Results tagged ‘ American League East ’

Yankees keep their manager for four more years

Well, that was quick. All things considered, the Yankees were fortunate to keep their manager in place in a relatively quick period of time during an off-season that promises to be busy. Surely a fourth year on the contract extension was a deal doer. Other clubs – notably the Cubs, Nationals and Reds – as well as a television network or two may have had designs on Girardi, but four-year contracts at seven figures per annum are hard to come by, so the Yankees were able to retain the guy they wanted to continue running the club before his current pact was to expire Oct. 31.

Girardi was deserving of the extension. Even with the World Series championship of 2009 at the top of his accomplishments, Joe’s effort with the 2013 Yankees may have been his best work. It certainly was his most arduous. With the abundance of injuries the Yankees had to deal with, just running out a healthy lineup every day was an ordeal for the manager.

Much was made in the media of Girardi’s Illinois background and ties to the Cubs as a fan while growing up and as a catcher as a player being a temptation for him to go off to Wrigley Field. On a conference phone hookup Wednesday, Girardi emphasized it was a family decision. Mom and the kids were A-OK with the Yankees and New York. The Girardi’s have made solid roots in Westchester County.

And let us not forget that Joe Girardi despite all the Cubs history has become a part of Yankees history as well. He fits in very well come Old Timers’ Day as a player who was part of three World Series championship clubs as a player (1996, ’98-99) as well as his one as a manager. He pointed out that in his conversation with the family that getting to manage in the same place for 10 years, which would be the case if Girardi fulfills the whole contract, is pretty special.

Over his first six years as Yankees manager the club has led the major leagues in home runs (1,236), ranked second in runs (4,884) and seventh in hits (8,836) and batting average (.265). The Yankees have also committed the fewest errors (484) over the span with a majors-best .986 team fielding percentage.

In 2013, Girardi did a good job getting the beaten-up Yankees to an 85-77 finish and third-place tie in the American League East with the Orioles. He got his 500th win as Yankees manager May 10 at Kansas City. The club made just 69 errors in 2013, the third-lowest total in the majors and tying the franchise record for fewest in a season (also 2010). Their .988 fielding percentage set a franchise record, fractionally better than their .988 mark in 2010.

In 2009, Girardi became the ninth Yankees manager to win a World Series, and just the fourth to do so in his postseason managerial debut, joining Casey Stengel (1949), Ralph Houk (1961) and Bob Lemon (1978). Girardi also joined Houk and Billy Martin as the only men to win World Series for the club as players and managers.

Girardi was named the 32nd manager of the Yankees Oct. 30, 2007, becoming the 17th Yankees manager to have played for the club and the fourth former Yankees catcher to skipper the team, joining Bill Dickey, Houk and Yogi Berra.

In 2006, Girardi was named National League Manager of the Year by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America after guiding the Marlins to a 78-84 record in his first season as a big league manager. With the award, he matched the Astros’ Hal Lanier (1986) and the Giants’ Dusty Baker (1993) as the only managers to win the honor in their managerial debuts.

In 15 major-league seasons as a catcher, Girardi played for the Cubs (1989-92 and 2000-02), Rockies (1993-95), Yankees (1996-99) and Cardinals (2003) and batted .267 with 454 runs, 186 doubles, 36 home runs and 422 RBI in 4,127 at-bats over 1,277 games. He had a .991 career fielding percentage and threw out 27.6 percent of potential base stealers. Girardi was named to the National League All-Star team in 2000 with the Cubs.

With the Yankees, Girardi was behind the plate for Dwight Gooden’s hitter May 14, 1996 against the Mariners and David Cone’s perfect game July 18, 1999 against the Expos. In World Series Game 6 against the Braves in 1996, Girardi tripled in the game’s first run in a three-run third inning off Greg Maddux as the Yankees clinched their first championship since 1978 with a 3-2 victory. He has a .566 winning percentage with a 642-492 record as a manager and is 21-17 in postseason play.

