Results tagged ‘ Brett Lawrie ’
Yankees manager Joe Girardi knows that he has to be careful with Travis Hafner. Injuries have plagued the slugger in recent years. Sometimes a manager gets a hunch. Saturday was just that kind of day. The Blue Jays were starting a lefthander, J.A. Happ, but aware that the right-handed portion of the designated hitter platoon, Ben Francisco, is struggling (.103 in 29 at-bats) Girardi chose to give the lefty-swinging Hafner a rare start against a southpaw.
How it turned out was just downright beautiful. All Hafner did was drive in four runs as the Yankees turned back the Blue Jays again, 5-4, behind another gritty effort from CC Sabathia. This was like old times for Travis and CC, former teammates at Cleveland. It was another victory due in large part to the newcomers with the Yankees this year; in this case Hafner and Vernon Wells, who drove in the other Yankees run.
Just as was the case in recent years of the likes of Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon, Raul Ibanez and Andruws Jones, among others, who thrived with the Yankees in their twilight years, Hafner and Wells have found a fountain of youth in the Bronx.
“This is a great place to play,” Girardi said. “It’s a great clubhouse. There are great expectations. Guys feed off that.”
It was quite an afternoon. Sabathia fell into a 3-0 hole, but the Yankees helped him climb out of it so that he ended up pitching through eight innings and improving his record to 4-2 despite yet another game when his stuff was not top shelf.
“I was all over the place in the early innings,” Sabathia said. “They just missed some balls that I left out over the middle of the plate.”
“He competes, that’s what he does,” Girardi said of Sabathia. “He has not been as sharp in April, but he has four victories, so I am not going to complain.”
Newly thrust into the starting catcher role with Francisco Cervelli out for six weeks with a right hand fracture, Chris Stewart had a rough time of it in the fourth inning. A passed ball and an error helped the Blue Jays to a gift run that gave Toronto the 3-0 lead.
Sabathia, still searching for some velocity on a fastball that rarely topped 90 miles per hour, had an unusual number of fly-ball outs in the early innings. Nobody was catching the ball Jose Bautista hit to start the fourth inning, however. It darted into the left field stands for his seventh home run.
Edwin Encarnacion, who had five home runs in his previous four games, followed with a single and advanced to second on a groundout. Stewart’s passed ball put Encarnacion at third base. He tried to score on Brett Lawrie’s flyout to right field, but Ichiro Suzuki’s laser-beam throw to the plate beat Encarnacion. Plate umpire Jeff Kellogg was prepared to call Encarnacion out, but the ball was dropped by Stewart, a costly error.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Happ got careless with the lead as he began the bottom of the fourth by walking Wells and Kevin Youkilis, who was back in the lineup after missing six games due to back stiffness.
Hafner lowered the boom and brought the Yankees even with his sixth home run, a three-run shot to right-center. He had never faced Happ before, but Hafner was a welcome addition to the batting order.
Lawrie picked up the RBI he lost in the fourth two innings later when he lined a home run to right field that put Toronto back in front.
Not for long, though, as Hafner struck again in the seventh. Righthander Esmil Rogers took over at that point and gave up a one-out double to Robinson Cano, who nearly didn’t get to second base before a remarkably strong and accurate by Bautista from the right field warning track. Wells tied the score with a single to center.
The Yankees stayed out of the double play by sending Wells as Youkilis grounded out to third base. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons brought in another lefthander, Brett Cecil, to face Hafner, who tripled off the glove of center fielder Rajai Davis. In the top of the inning, Brett Gardner made a fence-slamming catch off a similar drive by Bautista. It was the 13th career triple for Hafner and his third over the past six years. This was the first time since 2007 that Hafner has had a triple and a stolen base in the same season.
“Probably tiring,” Hafner said about what it felt like getting to third base. “You want to get some quality at-bats against a lefthander once in a while. It would be nice to get some starts, but I also know that they have my best interests at heart.”
Wanting to stay away from Mariano Rivera, who pitched in three of the previous four games, Girardi used Joba Chamberlain out of the bullpen in the ninth. He was touched for a couple of one-out singles but eventually slammed the door for his fifth career save and first since Sept. 21, 2010 at St. Petersburg, Fla.
The Yankees are now 13-5 since opening the season 1-4, 8-1 in games decided by two or fewer runs, 3-0 in one-run games and 13-1 when holding opponents to four runs or less. In addition, the Yankees are creating distance from the disappointing Jays, who are 9-16 and six games behind the 14-9 Yankees in the American League East. Toronto’s 11-28 (.282) record at Yankee Stadium is the worst for any team that has played at least 30 games in any current major league park.
