Results tagged ‘ Chad Huffman ’

Unloading

It was like an old-fashioned, stickball do-over for the Yankees in the third inning Saturday. The day before, they had the bases loaded against Toronto with none out in the bottom of the third inning and failed to score in a game they eventually lost in 11 innings. Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano didn’t even make contact, which was astonishing to watch.

So what do you know but the Yankees had the bags full with none out again Saturday against the Blue Jays. This time, the Yankees made plenty of contact. In fact, they had the bags full three times three times and cleared them as often for an 11-run inning.

It was the most productive inning for the Yankees since they had a 13-run eighth inning June 21, 2005 against Tampa Bay and tied the Blue Jays’ franchise record for most runs allowed in an inning of Aug. 6, 1979 against the Royals. It briefly looked like history repeating itself when Brett Gardner running from second to third on got a bad read on a flare single to left by Nick Swisher and didn’t score. The hit was the first for the Yankees in 20 at-bats with runners in scoring position, and it didn’t score a run.

Mark Teixeira didn’t waste any time, swinging at Ricky Romero’s first pitch and hitting a hard grounder over third base for a two-run double that tied the score. A-Rod followed with a roller to the mound that squired past Romero. Rodriguez was thrown out at first by shortstop Alex Gonzalez, but the go-ahead run scored. Cano brought the fourth runner home with a single to right.

Why stop there? Let’s load ‘em up again, the Yankees decided. After an infield hit by Curtis Granderson, Romero did just that by plunking rookie Chad Huffman with a pitch. Gardner worked the count full before “unloading” for his first career grand slam.

That chased Romero. Lefty reliever Brian Tallet probably figured the Yankees can’t do that again, so he juiced the bags once more with successive walks to Derek Jeter, Swisher and Teixeira. Rodriguez wiped the slate clean once more, albeit with the help of left fielder John McDonald, who lost the ball in the infamous Stadium sun for a three-run double.

The inning improved the Yankees’ statistics with the bases loaded to .438 with eight doubles, eight home runs and 117 RBI in 96 at-bats.

What a difference a day makes!

Bench press

Jorge Posada was the Yankees’ designated hitter Wednesday night for the second consecutive game. Do not be alarmed. There is nothing wrong physically with Posada, who was disabled for three weeks last month due to a hairline fracture in his right foot.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi assures us that Posada is healthy. The fact is the state of the Yankees’ bench is such that Posada is the best option at DH. Think about it; if Girardi didn’t use Posada, who would be his best alternate? Right. Francisco Cervelli. So it makes sense to have Cervelli catch and Posada DH.

Girardi likes the idea of a floating DH. It allows him to give at-bats to players when they need time off the field. It’s a good “day off” for aging players such as Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter (don’t tell them I wrote that). At this point, the Yankees’ bench is populated with young players getting their first real taste of the big leagues in Chad Huffman, Colin Curtis and Kevin Russo as well as second-year utilityman Ramiro Pena. Combined, they are batting .161 with no home runs and 18 RBI in 137 at-bats.

As enticing as Mariners pitcher Cliff Lee is as a trade target, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman will likely be looking more for bench help as the July 31 trade deadline looms. Marcus Thames was scheduled to be in the lineup for Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Wednesday, and the Yankees are hopeful to have him back soon.

Speaking of Lee, his route-going performance Tuesday night marked the first time in a regular-season game at the new Yankee Stadium that an opposing pitcher recorded a complete-game victory. The only other time it happened at the new Stadium was in Game 1 of the 2009 World Series, also by Lee, then pitching for the Phillies. Tuesday night, Lee became the first lefthander to pitch a complete-game victory in the Bronx since the Red Sox’ Jon Lester July 3, 2008.

Lee also became the first major league pitcher to go the distance in three consecutive starts since former Indians teammate and fellow Cy Young Award winner CC Sabathia did it for the Brewers July 13-23, 2008. Lee and CC had dinner together Monday night. Lee is a free agent at season’s end the way Sabathia was after the ’08 season. Could these teammates of the past become teammates of the future?

 

Hughes rules lose

Were the Yankees the victims of the “Hughes Rules” Tuesday night? Maybe. The Yankees’ idea of skipping Phil Hughes a turn in the rotation was designed to conserve innings and not overtax his arm, following a theory that a young pitcher should not throw more than 30 innings than his previous high workload per year.