Ironic that Indians should eliminate Yankees

Go back to early April in Cleveland and who would have thought the season would end the way it has for the two clubs on the field in two games at Progressive Field? The Yankees outscored the Indians, 25-7, in those games. Cleveland fans treated former Tribesman Travis Hafner to a standing ovation for his past service as the Yankees newest designated hitter was well on his way to a very productive first month of the season. Many folks in the media were wondering if Terry Francona did a smart thing in going back to the dugout with that franchise.

It just shows how much things can change in six months. The Yankees were eliminated from the race for a postseason berth Wednesday night while the Indians were still in line for a shot at their first postseason appearance in six years. Cleveland still has to fight off the challenges of Texas and Kansas City but no longer has the Yankees to worry about.

The Yanks’ tragic number for elimination was down to one entering play Wednesday night. One more loss or one more Indians victory would knock the Yankees out of the playoff picture. As it turned out, both results happened. The Indians beat the White Sox, 7-2, to eliminate the Yankees, who lost a few minutes later to the Rays, 8-3.

In head-to-head competition, the Yankees were clearly superior to Cleveland this year. They won six of the seven games between them and outscored the Tribe, 49-19. The Yankees batted .295 with 13 home runs and 46 RBI against the Indians and averaged seven runs per game. Yankees pitchers combined for a 2.71 ERA in limiting the Indians to a .205 batting average and 2.71 runs per game.

But over the course of the entire season against all levels of competition, the Yankees finished behind the Indians. For all their success against Cleveland, the Yankees were done in by failing to beat inferior teams when it counted. Losing two of three at San Diego followed by getting swept by the White Sox at Chicago last month was a bad sign. Losing all four games this year to the Mets certainly hurt. And earlier this month after giving fans encouragement by winning three of four games at Baltimore, the Yankees were swept by the American League East winning Red Sox at Boston and then, even worse, dropped two of three to the last-place Blue Jays at Toronto.

Matters did not improve when the Yankees came home. They held the Giants to three runs total in three games but did not sweep the series, which was a must. Tampa Bay beat the Yanks each of the past two nights. Do not expect a spring-training lineup from the Yankees in the final home game of the season Thursday night.

“We have a responsibility to baseball,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

What he meant is that the Rays have not yet clinched a postseason berth, so for the sake of the Rangers and the Indians Girardi will field a representative lineup. Whether it will include Alex Rodriguez or not remains to be seen. He was lifted for a pinch hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, in the eighth inning and complained of sore legs.

Phil Hughes (4-14) lasted four batters into the third inning and was hung with another loss, his 10th in 11 decisions at Yankee Stadium this year. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Hughes’ 1-10 mark in 16 home starts made him only the second pitcher in major league history to win fewer than two home games in a season in which he made at least 15 starts at his home yard. The other was the Blue Jays’ Phil Huffman, who was 1-9 in 16 starts at Exhibition Stadium in 1979.

Evan Longoria whacked two home runs and David DeJesus one in a 15-hit Tampa Bay attack that supported last year’s AL Cy Young Award winner, David Price (9-8). Say this for Yankees fans. They were on their feet and applauding during an eighth-inning rally despite their team trailing by five runs.

Thursday night will mark the final Stadium appearance by Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte. Mo will almost certainly get in the game regardless of the score. He is hoping for one more save situation. So are all of us.

Yanks need to start putting up some W’s

I do not want to get overly simplistic about all this, but if the Yankees want to qualify for postseason play they need to start winning some games. It is instructive to a degree to go over all the arithmetic equations involving their competitors and strength of schedule comparisons, but nothing makes the pursuit easier than putting up W’s.

The Yankees came off getting swept in a three-game series at Fenway Park by the first-place team in the American League East and lost the opener of a three-game set at Rogers Centre to the last-place team in the division. People can get all excited about the Rays losing, which means that the Yankees did not lose any ground technically but they did lose another day on the calendar. I got a kick out of Michael Kay and John Flaherty on YES talking about the Yankees being tired. They just had a day off!

It was R.A. Dickey who made the Yankees look tired in the Blue Jays’ 2-0 victory. The knuckleball specialist looked every bit the pitcher he was last year when he won the National League Cy Young Award with the Mets by shutting the Yankees down on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in seven innings.