Nice weather has finally reached the area. You could tell the difference with all the home runs hit at Yankee Stadium Thursday night. Though it cooled off somewhat in the latter innings, a game time temperature of 65 degrees signaled the possibility that the ball would carry much better than in previous homestands when temperatures barely got out of the 40s.
Over the first four innings, five baseballs left the yard. Hiroki Kuroda, who handled the Blue Jays with ease last week at Toronto, was down quickly, 3-0, on a two-run home run in the first inning by Edwin Encarnacion and a solo shot in the second by Brett Lawrie. Encarnacion’s blow made up for a terrible series last week at Rogers Centre in which he was hitless in 12 at-bats.
But just as quickly, the Yankees struck back with the long ball against Mark Buehrle, a good sign for the team against a lefthander. Southpaws have been tough on the Yanks, particularly lately with Kevin Youkilis out of the lineup. He did not play again Thursday night because of continuing back stiffness.
Vernon Wells hit a towering drive over the center field wall leading off the second inning for his sixth home run, which tied him for the club lead. Temporarily, that is. Robinson Cano thrust the Yankees in front in the third inning with a three-run shot to right. Cano’s seventh home run this season was career No. 184, which tied him with Charlie Keller for 18th place on the Yankees’ all-time list. Next up in 17th place at 185 is Paul O’Neill.
Cano also moved up the Yankees’ career RBI list and into the top 10. His 732 RBI tied him with Elston Howard for 10th place. Give Cano credit. This was the time of year with all the injured Yankees that Cano might have felt pressure to do too much and chased bad pitches, but he has displayed patience and is off to a very productive start, batting .322 with seven homers and 17 RBI.
A lot of that has to do with the protection Cano has received in the lineup from Wells (.293, six home runs, 10 RBI) and Travis Hafner (.300, five home runs, 10 RBI), who was on the bench Thursday night with the Jays starting a lefty.
Francisco Cervelli continued the Yankees’ home run parade with a shot off the barrier in front of the left field bleachers. The catcher’s third home run of the season apparently upset Buehrle, who hit Cervelli with a pitch in his next at-bat. After yielding a single to the next batter, Ichiro Suzuki, Buehrle was taken out of the game and said something to Cervelli at third base as he headed for the dugout.
The Yankees are hopeful they can get the other Francisco, Ben, going. Hafner’s designated hitter partner has struggled. He got a hit with a bunt single that was not awarded until an umpire was overruled by one of his mates. First base umpire Chad Fairchild called Francisco out at first base on a bang-bang play. Replays indicated Encarnacion at first base may not have had control of the ball as Francisco hit the bag. Second base ump Jeff Kellogg, the crew chief, huddled the umpires together, and the call was reversed.
It was the proper call, but Blue Jays manager John Gibbons didn’t think so. He got ejected by Kellogg after a heated argument. The season has not gone the way Gibbons hoped back in spring training. The Jays, who had been picked in many preseason publications as the favorite in the American League East, are 9-14 and have lost three of four games to the Yankees.
Francisco was just thankful to be standing on a base instead of walking back to the dugout. For all of Gibbons’ screaming, the play was not involved in the scoring. Thanks to the weather in the early innings, this was a home run game, and despite the perception that the Yankees are weaker in the power department their 31 homers are the most in the league.
Not only has Kevin Youkilis lost playing time on the Yankees’ current trip to Toronto and St. Petersburg, Fla., to persistent back stiffness but also a hit and a couple of runs batted in.
Last Saturday in the most recent game he has played, Youkilis had a two-run single in the fifth inning of the Yankees’ 5-3 victory. The hit was a liner off the glove of Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie. I remember thinking that the official scorer was being generous since it appeared that Lawrie should have gloved a ball that was hit directly at him.
At the time, Youkilis was credited with a single and two RBI. Major League Baseball announced Wednesday that upon review of the play the call was reversed and Lawrie has been charged with an error. That removed the hit for Youkilis, whose batting average dropped from .295 to .279 and RBI total from nine to seven.
The slick artificial surface at Rogers Centre played havoc with both the Yankees and the Blue Jays Saturday. Of course, without such a surface the clubs might not have been able to play at all. Snow and freezing temperatures hit Toronto Saturday morning, but with the flick of a switch at the domed facility the roof allowed the teams to get in a game without the sort of conditions the Mets faced on their recent trip to snow-bound Minneapolis and Denver.