To have Hughes able to pitch in significant games in September, the Yankees will need to hold him out of the rotation on occasion or limit his innings in starts because they want to avoid his pitching more than 175 to 180 innings. Rest does not hurt a pitcher, but it can interrupt his rhythm. Hughes appeared rusty Tuesday night and lost to a Seattle club with the worst offense in the league.

It didn’t help that it came against Mariners lefthander Cliff Lee, who showed that he hasn’t forgotten how to handle the Yankees. The 2008 Cy Young Award winner won both of the Phillies’ victories over the Yankees in the World Series last year and was every bit as effective this time with his fifth complete game in 12 starts.

Lee held the Yankees to two runs on Nick Swisher home runs until the ninth when the Yankees tried to stage  their second straight last-inning rally. They pushed across two runs, but 7-4 was as close as the Yankees could get.

A bevy of scouts were on hand at Yankee Stadium to watch Lee, who could be trade bait next month. He recorded his third consecutive complete game in 2 hours, 30 minutes, which must have delighted plate umpire Joe West. Lee was slightly off his game. He actually walked a batter. The free pass to Jorge Posada in the second was only the fifth walk yielded this year by Lee and ended a stretch of 38 innings and 144 batters without a base on balls.

Hughes’ velocity was noticeably low, his fastball topping off at 91 mph as he failed to show off that occasionally 95-mph heat. He gave back the 1-0, first-inning lead provided by the first of Swisher’s bombs in the second as .206-hitting 9-hole batter Michael Saunders doubled and scored on a single by Ichiro Suzuki.

The Mariners took the lead in the fourth on Franklin Gutierrez’s seventh home run. Seattle scored in five straight innings against Hughes, who lost for the first time in six starts and the first time in eight starts at Yankee Stadium. He had season highs in runs allowed (7), earned runs allowed (6) and hits (10) and watched his ERA swell to 3.58. Hughes’ ERA at the Stadium is 4.38; he is 4-1 with a 2.56 ERA on the road.

Seattle entered the game with a .239 team batting average and was averaging 3.4 runs per game (conversely, the Yankees were averaging 5.5 runs per game), but banged out 12 hits with every member of the lineup contributing. Catcher Rob Johnson, a .208 hitter, had two doubles and two RBI.

Except for Swisher, the Yankees did nothing against Lee until the ninth. The threat ended with a runner on second as Curtis Granderson, who had two earlier hits off Lee, and Chad Huffman both popped out. The Yankees are unlikely to get involved in the Lee sweepstakes but will surely pay close attention. His destination could have consequences for them come post-season time, particularly if he should end up in Minnesota.
 

Michael R. Teevan
12.00

Familiar scenario

One of the characteristics of the Yankees since Mariano Rivera took over as the team’s closer in 1997 is that they often rough up other team’s closers while Mo is seldom victimized.

The latest example was Sunday night’s 8-6, 10-inning victory at Dodger Stadium. The Yankees seemed dead as early as the fifth inning as they fell behind 5-0 due to some shaky infield play and two costly throwing errors by Andy Pettitte, who had a rare poor outing.

Alex Rodriguez’s 11th home run of the season and 594th of his career was all the offense the Yankees could muster as they entered the ninth inning down 6-2 with 6-foot-4, 295-pound Jonathan Broxton coming out of the bullpen.

When Mark Teixeira was called out on strikes for the first out, things looked gloomy, but by the time Broxton got the second out of the inning the Yankees had tied the score. It could not be considered a blown save since it was not a save situation, but Broxton blew a four-run lead in a 48-pitch horror chamber as one by one the Yankees showed the Dodgers how to wear down a pitcher regardless of his size.

Rodriguez started the comeback by turning back a 95-mph fastball for a single to left. Robinson Cano whacked a 94-mph fastball down the right field line for a double, scoring A-Rod. Jorge Posada won a 10-pitch duel with a single off 95-mph gas. Cano was held at third. Curtis Granderson worked a walk in an eight-pitch at-bat to load the bases.

The Yankees were at the bottom of the order now with peach-fuzzed bench players Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis facing the heat Broxton could bring. They handled themselves quite well. Huffman punched a single to right to score two runs and get Granderson to third. Curtis made contact and hit a bouncer to first baseman James Loney, who tagged the bag but would have been better off just throwing home to get Granderson rather than be late with his throw and watch the tying run cross. For Curtis, it was his fourth RBI in six career at-bats, all this week.