The Yankees had two-out threats in each of the first two innings against Dickey, who squirmed off the ropes each time. Mark Reynolds struck out with the bases loaded in the first inning and Alex Rodriguez grounded out to shortstop with runners on first and second in the second. The Yankees had only three base runners after that on two singles and an error and none of the errors got beyond first base.

If the Yankees were lifted at all by Dickey’s departure, they didn’t show it much as Sergio Santos and Casey Janssen (31st save) threw a scoreless inning apiece to send the Bombers to their 10th blanking of the season, their most in 22 years.

It was a shameful loss to be hung on Andy Pettitte (10-10), who allowed one run on Colby Rasmus’ 21st home run, in the fourth, over 6 2/3 innings. Pettitte has been the Yankees’ most reliable starting pitcher in September but does not have a victory to show for it. In four starts this month, Pettitte is 0-1 with three no-decisions despite a 2.16 ERA in 25 innings.

And Pettitte was out of the game for less than three minutes before the Blue Jays added another run as Rajai Davis greeted reliever Shawn Kelley with his sixth home run of the season. The Yankees cut off a possible third run in the eighth on a sensational relay from shortstop Brendan Ryan to the plate to cut down Adam Lind trying to score from first base on a double by pinch hitter Anthony Gose.

When a play like that is the only highlight, it is not a good sign.

Nova does just what the skipper ordered

In assessing the explosive offense after Friday night’s 8-5 victory, Yankees manager Joe Girardi added, “And let’s get the pitchers right, too. We have to click on all cylinders, basically. One night, we might score eight runs. The next night, we may not. And that’s when the pitchers have got to pick up the hitters.”

Give the skipper a swami turban.

Ivan Nova’s three-hit, complete-game shutout Saturday was just the kind of performance the manager had talked about. For a while there, it looked as if the Yankees’ run in the first inning on doubles by Brett Gardner and Robinson Cano off Scott Feldman was all they would get before Cano made the score 2-0 with a home run into the right field bleachers off lefthander Troy Patton in the eighth.

Nova was certainly uplifted by Cano’s 25th homer of the year. He hoped Girard would let him go out for the ninth inning and not be tempted to bring in Mariano Rivera. The second run helped.

“I told the guys I don’t want a 1-0 game; get me another run,” Nova said. “I’m happy that Joe gave me the opportunity.”

Nova earned the chance to finish this one out. He walked one batter and hit two but allowed only three hits. The third was a leadoff single in the ninth inning by Nate McLouth on a chopper to the mound that Nova knocked down but could not recover in time to throw him out. And Girardi still stayed with Nova.

“If it had been a walk, it might have been different,” Girardi said. “But he got a ground ball. And what we needed after that was another ground ball.”

Nova did not get another grounder, however. McLouth getting on added drama to the situation because the third hitter due up that inning was the major-league home run leader, Chris Davis. One swing could have tied the score. After Manny Machado flied out to left, Davis had the Yankee Stadium crowd gasping when he hit a towering fly ball to right field.

That was when it was discovered that Ichiro Suzuki is pretty good at playing possum, which I though was strictly an American trait. Ichiro did not move at first, an indication that the ball was behind him and in the seats. Then after a tantalizingly long moment, he held his glove up over his head and made the catch on the warning track. Suzuki knew he was playing with the crowd.

“Humans want to come from a bad place to a good place,” he said. “Of course, you have to make the play.”

Unlike many of the 42,836 in attendance, Nova didn’t think the ball was going out. The look on Davis’ face told him that, a look that said, “I didn’t get it.” Catcher Chris Stewart said Davis hit the ball off the end of his bat, another good sign of the sinking movement on Nova’s fastball.

There was still another dangerous hitter to go, but Adam Jones’ line drive ended up in the glove of shortstop Derek Jeter.

“He picked up the hitters and the bullpen,” Girardi said of Nova, who won his fourth consecutive start in improving his record to 8-4 with a 2.88 ERA.

With CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda showing signs of fatigue and Phil Hughes winless in nearly two months, Nova has been the rotation’s savior in the second half. The Yankees will go for the series sweep Sunday afternoon behind Andy Pettitte, who is also on a winning streak with three straight victories.