The Yankees prevailed, 5-3, but not without a struggle. They had the dubious defense of the Blue Jays to thank for this one. A two-base throwing error by relief pitcher Aaron Loup let what proved the deciding runs to score in the 11th inning. Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie ranged too far off third base on a sacrifice bunt by Ichiro Suzuki, a daring move infielders often make on the fast surface there, and could not get back to the bag in time to make a play on Loup’s throw that went down the left field line and let the tiebreaking runs score.
Back in the fifth inning, Lawrie couldn’t handle a scorching line drive by Kevin Youkilis that went off his glove and into left field for a two-run single that had given the Yankees a 3-0 lead. Youkilis ended up having to come out of the game when his back stiffened up playing on the hard turf. Shoddy defense hurt the Blue Jays Friday night as well with the Yankees getting two gift runs due to a throwing error by center fielder Colby Rasmus that might have just as well been charged to catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was out of position to take the rally.
The Yankees will always take advantage of being given extra outs by the opposition. The turf played a part in the Jays’ tying the score with a three-run eighth that hung a tough no-decision on Hiroki Kuroda, who stretched his scoreless innings streak to 20 2/3 before that inning and lowered his season ERA to 2.35.
Lyle Overbay, who replaced Youkilis at first base, could not stop a rug-cutting grounder by Rasmus that went into right field for a one-out single. David Robertson came on and got a big strikeout of Maicer Izturis for the second out. But a walk to pinch hitter Adam Lind preceded a single by Rajai Davis on a hanging curve on a 0-2 count to score the run that ended Kuroda’s streak.
Davis then made a big play with a steal of second base. And the day after Overbay and Vernon Wells hurt their former Blue Jays team, Melky Cabrera did the same to the Yankees with a single to center that knotted the score.
Mariano Rivera withstood a leadoff double by Jose Bautista in the bottom of the 11th for his fifth save. The winning pitcher was Sean Kelley, who did a nice job of relief in the 10th after Toronto got a runner to second base with one out against Boone Logan. Kelley retired Davis on an infield pop and Cabrera on a grounder to the right side.
Kuroda was coming off a complete-game shutout last Sunday against the Orioles and was just as stingy over the first six innings by limiting the Jays to two hits. He finished with a three-hit effort with one walk and seven strikeouts. Wells had another big game at his old yard with 3-for-5, including his fifth home run.
Hiroki Kuroda had some sloppy Toronto base runners to thank for helping him get through an important start for the Yankees Friday night. Their 11-4 victory kept them one game ahead of the Orioles, 9-1 winners at home against the Red Sox, in the American League East standings.
Brett Lawrie and Yunel Escobar led off the first two innings with doubles, and both were erased on dumb moves on the bases. Nick Swisher, who had given Kuroda a 2-0, first-inning lead with a two-run double, fielded a grounder by Colby Rasmus at first base and noticed Lawrie had broken off the bag at second too far and quickly threw to shortstop Derek Jeter covering for a big out.
In the second inning with the Yankees ahead, 3-0, Escobar was at third base after a wild pitch by Kuroda. As Kelly Johnson struck out, catcher Russell Martin noticed Escobar drifting off the bag and fired a strike to Alex Rodriguez for another huge out.
Kuroda thanked his teammates by not giving up a lead in the game for the first time in six starts. The Blue Jays loaded the bases later in the third inning with two out, but Kuroda got a major out himself by striking out Rasmus with an inside fastball on a full count.
It was not vintage Kuroda, who spent most of his 5 1/3 innings pitching out of the stretch what with all the runners he put on base. The righthander allowed 10 hits and two walks, but the Jays had only one hit in eight at-bats with runners in scoring position off Kuroda, who gutted his way through a victory that improved his record to 15-11.
The Yankees, who have not always supported Kuroda with a lot of runs this year, fortified him throughout this game. Of the Yankees’ 11 runs, nine were scored after two out. The crucial hit was Russell Martin’s three-run home run in the sixth that turned a tight 3-1 score into a comfy 6-1.
Martin’s 20th homer of the season came off righthander Jason Frasor, who entered the game after lefthander Brett Cecil had struck out Curtis Granderson and Raul Ibanez with runners on first and second. Frasor then walked Eric Chavez and allowed singles to Jeter and Ichiro Suzuki to make it 7-1.
