Results tagged ‘ Austin Kearns ’

2 ex-Yanks beat former mates

A couple of former Yankees combined to beat their old team Monday night at Cleveland in a 6-3 Indians victory that was a scoreless pitching duel for six innings between A.J. Burnett and the Tribe’s Josh Tomlin.

The key hits in Cleveland’s four-run seventh inning were an RBI single by Shelley Duncan and a three-run home run by Austin Kearns.

Duncan, son of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, played in 68 games over the 2007, ’08 and ’09 seasons with the Yankees and batted .219 with 8 home runs and 24 RBI in 146 at-bats. Kearns was a mid-season acquisition by the Yankees last year and hit .235 with 2 home runs and 7 RBI in 36 games and 102 at-bats. The second of those homers came Aug. 22, and was the last one he hit before Monday night.

An irony is that neither Duncan nor Kearns might have batted that inning had Alex Rodriguez or Brett Gardner been able to catch a foul ball near the left field line by Lonnie Chisenhill. There were two outs and a runner on second base with Burnett holding a 2-0 lead when Chisenhill hit the foul ball.

A-Rod, running with his back to the infield, seemed to have a beat on the ball, so Gardner sort of backed off, but the ball fell free. Chisenhill eventually walked, Burnett’s second base on balls of the inning. That brought up Duncan, who won a seven-pitch at-bat with a flare single to right that made the score 2-1. Burnett lost the lead when he grooved a 1-0 fastball to Kearns, who crushed the pitch and drove it through the wind blowing in from right field at Progressive Field.

It marked the second straight game when a fielding miscue factored in a Yankees loss. An error by shortstop Ramiro Pena proved costly in the Yankees’ 3-2, 10-inning loss to the Mets Sunday at Citi Field.

Curtis Granderson made it a one-run game in the eighth with his 23rd home run, but Corey Wade gave up his first runs as a Yankee in eight games in the bottom half when he gave up a single to Travis Hafner and a home run to Carlos Santana.

It was a whole different game over the first six innings. Tomlin, who improved his record to 10-4, had a no-hitter through six that was broken up by Mark Teixeira’s leadoff single in the seventh. Nick Swisher followed a one-out, infield single by Robinson Cano with a double to left-center for two runs. The Yankees failed to get Swisher home as Jorge Posada and Russell Martin both grounded out.

Burnett entered the seventh working on a two-hit shutout with both hits by All Star Game-bound shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera. A.J. seemed more upset after the game about the two walks in the seventh rather than the two hits. He was right, too. Those hits became productive for the Indians because of the walks.

It was a disappointing return for Derek Jeter, who was hitless in four at-bats and remains at 2,994 for his career.

Building blocks instead of stumbling blocks

Is there any way the Yankees could bottle the fifth inning from Sunday’s game and bring it out whenever things are going bad for them? The five-run rally was a classic example of sustained offense, an element that has been in relatively short supply for them this season.

Of course, the Yankees might have to bottle Indians pitcher Josh Tomlin along with it. The righthander, who won his major-league debut against the Yankees with seven strong innings July 27 last year at Progressive Field, was pretty hittable Sunday at Yankee Stadium as he allowed 12 knocks in five innings, half of them in the fifth.

The Yankees have relied heavily on the long ball this season with a major-league leading 95 home runs in 63 games that have accounted for 47 percent of their 2011 run total

They had 18 hits Sunday, appropriately on Bat Day, but no hit went over the fence. A rally such as the one the Yankees manufactured in the fifth to beat the skidding Indians turned what had been a one-run game toward a 9-1 blowout.

Brett Gardner started things off with his second double, showing his usual good hustle out of the box and taking advantage of a somewhat circulatory route taken to the ball by right fielder Shin-Soo Choo.

Derek Jeter, who hit the ball hard his first two times up with nothing to show for it, fouled off a bunt attempt with third baseman Jack Hannahan playing even with the bag. Good idea by DJ, who started thinking right side in the rest of the at-bat to get Gardner to third and did even better by lofting and lofted a single to right field for career hit No. 2,992 that scored Gardner.

