Results tagged ‘ Buck Showalter ’
So maybe you cannot chew gum and walk at the same time, or in the case of Orioles center fielder Adam Jones blow bubble gum and field at the same time. An error by Jones in the seventh inning Friday night on a ball he appeared to have caught was the critical play in the Yankees’ 5-2 victory over Baltimore that gave them a share of first place in the American League East with the Red Sox, who were rained out.
The three-run rally that resulted in the Yankees’ fourth straight victory was as weird as it can get. They did not have a hit in the inning. Orioles lefthander Troy Patton entered the game after starter Miguel Gonzalez walked Francisco Cervelli to start the inning. After Brett Gardner sacrificed Cervelli to second base, the Orioles decided to walk Kevin Youikilis, who had three hits, intentionally.
Somewhat surprisingly, Yankees manager Joe Girardi allowed lefty-swinging Travis Hafner to bat against Patton, who made a huge gaff by hitting the Yanks’ designated hitter with a 3-2 pitch that filled the bases and brought up Vernon Wells. O’s manager Buck Showalter brought in righthander Pedro Strop, a Yankees punching bag, to pitch to Vernon Wells. The Yanks’ left fielder got good wood on a drive to center. Jones, a Gold Glove winner last year, made a long run to the warning track to catch up with the ball blowing a bubble along the way. For a quick moment it seemed as if Jones had ended the threat, but the ball clanged off his glove for a two-base error that cleared the bags as the Yankees unlocked a 2-2 score.
This was the same Jones who in Game 3 of last year’s American League Division Series blew a bubble with his gum while tracking a drive to right-center by Derek Jeter that fell on the warning track for a run-scoring triple.
The good fortune continued for the Yankees the next inning with their second triple play since 1969. The Orioles got a rally going against CC Sabathia after leadoff singles by Alex Casilla and Nick Markakis. Manny Machado followed with a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano, who flipped to shortstop Jayson Nix for what looked like the beginning of a double play. But why settle for two outs when you might get three?
Nix thought he had a shot at getting Casilla going to third and threw to that base instead of first. Casilla got in a rundown and was tagged out by Youkilis, the third baseman, who saw that Machado was midway between first and second and gunned the ball to first baseman Lyle Overbay, who ran Machado toward second and then tossed to Cano to complete the 4-6-5-6-5-3-4 triple killing.
I ran into WCBS Radio voice John Sterling while leaving the yard later, and he told me in making the call on the play said, “Nix turns and throws to third base, why, I’ll never know.”
I must admit that I felt the same way. The Yankees had a sure double play, and you never know what can happen when a fielder throws behind a runner. Nix ended up making an alert play in spite of its unorthodoxy.
The previous triple play turned by the Yankees was April 22, 2010 at Oakland on an around-the-horn job from third baseman Alex Rodriguez to Cano to first baseman Nick Johnson on a ground ball by Kurt Suzuki. That game was a loss by the Yankees. This one might have been, too, except Baltimore did everything but hand it to them.
The Yankees took advantage of all the breaks the Orioles gave them. The players who scored the Yanks’ five runs all reached base without a hit. Orioles pitchers held the Yankees to six hits but walked six batters and hit two.
Sabathia, meanwhile, was brilliant under difficult situations with temperatures hovering around 40 degrees with a 25-miles-per-hour wind. One of the two runs off CC was not earned due to a balk, which the lefthander disputed. That second run for Baltimore that tied the score in the seventh loomed large until the bottom of the inning when Jones’ glove lost its glove and the Yankees tripled their pleasure.
Nobody said it better than CC Sabathia, just as nobody pitched it better. The Yankees spent most of the past two months trying to shake the Orioles off their pant cuffs and finally did so Friday in advancing to the American League Championship Series, which will start immediately Saturday night at Yankee Stadium against the Tigers.
As Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said, there are just a handful of pitchers who are truly No. 1 starters and that Sabathia is one of those. Buck also mentioned Detroit’s Justin Verlander, who threw a complete-game shutout over Oakland to clinch the other AL Division Series. ALCS Game 3 could very likely be a matchup between the two of them.
Sabathia didn’t pitch a shutout, but he sure came close. The big lefthander was nothing short of brilliant in pitching a complete-game four-hitter, 3-1. All the hits were singles. He had a couple of walks and eight strikeouts in pitching to the Yankees to the next level by taking his own game to the next level. He pitched 17 2/3 of a possible 18 innings in his two starts in the series.
“That’s what I’m here for,” Sabathia said afterward. “That is what I play for.”
Perfect. That is the attitude an ace has to have. Looking back, maybe those two stints on the 15-day disabled list did wonders for Sabathia, who essentially had a month’s time off in the regular season. He certainly displayed an abundance of strength Friday against the Orioles, who ended up the regular season two games behind the Yankees and the ALDS two runs behind them. They played 23 games against each other in 2012 and were separated by four runs.
Sabathia had only one troublesome inning, the eighth, while working with a 3-0 lead. That was when the Orioles scratched out their run and threatened for more by loading the bases with one out. CC needed to bear down and did so effectively with a huge strikeout of Nate McLouth, who was a pest all series, and with major help from hobbling shortstop Derek Jeter, who charged a grounder by J.J. Hardy and threw him out at first base.
“I was trying to back off a little bit and not try to overthrow and leave the ball over the plate,” Sabathia said. “After I got a couple of runners on, that went out the window. I went back to being fired up and trying to be aggressive with fastballs. Obviously, that didn’t work; I was all over the place. That late in the game in that situation, I can go ahead and let it go and just be aggressive.”
“He was going so well that I didn’t want to pull him,” manager Joe Girardi said. “He’s our ace. He has been there, done that. This was vintage CC.”
A Yankees offense that sputtered much of the series came across with all the run support Sabathia would require. Who would figure a Mark Teixeira stolen base would help build a run? Ichiro Suzuki, who will play in his first ALCS since his Mariners opposed the Yankees 11 years ago, doubled home a run in the sixth.
The best sight, though, was Curtis Granderson belting a home run in the seventh, one of his two hits in the game. The Yankees need their bats to get hot. Granderson entered the game with one hit in 16 at-bats with nine strikeouts, so he was due to bust out. Now they need Robinson Cano (.091), Nick Swisher (.111) and Alex Rodriguez (.125) to follow suit.
Since the Tigers do not have a lefthander in their rotation, it remains to be seen where A-Rod, who was benched in ALDS Game 5 against a righthander, will fit in. That is one of the items on Girardi’s agenda for Saturday night when the ALCS begins. Friday was about the valuable left arm the Yankees relied on to get them into the next playoff round.
“We have so much belief in CC,” Girardi said. “You think of what he has done since he got here. It has been an unbelievable run for him.”
That the Yankees drew first blood in ALDS Game 5 was something of a surprise considering how the game started. They went down 1-2-3 in each of the first four innings at which point they were 1-for-31 over a 10-inning stretch back to Game 4.
The Yanks not only broke up Jason Hammel’s bid for a perfect game in the fifth but also scored to take a 1-0 lead. It was almost a gift run. Mark Teixeira led off the inning with a clean single to right.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter then did a strange thing. He had first baseman Mark Reynolds play off the bag and behind Teixeira. Now Tex missed quite a bit of time in the final month of the season with a left calf strain, but he wasn’t on crutches. Allowed the opportunity for a large secondary lead, Tex decided to go for a steal of second base – and he made it, too. OK, not with a lot to spare, mind you, but a steal is a steal.
Raul Ibanez, in the starting lineup as the designated hitter, continued his heroics in this series with a ground single to center to score Teixeira.