In 19 games since Sept. 3, Martin has batted .299 with three doubles, six home runs and 19 RBI in 67 at-bats to raise his batting average from .195 to .212. With his career-high total, Martin is the fifth Yankees player to reach the 20-homer plateau, joining Granderson (40), Robinson Cano (30), Swisher (24) and Mark Teixeira (23).
It was truly an ensemble offensive effort for the Yankees. Everyone in the starting lineup had at least one hit. The last to join the hit parade was Chavez with a two-run home run in the ninth. He had contributed earlier with two walks and a run. The Yankees had 6-for-15 (.400) with runners in scoring position.
Ivan Nova’s hopes of being in the Yankees’ rotation in the postseason were probably dashed Thursday night when he could not get through the fifth inning at Toronto’s Rogers Centre. Of course, the Yankees have to get to the postseason first, which was not helped by their losing to the Blue Jays, 6-0.
Nova gave up four earned runs, six hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. He was wounded by a two-run home run by Brett Lawrie in the third inning and a two-run double by Edwin Encarnacion in the fifth. The extra-base hits raised the season total against Nova to 87, the most yielded by any pitcher in the majors this season and by any Yankees pitcher in their history. The previous club mark of 86 was set in 1989 by Andy Hawkins, but he pitched 38 more innings than Nova.
The struggling outing came on the heels of a start five days ago when Nova pitched only 2 1/3 innings against the Athletics at Yankee Stadium and allowed three earned runs and five hits. The righthander’s earned run average has bloated to 5.02. Over his past 11 starts, Nova is 2-5 with a 7.05 ERA. He has allowed 75 hits, including 11 home runs, in 60 innings over that stretch.
Toronto starter Brandon Morrow was in complete control in his seven innings as he got 13 outs in the infield to go with three strikeouts. Brad Lincoln and Darren Oliver supplied a scoreless inning apiece as the Yankees were shut out for the sixth time this year. Robinson Cano had three hits and Russell Martin two, but the rest of the batting order went 0-for-22.
The Yankees wasted an opportunity to gain ground in the American League East on the Orioles, who were not scheduled. The Yankees’ lead over Baltimore is down to one game again with six games remaining for each team. The Blue Jays are doing a good job of playing spoiler. Toronto split a four-game series with the Orioles before beginning a four-game set against the Yanks with a victory.
With the race as close as it is, the Yankees cannot speak openly about postseason play. If they do qualify for the playoffs, the Yanks are likely to go with a four-man rotation. Nova’s recent starts would appear to put him behind CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte.
There is always concern whether a pitcher who has had success in the National League can transfer that to the American League where lineups tend to be deeper because of the designated hitter rule. This is particularly true in the AL East where pitchers get very little margin for error. Go ask Javier Vazquez or A.J. Burnett.
The issue came up when the Yankees signed Hiroko Kuroda in the off-season. The Japanese-born righthander was a sturdy if unspectacular starter with the Dodgers who had a 41-46 record and 3.45 ERA over four seasons in Los Angeles. I can remember Lou Piniella saying years ago that teams needed to be careful when acquiring pitchers from the Dodgers because their statistics are aided greatly by the conditions at Dodger Stadium where the dimensions are deep and where the ball does not travel well in the damp southern California air, especially at night.
So along comes Kuroda, who seems to have turned that theory upside-down. Yankee Stadium, with its cozy right-field porch and other hitter-friendly amenities, is hardly a pitchers’ dream, but Kuroda has pitched better in the Bronx than he ever did in Chavez Ravine.
His latest success story at the Stadium was Wednesday’s rain-shortened, 6-0 seven-inning victory. Kuroda gave up a double and three singles, did not walk a batter and struck out five in improving his record to 9-7 with a 3.46 ERA.
In 11 starts at Yankee Stadium this year, Kuroda is 7-3 with a 2.68 ERA and has held opponents to a .219 batting average with seven home runs and 21 RBI in 270 at-bats. Just think; in his years at Dodger Stadium, Kuroda was barely a .500 pitcher with a 20-21 record and 3.43 ERA.
The Yankees wasted no time in providing Kuroda a comfort level as they struck for four runs in the first inning off Toronto lefthander Ricky Romero. On a day when figurines of his likeness were distributed to fans, Mark Teixeira followed a double by Derek Jeter and a run-scoring single by Nick Swisher with a home run. One out later, Robinson Cano doubled and came home on a single by Andruw Jones.