The Yanks didn’t stop there. Curtis Granderson, who had four hits but did not add to his home run total of 20, singled to center. After Mark Teixeira was out on an infield fly, Alex Rodriguez doubled over Austin Kearns in left field for a two-run double. A-Rod came home on a single to right by Robinson Cano.

Nick Swisher sent Cano to third with a single past first baseman Matt LaPorta. Jorge Posada, who had two hits and is now batting .226, drove in the fifth run with a fly ball to left field. In the inning, the Yankees had 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position while keeping the line moving.

“That’s how you would draw it up every day, if you could,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We kept putting together good at-bat after good at-bat.”

The Yanks also had 3-for-4 with runners in scoring position in a three-run eighth, again started by Gardner, this time with a triple to left-center. Jeter’s 2,993rd career hit, a single past a tight Cleveland infield and into center field, scored Gardner.

Eduardo Nunez, who ran for Jeter, advanced to second on a wild pitch by Chad Durbin and scored on Granderson’s fourth hit, a single to center. One out later, A-Rod got his third RBI of the game with a single. It would be nice to bottle that inning, too.

Here is one of the great things about Jeter. He is aware how close he is to 3,000 hits and how everyone from his parents on down would love to see him to that milestone at Yankee Stadium. Yet as he showed in each at-bat, Jeter remained a situational hitter. With Gardner in scoring position in the fifth and eight, DJ concentrated on making contact and putting the ball in play.

“My job there is to move the guy over,” Jeter said. “We’re still trying to win games here. The two balls I hit the hardest were caught. All I can do is have a good at-bat and hit the ball hard.”

He has four more games left on this homestand with seven hits to go for 3,000, and with Texas coming to town Tuesday the quality of pitching will definitely improve.

Speaking of quality pitching, how about Freddy Garcia? One start removed from his worst outing of the year (4 earned runs and 4 hits in 1 2/3 innings last Tuesday against the Red Sox, Garcia left Indians on base constantly through his 6 2/3 innings. Cleveland stranded 12 runners in the game, including at least one in each inning, and was hitless in 12 at-bats with runners in scoring position, all but one at-bat against Garcia.

That is one area where the veteran righthander has been outstanding. Opponents are batting .198 in 106 at-bats with runners on base and .134 in 67 at-bats with runners in scoring position against Garcia this year.

“In those situations, you have to be able to make a good pitch,” Garcia said. “I had a much better fastball [Sunday], which makes all my other pitches better.”

“He allowed us to build our lead,” Girardi said.

Build was the apt verb.

Yanks bitten by early mistakes

Yankees manager Joe Girardi’s decision to start Brett Gardner in left field against Twins lefthander Francisco Liriano in Game 1 of the American League Division Series reaped early dividends, at least defensively. Girardi had been starting Austin Kearns in left field against left-handed pitching late in the season but chose to go with the left-handed Gardner for the playoffs opener.

Gardner’s quick reactions on two plays came to the Yankees’ aid early. Denard Span led off the first for Minnesota with a single down the left field line. Gardner’s quick retrieval and strong throw kept Span on first base. The Twins got Span to second base eventually, but it cost them an out to do it as Orlando Hudson sacrificed. CC Sabathia kept Span at second by striking out Joe Mauer and getting Delmon Young on a ground ball.

J.J. Hardy also got a hit on a grounder down the left field line with two down in the second but had to put on the jets for a double. Gardner played the carom perfectly and nearly threw out Hardy at second base. He, too, was stranded.

In his first at-bat leading off the third, Gardner dueled Liriano in a seven-pitch at bat and earned a walk. Liriano kept Gardner close at first with two pickoff attempts, so he didn’t get to second until Derek Jeter singled. Nick Swisher’s bunt attempt on the first pitch – a foul – led to a huddle with third base coach Rob Thompson, an indication that the bunt was Swish’s idea, not the dugout’s.

Swinging away, Swisher flied out. Maybe the sacrifice wasn’t a bad idea, after all. A promising inning ended as Mark Teixeira flied out and Alex Rodriguez struck out.