“The key to me for Nova is that he is keeping his fastball down in the zone,” Girardi said. “He has a good curve, but it is even better because he can keep hitters off balance with that fastball down in the zone.”

Girardi also gave Nova credit for “finding himself” during his time in the minor leagues last year and this following his 16-victory season in 2011. Nova agreed.

“I went to Tampa where I worked to do the things I needed to do to prove what kind of pitcher I can be,” Nova said.

It comes down to maturity. Nova was a pretty green kid when he surprised people in 2011. The league catches up to young pitchers if they are not careful, and Nova took his lumps. Saturday, he showed what kind of pitcher he can be.

It was an uplifting day for the Yankees, who jumped over Baltimore into third place in the American League East after a 47-game period since July 7 in fourth place and also positioned themselves ahead of Cleveland in the wild-card chase where they still trail Tampa Bay and Oakland, but as Girardi pointed out, “It sure beats four or five” teams ahead of them.

Sweet sweep continues Yanks’ turnaround

The brief homestand turned out a nice rest stop for the Yankees, who continued their dominance of the Blue Jays this season with a four-game sweep that improved their record against Toronto to 12-1. The dustup of the Jays was just the sort of momentum builder the Yanks needed as they headed for St. Petersburg, Fla., for a three-game showdown with the Rays.

It was not too long ago that the upcoming set at Tropicana Field would not have much at stake, back when the Yankees were 11 ½ games out of first place in the American League East and 7 ½ games out of the second wild-card spot. How things change when a few potent bats are added to the lineup.

After Thursday’s 5-3 victory, their fifth straight, the Yankees stood six games behind the first-place Red Sox in the division and 3 1/2 back in the wild-card chase. Considered buried in the not so distant past, the Yankees are now very much in the hunt for another postseason berth.

“We’re continuing to make up ground and winning series,” manager Joe Girardi said. “It makes [postseason play] seem more attainable.”

After suffering through eight straight non-winning series, the Yankees have run off four winning series in a row and have won 10 of their past 12 games. The trade for Alfonso Soriano and the return from the disabled list of Curtis Granderson and Alex Rodriguez are major factors in the Yankees’ recent turnaround.

As Girardi said, “You feel you can back into the game pretty easily.”

The Yankees came from behind in all four games against the Jays. In Thursday’s game, Toronto went ahead on a home run by J.P. Arencibia off Andy Pettitte. Rodriguez made a fine maneuver to pull off a rally-killing double play in that inning and Granderson answered Arencibia’s home run with one of his own off J.A. Happ, the pitcher who broke his wrist in spring training, to tie the score.

Yet another questionable umpiring call helped the Yankees later in the fifth when a fly ball by Vernon Wells that appeared to have been caught by center fielder Rajai Davis was ruled a trap as a run scored. Video replays indicated that Davis had indeed caught the ball. There was no reason for the Yankees to feel bad about that because Rodriguez was called out at first base on an earlier play that replays showed he clearly had beaten.

The Yanks scored three runs with only one hit in the sixth as they took advantage of three walks that loaded the bases for Eduardo Nunez, who singled in two runs. In all, the Yankees received six free passes in the game.

Pettitte pitched a sturdy six innings (one run, four hits, three walks, three strikeouts) in winning his second straight decision and getting his record back to .500 at 9-9. He continued his career success against the Blue Jays with a 24-13 mark. Shawn Kelley had a bit of a hiccup in the seventh when he allowed two runs, but effective relief work by Preston Claiborne and David Robertson (second save) put a nice finish to a very long day.

The start of the game was held up for 3 ½ hours because of rain. The sun finally broke through around the time of the first pitch. The Yankees remained in the sunshine the rest of the way.

Lots of history with Yankees and Dodgers

There was a time when a matchup of the Yankees and the Dodgers in games that count could only occur during the World Series, which happened more often than with any two major league clubs. The Yanks and Dodgers opposed each other in 11 World Series with the Yankees winning eight of them.