Cano ran his hitting streak to 21 games, the longest for the Yankees since Jeter had a 25-gamer in 2006 from Aug. 20 to Sept. 16. Cano is batting .402 with 14 runs, six doubles, six home runs and 20 RBI during the streak.
The rally guaranteed that the Yankees would extend their team steak of games in which they have scored three or more runs to 42, a franchise record and six shy of the major league mark by the 1994 Indians.
Jayson Nix, who played for the Blue Jays last year, got his second straight start against Toronto and kept up his assault on his former team. Nix, who played shortstop as Jeter was the DH, has 5-for-9 (.556) with two doubles and three runs this year against his old mates.
It was part of a good day for the Yanks’ bench. DeWayne Wise, who spelled Curtis Granderson in center field, had a double, a single and two RBI.
The Yankees finished the 5-1 homestand with their eighth series sweep, one shy of last year’s total. It was their third series sweep at home this year. The others were June 8-10 against the Mets and June 25-27 against the Indians.
The Blue Jays, once considered contenders in the American League East, fell two games under .500 and into last place, 12 ½ games behind the division-leading Yankees. Toronto had 1-for-25 (.040) with runners in scoring position in the series and lost two position players. Outielder Jose Bautista was placed on the 15-day disabled list because of a left wrist strain. Third baseman Brett Lawrie bruised his right calf tumbling into the photographer’s well next to the visitors’ dugout. It has been that kind of year for the Blue Jays, who lost three starting pitchers to injury in the same week last month.
The Yankees are off to the West Coast for a four-game series at Oakland and a three-game set at Seattle, and I am off to Cooperstown, N.Y., for the National Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.
It won’t show up as an error in the boxscore, but it was a misplay nevertheless for Robinson Cano that proved very costly for the Yankees in the second inning.
The Yankees appeared to have a sure double play when Brett Lawrie, batting with none out and a runner on first base, hit a bouncer to shortstop Jayson Nix, who flipped the ball to Cano at second base. As he came off the bag, however, Cano lost control of the ball and dropped it losing a shot at the DP.
Official scorers cannot charge a player with an error in that instance because a double play may not be assumed. Regardless of that dictum, it is missed out for a pitcher. Hiroki Kuroda got the second out with a strikeout of Colby Rasmus as Lawrie stole second base. If not for the Cano flub, the inning would have been over. Kuroda had to face another batter, J.P. Arencibia, who crushed a 3-2 slider to left field for a two-run home run.
Kuroda gave up an even longer home run the next inning, a three-run shot to straightaway center by Edwin Encarnacion, his 13th. Kuroda thought he was out of that inning also, but a 3-2 sinker to Jose Bautista, the hitter in front of Encarnacion, was ruled a ball for a walk that extended the inning.
How weird was it to see a Yankees lineup without Derek Jeter in it? The Captain got a night off as the Yankees are amid a stretch of games 16 days in a row. Nix, whose contract was purchased from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre May 3 to replace Eduardo Nunez as the Yanks’ utility man and who played for the Blue Jays last year, started at shortstop. Taking DJ’s place in the leadoff spot was Curtis Granderson. It is not too often that you see a team’s leading home run hitter at the very top of the batting order.
The starting shortstop for Toronto was 11-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel, who is 45 years old. There’s a good example that Jeter can use against critics who believe he must switch positions some day. It was the first start this year for Vizquel, who has played in two games at shortstop, two at second base, one at first base and one in left field.
It could get interesting around third base tonight at Rogers Centre in Toronto where the Yankees open a two-game series Wednesday night. Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie was suspended for four games by Major League Baseball for striking plate umpire Bill Miller with a batting helmet in Tuesday night’s loss to the Rays.
Lawrie objected to being called out on strikes by Miller in the ninth inning and slammed his helmet into the ground. It bounced up and struck the ump in the right hip. Lawrie is appealing the suspension and is allowed to continue to play until his appeal is heard. Lawrie, 22, who is batting .289 with three home runs and 17 RBI, was in the Toronto lineup Wednesday night and playing third base. The third base umpire is Bill Miller.
“I didn’t mean to hit him,” Lawrie said before Wednesday night’s game. “Obviously, actions kind of took over last night, and it was just one of those things. The only thing I regret is the helmet hitting him. I never meant to do that, and it shows. I threw it off the ground, it took a bad hop and it hit him totally by accident. I never meant to throw it at him. As that’s coming across, it seems like a lot of people are saying that I threw it at him, I never threw it at him. I never had any intentions of hurting anybody. I was just frustrated at the play at the time. That’s baseball for you.”