Results tagged ‘ Brett Gardner ’

Tanaka proving a wise investment for Yankees

For a while there Wednesday, it appeared that Masahiro Tanaka might have pitched a tainted no-hitter. The Cubs’ only hit through the first six innings off the Japanese righthander came in the second inning on a bunt single by Junior Lake, which originally had been called an out but was a single after a replay review.

Except for Lake himself, the happiest guy in the yard about the hit may have been Yankees manager Joe Girardi, who did not have to wrestle with himself later in the game about keeping Tanaka in an early-season game with a mounting pitch count working on a no-hitter. Managers do not like to put stress on pitchers this early in the schedule, but pulling a pitcher during a no-hitter is something they know fans dislike.

It all became academic when Anthony Rizzo dumped a bunt single down the third base line leading off the seventh inning against an over-shift. I for one was glad to see some hitter take what the defense is giving him in this year when over-shifting in the infield has become so prevalent.

It drove me crazy in the Yankees’ sixth inning when Brian McCann led off and made no attempt to hit the ball to the left side where one player was stationed. I know, I know, hitters do not want to mess up their swing by going the other way, but in a low-scoring game why not go for the easy hit and get a really started?

The over-shift was first employed in the late 1940s by Indians shortstop-manager Lou Boudreau against Ted Williams. The Splinter stubbornly refused to change his swing and always tried to hit through the shift, but he was Teddy Ballgame, a career .344 hitter and six-time American League batting champion. These guys that won’t attempt to cross up the defense are good hitters, but they are not Ted Williams. How many outs are hitters going to make on ground balls to right field before they wake up?

I have been harping on this since Jason Giambi was with the Yankees and have kept it up watching Mark Teixeira make outs into the shift. A Chicago writer told me that Rizzo has bunted for hits against the shift three times already this year. Good for him, not that it do him much good Wednesday because the Cubs did not get anyone else on base that inning. Another challenge by Cubs manager Rick Renteria on an out at first base was not reversed.

Tanaka certainly had no-hit stuff. Two bunt singles were all the Cubs could muster against Tanaka, who walked one batter and struck out 10 in his eight innings to improve his record to 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA.

“He had outstanding command of his splitter and slider and threw some curves to get ahead in the count,” Girardi said. “He was tremendous.”

The Cubs got only three runners as far as second base and none beyond. Shawn Kelley pitched the ninth and earned his fourth save.

The only run the Yankees would need came in the first inning on Carlos Beltran’s fourth home run. The Yankees added a run in the fourth on a sacrifice fly by Dean Anna and another in the fifth in an unusual way.

With Brett Gardner at third base and one out, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a dribbler in front of the plate. Cubs catcher John Baker collided with Ellsbury while fielding the ball and was called for interference as he threw the ball to first base while Gardner crossed the plate.

Plate umpire Jim Reynolds originally sent Gardner back to third base and instructed Ellsbury to stay on first base before Girardi came out of the dugout to point out a seldom-seen rule. In such cases, the manager has the option to take the completed play. That meant Ellsbury was out at first base and Gardner scored.

Girardi remembered a game in 1990 when he was catching for the Cubs and the Pirates’ Bobby Bonilla hit a three-run home run. Girardi was called for interfering with Bonilla’s swing but was told the home run counted because the Pittsburgh manager had the option to accept the play.

“Had there been no outs, I might have let the call stand,” Girardi said, “but with one out, I thought it would be better to take the run.”

It certainly was not needed by Tanaka, whose 28 strikeouts are the most for any Yankees pitcher in his first three career starts, surpassing by three the total Al Leiter had in 1987. Leiter was in the YES television booth for Wednesday’s game. Tanaka also became the first Yankees starter to pitch at least eight innings while striking out at least 10 batters and allowing two or fewer hits since Randy Johnson July 26, 2005 at the Stadium against the Red Sox (8 innings, 2 hits, 11 strikeouts).

Tanaka impressive in tough Yanks loss

Masahiro Tanaka’s first appearance before the home crowd at Yankee Stadium was a measured success. It could have been better, of course, if he had come away with a winning decision or the Yankees had won the game. Nevertheless, Tanaka pitched well enough to win and kept his team in the game, which is the primary responsibility of a starting pitcher.