The Yankees may have caught a break in the sixth on Nate McLouth’s long foul to right off CC Sabathia. The umpires reviewed the play at Showalter’s request, and their decision stood. Still, the replay seemed to indicate that the ball may have grazed the foul pole on the way down. It was not what I would call conclusive, however, and neither did the umps.
All that concern before Game 3 of the American League Division Series about where Alex Rodriguez was batting in the order obscured the fact that Raul Ibanez was not in the lineup against a right-handed starter. Yankees manager Joe Girardi decided to have Eric Chavez play third base and use Rodriguez at designated hitter and keep Ibanez on the bench.
Oh, man, did that hunch pay off for Girardi and the Yankees. Ibanez, who only eight days earlier became the first Yankees player to hit a game-tying home run in the ninth inning and a walk-off RBI in extra innings in the same game, trumped that Wednesday night. This time, he not only homered to tie the score in the ninth but also in the 12th to win it.
This one will have the Elias Sports Bureau researchers up all night in their Fifth Avenue office trying to determine if what Ibanez did in the Yankees’ 3-2 victory over the Orioles was unprecedented in the history of postseason play. My guess is they will discover that the answer is yes. We already know that Ibanez is the first player to hit two home runs in a postseason game that he did not start.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter had identified Ibanez as a threat off the bench he had hoped to avoid when discussing his late-inning pitching maneuvers in Game 2. Ibanez’s performance in Game 3 justified Showalter’s concern. Ibanez, pinch hitting for A-Rod yet, sent the game into extras with a ninth-inning home run off Orioles closer Jim Johnson, whom the Yankees continue to rough up.
The Yankees mugged Johnson for five runs in the ninth inning of Game 1 at Baltimore in a non-save situation. This time it was a blown save for Johnson, the major-league leader in saves with 51 in the regular season.
Ibanez’s drive into the right field stands off a 1-0 fastball (at 94 miles per hour, no less) took a potential losing decision away from Yankees starter Hiroki Kuroda, who deserved a better fate after allowing only two runs (on solo homers by Ryan Flaherty and Manny Machado, the O’s 8-and 9-hole hitters) in 8 1/3 strong innings. Ibanez was the Yankees’ best pinch hitter this season with a .320 average, two home runs and seven RBI in 25 at-bats and kept that distinction intact with Wednesday night’s feat.
Not even having to face a lefthander, Brian Matusz, fazed Ibanez in the 12th. He didn’t even wait as he swung at the first pitch – a 91-mph cut fastball – and thrust the Yankees into a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 series.
Pinch hitting for Rodriguez was a gutty decision for Girardi, although one that could hardly have been second-guessed. A-Rod was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in the game and is 1-for-12 (.083) with seven punchouts in the series. Ibanez is now 3-for-5 (.600) with two home runs in the ALDS.
Girardi looked at Ibanez the way Casey Stengel once did at Johnny Mize and Joe Torre once did at Darryl Strawberry. Mize and Strawberry were left-handed sluggers whose aim at the cozy right-field porch at Yankee Stadium gave many opposing managers cause for alarm, the same feeling Showalter had when thinking about Ibanez.
As unusual as it was to see Derek Jeter sitting in the Yankees dugout as his teammates took the field in the ninth inning, the more amazing aspect was that he was able to play at all after the third inning. The Captain aggravated a nagging bone bruise in his left ankle running out a triple in the bottom of that inning.
He gutted his way through the eighth before Girardi decided to keep a hobbling player on the field was too great a risk in what was then a one-run game. In his eighth-inning at-bat, Jeter nearly fell down when landing on his left ankle on the follow-through of a swing and miss.
The startling finish was something the Orioles are not accustomed to. Extra innings have been joyful ones for the Orioles, who had won 16 consecutive such games before Wednesday night. The only two extra-inning games Baltimore lost in the regular season were against the Yankees on back-to-back nights April 10 and 11 at Camden Yards.
In the April 10 game, the deciding hit was a two-run double by Raul Ibanez.