The Yankees had been expected to be tested on the bases, but the Twins were not over-aggressive yet still got a run thanks to alert base running. Hudson’s first-inning sac instead of having Span try to steal suggested conservatism by the Twins. When Hudson got on base in the third with a leadoff single, he didn’t try to steal, either.

But with two strikes on Mauer, Hudson broke for second and kept going to third when Teixeira had to dive for first base to beat Mauer to the bag. Third base coach Scott Ullger put up the stop sign, but seeing Teixeira on the ground Hudson took a chance for third and made it with no throw. From there he was able to score on a passed ball by Jorge Posada, who failed a different kind of test.

Sabathia wasn’t blameless. He was late covering first base on the Mauer grounder that forced Teixeira to leave his feet to get an out for which the Twins were willing to trade two bases. CC also make the mistake of hitting Jim Thome with a pitch on 0-2 before Michael Cuddyer drove a 2-0 pitch to center for a home run in the second.

Bruising inning for Kearns

The sixth inning Saturday was an adventurous one for Austin Kearns, who heard equal measures of cheers and boos from the sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium.

Back in the lineup after missing five games because of a bruised left elbow, Kearns played left field and had the crowd on its feet when he crashed into the auxiliary scoreboard in hauling down a drove by the Red Sox’ Lars Anderson. The play saved at least one run as Boston had runners on first and second at the time.

Following the old baseball clich of a player who makes a dazzling play in the field leading off the next at-bat for his team, Kearns was first up in the bottom of the sixth against Jon Lester, who was still working on a no-hitter. Kearns drew a walk and moved across to second on Curtis Granderson’s slow grounder to the right side.

Francisco Cervelli then got the Yankees’ first hit, which put Kearns in a quandary. He was midway between second and third bases as Red Sox left fielder Daniel Nava raced in attempting to catch Cervelli’s dying quail. Nava slid on the grass trying for the catch, but the ball bounced off his glove for a single.

Kearns, fearing the ball might be caught, had headed back to second base so as not to get doubled up when the ball fell free. He had no time to make a U-turn and try to get to third as Nava got the ball back to the infield promptly.

Derek Jeter followed with another single, a hard grounder into left field. Nava again charged the ball quickly and made a strong throw to the plate to throw out Kearns by a wide margin. The same player who was embraced loudly by the crowd only a few minutes earlier was dissed as he headed back to the dugout.

Health greater priority than division title

This is not the way the Yankees wanted to open another of those playoff previews that everybody is talking about. Of course, if the Yanks and Rays face each other in the post-season it would have to be in the American League Championship Series because Division Series opponents cannot come from the same division. That makes you wonder why they call the first round of the playoffs Division Series if, well, never mind.

Managers Joe Girardi of the Yankee and Joe Maddon of the Rays can talk all they want to about the importance of finishing first in the AL East to earn home-field advance through the ALCS, but the fact remains that what is most important is for your team to get into the post-season, and both of these teams pretty much have that locked.

Girardi was without two-thirds of his regular outfield Monday night at Tropicana Field because left fielder Brett Gardner and right fielder Nick Swisher had to be shelved. Gardner had an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) test on his aching right wrist that revealed no structural damage but recurring inflammation from an injury he sustained June 27 at Los Angeles when struck by a pitch from the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw. Gardner received a cortisone injection and could be unavailable for the series except possibly as a pinch runner, which may not be a good idea, either, because he often slides into bases hands first.

Swisher has been bothered by a sore left knee on and off for the past three weeks, mostly on the last few days, which is likely responsible for a 3-for-25 (.120) slide, albeit with a game-winning home run along the way. He will go the MRI route Tuesday and is also doubtful for the series except as a pinch hitter. Against Rays lefthander David Price, Girardi went with right-handed hitting Austin Kearns in left field and Greg Golson in right.

The manager also had to adjust his lineup and decided to move Robinson Cano into the 2-hole where Swisher has thrived much of the year. The best thing about Robbie hitting second is what it may mean to Derek Jeter, who led off the game with a single. Unfortunately, Cano then grounded into a double play.

The Yankees would be wise not to put such a premium on finishing first. The injuries are piling up, so the premium should be on getting healthy.