With a press box jammed with Japanese media, Tanaka gave his countrymen and women plenty to write home about. A Stadium crowd of 39,412 gave him a standing ovation when he walked to the dugout at the end of the seventh inning as the fans sensed his night was over after having thrown 101 pitches, many of them quality.

There was quite a bit and oooing and ahhing in the stands back in the second inning when Tanaka gave up a thunderous, three-run home run to left field to Orioles third baseman Jonathan Schoop. Tanaka settled in nicely after that and allowed only three singles and a walk through the seventh. He retired the last seven batters he faced and finished with 10 strikeouts.

“He battled after a tough start and made good pitches when he needed them,” manager Joe Girardi said. “His strongest inning make have been his last one.”

That was the seventh when Tanaka struck out two batters and got the other on a come-backer to the mound.

Tanaka also had some fine glovework behind him, notably in the sixth inning when Alfonso Soriano made a belly-flop catch in the dirt cutout near the left-field line and Brian Roberts a deft pickup of a scorching, one-hopper on back-to-back plays.

The Yankees slowly pulled back into the game with solo home runs in the second by Carlos Beltran and Kelly Johnson and a game-tying run in the fourth on a double by Beltran and two infield outs. The Yanks had a good chance to take the lead in the eighth when Brett Gardner led off with a double to right and was bunted to third base by Derek Jeter, but Jacoby Ellsbury popped out and after an intentional walk to Beltran Brian McCann flied out to deep center.

The game fell apart for the Yanks in the ninth when the Orioles jumped on Shawn Kelley for two runs and four hits. The Yankees got a run back in the ninth on a sacrifice fly by Roberts, but Yangervis Solarte grounded into a game-ending double play.

The loss dropped the Yankees’ record under .500 at 4-5, equal to Baltimore’s, with the Red Sox heading to New York for a four-game series beginning Thursday night.

Yankees take control in first inning

It was a positive sign for the Yankees to break out of the gate early Sunday. They had been pushed around in first innings to the tune of 7-2 in the first five games of the season. Sunday at Toronto, they gave CC Sabathia a 3-0 lead before he took the mound even though they had only one hit in the first inning.

That hit was a two-out, two-run double by Kelly Johnson that climaxed a rally fueled by two walks and a hit batter off Drew Hutchison, who had pitched 5 1/3 scoreless innings in a winning first start last week.

The Blue Jays answered back with a run in the bottom of the first on a leadoff home run by Melky Cabrera, the third homer of the series for the former Yankees outfielder. Sabathia had given up four runs in the first inning in his Opening Day start last week at Houston.

Derek Jeter made history with a leadoff single in the third inning. It was career hit No. 3,319 for DJ, who tied Hall of Famer Paul Molitor for eighth place on the all-time list. Jeter moved past Molitor with a single in the fourth for No. 3,320.

“To have the most hits for the most prestigious franchise in professional sports is pretty special,” Molitor told me back in 2011 when Jeter reached 3,000 hits. “Getting 3,000 hits is as much a product of longevity as ability. If Derek stays healthy, he has a good chance to rack up a lot more hits.”

Rookie infielder Yangervis Solarte has multi-hit games in each of his first three career starts to become the first Yankees player to accomplish the feat since Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio from May 3-6, 1936 (also three games), according to the Elias Sport Bureau. Solarte entered play leading the Yankees in hits (7), doubles (3), extra-base hits (3), RBI (4), on-base percentage (.600), slugging percentage (.769) and OPS (1.369).

Solarte picked up his fourth double and fifth RBI of the season with one out in the fourth and then scored on the Yankees’ first home run of the season. Brett Gardner ended the drought with a drive to right off a 3-2 pitch that chased Hutchison.

Bottom of lineup helps Yanks finish on top

The Yankees’ scuffling offense got a lift from the bottom of the lineup Thursday night as two players who rode the bench previously made the most noise in getting the team its first victory of the 2014 season.

Rookie Yangervis Solarte had a dream of a game in his first major-league start as he collected his first hit, run and run batted in from the 9-hole. A switch-hitter, Solarte got the start at third base against Astros lefthander Brett Oberholtzer as he is being used in a platoon with lefty-swinging Kelly Johnson, who started the first two games.