It is a good thing for the Yankees that Orioles catcher Matt Wieters never had Stump Merrill for a catching instructor. Merrill, who served in the Yankees’ organization for decades as a minor-league manager as well as the big club’s skipper in 1991 and ’92, was a former catcher who worked with backstops in spring training and the minors for many years. It was Stump who helped the transition from second base to catcher for a young guy named Jorge Posada.
I spent a lot of time talking baseball with Stump. One of his pet peeves was when catchers let base runners outfox them on tag plays at the plate. Stump used to say that it made no sense to chase a runner if the catcher missed the tag at first swipe and the runner missed the plate.
“Just sit on the plate and let the runner come to you,” Merrill said of his strategy. “If he wants to score, he has to try and get to the plate at some time.”
One of Merrill’s pupils over the years in the Yankees’ system was Orioles manager Buck Showalter, who is as smart about the game as there is in baseball. Buck’s catcher could have used that lesson Monday night in the first inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
Fortunately for the Yankees, Wieters played into Ichiro Suzuki’s hands by lunging to tag the wiry outfielder, who used an assortment of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly moves to elude his pursuer and score the first run.
Suzuki appeared to be a dead duck as he tried to come home from first base on a double into the right field corner by Robinson Cano. Ichiro weaved his way around Wieters, then waited for the catcher to make a move toward him and reacted by swerving away from the catcher to slap a tag on the plate before he was tagged.
Anyone who has ever seen Suzuki’s stretching exercises realizes that he is half elastic. Trying to tag him in that spot was a waste of time. Had Wieters merely squatted on the plate, the game would have still been scoreless.
Any concern the Yankees had about the condition of Robinson Cano’s left hip abated when he made a dazzling play at second base to rob Nick Markakis of a base hit in the first inning Thursday night at Baltimore. Unfortunately, it was the only out the Yankees got for a while because the next four guys all got hits off David Phelps and scored.
Cano was sore after Tuesday night’s game at St. Petersburg, Fla., and was the designated hitter Wednesday night. He was back at second base Thursday night and appeared his old self. Fans were probably delighted to see him dive for Markakis’ ball after he failed to dive for a ball that became a game-winning hit Tuesday night against the Rays.
A packed house at Camden Yards on a night honoring Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. on the 16th anniversary of his breaking Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games was ecstatic over the first-inning outburst against Phelps. After three straight singles produced one run, Matt Wieters clouted his 19th home run into the second row down the left field line for three more. Wieters has had a hit in all 15 games the Orioles and Yankees have played against each other this year.
Phelps gave up another home run, a solo shot by Robert Andino, Baltimore’s 9-hole hitter, in the fourth, which turned out to be the righthander’s last inning. Yankees manager Joe Girardi did not hesitate to go to the bullpen early as he treated this game as if were a playoff game. Phelps just did not have it. He allowed five earned runs, six hits, two walks and a balk with three strikeouts in four innings.
Cano gave the Orioles a scare in the top of the fourth when he hit a line drive off the right elbow of Jason Hammel. The ball ricocheted into left field for a single. Hammel, making his first start in seven weeks after recovering from right knee surgery, remained in the game. He allowed a two-out, RBI single by Curtis Granderson that inning and pitched one batter into the sixth before Orioles manager Buck Showalter lifted him after a walk. Reliever Randy Wolf threw a double-play ball that helped the Orioles get out of the inning without damage.
This was career game No. 2,500 for Alex Rodriguez, who is the fourth active player to reach the mark, joining teammate Derek Jeter earlier this season, Omar Vizquel and Jim Thome. Only two players had more hits (2,876) and extra-base hits (1,185) through 2,500 games than A-Rod – Stan Musial (3,176 hits, 1,233 extra-base hits) and Hank Aaron (3,044 hits, 1,200 extra-base hits).
Former Yankees center fielder Bernie Williams will be back in baseball action during All-Star Game Week when he will serve as manager of the World Team against Hall of Famer George Brett, who will manage the U.S. Team, in the Futures Game July 8 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, two days before the All-Star Game.