Only the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics, who have played for the NBA title 12 times, have had more championship series than the Yankees and the Dodgers. For the record, the most such matchups in the NHL have been seven by two sets of teams – the Montreal Canadiens against the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings against the Toronto Maple Leafs – and in the NFL six between the New York Giants and the Chicago Bears. In the Super Bowl alone, the Dallas Cowboys and the Pittsburgh Steelers played each other three times.

Inter-league play has changed all that for the Yankees and the Dodgers. The two-game series at Dodger Stadium that began Tuesday night marks the fourth in-season encounter by the long-time postseason rivals. The Yankees took two of three games twice before at Dodger Stadium in 2010 and 2004. The only time they have faced each other at Yankee Stadium was June 19 this year in a rainout-forced, separate-admission doubleheader that the teams split.

When the Dodgers left New York that night, their record was 30-40, which had them in last place in the National League West and eight games out of first. Los Angeles has gone 26-8 since then and started play Tuesday night in first place in its division with a 2 ½-game lead. In the 34-game stretch, the Dodgers made up 10 ½ games in the standings. Conversely, the Yankees were 39-33 after the twin bill and in third place in the American League East and 3 ½ games out of first. They have gone 16-18 since and are now in fourth place and 7 ½ games from the top.

In postseason play, the Yankees have a 37-29 record in games – 22-10 at Yankee Stadium, 12-11 at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn and 3-8 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. The Yanks won each of the first five times the clubs met in the World Series, in 1941, ’47, ’49, ’52 and ’53 before the Dodgers finally won in 1955.

The Yankees’ 1956 Series victory was highlighted by Don Larsen’s perfect game in Game 5, the only no-hitter in World Series history. The Yankees are 2-2 in Series against the Dodgers since their move to Los Angeles in 1958. The Yanks were swept in 1963, just one of three times in 40 World Series appearances that they did not win a game (also in 1922 against the Giants and in 1976 against the Reds). The Yankees’ back-to-back World Series titles in 1977 and ’78 mark the most recent instance of back-to-back World Series victories over the same team, the first such occurrence since the Yanks defeated the Dodgers in 1952-53).

Some other nuggets about the two legendary teams:

Babe Ruth’s last job in professional baseball was as a Brooklyn Dodgers coach in 1938. Ruth, who wore uniform No. 3 with the Yankees, donned No. 35 with the Dodgers.

The Dodgers won their only championship in Brooklyn history when left-ander Johnny Podres beat the Yankees, 2-0, in Game 7 of the 1955 World Series at Yankee Stadium.

The Dodgers and Yankees staged an exhibition game May 7, 1959 at the Memorial Coliseum in Los Angeles to benefit Roy Campanella, the former Dodgers catcher who had been paralyzed in an auto accident prior to the 1958 season. This game drew 93,103, the largest crowd ever to see a baseball game until an exhibition game in 2008 between the Dodgers and the Red Sox.

Of the six World Series championships in team history, the only one clinched by the Dodgers on their home field was in 1963, when lefthander Sandy Koufax pitched a 2-1 victory in Game 4 to clinch the sweep of the Yankees.

Yanks make full recovery with sweep of Twins

Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Yankees’ 9-5 victory Thursday that completed a four-game sweep of the Twins was that Robinson Cano had very little to do with it. For the only time on the seven-game trip to Baltimore and Minneapolis, Cano did not get a hit, although he drove in a run with a first-inning sacrifice fly.

Others in the lineup provided the fireworks for the Yanks on the Fourth of July as they moved out to a 9-1 lead by the sixth inning. Ichiro Suzuki at the top of the lineup as Brett Gardner got a needed day off fell a home run short of the cycle, scored twice and knocked in two runs. Travis Hafner reached base four times with two doubles, a single and getting hit by a pitch and crossed the plate twice. Vernon Wells had two hits and three RBI, Zoilo Almonte in the 2-hole had two hits and two RBI and near the bottom of the lineup Luis Cruz and Carlos Gonzalez drove in one run apiece.

It was a nice ensemble effort by the Yankees, who banged out 13 hits and did not have to rely on Cano carrying them as he did for most of the trip. With six multi-hit games, Cano had 14-for-28, a .500 clip, with nine runs, two doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI.