And the pitcher in place to win was Rivera, who retired the side in order in the ninth. Of course, Mo needed some runs, which Cano took care of with a two-run home run off George Sherrill in the 10th. With a runner on first base and none out, Dodgers manager Joe Torre called for Sherrill to pitch to Cano, who had been hitless in 11 career at-bats against the lefthander. Sherill was just another lefty this year for Cano, who is hitting .301 with 21 RBI against lefties this year and has nine of his 15 home runs off them.

Rivera yielded a leadoff single to Loney in the bottom of the 10th but coolly dispatched of Russell Martin and Reed Johnson with strikeouts and got Jamey Carroll on a fielder’s choice for the victory and lowered his ERA to 0.92. Yes, that is zero point nine two.

It was a scenario with which the Yankees are very familiar.

If it matters to anyone, A-Rod shook hands with Torre before the game, ending a silly media molehill story. What was more important to Yankees fans was what Rodriguez did in the series, going 5-for-13 (.385) with a double, two home runs, four RBI and five runs scored.

Andy not handy

Dodgers manager Joe Torre must have been stunned to see Andy Pettitte throw the ball all over the infield in the third inning Sunday night.

The ESPN Sunday Night Baseball crew of Joe Morgan, Orel Hershiser and Jon Miller rattled on about the Yankees showing inexperience dealing with the bunting game that is more prevalent in the National League, which was a lot of nonsense. The Yankees only happen to have beaten NL competition more than any team in World Series history.

Besides, Sunday night’s finale of the series at Dodger Stadium was the Yankees’ 18th and last inter-league game of the year and the 12th consecutive game against an NL club. It is not as if they haven’t seen a pitcher bunt before.

You can be sure Torre knows better. His relationship with Pettitte was cemented in Game 5 of the 1996 World Series at Atlanta when the lefthander pitched 8 1/3 innings of a 1-0 victory over the Braves that gave the Yankees a 3-2 lead in games heading back to Yankee Stadium where they would win Game 6 and clinch the Series. Prior to that performance, Torre had viewed Pettitte somewhat skeptically telling friends he thought the pitcher was “soft.”

Baseball people of Torre’s generation don’t know what to make of a player like Pettitte who has deep religious convictions. Such players are often labeled “God squanders” and have their competitive grit questioned. Torre might have viewed Pettitte in that light at one time, but not after Game 5 in ’96. Not ever again. In fact, when the Yankees toyed with the idea of trading Pettitte to Philadelphia during the 1999 season, Torre campaigned hard with the front office to keep Pettitte in pinstripes.

Go back to that Game 5 in Atlanta, and one of the critical innings was the bottom of the sixth in which Pettitte’s defensive ability helped him snuff out a rally. Clinging to a one-run lead, Pettitte gave up singles to opposing pitcher John Smoltz and Marquis Grissom with none out. Mark Lemke attempted to sacrifice the runners over, but Pettitte pounded on the bunt and quickly threw to Charlie Hayes at third base to cut down Smoltz, the lead runner. Pettitte then handled a shot to the box by Chipper Jones and turned to second to start an inning-ending double play.

So you can imagine what might have been going through Torre’s mind Sunday night watching Pettitte commit two throwing errors on bunt fielding plays in the third. Reed Johnson was on second base after a leadoff double when Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw bunted in front of the plate. Pettitte tried for the lead runner at third, but Alex Rodriguez, who had charged for the bunt, was back pedaling to the bag and could not lunge for the throw that was wide to his left and ended up down the left field line, allowing Reed to score.

Rafael Furcal then bunted for a hit and got one. A third consecutive bunt came from Ronnie Belliard. Pettitte fielded the ball, but his throw to first on the sacrifice was into the runner and eluded second baseman Robinson Cano, who originally was charged with an error which the official score correctly amended later by assigning it to Pettitte. A run scored on that play, and Furcal was able to get to third from where he scored on a sacrifice fly by Andre Ethier.

A surprisingly sloppy inning by one of Joe Torre’s favorite players turned his reunion weekend with the Yankees in the Dodgers’ favor temporarily. The Yankees’ four-run uprising in the ninth against Jonathan Broxton, in a non-save situation, featured major contributions by Curtis Granderson, Chad Huffman and Colin Curtis, three Yankees never managed by Torre.