One night after getting his first sip of big-league play with a pinch-hit appearance and an inning in the field Wednesday night, Solarte went 3-for-3 with a walk Thursday night to help the Yankees toward a much-needed W. A 26-year-old veteran of eight minor-league seasons, Solare doubled and singled twice, scored two runs and drove in one.

His RBI was a bit of a gimme from the Astros on miscommunication in the infield as his pop between the mound fell among three fielders in the seventh inning. With two out, Ichiro Suzuki was running hard from second base and scored, which got Solarte into the RBI column.

Ichiro’s start in right field was something of a hunch for manager Joe Girardi and by doing so may have caused a dilemma. Suzuki had a double and a single and scored two runs. He has been relegated to bench player in a crowded outfield, but with Alfonso Soriano 0-for-12 to start the season perhaps Ichiro can work himself back into the mix.

Suzuki and Solare combined for five of the Yankees’ seven hits and all four runs. At the top of the order, Brett Gardner and Derek Jeter each had a two-out RBI hit. The middle of the order continued its chilly ways except for a sacrifice fly by Carlos Beltran, who was the designated hitter to open the spot for Ichiro and give Soriano some time in left field.

The Yankees matched the improved offense with sound defense. The infield turned four double plays behind starter Ivan Nova, who overcame five walks, two hit batters and a wild pitch over 5 2/3 innings to notch the winning decision. Nova was inconsistent, but he made key pitches when he needed them.

Adam Warren and Sean Kelley were impressive in relief stints before David Robertson began his new role as closer following the retirement of the best in the business, Mariano Rivera. It was a performance that would have made Mo proud. D-Rob retired the side in order with one strikeout to finish off a bullpen effort in which it retired the last 11 Houston batters in a row.

Yankees finally get a lead

The first inning continues to be a problem for the Yankees. For the third straight game, the Astros got on the board their first time up. Houston has outscored the Yankees, 6-0, in the first innings of the three games combined.

That the Astros got only one run in the opening frame Thursday night was actually a break for the Yankees considering Houston had four players reach base that inning against Ivan Nova. The righthander got into immediate trouble by loading the bags with none out on two singles and a hit batter.

Houston made the least of the situation by pushing only one run across on a fielder’s choice. After reloading the bases with a walk, Nova worked out of the jam by getting Marc Krauss to ground into an inning-ending double play.

The Yankees’ lineup had a slightly different look with catcher Brian McCann, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and third baseman Kelly Johnson getting the night off against a lefthander, Brett Obertholtzer. Two of the new players in the lineup, Ichiro Suzuki and Yangervis Solarte, helped construct a rally in the second inning that resulted in the Yankees getting their first lead of the season in 21 innings.

Suzuki started in right field with Carlos Beltran shifting to the designated hitter role. Alfonso Soriano, who was the DH in the first two games, played left field with Brett Gardner moving to center. Francisco Cervelli was behind the plate. Solarte got his first major-league start at third base where he is currently in a platoon with Johnson.

Ichiro got the Yankees started with a single to left. Solarte followed with a single to center for his first big-league hit that sent Suzuki to third. Gardner, back in the leadoff spot, tied the score with a ground single to right, ending a Yankees’ streak of 12 at-bats without a hit with runners in scoring position.

Derek Jeter walked on a full count to load the bases. Beltran put the Yankees ahead with a sacrifice fly to center. Now it was up to Nova to protect it.

No chance for closer in this opener

None of us expected the Yankees to go 162-0 this year, but the 6-2 loss in Tuesday night’s season opener to the lowly Astros started things off with a thud. The Yanks were six runs in the hole after the first two innings and while Houston was shut out the rest of the way the Yankees could not climb out of it.

A surprisingly effective Scott Feldman took a one-hit shutout into the seventh for the Astros, who won only 51 games last year. A sellout crowd of 42,117 at Minute Maid Park that included Hall of Famers Reggie Jackson and Nolan Ryan and former President George H.W. Bush witnessed another dismal Opening Day effort by CC Sabathia.

The trimmed-down lefthander admitted afterward that his motor was running a bit too much early on as the Astros jumped him for six runs and six hits, including home runs by those household names Jesus Guzman and L.J. Hoes, in the first two frames. Sabathia eventually settled down and allowed only two singles over the next five innings long after the barn door was closed.

Opening Day has seldom gone smoothly for Sabathia, whose career mark in lid-lifters is 1-3 with a 6.17 ERA. With the Yankees, CC has been even worse in Opening Day starts — 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA.