David Phelps rebounded from a dreadful prior start in Baltimore (nine earned runs and nine hits in 2 1/3 innings) and had a decent outing (four earned runs and eight hits in 6 1/3 innings). The Twins closed the gap to four runs, but Joe Girardi did not have to bring in Mariano Rivera for the first time in the Target Field series as Shawn Kelly and David Robertson provided perfect relief in the eighth and ninth innings.

The Yankees’ second four-game sweep of the season (they also accomplished it April 25-28 at Yankee Stadium against the Blue Jays) removed the bitter taste of being swept in three games by the Orioles. The Yankees returned to third place in the American League East and got back to 1 ½ games behind second-place Baltimore, although they remain six games behind the first-place Red Sox.

The Yankees open a 10-game homestand leading into the All-Star break Friday night against the Orioles, the first of a three-game set. Then the Royals come to the Stadium for four games and the Twins for three. This should be happy news for the Yankees, who are 14-3 (.824) against AL Central competition this season, the second best record by a club against a division within its league, trailing only the Indians’ 12-2 (.857) mark against the AL West. The Yanks have won 14 of their past 15 games against the AL Central after losing their first two games at Detroit April 5 and 6. They are a combined 105-55 vs. the AL Central over the past five seasons, the highest winning percentage (.656) for any AL team against the division.

This was the Yankees’ first sweep of the Twins in a series of at least four games since May 15-18, 2009 at home and the first time in Minnesota since April 18-21, 2003 when the Twinkies were still at the Metrodome.

The Yankees played the Twins on Independence Day for the seventh time since the original Washington Senators franchise moved to Minnesota in 1961. The Yanks are 4-3 in those games. They swept a doubleheader (remember those on the Fourth of July?) at the original Yankee Stadium in 1964, 7-5 and 2-1; lost a doubleheader at old Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (now the site of Mall of America), 3-8 and 6-7; won, 3-2, in 1985 and lost, 2-6, in 2007, both at the renovated Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees played on the road on the Fourth of July for the third straight year, the first time they have done that in three consecutive seasons since 1988-90. They are 30-27 on the Fourth of July in the Expansion Era (since 1961).

The Elias Sports Bureau pointed out that with Wednesday night’s victory CC Sabathia became the 27th pitcher in major-league history and only the eighth in the Expansion Era to get his 200th career victory prior to his 33rd birthday. The others were Don Drysdale, Jim “Catfish” Hunter, Fergie Jenkins, Greg Maddux, Juan Marichal, Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver. All are in the Hall of Fame except for Maddux, who will go on the ballot for the first time this year.

Francisco Cervelli’s recovery from a fractured right hand has been complicated by a stress reaction in his right elbow. The catcher, who has been catching in simulated at-bats in the Yankees’ minor-league complex in Tampa, has been shut down for the next two weeks. On the positive side, infielder Eduardo Nunez will continue his injury-rehabilitation assignment at Double A Trenton.

Target Field has been friendly to Yanks

If ever there was a time that the Yankees needed to find a soft landing that time is now. They are in the throes of a five-game losing streak as they begin a four-game series against the Twins Monday night at Target Field. The Yankees have had 11 consecutive non-losing season series against Minnesota dating to 2002. They won the season series last year, 4 games to 3.

The Yankees have won 21 of their past 28 regular-season games against the Twins and 27 of their past 34 overall games. The Twins like the Yankees are in fourth place in their division, the American League Central, but have a record that is six games under .500 (36-42). Meanwhile, the fourth-place Yankees of the AL East are still above par for the season with a 42-39 record halfway through the schedule.

The Yankees took two of three games at Target Field in 2012 and have won 10 of their past 13 games there, plus 25 of their past 39 games at Minnesota in regular season play. They have won four straight road season series there and five of their past six.

Monday night’s starter, Andy Pettitte, enters the game undefeated over his past 12 starts against the Twins (regular season and postseason combined) since May 2001 with a 10-0 mark and 2.53 ERA covering 81 2/3 innings. Over his past 17 regular season and postseason starts against the Twins since 1999, Pettitte is 13-1 with a 2.38 ERA in 117 innings and has held Minnesota to three runs or less in all but three of those outings.