“I am very excited to be managing the World Team in the Futures Game,” Williams said. “This game has grown in stature so much through the years, and it is remarkable how many of the young men who have played and starred in this game have become stars in the game today. That will be the case with hopefully many of the players I will have the honor of managing in Kansas City.”
Williams was a member of four World Series-winning teams in his 16-season career with the Yankees. The Puerto Rico native was a four-time Gold Glove Award winner and has more RBI (80) than any player in postseason history.
The Royals have not been the host club for an All-Star Game since 1973, which was the same year that Brett made his major league debut. The former third baseman won three batting titles in three separate decades and ranks 16th on the all-time hits list (3,154). Brett, who was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999, has spent 19 seasons as KC’s vice president of baseball operations.
Brett, a 13-time All-Star, also managed the Futures Game in 2005, and said last month that he’s looking forward to being a part of the All-Star Game again.
“I’m excited to share the city and stadium I love with today’s All-Stars and baseball fans around the world,” said Brett, who played in 13 All-Star Games. “It’s an honor to be a part once again of the Midsummer Classic and baseball’s special celebration.”
The switch-hitting Williams batted .297 with 287 home runs. He won won the American League batting title with a .339 mark in 1998. Williams has not managed at any level. He said that he played for two of the best in Joe Torre and Buck Showalter. Torre even let Williams manage one game down the stretch as part of a tradition in which he allowed players to sit in his seat.
“I got to help make out the lineup and go to the mound and make the pitching changes, and make some decisions like to hit and run or lay down a bunt,” Bernie said. “It was a lot of fun, but I also saw how hard it was to manage, where you have to be following every pitch, but also thinking ahead a couple of innings and worrying about every player on the other bench. So, I have a great appreciation of what it takes to manage every single day.”
Brett and Williams will have plenty of help from experienced coaches. Brett will be assisted by minor-league Duane Espy, Tony Franklin, Mike Jirschele and Jim Pankovits. The pitching coach for the U.S. team will be Tom Filer, who works in that capacity for Triple-A Indianapolis.
Williams will have minor-league managers Arnie Beyeler, Steve Buechele, Darren Bush and Turner Ward on his staff, along with Double A Akron hitting coach Rouglas Odor and Triple A Columbus pitching coach Ruben Niebla.
Williams has said that he may consider managing at some point in the future, but for now he is busy pursuing his musical passions as both a touring and recording guitarist. The Futures Game, a one-day celebration of the game’s coming generation, provided an opportunity to get back into the game.
“Being from Puerto Rico, I have a special appreciation how the game of baseball has grown to truly be a global game,” he said. “I know I will have the honor of managing players from many different countries. What really made me want to do this was after being invited, I was told that the players who will be playing in this game grew up following players like me in my era. While it makes me feel old, it also brought a smile to my face. This is a great showcase of the stars of tomorrow, and I am just thrilled to be a part of it and look forward to spending a couple of days with these kids.”
Yankees fans of a certain age may remember where they were on the afternoon of April 7, 1992. I know it was 20 years ago, but think about it. I recall where I was that day, at Yankee Stadium for Opening Day the season after the Yankees lost 91 games and replaced their manager, Stump Merrill, with the previous year’s third base coach, a former minor-league designated hitter and manager by the name of William Nathaniel Showalter, known by family and friends as Nat and within baseball as Buck.
Not much was expected of the Yankees that season, and indeed they finished a mediocre 76-86. But they beat the Red Sox and Roger Clemens that day, 4-3, before a crowd of 56,572 with the final out recorded by Steve Farr on a foul pop by Jody Reed. It was Showalter’s first victory as a major-league manager and the beginning of a startling six-game winning streak. Not too many managers are 6-0 before they lose a game.
