slider for strike three, but fell behind 3-1 in the count to Ibanez, who got all of a 93-mile-per-hour fastball.
“I wasn’t thinking grand slam in that spot,” Ibanez said. “With two out, you don’t necessarily want a ball in the air. I was just trying to hit a line drive.”
Yankees pitcher Phil Hughes suggested that Frasor thought Ibanez would be taking on 3-1.
“Oh, no,” Ibanez said, laughing. “I was ready to hit my pitch if I got it.”
It was the 144th home run of the season for the Yankees. Toronto is second with 131, but its total may not rise very much if right fielder Jose Bautista is out of the lineup for a stretch. The slugger with the most home runs over the past two seasons was forced out of Monday night’s game in the eighth inning when he injured his left wrist on a swing that produced a scorching foul ball down the left field line.
X-rays were negative. Bautista will undergo a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) exam Tuesday and will probably not play the remainder of the series.
Before Monday night, the Yankees and Jays had played only two games against each other May 16-17 at Rogers Centre with Toronto winning both. The Jays’ rotation has been decimated by injuries since, so much so that manager John Farrell is operating with a 14-man staff.
Hughes began the season by giving up home runs in each of his first 12 starts, but he did not allow a homer in his past three starts. Serving up only one Monday night was a positive.
The slam by Ibanez was the sixth of the season for the Yankees, who have struggled otherwise with the bases loaded. Swisher struck out twice with the bags full. The Yankees are hitting .191 in bases-loaded situations.
Just before the game, Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that disabled left fielder Brett Gardner had to be shut down again because of pain in his left arm. Although they have certainly missed the element of speed that Gardner gives them, the Yankees have overcome his loss largely due to the hitting of Ibanez, who has 12 home runs and 40 RBI. He had been signed to be in a platoon with Andruw Jones at designated hitter but with Gardner lost since mid-April has played a lot of left field.
“Playing more often has probably helped him be more productive,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He has had some huge hits for us.”
Girardi explained that Gardner’s injury has allowed him to DH Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter more often to keep them fresh and has provided additional playing time for Eric Chavez. A-Rod was the DH Monday night because a stiff neck made it difficult for him to throw. Ibanez gets a caddy in DeWayne Wise in the late innings if the Yankees are ahead. That was the case Monday night, thanks to Ibanez himself.