Pettitte beats mates to playoffs

Andy Pettitte will get a head start on his teammates in post-season play. The next stop following a bullpen session Monday in the continuance of his recovery from a strained left groin will be for the lefthander to make an injury-rehabilitation start Thursday for Double A Trenton in a playoff game against New Hampshire.

“I told them I’d go down there and ruin the poor kids’ season,” Andy said, poking fun at himself as if Trenton would not appreciate having him pitch for them.

Think of it from the viewpoint of the New Hampshire team. They fight all season to get into the playoffs, and their opposing starter in the first game is a veteran of 16 years in the major leagues with 240 career victories.

The plan is for Pettitte to throw 60 pitches Thursday and barring a setback for him to make at least one more start in the minors before rejoining the Yankees in mid-September.

Pettitte broke into the majors with the Yankees in 1995. His first manager was Buck Showalter, who was in the visitors’ dugout Monday at Yankee Stadium with the Orioles. It is another reclamation project for Showalter, who took over the Yankees in 1992 after they had three losing seasons and got them into the playoffs in his fourth year.

He was the first manager of the expansion Arizona Diamondbacks, who made it to the playoffs in their second year. During four seasons with the Texas Rangers, Buck was named American League Manager of the Year in 2004, 10 years after he had won the same award with the Yankees.

The Orioles have gotten a second wind under Showalter, who took a 19-13 record into Monday’s game and did the Yankees a favor over the weekend by taking two of three from the Rays at Camden Yards.

“This job is similar to the Yankees’ in a way because there is a great tradition with this organization,” Showalter said before the game. “Every day, I get to talk to people like Jim Palmer and Mike Flanagan and Cal Ripken, who know what the Orioles brand means. It’s a challenging opportunity.”

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that Austin Kearns’ hand injury is a bruised index finger, not a thumb as had been reported, and he is still not ready to play. That’s why the Yankees recalled outfielder Colin Curtis from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Nick Swisher, who missed three games with left knee inflammation, returned to the lineup Monday.

Vanishing Vazquez

The pitching mound at Yankee Stadium may as well have been a nudist colony as far as Javier Vazquez was concerned. That’s how naked he was out there Saturday.

The struggling righthander was armed with a fastball that barely reached 87 mph, no breaking ball to speak of and a full arsenal of changeups. The problem with having changeups only is that there is nothing to change off of. So the batters just wait and crush, which the Mariners did at will against Vazquez. Ichiro Suzuki hit two home runs, for crying out loud.

An announcement came in the press box that this was Ichiro’s fifth career multi-homer game, which may surprise some people but not the ones who have ever seen him take batting practice. Ichiro is just like Wade Boggs, who put on some of the best BP displays this side of Darryl Strawberry. “Same pitch, same location,” Boggsy used to say of why it was so easy for him to crank bombs during BP.

One year, Boggs decided to prove he could hit the long ball if he put his mind to it. He hit 24 home runs in 1987 and then basically said to everybody, “Okay, leave me alone now so I can go back to hitting .350.”

Vazquez just played into Ichiro’s hands or, rather, swings. You want to throw changeups, watch me trot, Ichiro, the successor to Boggs as the Singles King of the major leagues, might have said to himself. In Japanese, of course.

On a serious level, the Yankees need to find out if they can solve Vazquez’s problems. He is winless in five starts since July 26 and is 0-2 with a 7.43 ERA during that span and lucky to have three no-decisions.

In 23 innings, Vazquez has allowed 35 hits, including 8 home runs, with as many walks as strikeouts, 17 apiece. His ERA for the season has swollen to 5.05. The home run Russell Branyan hit off Vazquez in the first inning went into the right field upper deck, heretofore territory that had been unreachable at the new Stadium.

An old pal, Dom Amore of the Hartford Courant, just came over and told me that the fan who caught Branyan’s ball refused to FED-Ex it back onto the field.

Chad Gaudin supplied three scoreless innings of one-hit relief in what might have been an audition for a start five days from now. Clearly, the Yankees have to think about that, although Yankees manager Joe Girardi is not one to tip his hand.