The Yankees escaped first-inning scares when Derek Jeter and Brian McCann sustained hand injuries that turned out minor. Jeter had one of the Yankees’ six hits. So did McCann, who drove in his first run with his team team with a single in the seventh. Mark Teixeira followed with an RBI single to left crossing up an over-shift, which was a good sign.

Jeter and Teixeira were hurt at this time a year ago and with all the newcomers Brett Gardner was the only player other than Sabathia from the 2013 opener in the starting lineup. New right fielder Carlos Beltran had the Yankees’ first hit, a single in the fourth. New center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury reached base once in five plate appearances with a walk.

There certainly was not much to write home about. Dellin Betances may have been the highlight for the Yankees with a scoreless inning of two-strikeout relief. With David Robertson succeeding the retired Mariano Rivera in the closer role, there is the need for a setup reliever to emerge. Betances worked the seventh inning in the opener but continued impressive work could move him into the setup picture.

There would be no save opportunity for D-Rob in this one, however.

Girardi: Cano will be tough to replace

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not want to tip his hand about how the new-look Yankees will, well, look in 2014. In his manager’s session Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, Girardi said he would wait until spring training to decide how the team will shape out.

The main question was with regard to center field. Does the incumbent Brett Gardner stay or move to a corner in deference to Jacoby Ellsbury, the free-agent acquisition? And if Gardner moves, how does that affect Alfonso Soriano and Ichiro Suzuki? Not now, Joe said.

“I don’t think we’re finished yet,” Girardi said about possible future Yankees transactions. “The off-season is far from over.”

This off-season has already had a major impact on the Yankees, specifically the loss to free agency and the Mariners of Robinson Cano that creates a huge hole in the center of the infield.

“It’s a wonderful deal for Robbie,” Girardi said. “That is going to take care of him and his family for a long time. I thought the Yankees made a great offer, but in free agency with a player of his caliber something bigger can come along. We had added some guys offensively, but Cano is not an easy guy to replace. We’re going to have to find offense from other places. There are not too many second basemen that can put up Robbie’s numbers.”

My own feeling on the Cano signing with Seattle is that someday and not in the distant future he will wake up and realize he may have taken the better deal in terms of time and money but not in terms of competition or comfort. Robinson better get used to air travel. No club travels more miles than the Mariners, whose closest neighbor in Oakland, Calif., is two hours away by air. The Mariners will make six separate trips to Texas in 2014.

Cano will also find that Safeco Field is one of the most beautiful facilities in all of the major leagues and very much state of the art but that the fences are much farther from the plate than they are at Yankee Stadium. The Mariners have Cano and King Felix Hernandez and not much else. Back in the Bronx, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman is working to revamp a club that missed the playoff this past season for only the second time in 19 years.

A surprising remark at the Meetings came from former Yankees outfielder Curtis Granderson, who is moving across the Triboro Bridge to Citi Field in 2014. Introduced by his new team, Granderson talked about a desire to stay in the city and said, “True New Yorkers are Mets fans.”

What about it, Yankees fans? Are you going to take that lying down?

A sorry day for Sori-less Yankees

The Yankees were in trouble Saturday before they even took the field at Fenway Park. Once again – and how often has this happened this year? – a player was scratched from the lineup due to injury. Not just any player, either. Down this time was none other than Alfonso Soriano, the offensive force who has been at the center of the team’s renaissance the past six weeks.

Soriano was unavailable because of a sprained right thumb, which he sustained while making a diving catch Thursday night at Baltimore. He played Friday night but aggravated the condition and could not grip a bat Saturday. X-rays were negative, which was a good sign. A not so good sign, however, was that the thumb was worse Saturday than it was Friday night.

Without Soriano, Yankees manager Joe Girardi had to add another left-handed hitter, Ichiro Suzuki, as an outfielder in the batting order against lefthander Jon Lester (14-8), who pitched eight solid innings for the Red Sox. Ironically, two of the Yankees’ three hits were by a left-handed hitter, Curtis Granderson, who tripled and doubled.

Granderson batted out of the leadoff spot the past two games in place of regular center fielder Brett Gardner, who could be lost for the remainder of the regular season because of a left oblique strain. Shortstop Derek Jeter is also gone for the rest of the regular season due to lingering issues with his surgical left ankle.