I was reminded of just how long ago that was Tuesday night when the same Buck Showalter was back in the Bronx at the helm of the Orioles and earned his 1,000th big-league victory, this time at the expense of the Yankees, 7-1. Particularly satisfying for Buck was that his pitcher, hard-luck Brian Matusz, ended a 12-game losing streak with his first winning decision in 11 months.
“I’m kind of embarrassed,” Buck said afterwards. “It’s all about the players. But I’d be lying to say that it wasn’t emotional. Not a day goes by in this game that doesn’t tug at your emotions.”
Showalter enjoyed winning seasons with the Yankees in 1993, ’94 and ’95, earning American League Manager of the Year honors in the middle season that might have landed them in the World Series had the event not been canceled by commissioner Bud Selig because of a strike. The Yankees did make the playoffs in 1995 but lost to the Mariners in a tightly-played Division Series, the first of its kind in the new alignment.
After turning down a two-year contract extension, Showalter left the Yankees and was succeeded by Joe Torre, who took the Yankees to 10 division crowns, six pennants and four World Series titles in 12 years. Showalter moved on to Arizona as the expansion Diamondbacks first manager and then to Texas where he earned a second AL Manager of the Year Award in 2004. In between job, he manned the desk on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight programs.
Showalter may have missed out on the Yankees’ glory years, but this was a glorious night for him and his team, which is 15-9 and challenging for the top spot in the AL East.
“The significance is more about this being a game we wanted to win and get close to doing something this year that will be great for our fans in Baltimore, a great baseball town,” he said. “I am appreciative that Mr. [George] Steinbrenner gave me my first opportunity to manage in the big leagues. I’ll never forget that.”
Beyond a titanic home run by Curtis Granderson, it was not much of a night for the Yankees, who got another lackluster start from Phil Hughes, who pitched into the sixth but gave up four runs, so his ERA came down only slightly, from 7.88 to 7.48, with his record falling to 1-4.
Bring on those extra innings. Clubs on the road normally prefer to avid bonus stanzas, but the Yankees found comfort zones beyond the ninth inning two nights in a row at Camden Yards to complete a sweep of a three-game series against Baltimore that brought them to .500 heading back to New York for Friday’s home opener.
Matters got pretty dicey in the ninth inning when Nolan Reimold doubled with two out against Rafael Soriano, who then walked J.J. Hardy on four pitches. Yankees manager Joe Girardi went against convention by ordering an intentional walk of left-handed hitting Nick Markakis, who was 0-for-12 in series to that point, to load the bases and bring up righty-swinging Adam Jones. The strategy worked as Soriano struck out Jones.
Interestingly, a similar scenario had presented itself to Orioles manager Buck Showalter the night before. With a runner at third base and one out in the top of the 12th, Showalter had his pitcher walk Curtis Granderson intentionally. Buck could have done the same with Raul Ibanez and load the bases for light-hitting backup catcher Chris Stewart. Showalter chose to have Pedro Strop pitch to Ibanez, who doubled in what proved the winning run.
The Yankees nearly ran themselves out of the 10th inning when Eduardo Nunez was gunned down trying to get back to first base on a foiled steal attempt for the second out. But a flare double near the left field line by birthday boy Mark Teixeira, 32, reignited the Yankees, and Nick Swisher long home run to right off a 3-2 cutter from Kevin Gregg created the 6-4 final.
Mariano Rivera’s scoreless bottom of the 10th for his second save and career No. 605 extended the scoreless streak by the Yankees bullpen to 13 1/3 innings. Boone Logan retired the five batters he faced, and Soriano followed with 1 1/3 innings of shutout relief as the pen picked up the slack from CC Sabathia, who struggled through six innings and left the game trailing, 4-3.
Granderson broke out of a week-long funk with a run-scoring single that tied the score in the seventh and a two-run home run in the first inning. Robinson Cano, who took a rare oh-fer (0-for-5) at Camden Yards, and Alex Rodriguez are still looking for their first RBI of the season. Yankee Stadium might be just what they need.