Huffman drove in two runs and Curtis one. A big mistake was by James Loney, the Dodgers first baseman who lost precious time stepping on the bag on Curtis’ grounder and was late throwing home as Granderson scored the tying run. Can’t these NL players handle balls in the infield?

Name game

There are eight players in the major leagues whose first names are Chad – and half of them are in the Yankees-Phillies series. The Yankees have three Chads – pitcher Chad Gaudin, outfielder Chad Huffman and catcher Chad Moeller – and the Phillies one – pitcher Chad Durbin. The other Chads are with the Diamondbacks (pitcher Chad Qualls) the Dodgers (pitcher Chad Billingsley), the Mariners (pitcher Chad Cordero), and the Cubs (infielder Chad Tracy).

Huffman is the newcomer among the Yankees’ Chads. He was called up Sunday from Triple A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and had 1-for-4 that afternoon in a 9-5 victory over Houston, his hometown. Gaudin returned to the Yankees May 26 after he had been designated for assignment by Oakland. He pitched in 11 games, including six starts, for the Yankees last year. Moeller, who was recalled from Scranton May 20, also played in 41 games for the Yankees in 2008.

Prior to Moeller’s joining them, the Yankees had only one player in their history with that first name. Outfielder Chad Curtis batted .263 in 340 games with the Yankees from 1997 to 1999 and is best known for hitting two home runs in Game 3 of the 1999 World Series against Atlanta at Yankee Stadium.

In addition to three Chads, the Yankees also have a Chan – Ho Park, the Korean pitcher.

Yanks walk all over Astros

So much for all that nice stuff I wrote about inter-league play Saturday and the swifter pace of games involving National League clubs. The Yankees and the Astros were on the field Sunday for 3 hours, 38 minutes, a far cry from the 2:19 and 2:33 times of the previous two games.

What’s the big deal about that? Listen, pace in baseball has a lot to do with the crispness of play, and there was not a whole lot of that from the Astros Sunday. The Yankees are a team that takes advantage of what the opposition gives them, and what Houston’s pitchers gave them repeatedly was first base without earning it.

How many pitches do you have to throw under an umpire’s glare before you realize that if it is not over the white thing it is not a strike? So the Yankees took their walks and scored their runs, all in due time that was also lengthy.

“We talk to our hitters about being patient, getting your pitch and not going out of the strike zone,” manager Joe Girardi said.

In all, Astros pitchers walked 10 batters, five of whom scored. All three runners on base when Jorge Posada unloaded his second grand slam in two days, from a different of the plate, were aboard on walks. Posada was the first Yankees player to homer with the bases loaded in consecutive games since 1937 when Bill Dickey did it.

“A catcher,” Jorge said after the game with a grin.

The Elias Sports Bureau also reports that the only other Yankees player to do it was Babe Ruth on two occasions, in 1927 and 1929. Jorgie came out of the game after the eighth inning feeling some soreness in his right foot that he said was “normal” since it was his first game catching since mid-May. A day off Monday should help Posada recover to be ready for the Phillies Tuesday night.

Triple-A callup Chad Huffman, a Houston native and former Texas Christian University quarterback, got his first taste of the big leagues with an infield single in four at-bats. Huffman, who replaced disabled outfielder Marcus Thames (right hamstring strain), had his own cheering section as his parents and other friends and relatives flew up from Houston.

“I think he flew half the state of Texas up here,” Girardi said. “He told me he left about 15 tickets. It was good to see him do it against a team he watched a lot when he was growing up.”

Houston may not have been happy to see Brett Gardner, who singled after Posada’s salami, steal second base with the Yankees ahead, 7-1, but when the Astros closed to 7-5 in the sixth it showed that the game was far from over.

The Yankees had the Astros kicking themselves for all those walks. Another free baserunner was part of the Yanks’ two-run sixth when Pedro Feliz, the third baseman on the Phillies’ World Series teams the past two years but lost in a down year with the Astros, bobbled a bouncing ball by Robinson Cano, who had hit his 100th career home run earlier. RBI singles by Nick Swisher and Gardner made Houston pay for that in boosting the Yanks’ lead to 9-5.

All of this took time, plus a bit more so the grounds crew could attend to the field through a steady if light rain over the last several innings. I told you I never really liked inter-league play.

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