Despite Vazquez’s ineffectiveness, the Yankees were still in the game, thanks to the four-run assault of Seattle starter Jason Vargas in the first on a run-scoring double by Mark Teixeria, an RBI single by Robinson Cano, who has gotten the hang of this cleanup stuff with Alex Rodriguez out of the lineup again, and a two-run home run by Jorge Posada.

The Yankees wisely chose to place A-Rod on the disabled list and give that nagging left calf a chance to heal. He would not have been available Sunday anyway. With the Yankees going on to Toronto Monday, it makes sense for them to keep him off the artificial surface at Rogers Centre. 

Vargas settled down and retired 15 batters in a row into the sixth before the Yankees threatened in the seventh on one-out singles by Austin Kearns, who has a 10-game hitting streak, and Curtis Granderson, who is having a strong homestand (.368). Eduardo Nunez’s first major-league hit, a bouncing single to right, also resulted in his first major-league RBI and gave the Yankees the lead. Pad-on runs followed on a single by Derek Jeter and a sacrifice fly by Teixeria.

This time Vazquez was not around to give up the lead. The question is: How long will be he around in the rotation?

The Yankees plan to call up Ivan Nova from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start Monday night against the Blue Jays and push all the starters back one day. With an open date Thursday the opportunity is there to skip Vazquez altogether. We’ll see.

A-Rod back in, then back out

One look at Alex Rodriguez jogging to first base on a groundout in the second inning was all that was needed to determine that he is not fully recovered from a strained left calf.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi inserted Rodriguez into the starting lineup Friday night for the first time in four games but admitted before the game that he was unsure if A-Rod would be able to run at full strength. The skipper got his answer, which was not the one he wanted.

It was a test run for Rodriguez, who was the designated hitter, but clearly he did not pass. When his turn in the order came around again in the fourth with Derek Jeter on third base and two out, Rodriguez was lifted for a pinch hitter, Austin Kearns, who struck out.

Rodriguez said later that he did not think he made the situation worse but that he expected to be out “a couple of more days.” It will likely be longer than that. After this series, the Yankees travel to Toronto, so it is doubtful they would want him to risk aggravating the injury further on the artificial surface at Rogers Centre.

Big inning takes heat off

That nine-run sixth inning Thursday at Yankee Stadium was a joy to behold for the Yankees, who had a runaway game for a change in getting back on a roll with their third straight victory. Even in the previous two victories over the Tigers, the Yankees didn’t exactly light things up with runners in scoring position (4-for-20 combined), which made Thursday’s bust-out more than welcome.

The Yankees were 6-for-10 with runners in scoring position, a far cry from their struggles of nine prior games when they combined to hit .159 in 82 at-bats under those conditions. They hit for the cycle in the sixth on singles by Jorge Posada and Nick Swisher, doubles by Robinson Cano and Austin Kearns, a triple by Derek Jeter and a home run by Cano.

The big inning also allowed Yankees manager Joe Girardi to call it a day for Phil Hughes after six innings. The Yankees are being mindful of monitoring the righthander’s workload and were able to let him scoot early and still chalk up a ‘W,’ his 15th.

Considering all the pitches that were directed at hitters the night before and the somewhat surprising revelation from Johnny Damon that Detroit players indeed considered Brett Gardner’s slide into Carlos Guillen tying to break up a double play Monday night “dirty,” Thursday’s game could have gotten nasty. But all that was hit were baseballs, by the Yankees mostly.

The absence of Alex Rodriguez, sidelined because of a left calf strain, has forced Girardi to experiment with the batting order, and the skipper may be on to something. Gardner was elevated to leadoff and is hitting .343 with a .439 on-base percentage in his nine games at the top of the order this year. The Yanks are 8-1 in those games. That returned Jeter to the 2-hole where he has spent the bulk of his career before Girardi flip-flopped him last year with Damon, which worked out so well. Jeter is hitting only .136 in 22 at-bats batting second this year but has a .315 career average in that spot.