There is only a week remaining in the Major League All-Star voting for the July 16 game at Citi Field in Flushing. At this point, Robinson Cano, who has a commanding lead at second base, appears to be the only Yankees player who will be elected to the starting lineup. The Yankees have no players ranked in the top five at any other position with Ichiro Suzuki 15th among the outfielders.

Mariano Rivera will almost certainly be selected for the AL pitching staff. Manager Joe Girardi has expressed hope recently that the league will choose Brett Gardner as one of the outfielders.

Yankees did a swoon in June

For three nights in Baltimore, the Yankees watched a mirror image of what they were in 2012. The Yankees pummeled clubs last year with 245 home runs. The Orioles of 2013 are on such a pace. With three more bombs Sunday night in a 4-2 victory, the Orioles raised their season HR total to 115, the most in the major leagues.

By contrast, halfway through their season the Yankees have 81 home runs, the last of which was Robinson Cano’s 17th of the year, a solo shot in the sixth off Chris Tillman (10-2), who gave up one other run in six innings on a bases-loaded walk to Brett Gardner in the second and earned his seventh straight victory.

Cano’s jack got the Yankees to 3-2, but the Orioles got an insurance run in the seventh. Kuroda gave up a single to Matt Wieters and a double to J.J. Hardy before coming out for Boone Logan, who kept the damage to a minimum by yielding one run on a sacrifice fly by Brian Roberts.

Baltimore simply out-muscled the Yankees in the series, the first time they were swept in a three-game series at Camden Yards since April 15-17, 2005. The O’s out-homered the Yanks, 7-1, in the series with Chris Davis, the major-league home run leader with 31, leading the way with three. The first baseman’s leadoff homer in the second inning was one of three long balls given up by Hiroki Kuroda (7-6), who was also taken deep by Manny Machado in the first inning and Nate McLouth in the third.

Machado had two other hits, including his 38th double following McLouth’s blast. Machado and Davis are trying to pull off a tandem effort that has not been accomplished since the Yankees’ Murderers’ Row days. In 1927, Babe Ruth led the majors in home runs with 60 and teammate Lou Gehrig in doubles with 52. Davis and Machado are leading in those categories at this point.

Jim Johnson picked up his 28th save of the year and 100th of his career, which tied him with Stu Miller for third place on the franchise list behind all-time leader Gregg Olson (160) and runner-up Tippy Martinez (105). Johnson is the seventh active major-league pitcher to record 100 saves with his current club, joining the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera (634), the Tigers’ Jose Valverde (119), the Carlos Marmol (117), the Braves’ Craig Kimbrel (112), the Brewers’ John Axford (106) and the Indians’ Chris Perez (106). Six other active pitchers have recorded 100 or more saves with a club other than their current team – Joe Nathan, Francisco Rodriguez, Jonathan Papelbon, J.J. Putz, Heath Bell and Joakim Soria. Since the start of 2012, Johnson has 78 saves, 13 more than any other reliever. Of course, that is due in part because Rivera was out most of the 2012 season because of a knee injury that required surgery.

The sweep ended a dismal June for the Yankees, who had an 11-16 record and were outscored, 122-88, during the month. The Yankees batted .223 as a team in June and averaged 3.26 runs per game, which put pressure on a staff that pitched to a 4.38 ERA during the month. The rotation was 8-15 with a 4.66 ERA.

The Yankees have lost five straight games for the third time this year as the clock is still ticking on Joe Girardi’s 600th managerial victory. Their other five-game losing streaks were May 26-30 to the Rays (1 game) and the Mets (4) and June 11-15 to the Athletics (3) and Angels (2). The loss Sunday dropped the Yankees into fourth place in the American League East, just two games ahead of the last-place Blue Jays.

Since their highpoint of the season after the games of May 25 when the Yankees had a 30-18 record, they are 12-21 and have lost 7 ½ games in the standings, going from first place with a one-game lead to fourth place and 6 ½ games from the top and four games from the second wild-card berth.

July will have to be much better for the Yankees.