Yes, the Yankees are pretty beat up, which they have been much of the season. It has been a medical nightmare for them. I teased trainer Steve Donohue the other day that the club must have run out of tape before the All-Star break. Referring to former head trainer Gene Monahan, Stevie said, “Geno sure picked the right time to retire.”

CC Sabathia got beat up Saturday as well. Boston did not enjoy a slugfest but did tag Sabathia (13-13) for five earned runs, nine hits and four walks in six innings. Five different players drove in runs for the Red Sox. CC had another troubling season against the Red Sox. He was 2-2 but had a 7.22 ERA in 28 2/3 innings, including 1-1 with a 9.92 ERA in 16 1/3 innings at Fenway Park.

Conversely, Lester was 2-1 with a 3.29 ERA in 27 1/3 innings against the Yankees this year. Of the 24 outs Lester recorded Saturday, 16 were in the infield and five were on strikeouts. The Yankees’ only run scored on an infield out as they were 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position. The 2-through-6 hitters were a combined 0-for-18.

Left olblique strain fells Gardner

When will it end? Seemingly every day this season a Yankees player has gotten hurt. They have had 18 players do 25 stints on the disabled list and have used a franchise-record 55 players.

Brett Gardner, who missed nearly all of the 2012 season because of a wrist injury but who stayed healthy for most of this season, became the latest casualty Thursday night. He struck out leading off the finale of the four-game series against the Orioles but did not take the field for the bottom half of the first inning and was replaced in center by Curtis Granderson.

It turned out that Gardner has a strained left oblique. This is an injury that kept infielder Eduardo Nunez on the DL earlier this year for seven weeks. The Yankees can only hope Gardner’s injury is not that severe.

Pettitte comes up big but not bullpen

On a night when the Yankees were in a must-win situation and with the knowledge that neither setup reliever David Robertson nor closer Mariano Rivera was available, Andy Pettitte handled the pressure of coming up big time in a big situation. This should come as no surprise, of course, considering the pitcher in question has logged 276 2/3 innings in postseason play and is used to stressful workloads.

Pettitte would like to add to his postseason resume and did his part to help the Yankees remain in contention toward that goal Friday night with six sturdy innings that continued a successful run for the lefthander that belies his age, 41, and adds to his reputation as a go-to guy. The Yankees helped his cause by continuing to put up multiple-run innings – four two-run frames during his six innings of work.

It also did not hurt the Yanks’ cause that Red Sox starter Felix Doubront handed out free passes on a regular basis. Doubront walked six batters in his 3 2/3 innings and four of them scored. Alfonso Soriano got the Yankees off to a quick start with his 30th home run of the season, a two-run shot to left, in the first inning.

Doubront walked Vernon Wells to start the second inning, and Eduardo Nunez tripled him home. Chris Stewart’s sacrifice fly scored Nunez. Doubront walked two more batters with two out in the fourth and both scored on a triple by Brett Gardner. The Yanks didn’t need any walks to score twice in the fifth off righthander Rubby De La Rosa on a double by Robinson Cano and singles by Wells, Nunez and Mark Reynolds.

Pettitte was masterful. He allowed three runs, five hits and three walks with eight strikeouts and left with the Yankees ahead, 8-3, through six. Over his past six starts, Andy has pitched to a 1.75 ERA in 36 innings in lowering his season ERA from 4.71 to 4.03. He is 3-0 over that stretch with three no-decisions. Unfortunately, one of those no-decisions was Friday night.

Phil Hughes took the ball from Pettitte and, well, dropped it. In his first relief appearance of the season, Hughes gave up three hits and a walk and left the game in the seventh with the bases full, one run in and one out. Boone Logan did a nice job of striking out David Ortiz, but Mike Napoli proved stiffer competition.

Napoli worked the count full and fouled off two fastballs in the mid-90s before driving a third one to right field off the top of the wall just beyond the reach of Ichiro Suzuki. It was the sixth career grand slam and third this season for Napoli, who victimized Hughes earlier this season.

With that one swing, the score was tied. It only got worse. Preston Claiborne gave up a two-run home run to Shane Victorino in the eighth, and Joba Chamberlain had another rough outing in allowing the Red Sox two more runs.

All of Pettitte’s work went for naught, which was an absolute shame.

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