Swisher, who had done well batting second most of the year (.284, 14 home runs, 39 RBI), was moved to fifth because Girardi needed an RBI guy there with A-Rod out and Cano taking over at cleanup. Swisher responded with four hits and three RBI in the three victories.

As for Cano, well, doesn’t cleanup seem to suit him? He has batted fourth 10 times this year and has hit .359 with two doubles, five home runs and 11 RBI in 39 at-bats. That’s a .795 slugging percentage!

Kearns continues to step it up offensively since joining the Yankees. He was the designated hitter Thursday and had a double and single and two RBI and is now batting .355 with three doubles, a homer and five RBI in 31 at-bats in pinstripes.

Curtis Granderson won the battle of center fielders traded for each other in the three-team swap among the Yankees, Tigers and Diamondbacks. Austin Jackson was 5-for-17 (.294) with a home run and two RBI in the series while Granderson was 6-for-13 (.462) with a double, two homers and three RBI. It is too bad for Curtis that the Yankees do not play the Tigers more often. Against his former club this year, Granderson has hit .526 with two doubles, three home runs and four RBI in 19 at-bats.

Yankees fans also rolled out the welcome mat for infielder Eduardo Nunez, who made his major-league debut by taking over for Jeter at shortstop in the seventh inning. Nunez, called up from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to fill the roster spot caused by the disabling of Lance Berkman, who has a sprained ankle, fouled out to the catcher in his first at-bat in the big leagues, in the eighth. The crowd cheered Nunez anyway, which was another positive aspect of that delirious sixth inning.

Yankees encounter bullish Bullington

Let’s face it, Yankees fans, they ran into a good story Sunday. Not a good story for the Yankees, but a good story for baseball in general. How can not some side of you no matter how much you love the Yankees have a rooting interest for Bryan Bullington, who earned his first major league victory at the age of 29?

Earned is the operative word. Bullington faced only one batter over the minimum through eight innings in holding the Yankees to two singles and a walk. Marcus Thames was the player who walked with two down in the eighth as a pinch hitter and became the only Yankees runner stranded as Curtis Granderson flied out.

Bullington was perfect one out into the fifth before Robinson Cano broke the string with a ground single to right. Cano was erased when Lance Berkman grounded into a double play and had to come out of the game because of an ankle injury as he tripped over Bullington, who covered first on the DP. Brett Gardner had the Yankees’ other hit, a one-out single to left in the sixth, but he erased himself by getting throw out trying to steal second base.

The biggest disappointment was that the Yankees wasted an outstanding effort from A.J. Burnett, who gave up a first-inning run that was due in part to an errant throw from catcher Francisco Cervelli and next to nothing the rest of the way. Burnett had a muscular fastball early and by the third inning rediscovered his curve. The Yanks backed him up with three double plays but not that many hits in the righthander’s first complete game of the season.

Why was Bullington a feel-good story? The righthander is a former first overall selection in the amateur draft who has bounced around for eight years and was released by three organizations before finding a home with the Royals, ironically the organization that first showed interest in Bullington by choosing him in the first round of the draft in 1999.

Bullington, a former Mr. Baseball as an Indiana high schooler, turned down Kansas City’s offer to attend Ball State University where his father was a two-sport star in basketball and baseball who was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 1984. The junior Bullington made All-America and resurfaced in the 2002 where he was taken No. 1 by the Pirates.

He ended up getting released after three straight seasons, in 2007 by the Pirates, 2008 by the Indians and 2009 by the Blue Jays. The Royals, 11 years after drafting him, signed Bullington as a free agent. He was inserted in the rotation five days ago as a substitute for injured Brian Bannister. Bullington lost but pitched well enough (three earned runs and five hits in six innings) to earn another shot.

As he took the mound against the Yankees, Bullington’s major league record was 0-7 with a 5.02 ERA. The day after a 14-hit, five-homer assault, the Yankees were again shut down by a pitcher with whom they were unfamiliar, which has been something of a pattern in recent years. The only Yankee who had ever faced Bullington before was Austin Kearns, who was not in Sunday’s lineup.

The split of the four-game series at KC left the Yankees only one game up on Tampa Bay in the American League East. They could use a few feel-good stories of their own.