Wells delivers big-time in the pinch

For the first time in more than a month, Vernon Wells found himself talking to reporters after a game about something other than struggling with the bat. A slump that had reached disastrous proportions – 9-for-his-previous 90 at-bats, a chilly .100 stretch – put him on the bench in favor of recent Triple A call-up Zoilo Almonte, already a crowd favorite at Yankee Stadium.

Wells tried not to get discouraged. He continues to work on a daily basis with batting coach Kevin Long to recover a stroke that got him off a strong start this year with the Yankees. So when manager Joe Girardi told him in the seventh inning to get ready that he may be needed off the bench, Wells saw that flame-throwing lefthander Jake McGee was in the Tampa Bay bullpen and went down the tunnel into the cage and hit some balls off a tee.

The call from the skipper came for Wells to bat for Chris Stewart after a bases-loaded walk to David Adams that got the Yankees to 5-4 in the game. With two out, a big hit was needed to put the Yankees in control. Wells got the big hit, his biggest in a long time, a bases-clearing double that headed the Yankees toward a 7-5 victory. With one swing, Wells drove in as many runs (three) as he had in his previous 97 at-bats combined.

“I never lost my confidence,” Wells said. “When you lose your confidence, you’re done.”

Wells concentrated on tracking McGee’s fastball. He decided to take the first pitch, which came in at 96 miles per hour and was a strike.

“I saw the ball really well and when I saw 96 on the scoreboard, I thought, ‘OK, at least I could see it,’ ” Wells said. “It’s the ones that go into the catcher’s mitt you don’t see that worry you. After that, I thought about getting a good swing and letting him supply the power. It felt good to hit a ball that didn’t land in somebody’s glove.”

The comeback victory was big for the Yankees, who coupled with the Orioles loss trail second-place Baltimore by only a half-game in the American League East standings. Meanwhile, the Rays’ loss dropped them into a virtual tie for fourth in the division with the red-hot Blue Jays, who won their 10th straight game.

“We have a chance to win a series against a division rival that has been tough on us, so this was an important victory,” Girardi said.

In many ways, it was a victory gift-wrapped from the opposition. Five Rays pitchers combined to walk nine batters, four of whom scored. Robinson Cano reached base five times, including a career-high four walks, the most for a Yankees player in a game since Alex Rodriguez May 15, 2009 against the Twins. Adams walked twice. He entered the game with zero walks in 86 major-league plate appearances. Tampa Bay also made two errors that resulted in three unearned runs, all driven in by Almonte with a two-run single and, of course, a bases-loaded walk.

A 3-1 Yankees lead all went away in the sixth inning when Wil Myers clouted his first major-league home run, a grand slam off a 0-1 fastball from CC Sabathia. The rookie’s drive to right-center was nearly caught by center fielder Brett Gardner but slammed off the top of the auxiliary scoreboard and into the stands.

Myers, who was called up from the minors two weeks ago, was the centerpiece of an off-season trade with the Royals in which the Rays surrendered pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis. Tampa Bay seems to grow pitchers. Alex Colome, Saturday’s starter, has not allowed an earned run in two major-league starts totaling nine innings.

Girardi hit pay dirt with the Wells move but not the one that called for Evan Longoria to be walked intentionally to pitch to Myers. You can’t fault the manager there, however. Longoria had already homered in the game to continue a loud history against Sabathia (.383, four doubles and six home runs in 47 at-bats). Myers may be on the come but prior to that at-bat he had yet to prove himself. He may start making managers re-think their positions.

The Yankees caught a major break when Rays manager Joe Maddon replaced Alex Torres at the start of the seventh. The lefthander had retired the five batters he had faced – three on strikeouts – and the Yankees had three lefty batters due up that inning – Robinson Cano, Travis Hafner and Lyle Overbay. Despite being right-handed, Joel Peralta has Maddon’s confidence in getting left-handed batters out. Peralta did retire Hafner but after walking Cano and before allowing a double to Overbay. A rally was in place. Walks to Almonte and Adams set the stage for Wells.

“In this game,” Wells said, “You never know what can happen.”

Ain’t that the truth.

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